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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
November 7, 2019
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
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IARU Reports Early Progress, Contention on Difficult Issues Mark First Week of WRC-19

The first week of World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) saw agreement reached on several issues on which discussions prior to the conference had revealed consensus. Those were the easy ones; the rest will be more difficult, the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) said. The conference is in its second week in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The IARU said the early agreements were only possible because of countless hours of work conducted within the ITU Radiocommunication Sector and the six regional telecommunications organizations (RTOs) since WRC-15. Three of those decisions were on issues of interest to the IARU.

  • The band 47.0 - 47.2 GHz was allocated solely to the Amateur and Amateur Satellite Services by the 1979 World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC-79). Commercial wireless broadband interests had expressed some interest in the band being designated for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), and there was some concern that such a proposal might be made at WRC-19. The fact that none was forthcoming was due in part to the work of the IARU at the Conference Preparatory Meeting earlier this year and in the RTOs. The WRC has agreed to "no change" (NOC) at 47.0 - 47.2 GHz.

  • Another NOC decision that avoided impact on the Amateur Service applies to the band 5850 - 5925 MHz, an amateur secondary allocation in Region 2. Consideration of proposals involving other parts of spectrum in the 5 GHz range will take much longer, according to the IARU.

  • Consideration of a 50 MHz allocation in ITU Region 1 (Europe, Africa, and the Mideast) to harmonize the allocations in the three regions was the subject of spirited debate in a Sub Working Group chaired by Dale Hughes, VK1DSH, of the Australian delegation. The four RTOs in Region 1 made disparate proposals to the conference, and a small group of administrations proposed no change. For 3 days, there was no progress toward a consensus solution, but that changed on Friday morning. An agreement was made, subject to confirmation by the regional groups, that will provide administrations in Region 1 with flexibility in how to accommodate their radio amateurs.

The WRC agreed to make no frequency allocations or other changes to the Radio Regulations to accommodate wireless power transmission for electric vehicles (WPT-EV). "Much more work remains to be done on an urgent basis in the ITU and other standards organizations if

IARU President Tim Ellam, VE6SH (right), chats with IARU Secretary David Sumner, K1ZZ, on the way to a WRC-19 session. [Jon Siverling, WB3ERA, photo]

radiocommunication services are to be adequately protected from harmful interference that may be generated by WPT-EV, both at the fundamental frequency and from unwanted emissions," the IARU said.

One of the most difficult issues facing WRC-19 is to develop an agenda for WRC-23. Dozens of proposals for agenda items have been suggested, and they cannot all be accommodated within available ITU resources.

Delegates have been warned to expect more intensive use of weekend and evening hours as the conference proceeds toward its conclusion on November 22. -- Thanks to the IARU

Pitcairn Island DXpedition Logs More Than 80,000 Contacts

The VP6R DXpedition to Pitcairn Island shut down at 1800 UTC on November 1, reporting 82,700 contacts. They reported excellent weather for the teardown and got everything packed and aboard the Braveheart, which is taking them to Mangareva. According to their update, the oldest resident of Pitcairn Island died on November 1, and the VP6R team attended the funeral the next day. The individual was buried next to Tom Christian, VP6TC, who gave many radio amateurs their first Pitcairn contacts.

During their stay on the island, VP6R team members helped two local radio amateurs to get on the air -- Meralda Warren, VP6MW, and Mike Warren, VP6AZ.

The entire VP6R log will be posted to Logbook of The World (LoTW), and stations may QSL via K9CT.

"On behalf of the team, our off-island support members, and our sponsors, may I say thank you to our DX audience for your interest, support, and of course, the QSOs," Ralph Fedor, K0IR, said. "To the kids at the Dorothy Grant Elementary School, thank you for taking part in this great adventure with us through ham radio. You brightened our path."

The DXpedition reported high spirits, big pileups, and good propagation, giving out "many all-time new ones" during its stay. "We had fun with this," Fedor said. "We hope you did too."

VP6R operated from two sites on the island. During their stay, the team took part in the CQ World Wide DX Contest (SSB). A DXpedition veteran, Fedor had to pull out of the Pitcairn Island trip due to health issues, but maintained a support role.

