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Updated 30 April, 2016

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    The LOWDOWN This Month
In the May 2016 issue of the club publication:
  • "DX Downstairs" Kevin Carey presents members' LF and VLF loggings.
  • "On The Air" Experimenters operating on the 160-190kHz and lower bands... and...
  • "The Top End" MedFER and HiFER beacon lists... and ...
  • "The LF Notebook" Conducted by John Davis. News from, for and about LWCA members. The answers to last month's trivia questions reveal the story of the world's first newscast (it was on longwave, and predates Wikipedia's candidate for the honor by seven months), and introduce us to more "unsung heros" of the early days of radio.
  • "News From the Old World" Alan Gale keeps us informed of latest LF news from the "other side of the pond."
  • "On the Longwave Trail: Antarctica, Part 1" by Kriss Larson. Kriss does a band scan on his seventh continent.
  • "600 Meter Snapshot" Excerpts of the WD2XSH quarterly report by Fritz Raab; WD2XSH operating summary and news of other Part 5 licensees as well.

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   ARRL Files Ex Parte Statement in LF-MF Rulemaking

      10 Mar 2016 - At the end of the public comment period on FCC Docket ET 15-99 last September 31, Utilities Telecom Council, the industry organization which has long opposed amateur radio access to lower frequencies, filed a so-called reply comment that finally outlined a little detail on the type of coordination they were proposing new users of the band to undergo. In the view of many, they had been willfully vague on the subject during the proper comment period, and instead saved the essence of their proposal for literally the last minute of the reply deadline. It would have required formal coordination of all amateur operation below 490 kHz through UTC, with no requirement for timely determinations. No other respondents had a chance to address that proposal during the public comment period.
      With action expected on the docket in only a matter of weeks to a very few months now, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) submitted an ex parte statement that was accepted for filing today, addressing the amateur community's concerns with UTC's proposed requirements.
      You can read the full text for yourself at this FCC filings page. You can also read filings received during last year's public comment period through links in our earlier story, farther down on this page.

   Whither DGPS?

      Deadline for public comment on the proposed closure of all inland and some coastal longwave Differential GPS stations in the US came and went in November. The date of the proposed termination was January 16, but no notices of such shutdown had appeared on the Coast Guard NAVCENTER Web site, and listeners reported no noticeable difference in the number of stations on the air.
      We will continue to follow the story and report on any developments.

   Fewer Longwave Broadcast Closures in Early 2016

      The number of stations closing in the longwave broadcast band as we begin this New Year is not as drastic as the start of 2015, but many remain on shaky ground; and many mediumwave AM broadcasters in Europe (notably France) have gone away entirely, or will do so in a few days. On longwave, one of the more conspicuous closures is reported to be the Czech station on 270 kHz at TopolnŠ. A later update, though, say this station remains on but at only 50 kW power.
      Several recent posts by Mike Terry in the LW Message Board provide an outline of which stations are off, which remain on, and which may be in greater jeopardy by the end of the year.

   Roundup of SAQ Reception Results

      The annual Christmas Eve morning greeting from Sweden's historic 17.2 kHz Alexanderson alternator went off without incident this year. Listeners across Europe copied the signal widely, as might be expected; and there were several reports from listeners in North America too, despite lingering strong thunderstorms in the Midwest.
      Jay Rusgrove W1VD reported better reception in Connecticut than he usually experiences for the December messages (here's an MP3 clip from his Web site). Bill de Carle in Ontario also found the signal to be better than usual with his portable loop antenna (and an MP3 clip from Bill's site). We have also recently learned that Laurence Howell KL7L copied SAQ in Alaska.
      Steve Sykes KD2OM copied only part of the tuneup and message in Victor, NY, but observed, "even though it wasn't clean reception, it was my best so far." Frits W1FVB also reported partial copy in Whitefield, NH. In Kansas, John Davis KD4IDY experienced static levels more like springtime, but also heard a little of the Morse keying despite lack of adequate propagation to copy DCF77 or any European LWBC stations that night.
      The station's recently improved Web site is at www.alexander.n.se.

   Reply Period Ends for LF & MF Ham Band Rulemaking
Deadline was Wednesday, Sept 31. Docket looks to implement WRC-12.

      Filings posted in connection with the amateur band proposals include comments by numerous individual amateur operators, the ARRL, and Utilities Telecom Council. The ARRL and several individuals filed responses to earlier comments...some of which may have arrived too close to deadline to be posted Wednesday evening, and are likely to appear on the FCC website in coming days. Additionally, there are filings from several parties in regard to rule proposals in other parts of the spectrum also covered by the NPRM.
      The proposed 2200 m band was part of the World Radio Conference 2007 recommendations and has been widely implemented in the rest of the world. The new rulemaking notice also puts the 2013 ARRL petition for an amateur band at 630 meters into a rulemaking setting. The 472-479 kHz band was among the recommendations approved at WRC-12, and has been implemented in other countries, too. Docket 15-99 seeks information to set the specific rules under which the 2200 m ham and 630 m ham bands will eventually work.
      You can read the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and download all comments and replies presently available at: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/proceeding/view?name=15-99.
      In addition, LWCA is maintaining a Docket 15-99 Archive of all posted filings that also includes a link to the NPRM. We will continue checking weekly to make sure our archive remains updated. Keep watching the lwca.org home page for later news of the FCC's deliberations.

