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Check DX Propagation with Beacons

Paul Signorelli (W0RW) on January 4, 2006
View comments about this article!

Here is a good way check the propagation and MUF to DX in less than a minute using the Northern California DX Foundation world wide beacon system.

First, you need to put the following frequencies in sequence (low to high) into your radios memory for CW. 14100, 18110, 21150, 24930, 28200. (You may need to enter a slight offset to hear a good CW tone, like 14199.6, 18109.6, 21149.6, etc.)

If you want to check the propagation and Maximum Usable Frequency to New York, tune in 4U1UN (United Nations HQ in NYC) listen at 0:00 on 14100 kHz, then switch to 18110 at 0:10, switch to 21150 at 0:20, switch to 24930 at 0:30, switch to 28200 at 0:40. You can easily tell which frequency has the best propagation in less than a minute.

If you want to check the propagation to San Francisco listen for W6WX at 0:20 past the cycle start time on 14100, Then switch to the next higher band you have stored in your memory bank every 10 seconds and if the next higher band is open you will hear W6WX .

If you have a good Atomic Clock (WWVB) or accurate clock you can identify the beacons without even knowing the morse code.

Each beacon has a 10 second slot, They send their call sign (CW at 22 WPM) followed by 1 Dash at 100w, then 3 dashes at 10W, then 1W then 0.1W. If you can hear all the dashes, the band is really open.

The 14100 kHz cycle starts at 00 at the beginning of the hour and repeats the cycle every 3 minutes: 00, 03, 06, 09, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 45, 48, 51, 54, 57...minutes past the hour.

The sequence of transmissions on 14100 kHz is:
Call   Location
  4U1UN U.N. NYC 0:00
VE8AT No.Canada 0:10
W6WX CA, SF 0:20
KH6WO Hawaii 0:30
ZL6B NewZealand 0:40
VK6RBP Perth AU 0:50
JA2IGY Japan 1:00
RR9O Russia 1:10
VR2B Hong Kong 1:20
4S7B Sri Lanka 1:30
ZS6DN S. Africa 1:40
5Z4B Kenya 1:50
4X6TU Israel 2:00
OH2B Finland 2:10
CS3B Madeira 2:20
LU4AA Argentina 2:30
OA4B Peru 2:40
YV5B Venezuela 2:50

For complete information on the NCDXF Beacons go to the NCDXF web site:

What a great world wide project this is. Please do not transmit on these beacon frequencies.

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by N7BUI on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
Very good information Paul. Thank you!

Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by WA7NCL on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
More hams need to use the beacon system. Many days the bands are devoid of activity but when you call CQ you get an S9+20 response. Everybody thought the bands were "dead" because they didn't hear any signals.

I use this site for current K index information. The K index is a very good indicator of the level of disturbance in the ionosphere. You can also get a prediction of the future K index with a 40 to 60 min lead time. This is really great stuff!

If you download the HFprop program here, you get a neat map with dx info and a beacon display mode. You get a fair (not great) and usable propagation prediction based on downloaded WWV numbers. I also find the gray line info useful.

I use the site below for prediction of the K index and solar flux for contest or other operations over several weeks in the future. Its based on solar rotations so it has its limitations but has been realatively accurate.

With these sources a wealth of operating info is available to hams world wide. I have found it useful to use these sites to determine if the bands are really "dead". Plus it adds to the fun and interest that characterises ham radio.

RE: Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by WB2WIK on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
>Check DX Propagation with Beacons Reply
by WA7NCL on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
More hams need to use the beacon system. Many days the bands are devoid of activity but when you call CQ you get an S9+20 response. Everybody thought the bands were "dead" because they didn't hear any signals.<

::True enough, but that is part of the fun. Couple of Saturdays ago I had a bit of free time in the morning and fired up on 12m. Zero activity. Called, "CQ DEAD BAND" (literally) and received an immediate answer from a station in Holland (I'm in California). Not sure it would have been as much fun if I knew there really was propagation....


Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by N9AVY on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
Very good article. The NCDXF beacon system is an excellent tool for checking propagation. There are also hundreds of other beacons currently operating on the bands. For a listing see:

These are two excellent listings for beacons and are updated regularly.

I've operated a 10m beacon for almost 3 years and am surprised at where it's been heard during the downside of this sunspot cycle. It runs 2 watts output to a vertical which is QRP to most of us. Often beacons can be heard on 10m when nothing is being heard anywhere else on the band. On occasions at 1 am CST, I've heard the K5AB beacon in Texas chirping away when band is seemingly dead. Never assume that there is no propagation.


Jerry N9AVY

N9AVY/B 28252.5
Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by KI6LO on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
The HF beacon system is a great utility. To increase the effectiveness and make it a bit easier to use, I would suggest that operators should employ one of the many different software programs that do the calculations and mapping to beacon stations. These programs help keep it all clear with a graphical user interface so you don't have to track which station is active at what time. Some of the programs are free, the better ones are inexpensive and some even come with a myriad of additional features such as DX spotting cluster interfaces and such. Check these out by doing a simple Google search on words like "Propagation Software". I use one of these and it is a real handy addition to the shack.

Gene KI6LO
RE: Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by PB2JJ on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
Hello All,

I Also like to listen to the International Beacon Project

A program I like to use and to visualy see the beacons when they transmit and on wich frequency's etc.. is called Beacontrack.

Have fun, and gud dx de PB2JJ Jasper
RE: Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by N5PVL on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!

Amateurs should be aware that the ARRL's bandwidth segmentation proposal, recently submitted to the FCC, calls for the removal of all current protection of beacon stations on the ham bands.

Total protection to beacons from automatic Pactor-III robot interference:

FCC: All beacon bands
ARRL: No protected frequencies

This is just one example among many where the ARRL proposal benefits a small group representing less than 5% of Amateurs in the US ( WinLink ) at every other amateurs'expense.

