Monday, April 23, 2018

Connemara Ultra Marathon & New Technology

On an annual basis, the Galway VHF Group provide communications for the Connemara Ultra Marathon. This generally occurs on HF using 80 metres. We were minus two key personel this year, Arthur, EI7GMB, and Gerry EI8DRB. We normally run two HF base Stations. One in the Maam Community Centre at the bottom of the Maam Valley and the other at Peacock's at Maam Cross.

As seen from the map the terrain is not VHF Friendly so HF has to be employed. The Use of 5 MHz NVIS would be out of the question as it is unlikely that anyone in the group would go out and purchase such a mobile antenna. From a base perspective NVIS would be possible. For the area covered, 80 metres Ground Wave is sufficient and adequate for the majority of the course.

This year, given the reduction in operators, it was necessary to put into practice some other means of communication based on observations from previous years. APRS was one idea, DMR via Hotspots, and PTT over Cellular using the INRICO TM-7 was used with reservation.

The Maam Community Centre

The first task was to set up the VHF antenna and secure contact with the Medical Centre at Maam Cross. The antenna was a VHF colinear on a Fibreglass hoisted into a tree. Not the best but it did work fine.

The next task was to set up the HF antenna as soon as possible. The dipole antenna was mounted on a fibrglass pole secured to a fence post at a good height. This only took about 10 minutes to set up. As good strong signals were received on 2 metres in Maam Cross we decided to make this the primary frequency for that location HF was only used if here was a need. There wasn't on this occasion.

The ends of the dipole were secured to a flagpole at one and and another fibreglass pole at the other. It was surprisingly easy to set this one up.

A picture of John's bottom. I guess he was making last adjustments to his HF system before going mobile. The mobile whips are excellent if the earthing is ok in the car, but if it is poor, the tuning is difficult. A quick call to Tom in Maam Cross and confirmation of good clear signal was made.

The Base Station was a CODAN commercial HF system set up on 3750 KHz. The DMR rig was connected into the system via WiFi and also the DV4 Mini. C4FM was used on the FTM100 in the background.

All stations were now up and running and in contact. Joe set off for Leenane. Steve was through Leenane at this stage and heading for the Inagh Valley to the start of the Full Marathon. Communication via DMR and the TM-7 proved succesful with crystal clear audio on both methods of communication. Joe's car had the FTM100 on C4FM and also the Inrico TM7 in the foreground. A GD-77 handheld was in use as well.

Steve, EI5DD, had the Inrco system, the FTM 400 on C4FM, and also a Motorola DM4600 for test throughout the event. The TM-7 had APRS Droid installed and sent position reports at intervals.

The portable, self contained Hotpspot system with Power pack, Cellular WiFi, Router with Ethernet  Port for the Shark RF Openspot and a spare UHF handheld just in case (sic). 

The full marathon started on time with a huge number present. Behind these runners, were the ultra marathon runners.

At he very back of each section of the marathon, were the Order of Malta Ambulance and the a mini bus to look after anyone in difficulty of those who wished to drop out at any point. 

In Leenane the first of the runners were beginning to arrive from the Full Marathon. 

The weather was not wonderful with some heavy showers here and there but it was not too cold. There were probably only a couple of cases of hypothermia this year and very few injuries. The above runners had approximately 10 more miles  to run but the last few miles were up hill to the finish. 

Once the last of the walkers/runners had passed the point shown above the net transferred to C4FM as all cars were now in range of the centre. The HF operator still communicated on HF whilst checking 5 miles back to see if there were any stragglers. 

As always it is far easier to take equipment down than put it up. The HF antennas were removed and the station packed. The last of the runners passed the Centre and any other communications were now confined to VHF. 

The Medical Centre was established at the finish line. Many of the runners were suffering from exhaustion but a rest and some high energy drinks slowly brought them round. Some started to feel cold once they stopped running and needed to be wrapped in foil blankets to bring up their temperature. 

What did we learn from the day? 

1) HF is still the most reliable method of communicating through mountainous terraine.
2) The Cellular network was good as there was an almost continuous strong signal in the Connemara area.  This was a surprise but bear in mind, the TETRA system had worked perfectly for the Order of Malta.
3) DMR worked well and there were other interesting possibilities for this system.
4) PTT over Cellular Networks was perfect and vey clear. It has a place in the scheme of things.
5) Forget 2 metres. At best, it was useful up to 7 Kms and occasionally gave us a surprise but not enough to warrant reliability.

