The world calling Africa

September 30th, 2016, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

 

"Graham Levey ZS6C: We hope to grow this event and make the world realise that there are radio amateurs in Africa and their number is growing."

Graham Levey ZS6C: “We hope to grow this event and make the world realise that there are radio amateurs in Africa and their number is growing.”

Once a year radio amateurs from all over the world turn their attention to Africa to participate in the Africa All Mode International DX Contest. The objective of this all mode contest is to focus the world on African radio amateurs.

Contesting is one of the many facets of  radio amateurs and challenges their operating skills. In some European countries this kind of amateur radio activity is referred to as radio sport. The Africa All Mode International DX contest is the brainchild of Geoff Levey ZS6C, the contest manager of the South African Radio League (SARL). He was assisted by other local radio amateurs. Following the success of the first event held last year it was decided to make it an annual event. This year it was held over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday 17 and 18 September 2016.

“There are not many radio amateurs on the African continent. In fact South Africa has more radio amateurs than the total for the rest of the continent”, Levey said. “The contest is thus an ideal way to put Africa on the world amateur radio map by having the rest of the world concentrating on Africa over a 24 hour period.

The practice of “DXing” arose during the early days of radio broadcasting. Listeners (often referred to as SWLers) would mail “reception reports” to radio broadcasting stations in the hope of getting a written acknowledgement or a QSL card that served to officially verify they had heard a distant station. Collecting these cards became popular with radio listeners in the 1920s and 1930s, and reception reports were often used by early broadcasters to gauge the effectiveness of their transmissions.

While DXing has lost its popularity amongst SWLers, it is actively practised by radio amateurs looking to making contacts with as many countries or entities as possible. Entities are considered to be the physical territory of a sovereign state, or of a smaller, or former, political division within a geographical region. Radio amateurs can qualify for many different awards of which perhaps the most wanted one is the DXCC. Currently there are a few South African radio amateurs at the top of the DXCC list with confirmed contacts with almost all of the entities currently recognised by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) which administers the DXCC award. There are currently 339 recognised entities.

All modes for the Africa DX contest means that that contacts may be made using Morse Code  (CW), single sideband (SSB) or radio teletype (RTTY) or a combination of the three.

For some radio amateurs contesting is a fun way of making contact with their peers, for others it is a serious competition that is like any sporting event, it requires practise, and endurance  – in particular for the events that take place over a 48-hour period. Some contests restrict the maximum number of hours a person may participate in during the 48-hour contest period which then requires a lot of pre-planning to select the optimum propagation conditions between Africa and the rest of the world.

For the serious contester studying propagation is imperative as it is not the same for every frequency band. There are also very large variations between day and night. As the ionosphere goes up and down, contesters have to select different bands to make contact with different parts of the world. It is also important to consider the different antennas available. The angle of radiation influences the angle where the signal hits the ionosphere which will determine where the signal bounces back to Earth.  This means while a person in South Africa may hear a station in India it may be that the Indian station cannot hear the  South African station  if the parties are using  different types of antennas which  may have  different angles of radiation.

The time of the day is equally important because magic things can happen with the grey line – that moment between darkness and light. The “grey line” is a band around the Earth that separates daylight from darkness. Propagation along the grey line is very efficient. One reason for this is that the D layer in the ionosphere, which absorbs HF signals, disappears rapidly on the sunset side of the grey line, but has not yet built up on the sunrise side. Radio amateurs optimise long distance communications to various areas of the world by monitoring this band as it moves around the globe. See http://dx.qsl.net/propagation/greyline.html and see how it changes. The online map refreshes every five minutes.

All participating stations worldwide may work any country during the contest period, but QSOs (amateur radio lingo for a contact or conversation) with radio amateurs from Africa is encouraged as reflected in the higher points being awarded in the scoring mechanism. Despite moderate propagation conditions many African radio amateurs were heard participating. “We hope to grow this event and make the world realise that there are radio amateurs in Africa and their number is growing,” Levey said.

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