MARSRADIO is Keeping the Phone Patch Alive

A military plane over the North Atlantic suddenly experiences rapid decompression. A call goes out to MARSRADIO, explaining the emergency and requesting a phone patch to the aircraft's command post. Over the next few hours, a MARSRADIO volunteer handles many phone patches to help resolve the situation. An adjunct within the Air Force Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), MARSRADIO is reminiscent of an era when MARS facilitated hundreds of troop morale phone patches each night between soldiers deployed in Vietnam and their families and loved ones back home.

Today, MARS is more oriented to official Department of Defense (DoD) communication, but the venerable phone patch remains viable within MARSRADIO, a special MARS operations group that provides primary service and a backup system that handles requests for official and morale phone patches, weather forecasts, informal messages, selective calling tests, and radio checks. Membership in MARSRADIO is open to both Army and Air Force MARS members, and it is seeking additional volunteers.

MARSRADIO members have advanced station capabilities, put in many hours of participation, and operate under more stringent requirements than the standard MARS program does. These include the ability to monitor two frequencies simultaneously; an amplifier; a directional antenna (i.e., Yagi) for operation above 13 MHz; dipoles for use below 13 MHz; internet access; at least 36 hours of participation per quarter, and no digital requirement, if MARSRADIO is the station's primary assignment.

"MARSRADIO" is the net call sign for the 11th Air Force MARS MARSRADIO Squadron (11AFMS) under the 1st AFMARS Special Operations Group (1AFMSOG). MARSRADIO net members guard frequencies as much as possible, and the net is authorized 24/7/365. MARSRADIO serves as a backup to US Defense Department communication, including the US Air Force Global System, handling an average of 2,500 requests each year for assistance -- from providing estimated times of arrival to communications involving medical or mechanical emergencies.

MARSRADIO has evolved into a DoD asset that's noteworthy for its volunteer support, and interest is rising as HF regains importance. Volunteers handle communication for all branches of the military and for other US government users. All types of DoD aircraft and ground units may request support to complete their missions, and the net is open to US allies.

MARSRADIO is not for every ham or every MARS member, but those interested in service would be working with real-time traffic on a daily basis. A fast-track program is in place to bring well-qualified operators directly into MARSRADIO. While today's MARS is highly digital and encrypted, the phone patch is a totally different animal. Members of MARSRADIO do not need digital capability. They don't even need a landline. A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) connection via the internet will provide the phone line needed to run a patch.

More information on MARSRADIO is available.

The Doctor Will See You Now!

"Antenna Switches" is the topic of the new (November 7) episode of the ARRL The Doctor is In podcast. Listen...and learn!

Sponsored by DX Engineering, ARRL The Doctor is In is an informative discussion of all things technical. Listen on your computer, tablet, or smartphone -- whenever and wherever you like!

Every 2 weeks, your host, QST Editor-in-Chief Steve Ford, WB8IMY, and the Doctor himself, Joel Hallas, W1ZR, will discuss a broad range of technical topics. You can also email your questions to, and the Doctor may answer them in a future podcast.

Enjoy ARRL The Doctor is In on Apple iTunes, or by using your iPhone or iPad podcast app (just search for ARRL The Doctor is In). You can also listen online at Blubrry, or at Stitcher (free registration required, or browse the site as a guest) and through the free Stitcher app for iOS, Kindle, or Android devices. If you've never listened to a podcast before, download our beginner's guide.

W1AW to Commemorate 98th Anniversary of First Amateur Radio Signals to Span the Atlantic

December 11 marks the 98th anniversary of the success of ARRL's Transatlantic Tests in 1921, organized to see if low-power amateur radio stations could be heard across the Atlantic using shortwave frequencies (i.e., above 200 meters). On that day, a message transmitted by a group of Radio Club of America members at 1BCG in Greenwich, Connecticut, was copied by Paul Godley, 2ZE, in Scotland.

