It’s official! WRC-12 approves new amateur radio allocation between 472-479 kHz

Time to think of building some new antennas!  This is excellent news out of the ARRL. Kudos to all who worked on getting this passed at the WRC-12.

(Source: ARRL)

It’s official — delegates attending the 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12) have approved a new 7-kilohertz-wide secondary allocation between 472-479 kHz for the Amateur Radio Service. Agenda Item 1.23 had both its first and second readings in Plenary Session on Tuesday, February 14; to become part of the ITU’s Radio Regulations, each Agenda Item must be read twice in Plenary Session. The new allocation will become official on Friday, February 17 at the close of the Conference.

“This is a fantastic achievement for the Amateur Radio Service,” IARU President Tim Ellam. VE6SH, told the ARRL. “A new allocation for spectrum is always something that should be celebrated. The success on this issue is due to the hard work over the last four years from our IARU representatives, as well as the volunteers from the numerous IARU Member-Societies who have worked within the ITU process on behalf of their national administrations. This is excellent work from our team in Geneva, and from those who have assisted from their home countries.”

Agenda Item 1.23 originally called for a 15-kilohertz-wide spectrum in parts of the band 415-526.5 kHz, taking into account the need to protect existing services. But according to ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, this was in conflict with the Maritime Mobile Service. WRC-12 delegates approved Agenda Item 1.10, which called for a worldwide exclusive allocation to the Maritime Mobile Service of 495-505 kHz. Discussion of this allocation to Maritime Mobile “has been in the works throughout the conference preparation (i.e. since 2008),” Sumner explained, “and was the reason why the MF amateur allocation could not be made in this band as some amateurs had hoped. That’s why we had to look elsewhere and is what put us in conflict with aeronautical radionavigation.”

According to Colin Thomas, G3PSM, CEPT Coordinator for Agenda Item 1.23, WRC-12 delegates moved forward early in the Conference with what he called a “compromise proposal” for the new allocation. “Progress was made with a compromise proposal on Agenda Item 1.23, drafted to take into consideration the views of those for and those against an Amateur Service allocation around 500 kHz. This proposal suggests a 7-kilohertz segment between 472-479 kHz, very close to the CEPT position of 472-480 kHz.”

The new allocation calls for a worldwide secondary allocation to the Amateur Service at 472-479 kHz, with a power limit of 1 W EIRP. A provision has been made, however, for administrations to permit up to 5 W EIRP for stations located more than 800 km from certain countries that wish to protect their aeronautical radionavigation service (non-directional beacons) from any possible interference. Footnotes (see below) provide administrations with opportunities to “opt out” of the amateur allocation and/or to upgrade their aeronautical radionavigation service to primary, if they wish to do so. In addition to these protections for aeronautical radionavigation, the Amateur Service must avoid harmful interference to the primary maritime mobile service. Quite a few additional administrations — mainly in the former Soviet Union and the Arab states — added their country’s names to the Footnotes prior to the Agenda Item’s consideration in Plenary.

More than 3000 participants — representing more than 150 out of the International Telecommunication Union’s 193 Member States — are attending the four-week conference. About 100 Observers from among the ITU’s 700 private sector members — along with international organizations, including the International Amateur Radio Union — are also in attendance. A number of WRC-12 delegates are radio amateurs, with many of them operating at 4U1ITU, the Amateur Radio station at ITU Headquarters. The station has been using the call sign 4U1WRC throughout the duration of the Conference. [Continue reading…]

Thoughts on the Elecraft KX1 and comparing with the Ten-Tec HB1B

My Elecraft KX1

I’ve been meaning to write a post about my Elecraft KX1, because, of all of the rigs I own, it’s the most-often-used, thus the clear favorite in my stable. But:  this morning, I read John Harper’s (AE5X) excellent assessment of the Elecraft KX1 vs. the Ten-Tec HB1B. He provides some significant numbers to consider when comparing these two lightweight CW-only QRP rigs, and makes a great case for elevating the newcomer HB1B over the KX1–at least, for some readers.

