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amateur radio nets australia

We all love to communicate, why not take a trip around the world with radio!! No internet connection or mobile phone signal is needed! Talk to other amateur radio operators across the world, maybe even in unusual places or as far as space!

Yes, that’s right, the international space station carries amateur radio equipment on board and there are always licensed amateurs among the crew who enjoy using it to communicate with operators all over the world. Youtube features several recordings of amateur radio operators communicating with space crew!

What to listen to

You can listen to local radio stations from around Australia, and even the world via shorwave.

 HF aircraft channels, weather reports, and amateur radio nets. For those new to listening on the HF bands, nets are an ‘on-the-air’ gathering of amateur radio operators. chatting and passing messages, normally via organised radio nets, on a predetermined frequency at the same time every day.

These nets can range from discussions on areas of interest, to emergency messages or simply as a regular gathering of friends for conversation. 

Here are some of the most common radio nets.

DX Nets

DX nets are one of the most fascinating and are often organized to help amateur radio operators make contact with stations in distant locations or regions where amateur radio operators are scarce. 

Imagine randomly tuning across amateur bands and being able to listen to another station you may not normally be able to hear, by simply tuning into a DX net.

Club Nets

Amateur radio clubs organise nets between members on a regular basis. The topics are often of special interest and can vary from vintage radio equipment, locating unique stations in Australia and around the world, using and discussing the AM mode of voice transmission and many more.

These nets foster communications members across geographic locations and special interest clubs, and make fascinating listening for shortwave enthusiasts, whilst providing an open communications link for those in isolation.

Traffic Nets.

Traffic nets operate primarily to relay written messages. Both routine and emergency messages have been passed on behalf of others as a public service mission for decades.

Often used for training purposes or during emergencies such as natural disasters when there are power outages traffic nets are used to pass on crucial information to the affected areas. Often relayed by emergency services or ham radio users where possible.

If you are looking to add a shortwave radio to your collection we have a fantastic selection available on our webshop like The Tecsun PL880 Radio 

*Info from the Wireless Institute of Australia 

 

anzac day military radio history

As ANZAC day approaches this year, it’s a good time to reflect on how radio communications has evolved over time, accelerated by wartime conflicts, and how difficult it must have been during times of conflict.

Prior to the introduction of radio communications, messages during wars were sent using dogs and homing pigeons. Short range communications utilised signalling lamps and mirrors with limited success

Towards the end of World War 1, the introduction of “spark” or “loop” radio sets, operating on the longwave band, and utilising CW (morse code) was recognised as a great step forward in technology. These sets were used between different groups on the battlefield, as great improvement over messengers who were continually under fire from snipers.

In September 1914, one month after the declaration of war, at the battle of Bita Paka, Australian forces attacked the German South Seas Wireless Station on the island of New Britain, conquering German New Guinea.

By the end of World War 1, despite the equipment being heavy and bulky, CW communications had been used by Australian military forces on land, sea and air.

Considered to be more advantageous to naval and airborne forces, where existing telegraph lines could not be employed, this technology paved the way for more advanced voice communications employed after 1920.

Between wars development of radio communications equipment continued, as the benefits of instant communications to direct armed forces was realised.

By 1939 local industry was gearing up to manufacture radio receivers for expected consumer demand of the new technology which provided news and entertainment from around the world.

Governments around the world soon realised that radio was a very effective propaganda tool. Nazi Germany and the British government used it to muster support from their respective populations. In fact the German military arranged the manufacture of millions of radio receivers which were subsidised, allowing access to the general population.

In America, the Office of Co-ordination began providing programming to commercial shortwave stations, in order to spread the news of the war in Europe and the Allied response.

At the end of August 1939 in Australia, all shortwave transmissions professional and amateur, were ordered shut down.

A few weeks after the declaration of war in September 1939, Mr (later Sir) Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister, inaugurated a government controlled overseas shortwave service to counter German propaganda in the Pacific. Initially called “Australia Calling” and using the callsign VLQ2, the service commenced on his birthday, December 20 1939. This service later became Radio Australia.