We thank the team Andrew EI3FEB Net Controller, Tom EI2GP on standby at the medical Centre, John EI1EM for his constant access to base on HF, Joe EI3IX stationed in the Leenane area and Steve EI5DD mobile between the Inagh Valley and the finish line. We thank Mark Bannon, EI6HPB, for coming along to view our activities and assist where required. We will have plenty of work for him in future! He made a few useful contacts whilst out and about. It was good to work with the Order of Malta and the Bike Marshals on this event.

The various methods of communication were rigorously tested and we now know their limitations. A check of the APRS map shows the coverage from the Inrico from the APRS signal emitted via Cellular data. Note, that it was not covering the first part of the Marathon as EI5DD/M did not follow the section before the Full Marathon. It would have, undoubtedly, covered that area if  this area had been travelled.

The map shows the track from the start of EI5DD's Journey from Galway to the event and back home. APRS proved the effectiveness of the Cellular data system and hence the TM-7's efficiency and also the potential of DMR. Perhaps APRS Driod for Mobile Phone should be a must for all participating.

It would be unwise to just go in blind to such an event and presume that the Cell network would work perfectly in mountainous terrain. A very wise thing to check the area first. Our Group always have the areas checked out beforehand and in many cases we would be stomping over old ground.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Tytera MD-9600 Dual Band, Dual Mode Transceiver

The Tytera MD9600 VHF - UHF mobile transceiver operating in both Analog FM and DMR mode. Operation is from 136 - 174 MHz and 420 - 480 MHz. RF transmitting power is around 46 - 50 watts on VHF and appox 45 watts on UHF. The display is clear and sharp. The advanced TDMA technology and DMR Tier II is compatible with Motorola TRBO and DMR Tier II. There are 250 zones available with 16 channels for each Zone. Advanced features include CTCSS/DCS, channel scan, priority scan, short text message features, DTMF mic and VOX. The radio is available as the updated latest series II from Martin Lynch & Sons. Series II has addressed all of the issues that were present on the original model. The  reviews would seem to praise this radio at the end of  the day. The Retevis RT 90 is exactly the same radio rebranded. 

What is in the Box

The Tytera MD 9600
The mounting Bracket
12V Power Cable
User Guide
Driver and Software CD
Programming Cable

The MD9600 was specifically designed with the Radio Amateur in mind. The radio is capable of running full power as it has a heavy duty heat sink and built in fan. Anyone who has a Tytera Dual Band Handheld  radio will be relieved to know that it is possible to import the existing code plug to get the radio on air quickly.

The receiver has very good sensitivity on both analog and digital modes with good clear, loud and undistorted audio. Whilst not a big deal, in my opinion, the audio is a little on the treble side but when an external speaker is added the quality is a great improvement. Most mobile radios suffer from this problem so really nothing to worry about.


The power levels are consistent across the ranges 136, 174 MHz and 400 - 480 MHz. The radio has four power settings on VHF 5, 8, 18, and 45 Watts, and on UHF 5, 9, 16, and 40 Watts.


The MD9600 is fully upgradeable and from time to time new upgrades become available and this process is easy enough to perform. This essentially keeps the radio up to date.


Like all DMR Radios, this one has to be programmed with channels of choice. This is not an onerous task and following conventions on the EI5DD website it will be easy enough with practice. Start simple with a handfull of channels on each Band and then expand. The important thing is to get it up and running as quickly as possible. If you are not willing to program your own radio, it should be possible to obtain a Code Plug from your own coverage area. Do not be afraid to ask as most operators are only too glad to assist another on the air. 

Whilst it is possible to program from the microphone keypad, this is fine in an emergency but cumbersome and frustrating in normal useage.


The latest Software and Firmware packages may be downloaded  >>> Here

Where possible keep the radio's Firmware up to date when updating the Firmware download the most recent version of CPS as well.

This is an excellent radio which ticks all the boxes as  high quality mobile radio. The issues encountereed in the earlier series of MD 9600 have been resolved.