While the first two-way contact would not take place until 1923, the 1921 transatlantic success marked the beginning of what would become routine communication between US radio amateurs and those in other parts of the world -- the birth of DX.

To commemorate this amateur radio milestone, Maxim Memorial Station W1AW will be on the air through the day on December 11 with volunteer operators. The goal is to encourage contacts between radio amateurs in the US and Europe while showcasing the significance of the transmissions that pioneered global communication and laid the groundwork for technology widely used today.

The event will run from 1300 until 0000 UTC. Some details are still being worked out, but operation will focus on 40 and 20 meters (SSB).

Contact Clark Burgard, N1BCG, for more information.

SKYWARN Recognition Day Celebrates 20 Years on December 7

SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) will mark its 20th anniversary on December 7, 0000 to 2400 UTC. This is the day each year when radio amateurs operate from National Weather Service (NWS) forecast offices across the country, celebrating the long relationship between the amateur radio community and the National Weather Service SKYWARN program. The purpose of the event is to recognize amateur radio operators for the vital public service they perform during times of severe weather and to strengthen the bond between radio amateurs and their local NWS offices.

Developed in 1999, SRD is cosponsored by ARRL and the NWS. Traditionally, radio amateurs have assisted the mission of the NWS through providing near real-time reports of severe weather and storm development. Reports received from radio amateurs have proven invaluable to NWS forecasters.

During SRD, participants exchange contact information with as many NWS stations as possible on 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, and 2 meters, plus 70 centimeters. Contacts via repeaters are permitted. Stations should exchange call signs, signal reports, and locations, plus a quick description of the weather at your location (e.g., sunny, partly cloudy, windy, rainy, etc.). EchoLink and IRLP nodes, including the Voice over Internet Protocol Weather Net (VoIP-WX), are expected to be active as well.

WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center will also be on the air for SRD, 1300 - 1700 UTC, for its 21st year of SRD participation.

Event certificates are electronic and printable from the main website at the conclusion of SRD. To learn more, visit the SKYWARN Recognition Day website.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: Two new sunspot groups appeared this week on two consecutive days, each lasting for only a day, with a daily sunspot number of 11 and 13 last Friday and Saturday, just in time for the ARRL November Sweepstakes CW weekend. Both sunspot groups had a magnetic polarity signature indicating Solar Cycle 25 and appeared after 4 weeks of no sunspots. reported both appearances as region AR2750, while NOAA reported a new sunspot group on each day.

Solar flux was higher over the October 31 - November 6 reporting week, with average daily solar flux rising from 68.5 to 70.4. Geomagnetic indicators were low, with average daily planetary A index declining from 16.4 to 4.1, and average mid-latitude A index softening from 13 to 2.7.

Predicted solar flux is 70 on November 7; 68 on November 8 - 14; 67 on November 15 - 19; 68 and 70 on November 20 - 21; 71 on November 22 - 30; 70 on December 1 - 6; 69 on December 7 - 19, and 70 on December 20 - 21.

Predicted planetary A index is 8 on November 7; 5 on November 8 - 10; 8 on November 11 - 12; 5 on November 13 - 19; 15, 25, 18, 12, and 10 on November 20 - 24; 8 on November 25 - 26; 5 on November 27 - December 16, and 15, 20, 18, 12, and 12 on December 17 - 21.

Even during days with no sunspots, there was notable HF propagation recently, with the just-ended VP6R Pitcairn Island DXpedition making HF contacts across the Americas, even on 10 meters.

Sunspot numbers for October 31 - November 6 were 0, 11, 13, 0, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 3.4. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 71.2, 70.7, 70.7, 69.4, 70.8, 70.4, and 69.3, with a mean of 70.4. Estimated planetary A indices were 7, 4, 2, 2, 4, 5, and 5, with a mean of 4.1. The middle latitude A index was 5, 2, 1, 1, 4, 2, and 4, with a mean of 2.7.

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out K9LA's Propagation Page.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. Monthly charts offer propagation projections between the US and a dozen DX locations.

