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Author Topic: What Am I Hearing on 6900 kHz LSB? Read This. 6900 LSB Freeband Net Analysis  (Read 5633 times)

Offline R4002

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43 meters, roughly defined as 6765 kHz to 7000 kHz, or 6.765 MHz to 7.000 MHz is an interesting piece of frequency spectrum.  In addition to military and government users, these frequencies are home to various types of "pirate" radio activity.  Some of it is pirate broadcasting, and some of it is "bootleg" two-way radio communications chatter, often in Spanish or Portuguese.  Today I'm focusing on the Spanish voices heard in this area, specifically on 6900 kHz, or 6.900 MHz, LSB mode.  My theory is that these operators are not actually fishermen (Spanish for "fishermen" is pescadores, which is where the popular SWL and shortwave pirate listener term "peskies" or "peskys" comes from).  While the Spanish language traffic on 6900 LSB and other frequencies may indeed be an annoyance, chances are they're land-based transmitters operating in a "freeband" manner similar to the way freeband 11 meters is done. 

6900 kHz LSB - 6.900 MHz LSB is one of the busier "peskie" frequencies on 43 meters.  The indications are, however, that the operators heard on 6900 (and nearby frequencies, especially 6905 LSB and 6895 LSB) are actually "freebanders" or "outbanders" radio operators, both unlicensed and those who hold radio licenses (probably ham licenses) but prefer to operate out of band, that are operating from land-based stations.  Below is an extensive analysis of one of their evening nets on 6900 kHz LSB.  Most of what I say about these guys applies to traffic heard in USB mode as well.  Often I'll hear 6900 USB active at the same time as 6900 LSB.  Since they're using modified amateur radio equipment, its simply a question of flipping the mode switch, I have a feeling this is done as a way to find another clear channel / frequency.

Disclaimer before you read this whole thing:  I know I've made a lot of posts about these guys, but this is one of the first times I've actually sat down and listened to their chatter for longer than 5-10 minutes.  My Spanish is a "conversational level", that is, I have ~2 years university-level Spanish language study plus extensive real-life practice speaking and writing it and am familiar with the terms used in two-way radio by Spanish speakers.  I don't speak it fluently, but I understand enough to understand what is being said and carry on a conversation with a native speaker without trouble.  On to the logs...

------------------


Strong stations chatting on 6900 kHz LSB.  Station taking check-ins for Jalisco, Matamoros, Texas, "el centro de Mexico", California, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, etc.  Stations exchanging signal reports and talking about equipment.  Long-winded ragchew-like chatter.  Extended QSO about 11 meter band conditions earlier today, about "Carlos de Matamoros", conditions on 15 meter band (likely indicating that these stations are in fact licensed ham operators - or they're operating around 15 meters illegally as well).  Changed to political banter, talking about Facebook, and other long-winded "ragchew" like talk.  Several references to Matamoros, cities in Texas, Mexico City (Federal District), Costa Rica, and other places in Latin America.

New stations checking into net following similar procedures.  "Hola!" "CQ 43 metros" "estas llamando" (Hello CQ 43 meters! I am calling!")  followed by discussion about transceiver (un Alinco!, "tiene un yagi de tres elementos" ["I'm running an Alinco radio with a three element Yagi antenna"] etc) and antenna equipment and signal reports.  Once a new station is introduced into net, other stations give him signal reports, and he is entered into the rotation.  Several instances of stations calling "HOLA!" over each other, but generally more civilized than Portuguese-speaking traffic heard on 6925 LSB, 6919 LSB, etc. Specifically calling net control stations "Carlos en Matamoros" or "Juan en Tejas" which means Carlos (or Juan?) is possibly net control...Juan likely secondary or backup net control station.  Carlos (I think) mentioned this as "the frequency of North America" which backs up my theory that 6900 LSB is the "primary" 43 meter freebander frequency (for Spanish speakers anyway).

At 0256 UTC, mention of interference from boats (likely a reference to the "real" pescadores).  Radio check 1, 2, 3, 4...followed by "Echo Mike Sierra" (possibly a radio club identifier).  0304, more QRM from another net on frequency (stations in California).   

0308 UTC - Carlos requested a new station identify his name, his location, and his equipment.  Repeated back name "Martin" but could not hear location due to QRM.  0309 UTC, Carlos introduces Martin to other stations on frequency.  Then all hell broke loose (5-6 stations all replied to Martin at once).  0310-0311 UTC, Martin thanked stations for the good wishes and made several comments about the quality DX contacts he made earlier today on 11 meters. 

0313-0314 UTC - Juan called Carlos back about Javier, made some comment about Costa Rica.  Around this time, 6905 kHz LSB became active again.  Possible stations moved from 6900 LSB up to 6905 LSB due to heavy use of 6900 LSB. 