I’ve had my Elecraft KX1 for over three years, and, in all honesty, absolutely love it.  But, let’s face it: if I didn’t have one, if I had never touched nor used one, I would be seriously tempted by the HB1B–for its price, for the fact that Ten-Tec sells it (I’m a long-time Sevierville radio fan), and for the fact that it’s not a kit. Oh, yeah:  and because it works very well.

However, having used the KX1 for so long, I know that the HB1B (at least in its current state) could not replace my KX1. But before I explain why, I would like to make some strong points in favor of the HB1B.

YouKits HB1B Four Band QRP Transceiver
The Ten-Tec HB1B

The Ten-Tec HB1B

At least on paper, the HB1B has better filtering, a better display, and generally speaking, more bells and whistles than the KX1. Best of all, it comes fully assembled.

Why is this last point an advantage–? For a number of talented QRPers reading this, building the kit is the best part!  I know, I get it…And to tell the truth, I want to be like you kit-builders out there!  But I am only now getting into kit building, and building my confidence in kit-building.  I’m sure there are many others out there like me. For these QRPers, please note: the KX1 is not a beginner’s kit. I did not build mine. When I bought my KX1, I purchased it from a KX1 beta tester and professional engineer. The soldering and overall build quality are top-shelf.

Moreover, no matter how great an Elecraft radio is, it’s only as good as the person who built it. If the builder does sloppy work, your rig’s longevity and performance may suffer. Since you’ll likely be taking the KX1 with you everywhere, and it’ll experience a fair amount of movement (aka, hard knocks), this is especially important.

If, like me, you’re not prepared to take on building a KX1, fear not!–you should simply purchase from someone who knows their stuff: Elecraft can suggest some builders (including the amazing Don Wilhelm, W3FPR) or you can simply purchased a used KX1 fully-assembled. Or, you can simply purchase the fully-assembled HB1B.

So, why do I not find the HB1B enticing?

Yes, the Ten-Tec HB1B comes ready to roll. Still, could it replace my KX1?  I don’t think so. Two HB1B deal-breakers for me:

  1. As AE5X mentions, there is no internal antenna tuner option.
  2. There is no way (at least, on this version) to attach paddles directly to the rig.

Portability + Simplicity = QRP Fun

Why are these features so important? Well, my KX1 has an ATU, four bands, and an attachable paddle. One of my favorite things to do with my KX1 is, while traveling, to pull it out of its Pelican case, toss a 28′ wire into a tree, and lay a ground wire. As I stand there, I can hold the KX1, tune the antenna (easily 40M and up, with the internal ATU) and work stations my favorite way: while standing up.  I can also (if I like) sit for a moment, then jump up again, walk a bit, and generally move freely–just not possible with sit-on-a-table units.

My Elecraft KX1 fits nicely inside the Pelican 1060 case. There's even room to fit an external Whiterock paddle.

Additionally, everything I need fits inside a Pelican 1060 case. The Kx1 itself is an all-in-one unit–nothing external to attach, unless I want to. Oh, and I can also operate the KX1 with gloves on in below-zero conditions.

Anywhere QRP

Why would I want to operate standing up? Fact is, where I go, I’m only operating for thirty minutes or so, and in places where there’s no convenient spot to settle down or get too comfortable. In many cases, I’m operating on a whim–when I can grab a few minutes in a busy itinerary, or on a hike or day trip. With the Kx1, this is remarkably easy to do. I can have my KX1 on the air in four minutes or less, in most cases–and that includes the time to hang a wire–!  Packing up is also quick. This kind of operation feels as free as flying a kite.  Spontaneity at its best.

Part of that functional synergy comes from the fact that there are no additional components to hook up (i.e., no external tuner, external paddles). With the HB1B, I would be forced to either build a set-up, so that I could stand and hold the transceiver, tuner and paddles, or I’d have to…sit down.