If the FCC puts this proposal up for comments, be ready to let them know how you feel about protection for beacon stations being trashed so that WinLink PACTOR QRMbots can come in on top of them and wipe them out with impunity.

Obviously there is no other motivation for this ARRL / WinLink proposal to seek to eliminate the current protected status of beacon stations.

Charles, N5PVL
RE: Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by WA8JNM on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
Good, helpful article, and the comments also!

I just came back to ham radio after many years QRP, and have been curious about beacons. This info gives me a good start.

One more thing to play with! What a great hobby. (And a helpful web-site.)


RE: Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by W4DL on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
Don't forget the magical mystical 6 meter band! There are a number of beacons to check for the long waited propagation up there.

Good DX,

RE: Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by RobertKoernerExAE7G on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article.
I use DX spots via the internet.
Some times I just have my computer send CQ DX while I scan the internet.
RE: Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by K0BG on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
There's another way to check 10 and 12 meters, and that is to listen on 11 meters. Those guys are always on, and when you start hearing all of those heterodynes you know things are heating up.

As for 6, I just leave my 746 Pro on 50.125 with the VSC on. It is amazing to me how often it is open. I even hear WB2WIK/6 on 6 meters quite regularly due to his method of checking propagation.

Alan, KØBG
Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by N9DG on January 4, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
For 6M if you don't have a panadapter to keep watch of the band you can have pretty good success catching openings by programming in scanning channels/frequencies every 5 kHz from 50.050 through 50.150 MHz or so and then set them up in the FM mode.

Whenever a beacon or signal pops up from somewhere you will hear it break the squelch in FM. Then just flip over SSB or CW and work them. By just sitting on 50.125 alone you will miss a lot of stuff.

You may have to skip some frequencies when using this technique if you have some local spurs to dodge.

I used to do this all the time though not as much lately since I've gone the spectrum sweep route.
Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by AA6YQ on January 5, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
The free program PropView, in addition to generating easy-to-read graphical propagation forecasts, lets you specify a set of IARU/NCDXF beacons you wish to monitor and generates a schedule containing those beacons; every 10 seconds, it displays the callsign and frequency of the next active beacon on your schedule.

If you also use the free program Commander to control your transceiver, then PropView will direct Commander to QSY your transceiver to monitor each beacon on your schedule at the appropriate time.

The free program DXView includes a world map display that shows the location of the currently active beacon on your schedule, along with the signal path from your QTH to that beacon.

PropView, Commander, and DXView are all available via .


Dave, AA6YQ
RE: Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by W2NSF on January 5, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
Yep, I use the MFJ beacon monitor to check the beacons daily. Nothing beats a real-time evaulation of propagation, using your own recieving system.
RE: Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by KA2UUP on January 5, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
As PB2JJ stated, use the BeaconTrack program. Excellent aid and it is free! Just synch your computer clock to one of the many sites on the net and you are done.

73 DE Bert @ KA2UUP
Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by FORMER_AF0H_RH on January 5, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
As one who has, in the past, experimented with Propogation Beacons, the real benefit of the beacons lies not only in the USA but DX stations as well. If a DX station here's the beacon in CA, then he/she knows that they have a path to work the USA. There as so many 6 & 10 meter beacons, I see no need for any more on those bands. Plus, any beacon below 10-meter has to be monitored. I ran one on 14.101 for a while, but couldn't leave it up and running enough to be a real benefit. Yes, I did get many reports/qsl cards/emails about it, but still I have only a certain amount of time per day/night to devote to something like this.

Nobody says beacons have to stop at 20-meters either. Though they have to be attended, 30 - 160 meters are all viable options as well. Something for you experimenters to keep in mind. All you need is a Transmitter and an ID'er such as 'Comspec ID-8', 'Freakin Beacon', CW ID'er in a keyer or rig, etc.

Just a little food for thought....

73 de
af0h - Rob
Check DX Propagation with Beacons  
by SM5IUF on January 5, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
Well the NCDXF Beacons are good but I have had much more use of Russian low power HF beacons, believed to be operated by the Russian Navy for real-time propagation assesments. They are easily heard here in Europe.

The all time most useful of these beacons was located around Murmansk and signals had to pass the Aurora zone so it was heavily affected by Aurora. At work I had a small receiver that I checked for that particular beacon and if signal was strong I finished work as soon as possible. That beacon operated on a lot of frequencies so I was able to deduce much info about the state of the ionosphere. The sad fact is that this beacon is not operating anymore due to cost cuts in the Russian Navy.

That Murmansk beacon was very useful and it would be beneficial if HAM's would operate beacons on latitudes above the Artic circle on 1.8, 3.5, 7 and 10 MHz. Perhaps three beacon sites around the North Pole at high latitudes above the Artic circle would be of intrerest. Sites in Canada, Norway and NE Russia operating with low power might give more direct information on the state of the ionosphere than any of the NCDXF Beacons can. You can then forget about the often used magnetic indices such as the Kp index used by serious HAM's. Just listen for the strenght and quality of the beacons.

73 de SM5IUF Gunnar
Good openings - Nobody there....  
by VK2GWK on January 6, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
The NCDXC beacons are great and I check them almost daily. And even more often on 17 and 12 M. And 15 out of 30 days I can hear the NY and the CA beacon coming through (and the bulletins/code excersise by W1AW on 18.095) but no other traffic. That is around 20:00 - 23:00 Z so most of the USA is awake..... Where are you guys?
RE: Good openings - Nobody there....  
by NS6Y_ on January 8, 2006 Mail this to a friend!
Candy! This article is pure candy, thanks! And this kind won't make you fat, it's guiltless candy! FB!
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