Approved for 630 m and 2200 m

Got an email yesterday clearing me for operating on the new US 630 m and 2200 m bands.

Dear Eugene Mah (AB4UG),

This notice is being provided to Approve your proposed amateur radio station in the 135.7 – 137.8 | 472.0 – 479.0 band(s) at the following coordinates:  XXXXXXXXXXXXX.   UTC has determined that your proposed amateur radio station would not operate within a horizontal distance of one kilometer from a transmission line that conducts a power line carrier (PLC) signal in the 135.7 – 137.8 | 472.0 – 479.0 bands.

An amateur operator must not operate an amateur station if UTC responds that the proposed amateur station is located within 1 km of a transmission line with a PLC system that operates on the same frequency or frequency range.  Amateur operators are advised that their operations within 1 km of a PLC system could cause interference to PLC systems that are used by electric utilities to protect their electric transmission systems against faults and electrical outages.  Interference from amateur operations could affect the operation of PLC systems, thereby affecting the reliability of electric utility operations.  As such, amateur operators are advised not to operate any amateur stations within 1 km of a transmission line with a PLC system that operates on the same frequency or frequency range, and amateur operators will be subject to FCC enforcement for unauthorized operations, as well as potential legal liability for damages that result from interference caused by amateur operations to PLC systems.

Still need to learn about how to get on the new bands.

2m dipole performance

The 2m dipole attachment I made for my monopod seems to be working well. It’s a definite improvement over the Diamond SRH77CA and SRH999 antennas (which already work fairly well) when it comes to receive. I can receive a pretty clear signal from the repeaters from inside the house, whereas with the Diamond antennas, the repeater signal was on the scratchy and noisy side. When I’m outside, all of the antennas perform pretty well.

The two repeaters closest to the house that I can reach (and use) are about 7-8 miles away, so they’re a bit of a reach to hit standing on the ground with a 5W HT. The repeater beeps at me after I transmit, so I think I’m hitting the repeater with the dipole attachment, although I’m not sure how well I’m getting in. The repeater has a voice playback function, but I still need to learn how to use it.

In any case, the dipole attachment seems to be a success, and I can at least monitor some of the repeater activity more easily.

Time to start planning for a dual band VHF/UHF radio for the house.

Tennessee QSO Party 2017

Spent a few hours playing in the Tennessee QSO Party over the weekend.

As expected, all the TN stations I was able to hear were on 40 m. Made a few more contacts than I did last time, but I think more counties this time. Wasn’t able to find the bonus station though.

 Band     QSOs     Pts  Mul  Pt/Q
     7      27      81   21   3.0
 Total      27      81   21   3.0
Score: 1,801
1 Mult = 1.3 Q's

Wasn’t hearing a whole lot of activity across the bands in general, but the 40m shortwave broadcast stations that usually show up in the upper portion of 40m late afternoon/early evening seemed extra loud when they appeared.

It’s nice having the shack back up and running, even if setting up and taking down the antenna means it takes a little more time to get set up.

NA and Eclipse QSO parties

Got the antenna up this weekend to participate in a couple of events. It’s the first significant amount of radio activity I’ve done at the house since moving from the old house.

On Saturday I spent a few hours tuning around the bands working the NAQP SSB contest. Managed a couple dozen contacts casually spinning the dial around on 20 m and 40 m.

On eclipse day, I managed to get a few contacts in the Solar Eclipse QSO Party in the morning. Didn’t hear too many stations on 20m, but there were a few. I heard a couple of stations out in Washington State, but couldn’t get through the pileup they had going. Made contacts with three other stations participating in the eclipse QSO party and made periodic checks on the WWV broadcasts (heard 10 MHz faintly at times, but 15 MHz was coming in loud and clear).

Sadly I had to shut everything down due to a thunderstorm moving in just before the eclipse started so I wasn’t able to make any more contacts or monitor the bands as the eclipse happened.

Good weekend on the air.

Review: MFJ-1906HD telescoping mast

Ordered an MFJ-1906 fiberglass mast from DX Engineering over the weekend and it arrived at the house yesterday.

I ordered the 33′ hose clamp version of the mast, but what ended up at the house was the 38′ quick clamp version (MFJ-1906HD). Even the label on box said it was the hose clamp version. Factory labeling error I guess. Can’t really fault DX Engineering for sending the wrong item.

MFJ-1906 box label
MFJ-1906 box label

Instead of the expected six 6′ sections of fiberglass tubing inside the box, there were seven 6′ fiberglass tubes along with 6 quick clamps. It’s a pretty compact package. One 6′ x 2.5″ OD tube with all the others nested inside.

The quick clamps need to be glued to each mast segment so that they don’t come off while you’re extending each segment. The only suitable glue I had was epoxy, so I just used that.

Final assembly is just a matter of adjusting the quick clamps so that the tubes slide into each other and holds securely when the clamp lever is in the down position. I marked the bottom end of each tube at 12 cm (the instructions suggest marking them at 1 ft (~30 cm) as an indicator to stop pulling each tube out.

Final length is just over 2.1 m (7′) and fully extended (leaving about 12 cm nested inside the previous segment) the mast is about 12.2 m (40′) long. Leaving about 30 cm nested in each segment would bring the total length down to just over 11 m (37′), which is still plenty long enough for my purposes. Probably a good idea to leave the thinnest tube nested a little further inside for extra strength, especially on a breezy day.

The mast seems pretty sturdy, although I can tell that getting it up is going to be at least a two person job. At somewhere around 10 kg (~20ish lbs), the mast doesn’t weight a whole lot, but the length can make it bulky and unwieldy. The quick clamps should easily hold each segment well enough for the mast to support a wire or other light weight antenna.

The quick clamps seem like they’ll need readjusting, especially if they’re being locked/unlocked frequently. Don’t drag it on the ground while you’re carrying it around, especially on hard surfaces or you’ll end up grinding away the mast.

Now to figure out how to secure the dipole to the top of the mast.

8/10 stars. (10/10 for value in my case).