Friday 17 June 2016

CW Forever ...?

24 Hour 'JT' 6m Activity
For the past few weeks I've been able to transmit in the WSPR mode on 630m for the first time. For a long while I've tried to avoid it since the mode does not allow for two-way QSO's to be made. For that, excluding CW, one of the other weak-signal digital-modes such as JT-9 would need to be used. I've been using a new transverter sent to me for Beta testing ... hopefully I'll be able to report more if the unit receives final approval for production.

The transverter develops just over 70 watts output when run on 13V and so far, has been able to take all of the nightly punishment I've been able to throw at it with flying colors. Here is a WSPRnet screen shot taken from a typical night of my WSPR beaconing on 630m:

courtesy: KB5NJD's 630m Info

I was also able to have my first JT-9 mode QSO this week, with Toby, VE7CNF. This mode is the weak-signal WSPR QSO mode, tailored for LF/MF work and allows for calls, signal reports and confirmations (R's) to be exchanged ... the minimum requirements needed to claim a contact. Although additional information can be exchanged, its 13-letter message buffer does not exactly promote ragchew style conversations and some creativity is required to exchange more than the basics.

With many of our newer 'digital-savy' amateurs not necessarily being proficient in CW, I suspect that JT-9 may well evolve to become the go-to weak signal communication mode on 630m, much as it has in Europe. In fact, popularity of this mode in Europe has already spawned a few JT-9 contest weekends on 630m, with high activity levels being reported. I'm really looking forward to a 630m JT-9 QSO party in North America, once the band becomes a reality in the U.S.A.

JT-9 is capable of decoding signals reliably down to -24db SNR and boasts a 50% reliability of decoding at -26db SNR. Audible CW drops out at around -16 to -18db SNR, so communicating with JT-9 is the equivalent of going from 100 watts to around 800 watts ... a significant improvement and very helpful on 630m! Like WSPR, JT-9 will work with non-linear transverters and amplifiers such as the commonly-used and simple to build switching MOSFET Class D/E styles.

There also appears to be a fast-growing use of JT-65A on the 6m band this summer, with numerous 'CW forever' operators finding the mode's ability to dig up to 10db deeper into the noise paying off with surprising results. Some western North American operators have noticed that European JT-65A signal levels indicate that they should be in the CW-copiable range yet no CW activity is heard, for which there seems to be no ready explanation. Perhaps more will be learned this summer as the use of this mode continues to expand.

As one of the 'CW forever' proponents willing to try something different, I also have been listening for and working stations on 6m over the past few days on JT-65A. With the IC-756ProIII throttled back to 25 watts, I've found it fairly easy to make contacts when the band is open but have yet to hear or work anything unusual.

I'd love to hear your own comments on the use of JT-9 or JT-65A, particularly on 630m or on 6m ... maybe you can pass along some tips for those of us that are new to the mode on this band.

I may have to reconsider this 'CW forever' thing!

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