Share your reports and observations.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • November 9 - 10 -- WAE DX Contest RTTY

  • November 9 - 10 -- 10-10 International Fall Contest (Digital)

  • November 9 - 10 -- JIDX Phone Contest

  • November 9 - 10 -- SARL VHF/UHF Analogue Contest (CW, phone)

  • November 9 - 10 -- OK/OM DX Contest (CW)

  • November 9 - 10 -- SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (CW)

  • November 9 - 11 -- CQ-WE Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • November 9 - 11 -- PODXS 070 Club Triple Play Low Band Sprint (Digital)

  • November 9 - 17 -- AWA Bruce Kelley 1929 QSO Party (CW)

  • November 10 -- North American SSB Sprint Contest

  • November 11 -- 4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint (CW, phone)

  • November 11 -- RSGB 80-Meter Autumn Series (Digital)

  • November 15 -- YO International PSK31 Contest

See the ARRL Contest Calendar for more information. For in-depth reporting on amateur radio contesting, subscribe to The ARRL Contest Update via your ARRL member profile email preferences.

Preparations Resume for 3Y0I Bouvet Island DXpedition

Another attempt to activate Bouvet Island is in the planning stages, according to the 3Y0I website. Efforts are under way to secure the necessary funds.

"As you probably know, our first attempt to reach the island of Bouvet in March 2019 failed," the news update said. "Despite complex preparations and training received in Cape Town, South Africa, our vessel got hit by a big storm so badly that we had no choice but to sail back to Cape Town to reshuffle our plans. We were so close -- just 63 nautical miles offshore!" The 3Y0I sponsors estimate that a second attempt would cost around $170,000. "[W]e have already secured half of the required budget to go back to Bouvet," the announcement said, adding that it's beyond the capacity of the DXpedition team members to cover the entire cost, so they are trying to collect $85,000 to fund the second attempt.

The 3Y0I team has a GoFundMe page, set up by 3Y0I team leader Dom Grzyb, 3Z9DX. No time frame was given for the second attempt by Grzyb's team, and it's not known if Grzyb has obtained operating permission from the Norwegian government. The 19-square-mile subantarctic island is a Norwegian dependency.

"Our intentions are clear: If we don't reach our fundraising goal, we won't receive nor spend a single cent you donate and it would be returned to your GoFundMe account for withdrawal, or to support any other GoFundMe project of your choice," the announcement says.

"The future of amateur radio expeditions, especially in terms of activating entities placed across cold high-latitude seas, isn't bright," the 3Y0I statement says. "Apart from the uncertainty of future solar cycles' strength that may badly reflect radio propagations, there are still very few of us who realize that visiting remote cold islands may become very seldom or even almost impossible."

According to Club Log's DXCC Most Wanted List, Bouvet Island is number 2, right behind North Korea. The unrelated 3Y0Z DXpedition attempt to land on Bouvet in early 2018 failed after the vessel transporting the team developed engine issues as it lay just offshore. The last successful Bouvet activation was 3Y0E, during a scientific expedition over the winter of 2007 - 2008. -- Thanks to Southgate Amateur Radio News via OPDX

France Gives its Highest Honor to The Secret Wireless War Author Geoffrey Pidgeon

The author of The Secret Wireless War, Geoffrey Pidgeon, recently became the 6,000th veteran to receive the French Legion of Honor (Legion d'Honneur). Through his undercover work in British intelligence, Pidgeon, now 93, played a pivotal role in the D-Day landings. His book, which recounts the important role of the

Geoffrey Pidgeon. [Forces TV]

Communications Division of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) during World War II, has long been a favorite among hams.

"There never was, in the whole history of wireless, a bigger role for the amateur wireless enthusiast," says Pidgeon. "This is an extraordinary story that includes hams among those patriots that undoubtedly helped the Allied war effort."

Pidgeon said he was "somewhat overwhelmed" by the turnout for the award presentation by French Ambassador to the UK Catherine Colonna. UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also attended. The event attracted news media as well. Reports included one from Forces TV. Pidgeon also was interviewed by London's The Sunday Times.

"They made a fuss of me today," Pidgeon told Forces TV.