0316-0317 UTC - Two QSOs going at once.  Carlos working another, much weaker station while an UNID station talked over Carlos.  Carlos repeated request to "change" (meaning "change your frequency" or a request to QSY due to QRM).

0318-0319 UTC - new station on frequency asking for signal reports.  Net control answered and requested location information, etc.  New station calling from Costa Rica with a Yaesu, then requested if Carlos could hear him in Matamoros....followed by silence and new station saying "negativo" (meaning negative contact with Carlos in Matamoros).  New station then called Juan, who replied with signal report.  New station requested "repeat" (likely so other stations, or at least Carlos, could hear).   Very professional net control/traffic handling procedures going on at this point.

0321 UTC - Comments made about FT-757GX HF radio and another piece of equipment that I couldn't identify (read: translate).  Long winded chatter about equipment/antennas, at 0322, another station called CQ over this.  Chatter about 11 meter equipment "Superstar 3900" and comments about the excellent performance of the Yaesu FT-757 radio on 11 meters and 43 meters as well as his Superstar 11 meter radio. 

0323 UTC - station IDed as "Jalisco" answered by net control (not sure which one) who requested "more information" (net control severely fading at this point).  Clarification about where Jalisco is, more chatter [then heavy QRM].  At 0325 UTC, station said hello to Javier, mentioned something about his cellular phone, then more unreadable chatter.

0326 UTC - "El Centro de Mexico" and "Jalisco" signal reports, mention of Manuel and propagation conditions. 

0328 UTC - switching back and forth between 6900 LSB and 6905 LSB.  0328 UTC - very strong station came on and said "GOOD CONDITIONS, GOOD EVENING!" followed by reply by a half dozen stations (reminded me of a HF ham band pileup).  0329, more signal reports (likely a new station checking in to net).  Station identified as being in Costa Rica and complimented stations on frequency on good signals and mentioned hearing Mexico, California, general chatter about "good people on frequency".

0331 UTC - another strong station came on and said "hey what's up frequency 6900?!", followed by more stations checking in.  Band must be going long as I'm having trouble copying stations that were earlier SIO 444/SIO 555. 

0333 UTC - Much weaker station now talking to another [unheard] station.  Strong net control stations have either disappeared, QSYed or the band has gone long enough that I can no longer hear them. 
 
0336 UTC - After several minutes of silence, a station from Costa Rica called CQ and did the usual "good evening everyone" greetings but was not replied to (or at least I couldn't hear anybody reply to him).  Either the band has gone very long, everybody has gone QRT and/or they've QSYed up to 6905 LSB (the alternate frequency).

See also the thread regarding Spanish language chatter on 6905 kHz LSB.  Seems like the same group of stations. 
« Last Edit: January 25, 2018, 1148 UTC by R4002 »
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Offline ChrisSmolinski

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This is really interesting, thanks for the detailed report. I had four years of Spanish in school, but that was many years ago, so I can only pick out bits and pieces of what is said - plus I confess I don't spend more than a few seconds when I hear these guys.  They certainly do sound like the 43m version of 11m freebanders, they operate down here when 11m doesn't support propagation (in addition to the actual fishermen that we do occasionally hear). Which leads to the question... where else do they operate?
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Offline R4002

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In addition to the many mentions of 11 meter propagation, I heard a couple references to "15 meters".   Not sure if they were talking about the actual 15 meter amateur band or frequencies above/below the ham radio allocation for 15m.  Hard to say.  You're probably right in assuming they operate in a "third area" besides 43 meters and 11 meters, especially since they seem to have broad-banded HF equipment and antennas that support multiple frequency ranges.

Or at least some of them do.  I know a lot of 11 meter traffic is from stations that only have 25-28 MHz or 25-30 MHz equipment, whereas these stations are operating with modified HF ham radio equipment or off-the-shelf HF SSB marine gear that covers 1-30 MHz at least.  I've researched several of these stations and many of them operate on HF, 11 meters (with purpose-specific dedicated radios for 11 meters) and VHF/UHF.  One such station had several VHF/UHF radios operating on various out-of-band frequencies on VHF and the American FRS/GMRS channels on UHF (at much higher power).  Considering the flood of cheap open-banded 136-174/400-520 MHz Chinese radios on the market, I expect this trend to only continue.  Of course, we can't hear that traffic over long distances and its above 30 MHz which means its beyond the scope of HF Underground...but I digress...