   2015 Communication Landmark: Across the Atlantic Below 9 kHz

      Over three consecutive nights, noted British DXer Paul Nicholson in Todmorden, UK, received a series of very slow BPSK transmissions from Dexter McIntyre W4DEX in Stanfield, NC, culminating in a 25 character message in the wee hours (UTC) of New Years Day 2015. Distance from W4DEX to Todmorden is 6194 km, or 3840 miles, and ERP is estimated around 150 μW.
      The first signal on December 30th, 2014, was Dex's grid square, "EM95," the first intelligence ever conveyed across the Atlantic on such low frequencies by private individuals. The next day, a 12 character message ("PAUL HNY DEX") was sent and received over a six hour span commencing at 0000 UTC. Then, in Paul's own words: "The third test and best result so far was a 25 character message '8822HZ 2015 JAN 1 TA TEST' sent from 2015-01-01 00:00 using 8 second symbols. This was received with Eb/N0 = -0.1dB. In the 0.125 Hz bandwidth of a code symbol, the S/N was -13.2dB."
      Frequency used was 8822 Hz. Earlier in December, tests yielded copy of Dex's steady carrier near that same frequency by DL4YHF in Bielefeld, Germany (4300 miles), by IK1QFK in Cumiana, Italy (4770 miles), using custom Linux-based spectrum analysis software written by Nicholson. He also wrote the BPSK applications. Reception has also been reported in the US using Argo displays. A selection of those reports is available at Dex's Web site.
      Back on June 2 (UTC), 2014, Nicholson received transmissions from McIntyre on 8970 Hz, consisting of a continuous GPS-stabilized carrier that was shifted in frequency after some hours of integration time. Paul's detailed reception report of that earlier feat, along with details and pictures of the transmitting setup, can be found at the W4DEX Web site.
      Previous experiments in the sub-9kHz region have mainly been conducted in Europe, such as the kite-based transmissions of Stefan Schaefer DK7FC. His page contains a good introduction to what has been done so far, and links to additional resources. Although frequencies below 8.3 kHz, or 9 kHz in the US*, are not formally allocated in most countries, some administrations do require their citizens to obtain special permission to operate there. (*The FCC is currently proposing revision of the U.S. Table of Allocation to begin at 8.3 kHz as well, bringing it into line with the ITU allocation for meteorological aids such as lightning detection networks.)

LW Resources & Additional Topics

   Related Longwave Sites

      •William Hepburn's DX Information Centre has probably the best online list of aero and marine beacons based on official license information, plus lists of LW broadcasters and time signals, and numerous resources for other types of DXing as well.
      •The searchable RNA database of LF beacons...not compiled from official sources, but a digest of signal reports from experienced listeners in North and Central America. It's a great tool for identifying those unknown signals. It won't always be up-to-date regarding decommissioned beacons, of course. This might somewhat limit its usefulness in targeting specific beacons to listen for, but it's still helpful if you pay attention to the most recent reported date for a given beacon.
      •Radio Waves Below 22 kHz Renato Romero's eclectic collection of topics pertaining to both manmade and natural radio signals from near DC to the upper end of audibility. Includes the VLF Open Lab, and articles by many contributors...some fairly orthodox, and some not. Visit: www.vlf.it
      Not viewable online but a resource which can be ordered there...Michael Oexner's North American and European NDB Lists (click link for info in PDF form).

   QRSS and WOLF Software

      Rik Strobbe's QRSS software (for transmitting extremely slow CW) is usually available from our file library, but while it is temporarily out of service, you can obtain QRSS and Rik's other useful software at the ON7YD download page.
      Continuing Development of Argo. Alberto di Bene posts the latest version of Argo, a receiving tool for displaying slow CW, that performs FFT spectral analysis and displays it in ways optimized for QRSS. Many of the transoceanic LF amateur records were set using Argo at the receiving end. Argo has somewhat similar performance to Spectran, but interacts better with the user's soundcard and is customized for QRSS modes.
      WOLF. Stewart Nelson devised this unique mode, a variant of BPSK. See his announcement of the MS-DOS version for more details. Now, a GUI-based version by Wolf BŁscher continues to increase the mode's popularity. Find the new software at the DL4YHF site.
      Spectrum Lab, at that same link, is another of Wolf's creations. In conjunction with your computer's sound card, not only is it an especially advanced spectrum analyzer, but it's also a filtering and sound processing tool, and can serve as the demodulator part of a software defined receiver.
      Slow CW for Linux. Claudio Girardi (IN3OTD) has released Slow CW software for users of the Linux operating system, currently v 0.42. The program (called glfer) contains both transmit and receive capability, the latter including an FFT-based spectrum analyzer somewhat similar to those found in popular Windows Slow CW programs. As with much open-source software in the X-world, you have to compile the C source code yourself. Users will also need additional code libraries. Links to those, plus downloadable source code, can be found at Claudio's glfer page.

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