A little surprise on 15 meters: the bands are open!

Last weekend I was chatting with Michael W5MSC on 15 meters, just for fun. I was operating at home while he used the radios at N5XU, just a few kilometers south of me. I proposed 15 meters because I thought it was closed, the spotting network had spots only on 20 meters and lower. The time was around 3pm, maybe a little later.

At some point I asked him to give me reports on my transmitted audio, since I recently assembled a little interface for my headset and I was curious if my audio was clear or not. Apparently my Yaesu FT-450D engages the speech processor with almost every setting, meaning my voice doesn’t sound very natural, although still clear and easily readable. Michael was mentioning a hum in my signal when an operator from Iowa surprised us by chiming in on our conversation. He was very loud, a consistent S9 and maybe something more despite my modest antenna setup.

After concluding our little chat I decided to try calling CQ on 15 to see if the band was open elsewhere. It was well past 4pm already, and the same ham from Iowa came back again, still with a very loud and clear signal. No one else replied, but this doesn’t mean the band was closed! Probably most people thought it was closed, just like met an hour earlier. Since then I decided to leave the radio scanning on 15 meters while I’m at home, just in case I hear anyone calling. 17 meters appears to be open more often, I hear someone almost every time I turn on the radio.

Just out of curiosity I looked at the WSPR map from www.wsprnet.org, below are the reports in the 1 hour period before my contact on 15 meters. It may seem dead, but there was clearly some propagation over the oceans and in the central US, not bad for 4pm!

15 meters WSPR
WSPR reports at the time of the contact

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