If you wish to change the colour of the LED backlight for the screen  >>> Here

Notes on Programming the CPS for this Radio may be found on the EI5DD Pages >>> Here

A Code plug for the Galway area will shortly be available from Steve EI5DD

Monday, April 16, 2018

The IRTS Weekend Hosted by the Galway VHF Group 2018

It was very much by accident that the Galway hosted this, the 86th Annual General Meeting Weekend of the IRTS. It was to be held in Cork but they decided against it and passsed it over. The Galway VHF Group put their name forward at the last minute following a brief call to the GalwayBay Hotel. This is, in fact, the 4th IRTS Function organised by Steve EI5DD. The first was in 1985 in the Warwick Hotel, Galway (sadly the Warwick closed in 2008), the Second was 1992 in  the Royal Hoey Hotel, Athlone, the Third in the Galway Bay Hotel 2014 and this one in the Galway Bay Hotel for 2018. The service and facilities were excellent as on the previous occasion.

On Saturday the 14th at 2pm a series of talks were given on the Following topics. "Getting Started with Digital Radio" by Steve Wright, "The 7Q7EI Dxpedition", by Enda Broderick EI2II, "The FT8 Digital Mode" by Keith Wallace EI5KO, and "Having fun in Space" by Graham Shirville, G3VZV. The talks were of 45 minutes duration and saw a good attendance and great interest. Special thanks to all of the lectures who presented their specialist subjects.

 Steve EI5DD lecturing on DMR

 Enda EI2II and Pat O'Connor EI9HX lecturing on the 7Q7EI  Dxpedition

 Keith Wallace EI5KO lecturing on the FT8 Digital Mode

 Graham Shirville G3VZV lecturing on Satellite Operation

The Annual Dinner took place at 7:30 pm and this was attended by 69 people. The food and service was excellent. It was a shame that a number had booked tickets and didn't show which placed a burden on our group given that we had to book for 75 and naturally the Hotel held us to this number.

Steve, EI5DD, welcoming the guests

Steve & Hilary Wright

John Anderson, MI0AAZ,  and Mary 

Joe Fadden, EI3IX

Tom Rea, EI2GP, and Loretta
A view of the function room

IRTS President Gerry Gervin EI8CC

A really great night was enjoyed by all following the excellent meal. A quick draw for spot prizes toook place which added to the fun of the evening.
The following day was devoted to the Rally and AGM so it was an early start to ensure that the tables were marked and ready for their traders. One had to ensure that nobody encroached on the allocation for a neighbouring trader.
Early Morning and the traders just arriving. Mike EI0CL was the first in and had a huge stand 

 Joe EI3IX at the Mayo VHF Group Stand

Steve EI5DD and John Anderson MI0AAZ at the Brandmeister Digital Radio Stand

Mark Bannon and John Anderson in deep discussion about DMR Repeaters
 Raymond Long - Long Communications

Philip Hosey and the Region 8 RSGB team manning the RSGB stand

Jimmy Kelly, running the Mayo Radio Experimenters Club Stand

Jimmy Kelly and Padraig Baynes 

Two rogues Mike EI0CL and Steve EI5DD
This and the next 7 Pictures show a sample of Mike, EI0CL's, goodies

Peter Green EI2IU

  Arek, EI9GWB, selling customised shack accesssories see items below

A handmade Shack Sign made for EI5DD

Sean with his 2nd hand commercial radio products

 The IRTS Stand manned by Pat Fitzpatrick

Silent Key Equipment at the end of the IRTS Stand

During the Rally CW tests were run by Dave Moore, EI4BZ, and there were two applicants who passed with ease. The Annual General Meeting of the IRTS took place at 2pm and the rally closed shortly after this time. It would be appropriate to thank all of the traders and Radio Clubs who were kind enough to attend and make this rally so successful. There was an excellent turn out for this rally. The proceeds of the weekend will be going towards our new DMR Repeater, antenna and feeders.

 The AGM in full swing

 John Brown EI7FAB receiving his trophy for the 1296 MHz contest

Steve EI5DD receiving the Kevin Freeney Trophy for Experimentation and Innovation. This was for time devoted to the promotion of Digital Radio both locally and Nationally.

This was a really enjoyable weekend and we thank the Galway Bay Hotel for their excellent service through out he weekend and during the organisation of the event. Special thanks to all those who attended the lectures, the AGM dinner and the large crowd from far and wide who attended the rally. We also thank the traders who put on a great show and contributed to the huge success of the Rally.

We thank Joe EI3IX and Joe EI7GY for their pictures shown above.