|John - KB5NJD talks about his favorite topic, 630m|
New experimental licensee, Jim, WI2XJG in Saint George, Utah, recently posted a question on the Lowfer reflector regarding the status of his favorite mode (CW) on the 630m band. The detailed response, provided by John KB5NJD / WG2XIQ, may well be of interest to others as well:
Most regular CW QSO's are occurring from about 472.5 to 475 kHz. Note that in Europe 472.5 kHz is a popular frequency. My freq of choice when open is 474.5 because it puts my signals close enough to the WSPR passband that operators there may be alerted to my activity. It seems its become commonplace to use "CW-USB" receive pass bands unlike other low bands that default to "CW-LSB" (At the end of the day it doesn't matter as long as you know since carrier frequencies are what are typically announced).
As mentioned in previous communications much of the CW activity is by sked arranged either via the reflectors like this or the ON4KST chat or even
direct email. While random CW QSO's are not out of the question they are
rare during the summer as activity is decreased in spite of continued
propagation. YMMV. In the past I have mentioned how it might be
beneficial for you to listen to and decode some WSPR to determine the
current state of the band. Regular CW typically requires about -10 dB S/N
in a 500 Hz BW to make a QSO. If you are not receiving stations at -10 dB
or better, you may not hear any CW from that station.
If you live near an area of high activity, of course, this can be a
different result. As I mentioned before I maintain a daily CW sked at
1030z on 474.5 kHz as wx allows but your ability to hear it, particularly
during the summer may be severely compromised. Even those with very good receive antenna systems like NO3M / WG2XJM in Pennsylvania fight the noise this time of year and it can be hit or miss. I think Eric and I had a
total of two QSO's last summer and they were tough. Winter is a different
story and most nights, poor conditions and QSB aside, could yield a CW
ragchew over that same 1300 mile path. In the Winter I get many reports
from stations across North America that are scanning the band and hear the activity. Its not necessarily too different from operating habits on 160m
in that respect.
Activity nights in the Fall and Winter often yield lots of activity as they
have in previous years and those are announced on the reflectors and often
get a mention in QST a few months before.
As for CW activity in Utah, a good start might be Mike, AI8Z / WD2XSH/12
near Denver, Colorado. Mike has a nice signal and you may be able to catch
him on the 600mrg reflector. Also the guys in the Pacific Northwest are
active but I would strongly advise for you to listen to and decode their
WSPRs first to see what your capabilities really are. Your distance from
the PNW is not much different from your distance to me in Texas.
CW speeds will vary with conditions just as other bands. Good signals and
operators can mean fast CW and those same ops under poor conditions may have to slow it down.
JT9 activity is typically on 474.2 kHz USB dial and "carriers" are
typically between 1000 and 1300 Hz up but this varies. JT9 activity has
been low since we have moved into Spring and much of that is due to
abbreviated operating schedules that result from persistent poor weather
conditions. JT9 will require -24 dB to -27 dB S/N minimums typically for
QSO's and may be a good place for you to start, particularly if you arrange
a sked. I don't see much success from a random CQ on JT9 this time of year
unless guys know you are going to be there. Winter is another story and
guys often watch for signals in the waterfall pretty closely. Announcing
your operating intentions is still a good idea so that guys steer RX
antennas your direction.
Best advice I can give right now is to use WSPR to evaluate your station
(RX now and RX/TX when granted) and band conditions at any given time. It will save you a lot of potential frustration later.
Thanks JD and list for the 630-meter bandwidth!
John KB5NJD / WG2XIQ
John and others continue to maintain vigilance on the 630m band nightly and his 630m web pages remain the best source of up-to-date information on band happenings and progress to final acquisition of the band for U.S. amateurs. If you are thinking of getting on 630m now, or later, a visit to John's site will supply you with a ton of motivation!
For Canadians, that already have the 630m band as well as 2200m, I am trying to keep track of Canadian activity here. As well, there has been much information on 630m published on this blog and looking here will bring up all of the 630m related blog posts.