Whilst telephone and telegraph cables carried some traffic in war zones (a cable was laid under the English Channel between France and England), radio communications became a necessity during World War 2 and the simultaneous development of radar technology accelerated the development of “portable” radio transceivers, so large and heavy that they had to be transported by cart or jeep. In Australia, manufacturers like AWA, STC, Astor (Radio Corporation of Australia) and Kingsley began manufacturing radio equipment for land sea and air forces. Coastwatchers in northern Australia, Solomon Islands and New Guinea used AWA’s 3BZ receiver and 3BZ Teleradio transmitter to intercept Japanese communications and relay important information to the Australian and US navies patrolling the pacific.

3BZ Teleradio system

Typical of the bulky equipment of the time was the Number 11 set was manufactured by AWA. It was a combination transmitter receiver, operating on the HF bands, and drawing 2.9 amps on receive and 3.3 amps on low power transmit (1 watt), a far cry from today’s modern transceivers. It weighed 20Kg.

No. 11 Transceiver Anzac             Subsequent to the World Wars and both before and during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, communications equipment was developed and refined to suit modern warfare techniques.

By the early 1950’s military communications equipment had progressed significantly. AWA were making the A-510 transceiver which was a portable, battery operated, 4 channel crystal controlled transceiver covering 2-10Mhz. Despite the low RF power output of 150mW when using voice communications, the established range was over two miles in the portable configuration and over 100 miles when used with a half wave dipole in “ground station” mode. It weighed 9Kg

anzac radioBy the beginning of the Vietnam War, most military radio communications equipment was manufactured in the USA. Troops in Vietnam used the AN/PRC 25, a valve, multichannel VHF FM transceiver with a power output of 2 watts and a range of approximately 5 miles. It weighed 12Kg. This model was superseded by the PRC-77 which was also VHF FM, had the ability to use voice encryption, and had a solidstate power amplifier, reducing the weight to 6kg.

PRC-77 Transceiver

By the 1970’s AWA was producing a fully solid state HF transceiver covering 2-12Mhz in 1Khz steps, utilising CW and USB modes, operating from an internal Nicad battery, and was capable of 10 watts PEP output power. The receiver drew 35mA, and the entire transceiver including backpack weighed just 9 Kg

This snippet of radio equipment development history allows us to contemplate the huge improvement in performance, and at the same time give thought to those who persevered with heavy cumbersome and poorly performing equipment, during times of conflict.

Lest We Forget.

 

 

Images courtesy of Kurrajong Radio Museum

Many technically inclined people have discovered shortwave listening in their youth. Years later they continue to the fascinated by what can be heard on the shortwave bands.

This is my story….

As a teenager, I became interested in radio by reading the hobbyist magazines of the day. There were tantalising ads for army disposals stores in Sydney full of communications equipment but beyond my modest means.  In my case, I acquired several old valve radios thrown out at the local tip. Much to the disgust of my parents, I regularly carried such prizes home and commenced my new hobby of listening to the radio bands.

In those days most home entertainment units were made of wood and contained a radio receiver that covered the broadcast and shortwave bands.  I was lucky to find one that worked. Quickly discarding the bulky wooden cabinet, the receiver became a benchtop unit, exposed in all its glory. The speaker used an electromagnet (no permanent magnets in those days) and the signal strength meter was a green valve indicator poking through the front panel called a “magic eye”.

The next step was to install an antenna which comprised the longest piece of wire I could find. I recall that unraveling the enamel copper wire from a transformer became the most cost-effective solution.

Soon I was listening to overseas stations, many broadcasting in English, and occasionally I heard important events. I recall clearly listening to the Victoria Police on one of their HF frequencies when they announced the search for a prominent politician who had gone missing in December 1967.

I informed my parents of this important event and they were amazed to discover a few days later that I had been listening to the search for the then Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt who disappeared in the surf at Portsea in Victoria.

