Using PropNET to gauge band openings

(this is info that I was going to send to a colleague but figure others on here might benefit so I'll put it here instead.. So if it seems random, it sortof is)

Last weekend saw a few evenings of high activity and good band conditions in the 10m band. Now, 10m is a fun and quite popular band for many reasons, some of which include:

  • Technicians have voice privileges from 28.3-28.5 MHz
  • Smallest wavelength of the amateur HF allocation, meaning less required for your antenna (for example, beam antennas are smaller)
  • many mobile 10m radios were produced and sold years ago, before multiband radios became more affordable
  • hey, its HF! :)

Now usually in an unexpected "band opening" like this, word gets around and you can find out through word of mouth. But these can be short lived. If I have some time to sit in front of a radio, I like to take a look at PropNET to see for any unexpected band openings rather than wait for the word of mouth to come around. This is very similar to checking up on DX Clusters to find currently active and accessible DX contacts, only PropNET is more general and will show you a google map of band conditions.

PropNET is a network of automated systems that send and receive PSK31 messages on a regular basis on various amateur radio bands. Those messages are collected from stations that receive them, and analyzed. If a pair of stations can understand the messages that each are sending, then it is assumed that band conditions are good between those stations and an "opening" is drawn on the map for that specific band. Simple.

This isn't too exciting for everyday band expectations.. 20m is typically open during the day, as is 40m, and 80m in the evening hours. But, to take a look at the PropNET map and see 10m lines all over is a real thrill. (the same holds true for sporadic E openings on 6m!)

To see all bands with caught packets over the last hour, follow the link below. Settings can be changed for band, location, and time span.

I would add that the lack of information on PropNET should not indicated that a band is dead. Often times I hear 20m or 40m much more active in places that do not appear, so don't take PropNET as the bible for band conditions. Just refer to it for those chance band openings.

Cheers & 73,
-Corey KB9JHU

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