Adventures since getting my Full license.

In May 2021 the AT issued the Full license for HAM radio to me and accepted my new call. As a present I ordered myself an Icom IC-7300 and I’ve been happy with it every moment thereafter. My previous main rig was a Yaesu FT857D which was connected to an ATAS 120A mobile screwdriver antenna which was placed on the roof of our house. It had always worked quite good providing all bands between 40 meters and 70 centimers. But being fully licensed now, I also wanted to get on the air on the 80 meters and maybe even 160 meters. So it was time for a new antenna.

Okay, months before doing the exam I was watching videos on Youtube and reading articles on the web about all kind of antennas. I’m not really very good with my hands and wanted something simple. So I decided my first experiment would be an endfed random wire antenna. But there are some restrictions. Hanging the antenna over the gardens is a no-go. We have a flat roof, so it should be placed there. We live in a modest house, not small but also not that big. So the space on the roof is limited with regards to hanging away a long wire…

On eBay I found someone in Portugal who was manufactering endfed random wire antennas of 32 meters long with a 9:1 unun. I ordered one. Unfortunately, 32 meters was still too long, but he also provided a list of lengths which should also work (have a low SWR). I choose to cut the wire to about 16.2 meters. In every corner on the roof I placed a pvc pipe, drilled a hole above in the pipes and put the wire through the holes. The pipes are two meters long and are standing on a base each with four concrete tiles in it to keep things stable when there’s a strong wind.

The manual said the antenna didn’t need a counterpoise and unfortunately I followed that advice. Later that day I started testing the antenna with the Icom 7300. I choose to test it with FT8. Very soon I was confronted with RFI in the shack and on my PC running Windows 10 there appeared a window with the message the computer lost the connection with the 7300 and also the soundcard on the 7300 had disappeared… And this has been the situation for almost two quarters of this year… 🙁

I tried all kinds of things to find a solution. Bought a couple of ferrite snap-ons. Didn’t help. Bought a MFJ artificial ground. Didn’t fully help also. Replaced the manual tuner with a LDG Z100 autotuner I found on Marktplaats. Still very happy with this LDG device, but also no final solution.

And to make things worse, I discovered that when transmitting on a couple of bands (80, 40 and 20 meters) while using more than 5-10 Watts, the VDSL2-modem providing internet disconnects and restarts the training process of the connection. So we are without Internet for about 2-4 minutes. This annoys my partner very much and of course he’s right: it IS irritating. So, hamradio faded a bit into the background for three months.

Last week I picked the hobby up again. I bought a HP thin client especially for ham radio (so it can stay on 24 hours a day, because of its low power usage) and to run Linux on it (Debian Testing distro). I configured the thin client with the new operating system and connected the Yaesu 857D to it. I only dared to work on two meters and 70 centimers (this is where the 857 is now used for), because that worked without a problem.

After a few hours playing around with WSPR, the longing for the HF bands was growing stronger and I gave in. The Icom was connected to the new hamradio pc and I fired up WSJT-X for the WSPR mode on 30 meters using 5 Watts. And it worked! I was even more surprised about the random wire antenna. It has an odd shape (three sides of rectangle, with one side being only the half of the other side), but it was working out quite okay.

I got more bold and switched to 40 meters. This worked too! And what about 80 meters? Also no problem: the connection between the thin client and the rig was never lost and also the VDSL2 modem didn’t lose its connection.

And then it was yesterday, Tuesday December 13th. Did I dare to try out FT8 and a higher power, say 15 Watts? This also worked flawlessly; I made QSO’s again! 😀

The same was the case for 80 and 40 meters. And I even upped the output to 20, 30 and 40 Watts. It all worked without any problem. Internet stayed online and the thin client didn’t loose the connection to the Icom.

But to be honest, I did change some settings on WSJT-X and the 7300 after watching this video:

I changed the volume level of the audio coming out of the computer into the 7300 so that the ALC barely comes out of its corner. I used the power slider in WSJT-X for that. And next I turned off the AGC. Maybe those where the reasons why it worked now. I was now probably not overdriving the transmitter as the ALC did come out of its corner very much before this change.

But alas… after dinner the problems returned. Or to be more precise, the modem lost its connection to the provider. And a second time and a third time. All this on the 80, 40 and 20 meter bands. Lowered the power to 20 watts, but the problem continued to exist. Important note: the computer and the rig never lost the connection to each other.

One thing was different: the TV was on now. We use IPTV (Canal Digitaal) over the VDSL2 connection, so there was more data going over the phone line. As my partner wanted to watch some TV, I gave up on FT8 for that evening and changed the mode to WSPR, 30 meter band and 5 Watts of output. The connection stayed online now for the rest of that evening.

This afternoon I was working at home, but had some time between tasks and fired up FT8 again. Stayed on 30 meters but turned the power up to 30 Watts and started using WSJT-X mode FT8. Everything kept on working. So my conclusion for now is that the 30 meters band (10 MHz) is not a problem for the Internet modem (a Draytek Vigor 165; the router is a Linksys EA8300 running OpenWRT version 21.02.2).

If you came to this paragraph (thank you for continuing reading) you might ask: why doesn’t he go back to the roof and connect a counterpoise to the unun of the wire antenna. Well, to be honest: I’m not that fond of climbing a ladder. If it’s necessary I will do it, but for now I’m researching one more possible solution.

On Dutch amateur forums I read about a solution KPN (Dutch telco which owns all phone copper lines in the ground) might offer. It can add a profile on your DSLAM (device where my phone line is connected to) connection which results in the frequency bands in use by radio amateurs are no longer used on the phone line. As my DSL modem connects to the DSLAM using a 17A profile, frequencies until 17 MHz are transmitted on the phone line. Several amateur bands are under 17 MHz and thus could distort the modem when transmitting with your rig. Several other amateurs have this problem.

I’ve send a mail to my provider, Freedom Internet: do they know about this solution, can they activate it on my line, but also if they will disable this profile again on my request when it seems not to be the solution or when my connection speed goes down a lot. I’m quite fond of my modem connecting at a speed of respectively 111 and 33 Mbps down and up.

So for now this is the next thing I will pursue to find a solution for transmitting on the HF bands and not loosing the connection to internet at the same moment. But maybe the only real solution is to climb on the roof and attach a counterpoise to the antenna. Only time will tell…

What do you think?

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