How Low Can You Go – 100mW ?

The ARRL propagation notice from K7RA features two important stories.

The first is that sunspots hit 220 which is the highest sunspot number in over eight years! Yeah and this explains the massive openings on 12 and 10 meters.

So what can you do when the sunspot numbers are up?

Sebastian, W4AS, in Miami was on the air on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 0121 UTC on 20 meter SSB listening to P40GH in Aruba coming in at 30-40 dB over S9. Sebastian was using an Elecraft K3 and Force 12 C-3SS tri-bander (which is a pretty compact antenna that’s used at many modest suburban stations).

Sebastian made a contact at 100 watts. Then a few minutes later when the Aruba station asked for any QRP stations, Sebastian cranked the power down to five watts and made another contact at S9+.

The two stations made another contact at two watts at S7 and at one watt the report was still at S7.

Going for broke, Sebastian reduced his power down to 500 milliwatts (1/2 watt) and got an S5 report!

So just for fun Sebastian dropped the power down to 100 milliwatts (Remember this was the output power of handheld CB walkie-talkies we used to use to talk around the block.) and while the signal was nearing the noise level, the Aruba station clearly copied him.

I’m going to repeat myself here: If you’re running QRP, you are much louder than you think. Given robust sunspot numbers and quiet band conditions a couple of watts into a half-decent antenna and you can work the world.

Want more proof?

Here’s the QSL card I got from N2JNZ confirming our May 29 QSO at 2135 UTC. George was running five watts out of his Flex 1500 into a 40 meter vertical antenna. I was running a Tuna Tin at 300 mW into the shortened 40-meter dipole on the Hy-Gain Explorer at 16 meters.

QRO has it’s place. Just try running the CQ WW DX SSB contest with anything less than a KW is an exercise in frustration for most of us “little pistols” with our compromised antenna setups. Oh sure it can be done but this is one of the contests where high power is wonderful.

So what’s a good contest for QRP? Field Day is great because everyone runs 100 watts. Most of the state and provincial QSO parties are terrific as there are fewer pileups and more operators willing to work you in the noise.

See you down the log.

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About Peter West

I am retired. I'm invested into bike riding, guitar playing, yoga and Ham Radio. I am a former photojournalist, newspaper and magazine editor and public relations practitioner with national, regional and local experience. A long-time member of Toastmasters International and an active Amateur Radio (Ham) operator here in Canada I am taking on new challenges.

One thought on “How Low Can You Go – 100mW ?

  1. Back in Feb 2001 I worked OK/OM3BH with 4 mw using a Ten Tec Argo 509 to a Cushcraft AR-10 Ringo up 35 ft. He was using a 4 over 4 over 4 fixed to NA yagis up 120 ft. He coulda heard me at 1 mw if I might have tried. Building a attenuator now since the bands have gotten better and hope to send out more tiny signals soon !!!!

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