The Secret Wireless War offers a history of the SIS, its growing use of wireless in the 1930s, its involvement in the dissemination by wireless of Enigma (Ultra) intelligence, and a whole range of secret uses of wireless as part of the successful prosecution of the war.

The book documents the personal tales of those who were part of this most secret of units, and events that helped to win the war: Secret agents abroad, wireless operators handling Ultra and agents' traffic, wireless engineers, interceptors, and administrators; the story of Churchill's personal wireless operator; a fleet of 70+ Packard motor cars and converted Dodge ambulances used as mobile wireless stations; and hams listening to the German secret service and the Gestapo.

Pidgeon's memoir of his days in MI6 Communications during World War II is distributed in the US by ARRL.

In Brief...

The American Legion Amateur Radio Club (TALARC) will operate special event station N9V on Veterans Day, November 11. The club's headquarters station, K9TAL, will anchor the N9V Veterans Day operations, joined by several TALARC stations around the US, for its annual national salute to veterans. The American Legion is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Operation will be from 1800 to 0000 UTC on or about 7.285, 14.285, and 21.285 MHz. Certificates will be available to all sending a QSL card. More information is on the N9V profile page on -- Thanks to Jim Harris, W0EM, and The National Legion Amateur Radio Club

University of Washington doctoral candidate Paige Northway with a HuskySat engineering model. [Courtesy of UW News]

A Cygnus cargo spacecraft carrying the University of Washington's student-built HuskySat-1 CubeSat has been successfully launched. The Cygnus docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on November 4. It then is scheduled to depart the ISS on January 13, 2020, and raise its orbit to approximately 500 kilometers (310 miles), where HuskySat-1 and SwampSat will be deployed. After deployment, HuskySat-1's 1,200 bps BPSK beacon on 435.800 MHz should be active and decodable with the latest release of FoxTelem. HuskySat-1 is expected to run its primary mission for 30 days -- testing a pulsed plasma thruster and experimental 24 GHz data transmitter -- before being turned over to AMSAT for amateur radio operation. HuskySat-1 features a 30 kHz wide 145 to 435 MHz linear transponder for SSB/CW. "Usually people buy most of the satellite and build one part of it," said Paige Northway, a doctoral student who's been involved with the project since inception. "We built all the parts. It was a pretty serious undertaking." For more information about HuskySat-1's development and its science, read the UW News article, "Washington's first student-built satellite preparing for launch." -- Thanks to AMSAT News Service via; Paul Stoetzer, N8HM, and UW News

The FCC is looking for a telecommunications specialist to work at the HF Direction Finding Center in Columbia, Maryland. This is a full-time position with a competitive salary. The incumbent would perform "watch duty" and serve as a technical authority, providing technical assistance and guidance to communication systems users to resolve radio interference complaints and problems. The telecommunications specialist collects radio signal analysis information using equipment deployed throughout the US to collect, correlate, and analyze characteristics of radio signals involved in interference problems, distress, or safety-related signals, or other radio signals involved in other high-priority activities, such as law enforcement or national defense. This individual analyzes complaints, inquiries, and comments from multiple sources; investigates compliances with FCC rules and regulations, and determines appropriate actions, utilizing the FCC's remote HF network of radio direction finders and radio signal analysis equipment. For additional information, see the full job description.

The FCC has solicited comments on a Petition for Declaratory Ruling clarifying Amateur Service rules governing encrypted or encoded messages. Filed on behalf of New York University (NYU), the Petition seeks to clarify that Section 97.113(a)(4) of the Amateur Service rules prohibits the transmission of "effectively encrypted or encoded messages, including messages that cannot be readily decoded over-the-air for true meaning." Comments are due by December 2, with reply comments (comments on comments already filed) due on December 17. The FCC has requested that all filings refer to WT Docket No. 16-239, which grew out of an ARRL Petition for Rule Making requesting elimination of symbol rate limitations on the amateur bands and is unrelated to the wider encryption issue. The NYU Petition contends that some communication modes incorporating dynamic compression techniques "by extension, effectively encrypt or encode the communications."

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The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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