Wayne’s inspiration for the KX1

Thinking back to a Dayton Hamvention several years ago, I seemed to remember that Wayne Burdick, N6KR (co-founder of Elecraft) was inspired by just this sort of off-the-cuff operation. To confirm this, I asked Wayne, just this morning, if I was on track with that. He offered this very thorough (and insightful) response:

I had been designing portable QRP gear for my own use for many years, including the “Safari 4″ (documented in three issues of QEX magazine in 1990). The Safari-4 was 3x5x7”, but it was fully self-contained, including an attached keyer paddle, internal 1-Ahr gel cell and manual antenna tuner, wattmeter, SWR bridge, and 4-band coverage. But it was too large for backpacking. Later, I designed some far smaller rigs with very good performance for NorCal and Wilderness Radio, including the SST, NC40A, and Sierra.

Then I started Elecraft with Eric, WA6HHQ. After we had success with the K2 and K1, I pitched the idea of a smaller version of the Safari-4 to Eric.

There were two inspirations for this. Back in the 70s, W7ZOI (Wes) created his “Mountaineer”, which was a crystal-controlled 40-m QRP rig that was very simple to use, very small, and self-contained, in that battery and paddles were built in. But it had no VFO, no ATU, a single band, and no frills. Taking what we’d learned in the K2 and K1 designs, I figured we could pack a great radio into this same size using updated technology. It had to cover at least 40 and 20 meters, and the idea was to use latching relays to minimize current drain and simplify band switching. We also used a DDS chip for the VFO–not quite as pure as crystal control, but just as stable, and totally adequate for a portable radio.

The other inspiration was my idea for an attached, but easily removable and mechanically reversible, keyer paddle. This became the KXPD1. I literally woke up at 5 AM with this idea. I realized immediately that this was the enabling technology for a hand-held radio, and I got busy with the design.

Having spent time camping and hiking with other rigs, I also knew that the ATU had to be built in. This allows the use of ad-hoc, wire-in-a-tree antennas, which is the secret to quick setup. It was a challenge creating an ATU that’s just 1 x 5″, but it worked. We spent weeks refining the rig and the ATU to work with typical field antennas, adjusting the component values to cover 40 and 20 meters. When we added the 30-m module, we found that it handled this well, too.

Most of my KX1 operation involves not even sitting down. I literally stop on the trail at a scenic overlook, pull the daypack around and extract the rig, toss a wire into one or two trees, and I’m on the air. I love this kind of operation. I’ve gone so far as to operate while sitting in a tree (an “inverted vertical”–a dangling wire–works amazingly well). Having to futz with add-ons can be fun, too, but it discourages “instant” operation. I like to quote Ade Weiss, W0RSP,  from his book The Joy of QRP: “If there is a place, and you can get to it, you must operate from there.”

You can’t overlook performance and features, either. The KX1 is stable in all operating environments and draws only about 35 mA. It includes a variable-passband crystal filter that can be widened out to copy AM and SSB signals, and can even do cross-mode (transmitting in CW while receiving LSB or USB). It has a full set of frequency memories and CW message buffers. For blind hams (or when you’re too tired to keep your eyes open), the KX1 has a 100% Morse-audio-feedback system. I tested this firmware with my eyes closed, and the result was very well-received by the blind amateur community.

Thanks for the history, and your inspiration, Wayne. Love it!

The KX1's Tuning, RF, AF and Filter knobs are very easy to operate--even with gloves on!

When you hold and operate the KX1, this legacy is all too apparent. Thoroughly thought through–down to a built-in LED lamp for logging–and, without a doubt, the original inspiration for several radios that followed: the HB1B, the MFJ 92XX series, and the Hendricks PFR3.

My guess is that the next generation of HB1B will have some of these clever features.

In the meantime, if you’re in the market for an inexpensive, CW-only, very portable QRP rig, and you’ve no plans to embark upon impromptu operation, the HB1B could be your rig. Based on my experience with Ten-Tec, if they sell it, they’ll give you excellent customer service. That is the beauty of these two choices, both Elecraft and Ten-Tec are excellent companies to do business with.