I enjoyed listening to distant MW stations all over Australia, and collected quite a few QSL cards from broadcasters around the world.

Believe it or not, a Broadcast Listeners Licence was required in Australia until in 1974, at a cost of $26.50, so there was a degree of secrecy involved in all this listening activity.

Eventually, my shortwave listening led me to an interest in Amateur Radio. I knew a local lad who was fortunate enough to purchase the entire correspondence course for the amateur exam and who loaned it to me after he obtained his license.

So in August 1973, I obtained my amateur radio license. Somehow I managed to make the required 90% pass mark, much to my amazement.

My first amateur radio transceiver was a converted Pye reporter VHF AM taxi radio. I recall it had a huge valve in the output stage, requiring several hundred volts from the power supply to operate. The only semiconductors were in the 12 volt inverter powering the entire contraption. When the push to talk button on the microphone was pushed, it took a few seconds for the voltage to build up sufficiently to allow the transmitter to operate!

From that point, there seemed to be an endless succession of different two way radios being fiddled with to obtain the best on air performance. During subsequent years I became interested in amateur television and satellite communications.

I recall in about 1975 being able to eavesdrop on the US operators of the Applications Technology Satellite 1 (ATS-1), the world’s first weather satellite. At the time my interest was driven by the fact that antennas for the VHF and UHF bands where physically manageable and easy to make.

However, my interest in VHF and UHF waned as mobile phones replaced the two way radio as the preferred method of communication and I became re-energised with shortwave.

In much the same way as my earlier experience with VHF and UHF was driven by the availability of ex-commercial equipment, so was my entry into HF communications.

Second hand commercial transceivers designed for use by the Royal Flying Doctor Service became available and soon I was running 100 watts on the HF amateur bands, communicating with people around the world.

Someone once told me that shortwave listening is like fishing… you never know what you are going to get. That certainly described my experiences.

One incident worthy of mention was receiving the USAF Strategic Bomber Command broadcasts. These coded transmissions were part of the US military control of nuclear weapons and could control the launch of ground-based missiles should war be declared! These broadcasts weren’t public knowledge at the time.

I also heard the US military MIA recovery missions into Laos and Cambodia at the end of the Vietnam war, fascinating listening. Over the years I have heard several successful search and rescue missions involving aircraft being ferried from the USA to Australia. On one occasion I heard a commercial cargo jet traveling from Australia to the US, circling a downed pilot until the US Coastguard could reach him.

To be able to listen to these situations unfolding in real time is one of the aspects of shortwave listening that makes it an exciting hobby, contrary to common belief.

These days I mostly listen on HF. There is an amazing range of broadcasts available to shortwave listeners, ranging from utility stations like the Bureau of Meteorology, 4WD networks, HF aircraft networks and VOLMET, and secret numbers stations, as well as regular, scheduled shortwave broadcasts from all over the world.

Now, listening is even easier, as broadcasting schedules are freely available, and the worldwide network of internet accessible KiwiSDRs provide a fantastic resource for shortwave listeners.

Receivers are now more affordable than ever and the hobby is enjoying a huge resurgence, in part due to the worldwide pandemic of 2020.

There is no time like the present to immerse yourself in the world of shortwave listening!

 

Garry VK2YBX

Looking for a fantastic shortwave radio? Tecsun Radios Australia stocks a range of Tecsun radios like the newly arrived Tecsun PL330 $145 right through to the latest Tecsun radio to be released and considered to be a masterpiece, the Tecsun PL990

The Xiegu G90  is a powerful portable HF multimode transceiver that covers 0.5-30MHz (10-160 metres on TX) with 20 watts of RF output. The XIEGU G90 HF Transceiver utilises a software-defined (SDR) 24-bit architecture to provide superb transmit and receive performance.

Click here to shop our full range.

Click here to view a list of major ABC AM radio stations by area. All frequencies are in kilohertz (kHz) and all are on the medium wave band (MW).

