SOTA – Getting on 1296 MHz with a Transverter

How do you get on 23 cm 1296.2 MHz USB for SOTA activations without forking out loads of dough for an ICOM IC-910 or IC-9100?  Answer a lightweight all mode 2.5 watt 23 cm transverter from Hristiyan LZ5HP in Sofia Bulgaria.  The current unit on offer is version 2.3.

SG-Lab all mode 2.5 watt 23 cm Transverter version 2.3.  The parcel arrived after 13 calendar days between Bulgaria and Canberra Australia, pretty good considering the transition points along the way.

The 23cm transverter’s default configuration is simplex with the local oscillator (LO) set to 1152 MHz.  The unit has internal jumpers to change the LO frequency by +/- 2 MHz, this option permits simplex operation on 1294 MHz FM.  A separate jumper configures the unit for simplex or repeater operation while a fourth jumper configures the repeater offset which in VK is 20 MHz.  We don’t have a 23cm repeater in VK1 so the unit’s ‘Repeater’ and ‘offset’ settings aren’t required.  I plan to operate the unit as an all mode simplex transmitter.

Under the cover the unit is complete with an adjustable Rx pre-amp between -5 dB and +10 dB gain.

Photos: © Copyright 2017 Andrew VK1AD

FT-817ND and its new 23 cm companion for SOTA activations and chasing

FT-817ND provides an IF of 144.200 MHz for operation on 1296.200 MHz.

Supplied with the unit is a HB9VC 23 cm yagi antenna ready to go. You will need a short length of RG316 or equivalent coax fitted with male and female SMA connectors.  The HB9CV antenna is fitted with a standard male SMA connector which mates with a standard female SMA connector.  Do not use reverse polarity or reverse gender (RP-SMA) connectors.

SG-Lab 23 cm transverter is supplied with a 2el HB9CV yagi antenna

SG-Lab 23 cm transverter power consumption is 80mA on receive and 800 mA on transmit. Jumper settings are on the right. Rx and Tx are adjusted separately by each of the two ‘white’ variable resistors in the centre of the board.  I adjusted the transverter’s power input/output setting with the 817 power output set to 0.5 watts.  This is a set and forget arrangement, however you must remember to always check the 817’s power output setting between one operation to another or when changing bands say from 2m to 40m and later returning to 2m where you may have changed the 817 power output to 5 watts.  A point to remember when you are out in the field.  😉

Inside the box

Purchased separately a 23 cm 3el PCB Yagi from Kent Electronics, North America. You need to solder a section of coax cable RG316 or equivalent to the board.  The package includes instructions.

Sunday 18 June 2017 – Out in the field operating on 23 cm from the summit of Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037 at 854 metres ASL.  PCB antenna is mounted on a camera tripod.

FT-817ND with its new companion 23 cm transverter.  Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the unit facing forward.  Behind the 817 you can see the blue elements of my dual 2m/70cm yagi.  Best 2m 144.200 AE contact was with Dave VK2DVM in Sydney with the 817 set to 5 watts.

Temporary improvised mounting arrangement for the WA5VJB 3el PCB Yagi antenna.  Antenna is resting against a section of grey perspex mounted on a camera tripod.  Antenna pigtail is a short length of RG174 soldered to the board, not ideal but will do for now. I will figure out a better mounting solution.  🙂

WA5VJB 3el PCB yagi working Andrew VK1DA/2 for a 23cm Summit to Summit QSO over 60 km to VK2/ST-053 Mt Mundoonen, Andrew is using the same 23 cm transverter.  Other 23 cm contacts include VK1KW, VK1BG, VK2TWR and VK1MA.

Testing the supplied HB9CV antenna, transverter power output is approximately 2 watts at 12 volts and 2.5 watts at 13.8 volts.

HB9CV antenna in action at the summit of Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037 working Rod VK2TWR at 130 km due south in the township of Nimmitabel QF43PL.  That’s right 130 km at 2.5 watts!

My next task is to construct a 12el 23 cm yagi, approximately 700 mm in length.  I am well on the way with the reflector and 10 director elements cut to size.  The PCB yagi antennas will prove useful for local VK1 peaks and distant VK1 summits in Namadgi National Park where carrying a Yagi antenna is problematic due to the density of the forest regrowth following the Canberra 2003 firestorm.  I am keen to try out the PCB antennas from home as a SOTA 23 cm ‘chaser’.

Extract of VK1AD SOTA Activator Log:  17 – 18 June 2017 Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037 on 23 cm 1296.200 MHz

Time Call Band Mode Notes
21:58z VK2NSS 144MHz SSB Steve s59 r59 0.5 watts
22:05z VK1KW 144MHz SSB Rob s59 r59 0.5 watts
22:06z VK1MT 144MHz SSB Matt s59 r59 0.5 watts
22:15z VK1DA/2 1240MHz SSB %QRA%QF45ME% Andrew s58 r59 S2S VK2/ST-053 60km
22:16z VK1KW 1240MHz SSB %QRA%QF44MT% Rob s59 r59  19 km
22:17z VK1BG 1240MHz SSB %QRA%QF44MS% Ian s59 r59  15 km
22:19z VK2TWR 1240MHz SSB %QRA%QF43PL% Rod s51 r41 Nimmitabel 130 km 2.5 watts
22:29z VK1DA/2 1240MHz SSB %QRA%QF45ME% Andrew s58 r59 S2S VK2/ST-053  60 km
22:40z VK1MA 1240MHz SSB %QRA%QF44MT% Matt s58 r59  19 km
23:08z VK2DVM 144MHz SSB Dave s52 r52 in Sydney 260 km north-east at 5 watts
23:13z VK1ATP 144MHz SSB Paul s59 r59 Canberra at 5 watts
23:35z VK2COW 144MHz FM Dimitrious S59 R59
23:57z VK1MBE 144MHz FM Andrew S59 R59 Canberra

If you are as keen as I was to get a leg in on 23 cm SOTA activations, then an all-mode 23 cm transverter might be a feasible option, it was for me.  🙂

Good luck with your 23cm SOTA activations!

13 thoughts on “SOTA – Getting on 1296 MHz with a Transverter

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  9. Excellent blog, Andrew. Got me all fired up to upgrade and join in on the action, too.
    Grant VK4JAZ

  10. Hi Andrew,
    When I saw your alert I wondered how you were going to operate on 23cm. My immediate thought was a hand held with FM, such as the Alinco, which is very popular. I must say I am impressed: a very neat solution providing both SSB and FM. As you say you will need to be careful about the transceiver’s power setting moving from 23cm back to 2m and 70cm. And an impressive log of contacts too! I own a fully optioned IC910 but would never take it portable, even though it is a ‘small desktop radio’. An antenna with more gain sitting on one of your tripods would be better. But for a small package antenna it is very neat. Thanks for the post.
    John D

  11. Nicely done Andrew. The transverter looks to be well made and the PCB antenna is cool. Good results!

    “How do you get on 23 cm 1296.2 MHz USB for SOTA activations without forking out loads of dough for an ICOM IC-910 or IC-9100?” Fork out an equal load of dough for a Kenwood TS-2000X. Hey its got a handle on it so it must be portable. : ) You’re kind of stuck with one of these for all-mode 23cm. A fair while ago Kenwood made the TM-531 and 541 but they were only FM. I know of some older all-mode offerings from Icom (1271) and Yaesu (736) but again desktop rigs and they are probably scarcer than hen’s teeth and thus will fetch a fairly hefty sum. The transverter appears to be a good solution. Have fun!

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