I only think I’d give up my KX1 for…the new KX3, and I’m not even convinced I’d do that, yet. The KX1 has become my little travel buddy. Time will tell, though. Check back here–if I’m wooed by another QRP radio, I may eat my words.

By the way, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the inspiration to finally write down my thoughts on the KX1 came from John Harper (AE5X) who has an excellent QRP blog that you should certainly add to your favorites!  And thanks, again, to Wayne, both for his response, and for his original ideas that continue to make QRP so liberating.

W0BG looks back at 100 years of ham radio

(Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

Mark Kelley (W0BG) has published an article on DX Coffee looking back on 100 years of ham radio. Here’s a clip:


When you first glance at the title, Ham Radio USA – 100 Years and Counting, you can’t help but think out loud and ask yourself when ham radio had its real start. If ham radio in the USA really is to have its centennial celebration this year, that necessarily means that we’re assigning the year 1912 a great deal of significance. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the formative years of ham radio and leave the modern for another discussion at another time.

[…]No doubt there are many of us who have been asked regarding the origin of the word “ham,” a word which has come to define our hobby. Although you may not take this as the final word on the subject, you will find this particular interpretation interesting, as there would seem to be no reason to doubt its authenticity. The word ham actually appears in the publication “The Telegraphist” in September of 1884 when referring to a not so good telegrapher as a “duffer” or “ham.” The word “duffer” may be defined as an incompetent or clumsy person, one with little professional training or experience. Although today we take great pride in being called a ham in 2012, being called a ham, at least in the context mentioned here, was unflattering and derogatory at best, during the day of the land line telegrapher of 1884 per this particular citation.

Read W0BG’s full article on

Ten-Tec announces availability of three new products

The new Ten-Tec RX-366 adds a contest-grade sub-receiver to the original Orion or Orion II (Photo: Ten-Tec)

Last year, Ten-Tec announced several new products at the 2011 Ten-Tec Hamfest. Three of these products are now available for purchase (see full announcement and photos below):

For the Orion/Orion II owner who loves DX and contesting, the new Model RX366 High Performance ASR Sub-Receiver ($639 US) will be a serious upgrade to the existing sub-receiver (read John Henry’s description below). The Model 717 ($119 US) will allow you to connect new dynamic microphones to older rigs that required a higher microphone input level such as from an electric mic element. While the Model 318 Amplifier Key Interface ($89 US) may not appeal to the QRPer, it certainly will be of benefit to folks who want to hook up an old linear amplifier to one of TT’s newer rigs.

Please find the full product announcements below with added photos:

(Source: Ten-Tec)

Back at the 12th annual Hamfest, TenTec announced several new products that we would have in production, for sale, late 2011 and early 2012.

Today, I am pleased to announce that we have met our goals on the following:

Model RX366 High Performance ASR Sub-Receiver for the Orion Model 565 and Orion II Model 566. This is a new contest grade second receiver for the 565 and 566 Orion series of transceivers. This new second receiver uses ASR (Advanced Signal Reception) technology like what is already a proven winner in the Eagle to provide a great enhancement to the rig. The RX366, requires the new V3 Orion 565 and Orion II 566 firmware. With V3 installed and the RX366 installed, the Orion(s) now have vastly superior performance to the original sub-receiver in terms of immunity to interference from adjacent strong signals and immunity to overloading from very strong signals present on the band. Your Orion 565 and Orion II 566 have never worked so well before.
Price = $639.00
(1 2.4kHz filter included)

Ten-Tec Model 717 Microphone Equalizer / Audio Interface (Photo: Ten-Tec)

Model 717 – Microphone Equalizer / Audio Interface. The 717 will allow you to connect new dynamic microphones, such as the Regal Model 707 Desk Microphone to older rigs that required a higher microphone input level such as from an electric mic element.
The unit works with Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood as well as older Ten-Tec transceivers using 4 or 8 pin circular microphone connectors. Now you can use the rally cool Regal Model 707 Microphone with an older Ten-Tec rig such as an OMNI-VI. You can tweak the actions of hi and low frequencies to meet your needs.
Price = $119.00