In 1843 the phenonema known as the Solar cycle was discovered by Samuel Schwabe a German astronomer who observed transitions of the Sun from periods of high activity to low activity every 11 years, over a period of nearly 20 years.

Put in simple terms, the Sun is composed of a huge ball of electrically charged hot gas. As this gas moves, it generates a powerful magnetic field. This magnetic field transitions through an 11 year cycle (known as the Solar Cycle) during which the magnetic poles of the Sun are transposed, ie the north and south poles change places.

This cycle affects activity on the surface of the Sun, such as sunspots and solar flares. The energy released by these events charges particles in the ionosphere, affecting radio propagation. More solar flares and sunspots occur at the peak of the cycle than at the bottom of the cycle. Typical values are 80-100 sunspots at the cycle peak and 15 or so at the cycle minimum.

When a strong flare occurs, the increased x-ray and extreme ultraviolet radiation produces ionisation in the lower, D (absorption) layer of the ionosphere, disrupting HF radio broadcasts by absorbing rather than reflecting signals. 

We are currently at the end of Solar Cycle 24 (calculated as mid 2020), and from this point we can expect an increase in solar activity and changed radio propagation as the maximum useable frequency (MUF) for shortwave communications increases with an increase in solar activity.

At the peak of the Solar Cycle, the higher frequencies of the shortwave spectrum are very good. Low power stations can be heard over remarkably long distances. 

At the bottom of the cycle, the current position, those higher frequency signals will not usually support normal propagation via the ionosphere. So propagation at lower frequencies will be better whilst higher frequencies will suffer. 

 

Article written by Tecsun Radios Australia

Image of sun via Nasa.

The future of shortwave

 

The future of Shortwave is looking bright as the BBC Shortwave transmissions service of two decades ago is being revisited.

 

In a time where people are distancing themselves and experiencing isolation. Shortwave may just be what the world needs to unite all cultures!

 

People who enjoy shortwave and for those who are interested in shortwave radio something interesting has emerged from the  High Frequency Co-Ordination Conference (HFCC), a non-governmental association.  

 

Due to the fact that many of the old transmitters needed to be replaced or upgraded a decision to revisit the need for shortwave and consideration to re-launch the BBC shortwave broadcast  service (cut 20 years ago) has been undertaken. Modern technology allows greater coverage and lower operating costs, re-energising the enthusiasm for shortwave broadcasting.

 

Even in this high tech world, there are still so many developing and free world countries relying heavily on Shortwave radio. Not everybody in the world has smart phones, broadband, connected cars or enough disposable income.

 

Shortwave defies cultural, religious and geographical barriers, Shortwave is free and unlike most platforms available it can be consumed anonymously.

For some countries, much of their information and media is censored, so receiving updates through shortwave from neighboring countries can be the only source they can access.

 

Many, especially in North Korea which are rated as the second most censored country in the world, tune in to cross border broadcasts despite serious consequences if caught by the Kim Jong-Un regime.

The BBC Shortwave transmission services used to broadcast to most of the world, over time however, many were cut, limiting broadcasts  to larger audiences in Africa and part of Asia. 

Currently, the major shortwave broadcasters are BBC, Voice of America, All India Radio, China Radio International, Radio Japan, Radio Romania, Radio New Zealand, Radio France International, Radio Taiwan International, KBS Korea and Voice of Turkey and many more.

 

Reinstating the previous BBC Broadcasts would mean the world of shortwave could be enjoyed cross culturally again especially in a time where boarders are closed to each other and people are feeling isolated.

 

 “Shortwave is just short of a miracle, actually. When it is beamed at an angle, it hits the ionosphere. A mirror around the Earth and then it falls like a ball at great distances, beyond the horizon. Thus these transmissions reach listeners over large areas, continents and beyond. Two or three high-power transmitters can potentially cover the entire world.”

                                Ruxandra Obreja ( chairman of Digital Radio Mondiale.)

