Test the Season

Things have been relatively quiet on the radio front. I have been meaning to start troubleshooting the shack RF, but have not had enough time to delve into it. I have been a considerable amount of material on the subject, as well as on RF grounding. Then again, there is A LOT of information available via the Internet, but not all of it is good information. With my relative experience, I am calling on a few of the local guys to help me out, provide their insight and experience into my predicament.

I did put in a few hours in the CQWW DX CW contest a few weeks back recording some 50 contacts. I did have a nice run of JA contacts just after the sun set. Since that contest, there have only been a handful of contacts because I had taken the hex beam down for some work, as I detailed in the previous update. Looking at 20M, there still seems to be a bit of sag after I tied off the spreaders again, but it does not seem to have any effect, which is good. Function or form, right? I did log an EA8 last week on 20M, so things seem to be good.

This weekend is the ARRL 10-Meter Contest and while I had little interest in it last year, making about 6 contacts I did put in a few hours at the start of the contest, prior to the sun going down. I was rather surprised at all the signals I heard, especially on the CW portion of the band. Between SSB and CW I logged about 27 QSOs inside two hours. I know that is nothing impressive, but with what little time I have sent on the band it was nice to see some openings. Many of the contacts were CA, I did get an opening as far south as XE and east to AZ, NM and MT. Hopefully today is just as good and I should double what I worked yesterday.

I did talk to N6WM, working from N6RO and he is still trying to find time to give me some input on the RF issues. Thankfully last night I had no RF issues in the house when transmitting on 10M at about 500w. I did make the decision to dump AT&T UVerse and go back to Comcast. I know that won’t solve my RF issues, but hopefully I won’t be disconnecting the modem every time key up on 15 and 40M. We will see.

UVerse. Fixed?

I won’t go out on a limb and say our AT&T UVerse service is fixed after the technician spent about 3 hours at the house, last night working on moving out modem and fixing the shoddy work that was previous done from another AT&T tech. It’s funny, but the last three technicians who have come to the house have all fixed the connector leading from the street into the house. Not sure that says much about the quality of their technicians. I will say our original installer was terrible.

I explained the problems with their UVerse service from latency issue to dropped connections to the cheap 2wire gateway AT&T uses in the house. I wanted to move the modem from it’s original install local, the upstairs bedroom, which doubled as our computer room and later my shack to a downstairs location where my XYL’s computer currently is. The technician gave me a few options on how to accomplish this, neither which were aesthetically pleasing or acceptable, so I selected the less of two evils.

I was hoping a change of venue of the 2wire gateway, further away from the shack would lessen the RF that was previously disconnecting the gateway when I keyed up on 20/40/80M when working SSB. Oddly enough I did not have the problems when running the amplifier for CW or RTTY. I will test this theory this weekend with CQ WW DX (CW) starting today at 0000z.

Once he capped the old connection he moved all the hardware to it’s new location on the opposite side of the house. The new cables were run and he connected the connection up to his test equipment. We watched it for 35 minutes and there were no FECs detected in that time. Not surprising since many our our latency issues, and disconnects were random, except when I was transmitting SSB using the amp at 1 kW.

The televisions were then connected and all looked good. Usually it did not take more than about 20-30 seconds to drop the gateway connection when keying up. I tuned the amp for 40M and spun the dial to 7.279 and called CQ three times over the course of 5 minutes. Not once did the connection disconnect, nor did the stream video I was watching hiccup. Is this a sign of good things to come?

As I said, not sure this a fix, but it’s a step in the right direction. I inquired about ferrite and the technician responded, “What’s that?” I was somewhat taken back he had no idea what it was. When I showed him an example he told me AT&T did not use these any longer because they did not resolve any problems. Again, I was somewhat shocked in his response. I guess if AT&T wants to continue cutting corners, the not adding ferrite is one way to do it. The funny thing was the last tech we had about 6-8 months ago installed ferrite on the power cable leading to the gateway. Suddenly some months later it’s obsolete.

So I have gone around unsnapping all the ferrite that I had on different items. I am going to participate in CQ WW this weekend, at a leisurely pace and hopefully when I tune 40 and maybe 80M the gateway does not disconnect. I am planning on adding ferrite to the gateway. I also want to run some further noise tests around the house with my hand held to see if I can further pinpoint noise that is coming into my station.

We have decided to give AT&T UVerse one more month. If their service continues at the quality it is we will move back to Comcast. Supposedly there have been upgrades made in our area (not confirmed) that are allowing decent connections. Their local node was overloaded causing all sorts of issues, which was the main reason we dumped Comcast for the snake oil that is UVerse.

UVerse: Continued RFI Problems

I would like to point the finger at myself and tell everyone (this includes my loving wife) the RFI problems we are experiencing are in fact problems because of my shack. but further digging and continued reading seems to indicate these are AT&T’s problems and noise made by amateur operators continue to fall on deaf ears. My wife is a trooper and I am sure I press the issue when I am operating, chasing XR0Y and I get her yelling because I keep resetting the VDSL gateway supplied by AT&T when I transmit with the Alpha 76PA in line.

This RFI issues have not been apparent until recently with the addition of a SteppIR BigIR and a newly built 5-band hex beam. I have called or answered CQ on 15/20/40/80 and all those bands cause problems. The operating mode, RTTY, CW or SSB do not matter. Sure I can run 25 watts and PSK31 and I am fine. But there are times where 1000 watts is needed. Hello XR0Y! I tried pushing my luck yesterday on 40M CW with the amp on going through the BigIR. Unfortunately, it did not work. The wife was looking at me and she was not happy.

This seems to be a KNOWN ISSUE but the responsibility seems to fall on us, the amateur operators as opposed to a big telco, like AT&T. I would like to say I never had this problem when we had Comcast, but honestly that would not be a fair statement because I never had the linear when we had Comcast. So I cannot say for sure there would not be problems.

As late as May, 2009 from the ‘Boat Anchors Owners and Collectors List’ there is a quote from W1PE, “I had ordered ATT U Verse to be installed today.Tech got here a bit ago and took one look at the shack and said NO CAN INSTALL you are a Ham Radio Operator and will kick the you know what out of our system. The U Verse cannot be close to any RF Environment.” This theme seems to echo through out a number of links I continue to pull up.

One possible solution comes from Indianapolis Radio Club and a write up on RFI mods for AT&T Uverse. KC9DSI and KC9KZM put together a field test with some modifications in order to alleviate the RFI issues. You can read about their mods at, RFI Mods for ATT U-Verse. Not sure if this would void any service warranty from AT&T, then again their tech service has been horrible since day one, so I really don’t care what they say if I attempt these same “upgrades” or modifications in an attempt to correct THEIR issue. If they do, then I pull all the wires and dump their service. Easy enough.

I think I will first try moving the location of the gateway from the old ham shack, which was the spare bedroom upstairs as it sits nearly on top of the new shack, below in the garage. I don’t expect this to remedy the problem. I will also stop by FRY’s on the way home and pick up some ferrite. The last attempt will be modifying the box at the entrance to the house. If none of that works, then AT&T UVerse can kiss my ass because we will be changing back to the overloaded Comcast node in our area.