Ten-Tec Model 318 Amplifier Key Interface (Photo: Ten-Tec)

Model 318 Amplifier Key Interface. The 318 will allow you to dial in a delay when you connect older linear amplifiers to your transceiver. This will be useful if the amplifier is not designed for full break-in. An excellent seamless add-on for Eagle users who want to adjust the transmitted output to work with older amplifiers. Adaptable to almost any transceiver.
Price = $89.00

Note: V3 firmware for the 565 and 566 is in the process of getting bundled up and placed on the internet. Estimate for V3 release and posting is by 5pm EST Tuesday.

Best Regards,
John Henry
TenTec Inc.

Catch AA0RQ’s Solar-Powered QRPp beacon

(Photo: AA0RQ)

You might want to let your viewers of your nice web site know that on 10133.56kHz AA0RQ/b is on the air…30mw at night and 100mw during the day and solar powered.

Thanks for the suggestion, Bill!

I would also encourage you to visit the page of William (AA0RQ). There, he describes in good detail, the beacon, how to get a QSL and figure the miles per watt to your QTH. I also enjoyed reading his bio and how he fell in love with low power.

Now I’m off to snag AA0RQ/B!

41dB Step RF Attenuator Kit

Hendricks QRP Kits has just added a new 41dB step RF attenuator kit to their product line. Read Doug Hendricks announcement, via QRP-L, below:

We have added another test equipment kit to the lineup at Hendricks QRP
Kits. Ken LoCasale has used the step attenuator circuit in the ARRL
Handbook as the basis of a 41dB step attenuator. The kit comes in a custom
case, and is complete with all parts needed to finish, including a
commercial quality double sided, solder masked and silk screened pc board.
The attenuator uses a pi net work of 2W resistors, and will handle 5 W.
Attenuators are great to use to work low power, and are the easiest way to
make very low power contacts. Check out the manual at
Kits are in stock and ready to ship. The price is $50 plus shipping and
handling. Thanks, Doug

Click here for Hendricks QRP Kits.

The Coldest QRP Event of the Year: FYBO

Get your winter gear on! The FYBO (Freeze Your B___ Off) Winter QRP Sprint, sponsored by the Arizona ScQRPions, is being held Saturday, February 4, 2012, from 1400Z-2400Z.

The rules are simple, and you even get multipliers for your (low) temperatures. Lots of fun, lots of QRP.

Read the full set of rules at the Arizona ScQRPions QRP Club website.

First photo of the Kenwood TS-990S?

UPDATE May 8, 2012: Want to see the real photo of the TS-990S? Check out this post.

The image above has been floating around the Internet for a couple of months as the concept for the Kenwood TS-990S. Is it the real thing? No. Absolutely not.

It is, without a doubt, a Photoshopped image. I ran an image error level analysis to see what parts were Photoshopped–see results below and follow this link to the full anaysis.

This analysis shows where Photoshop cuts and pastes were made--notice the areas highlighted in pink.

We will post TS-990S images when they become available from Kenwood. [UPDATE: see our most recent post with photo.]

Andy’s 6N7 Tube QRP Amp

In this Glowbug Times article, Andy shows us his very cool homebrew tube amp. Andy shares his motivation:

Once upon a time I’d decided to join a Big Guns Gang and made a Super-Duper Powerful Vacuum Tube QRP amplifier for my 800mW QRPP homebrew telegraph vacuum tube transceiver “3T” (I promise to write a separate article or two about this three tube transceiver project later). It was not an easy decision to me because for that legendary time I’d almost a year used the QRPPpower of less than a watt[…]

Read Andy’s full article here. Make sure to browse the many other articles he has published–his attention to design detail is simply inspiring.

Building an Elecraft K3 in 7 minutes

This is a great time-lapse video of the assembly of the Midland Amateur Radio Club‘s Elecraft K3:

See, that wasn’t so hard!

QRP radios, product announcements, reviews, news and more. Low power amateur radio fun!