 

Are you looking for a radio whilst self isolating that is capable or shortwave listening?

Here are our picks.

Tecsun S-8800 High Performance AM/FM Radio.  A true Broadcast Listeners Receiver  designed to provide maximum performance on the AM (MW) bands, allowing listeners to receive fringe AM radio stations with unmatched audio clarity

Tecsun SL-880

Tecsun PL600 World Band Radio provides reception of the shortwave, medium wave, long wave, and FM broadcast bands. The Tecsun PL600 World Band Radio’s PLL synthesised design ensures excellent frequency stability.

Tecsun pl600

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Radio licence applications soars.

What you need to do to prepare for a natural disaster or emergency including what essentials you will need to pack in your emergency kit.

Its important to have a discussion with your family on what you would do in the event of a fire/ flood or other natural disaster event before the actual event takes place.

Its important to discuss the following.

How will you access emergency alerts and messages and monitor events? 

The best way of receiving event alerts and updates is via radio. ABC broadcasts hourly updates, more if needed in the local area to keep you informed. In many cases Emergency Services will call the radio station directly. Radio is also the failsafe method of receiving these reports when power is cut and networks are down which often happens during natural disasters

Make a list of radio frequencies of the local ABC and Community radio stations, so you know where to listen. You can find our guide here

In an emergency dial 000. Access to 000 is available on all mobile networks regardless of which network you use. Roaming arrangements are in place so you can use any available network.You can even dial 000 on a phone with no SIM.

Download the “Emergency +” app onto your phone. Do this before any emergency and take note of your GPS location. You might need this for emergency services if they have to find you. The Emergency + App wont work without mobile phone coverage.

Tune in to your local radio, local ABC/emergency broadcaster frequency. You may want to consider a solar powered or battery operated radio because power is often the first thing to go in emergency situations.

If you still have internet keep an eye on the BOM app and investigate your local Flood/ natural disaster and fire apps like the Rural Fire Service “Fires Near Me” App.

         

 If you are driving, keep updated on road conditions and closures by checking the NSW Transport “Live Traffic” App. There are similar Apps in most states.

At what point would you leave your home?What will be your sign to leave? It could be smoke or fire in your area, lightning and heavy rain or floodwater approaching your property.

Where will you go? Where is there a meeting place that’s safe and away from the disaster area? It might be a friend or relative’s place, or even a shopping centre. Most regional towns have a designated “safe place”. Most local council or community associations have a designated “Safe Place” for residents to go in an emergency.

Find out where your “Safe Place” is located.

What will you take? What would be your essentials you would like to take with you if you were forced to leave your home

Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared and ready to grab when needed. Unfortunately you don’t need an emergency kit until you really do.

 

PREPARE YOUR EMERGENCY KIT.

Pack a backpack with the following supplies and keep it somewhere safe that is easily accessed when needed.

Storing items in airtight plastic containers and sealer bags will help keep your belongings dry and in good condition both while in storage and during the emergency situation.

Here is a list of your essential items to pack.

  • Flashlight
  • Personal medication
  • Bottled water. Allow 2L per person per day minimum.
  • Food, non perishable, as required..
  • Manual can opener
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Candles
  • Cash- if the power is out then the ATMS wont work.
  • Phone “power bank”. Make sure it is changed at all times.
  • Extra batteries for your flashlight
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust masks to help filter contaminated air- P2 masks are best for dust and smoke.
  • Toilet paper, moist towelettes etc for personal sanitation
  • Local maps
  • Sharp knife (penknife)

Repack expired items as needed and re pack/ check your emergency kit every year.

Don’t have an emergency radio yet?

We reccomend the DE13 which features light, alarm, inbuilt Solar Panel and Dynamo hand crank charger that allow you to recharge the internal battery or charge any device by  USB or mini USB including your mobile phone. This is the perfect radio to keep for any emergencies

                                                                                 

To get yours, Click here to be directed to this product in our online store.