WSPR beacons on 5 MHz
After the promissing decision of WRC-15 about a 5 MHz allocation, I decided to spend some time investigating the propagation in this band more closely. In the past I monitored occasionally the British CW beacon chain on 5290.0 kHz using the GB3RAL software by Peter Martinez, G3PLX. Unfortunately beacon GB3RAL (IO91in), which was the most reliable signal of the chain at my location, is currently off the air, and signals from GB3WES (IO84qn) and GB3ORK (IO89ja) are much weaker. I also spent some time with aural reception of other European 5 MHz beacons during local nightime, like DRA5 (JO44vq) on 5190.0 kHz, HB9AW (JN43ba) on 5291.0 kHz and HG7BHB (JN97le) om 5357.0 kHz.
Recently I started monitoring the WSPR (or "whisper") digital beacon network on the same frequency. I downloaded WSPR 2.12 from K1JT's site. It installed easily under Windows XP. It requires a soundcard and two serial ports (one for CAT and one for PTT via DSR or RTS). This information is set in the Setup->Station parameters menu and saved using File->Save user parameters. Also, as we have not yet access on 5 MHz, we must disable the transmitter. This is done by moving the "TX fraction (%)" slider on the main window to the left (zero). The receiver dial frequency is set to 5287.2 kHz by selecting Band->60 m and the mode is set to USB manually.
WSPR also requires very good computer clock accuracy, which I achieved by changing the SpecialPollInterval setting in the registry, which can be found under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\W32Time\TimeProviders\NtpClient (this seems to work only under Windows XP, some different approach is required for Vista, Windows 7 and later derivatives). See "Adjust Internet Time Synchronization" by Arie Slob for more detailed instructions. An alternative, recommended in Radio User, is the Dimension4 NTP program, available for free at http://www.thinkman.com/dimension4 .
There is an internet server at http://wsprnet.org/drupal/ where the WSPR program can upload spots for decoded beacons. This feature is activated by checking the "Upload spots" box in the main window. The WSPRnet site includes a WSPR spots database and a world map of uploaded reports. Unfortunately the map does not update automatically.
Until now I have received WPSR beacons from EA, G, GM, I, OZ, PA, DL and other European countries. I hope to receive beacons from North America, the best time being after local midnight, when the noise level decreases substantially.