The FT8 jungle

By   5 June 2018 21:36

The last few days, conditions on 6 and 4 metres were quite good. Even with my modest station, some nice DX was worked on 6.

Back in 1989, I became rather frustrated because I had ‘half a QSO’ in CW with CO2KK. He unfortunately took my call as PA2HJH instead of PA2HJS and I was unable to correct that, as he was moving on to other stations. So, Cuba remained on the wish list for a very long time. This gap was finally filled on June 4th with CM2XN, using FT8.

It has to be said that FT8 (and JT65 previously) reveals more openings than in the past, because the sensitivity is better than CW and more stations are active because decoding does not require CW proficiency. That is definitely a bonus.

The downside however, is that 6 metres concentrates on 50.313 (and 323 for DX) and that the rest of the band is almost deserted. We see the same thing happening on HF bands as well. A few kHz is overcrowded and at the end of the day, the sensitivity suffers because of all the QRM. The overall effectiveness drops, stations get annoyed and it ends up in a jungle. Bad behaviour rules instead of friendly cooperation. Everyone seems afraid of missing DX and stays on 313, instead of spreading like we did in the past.

Time will tell how this evolves, but for me, it is not much fun and I can very well understand the True Blue DXers Club.

On 60 metres, weak signal modes are the only way to work DX with the limited power levels, but unfortunately, FT8 took out the lower tier of the sensitivity range,  considerably reducing chances of working the ultimate DX. I doubt if I will ever work KH6 for example. Half a QSO was made with JT65 and with a lot of perseverance, this should be possible, but not with FT8.

Today, I ran the IC7600 with FT8 to “scan” for unworked DX, but I was using a second set via the 7600 RX loop and divider to observe the band, as in the past. Hearing humans, either in CW or SSB is much more fun. So, True Blue for me, but with a grain of digital, preferably JT65.