Experimental Website Offers HF Band Conditions at a Glance

A fairly new experimental website, bandconditions.com, offers radio amateurs and others interested in HF propagation a quick look at band conditions from the Continental United States. The site provides real-time conditions for 160, 80, 40, 30, 20, 15, and 10 meters. The site developer is Biz Wichy, K5BIZ, who lives in Texas.

“This information is not based on any software predictions or any kind of satellite-based readings,” the site explained. “It’s is based on a new ionospheric sounding method called HF Ionospheric Interferometry, which operates very similarly to the PolSAR system used by NASA.” The site also reposts the most recent Propagation Bulletin by Tad Cook, K7RA.

Reports are generated and uploaded to the web server every 30 seconds. Header information includes date, time in GMT (UTC), and a sequential report REPORT number. The site will self-refresh. The display shows the band (in red) and a “Band Quality Index” (BQI) below the band scale, which also graphically represents the current BQI for each band. The flux and the A and K indices are reported hourly.

“This standard is based on a 1 W transmitter connected via RG-8X coax to a half-wave dipole 25 feet high with the major lobe facing east/west,” the site instructions explain. “A band condition that provides a minimum of three hop circuits (ie, three reflections, three landings, and three skipzones) is assigned a value of 100. This is just a minimum, as band openings often provide much better propagation, but these conditions are not indicated past the 100 scale. All scales are adjusted to the individual propagation characteristics of each band. The BQI values are the same across all bands.”

According to the instructions, a BQI of 00 means a band is “wide open” and a good time for QRP operation. A BQI between 70 and 100 indicates an operator can make “reliable SSB QSOs” with 100 W or less and with any antenna. Between 51 and 69, an SSB station would need an amplifier and best DX would be for antennas with primary lobes at 30° to 60° from the horizon. A BQI between 36 and 50 would not only require an amplifier but antennas with very low-angle radiation angles, 0° to 30° from the horizon.

Stepping down to a BQI of between 19 and 35, the site suggest, NVIS antennas would be a good choice, with only regional contacts available and single-hop propagation. At the bottom of the index, a BQI of 0 to 18 suggests ground-wave contacts only, typically 25 to 35 miles out, and vertical antennas as the best choice.

The site indicates “band stability” for the last 10 minutes, hour, and 24 hours.

A quick description of current propagation conditions sometimes appears at the top of the page. The site also includes a link to the previous day’s HF band conditions.