Now that we know 6900 kHz LSB is their primary frequency and the quasi-net fashion in which they operate (which mirrors 27 MHz freebanding, at least for this group), it shouldn't be too hard to notice similar patterns on other frequencies.  Of course, I don't see any reason for them to change frequencies.  Even with strong AM signals on 6900 kHz for hours and hours on end, these guys did not QSY off 6900 LSB or 6905 LSB despite the extremely heavy QRM from Unknown Name Radio Network on 6900 AM and other pirate stations using that frequency.  
« Last Edit: April 24, 2017, 1606 UTC by R4002 »
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Offline digitalmod

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 Interesting indeed. In SC, I hear loads of these free banders and some are very loud -50dbm !!
I am wondering, since I know a little Spanish, I can differentiate these from others and I am on some nights after 0200 utc hearing what I think is a Slavic or Russian language being spoken.
Anyone else hear these stations?
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Offline Σ

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Nice write up and analysis. I'm always amazed that there aren't more English language nets like that out there. Wish my Spanish was better than just picking up a word here and there.
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Offline dave524

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  They certainly do sound like the 43m version of 11m freebanders, they operate down here when 11m doesn't support propagation (in addition to the actual fishermen that we do occasionally hear). Which leads to the question... where else do they operate?

try looking on these freqencies

http://www.freebanding.co.uk/echo_charlie.htm
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Offline TheRelayStation

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thanks for that very detailed report and analysis providing much insight, it is much appreciated, great work !
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Offline poseidon

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Thanks for that analysis - it's always been an interesting area of 'illicit' comms. At one time in the 80's there were many European stations active around the 43-45m band, particularly stations from Benelux and quite a few from UK. All seem quiet now. I have to say the content of these nets and QSOs was far more interesting than the rather dry and dull stuff that moves around the licenced ham frequencies (just signal reports, weather and good wishes usually). That was maybe because the conditions of transmitting licences prohibited hams from speaking about anything interesting! In the same way that it's still actually illegal to pass on to anybody what you may hear on a radio transmission (believe it or not!).

Offline R4002

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Thanks for that analysis - it's always been an interesting area of 'illicit' comms. At one time in the 80's there were many European stations active around the 43-45m band, particularly stations from Benelux and quite a few from UK. All seem quiet now. I have to say the content of these nets and QSOs was far more interesting than the rather dry and dull stuff that moves around the licenced ham frequencies (just signal reports, weather and good wishes usually). That was maybe because the conditions of transmitting licences prohibited hams from speaking about anything interesting! In the same way that it's still actually illegal to pass on to anybody what you may hear on a radio transmission (believe it or not!).

Yes I do remember that its technically illegal to pass on anything you hear on the radio - which is interesting considering how many people listen to public safety scanner feeds online.  Anyway,

Considering the wider proliferation of open-banded equipment over the past 5-10 years compared to before...for both HF and VHF/UHF bands, I'm surprised there isn't more activity on 45 meters and the 85 meter bands, among other bands....with 11 meters almost entirely "local only" like the short-range "VHF-like" service it was originally intended to be.

Of course, one only needs to tune 6525 kHz to 7000 kHz, especially the higher portion of 6700 to 7000 kHz which is home to all sorts of legal and illegal two-way communications, most of them are in Spanish or Portuguese.  I'm glad I understand some Spanish, but Portuguese is a mystery to me.   I find that when the band is open to South America (vs. Mexico and the Spanish-language comms that are coming out of the USA and from offshore) that these legal or quasi-legal radiotelephone nets and other rural radio networks suddenly come alive.  I imagine they're there all the time, but we're just not hearing them all the time.

The same can easily be said about 25-30 MHz and all the unlicensed activity below and within the 10 meter amateur radio band.  If they're using 25.615-28.755 MHz as the "CB band" in Brazil and elsewhere, I'm sure the HF band is pretty ridiculous when it comes to being a free-for-all.  Aren't off-the-shelf HF-SSB marine radios 1.8-28 MHz transmit and receive anyway? Just pick a frequency and go! 
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Offline [tRMZ]

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In the same way that it's still actually illegal to pass on to anybody what you may hear on a radio transmission (believe it or not!).

...anything you hear? Obviously there are specifications regarding that, I assume? Like...just for HAMs HF QSO? Like what about  VHF...2-meter band? the 1st responders?

So when I hear disgusting and outrageously vulgar chatter on 80M, I can't talk about it? I

Sum of those guys...man they should be ashamed! You kno what I mean? Arguing like children and seriously I'm not easy to offend I am pretty vulgar myself you know but some of these HAMs on 80M...40M...honestly they should be ashamed! That really surprised me. I thought licensed HAMs would be more...professional, I guess? ...I still can't believe sum of this stuff I hear

I never knew there was any assumption of privacy...if you're talking on-the-air, across the world. I assumed that privacy was automatically forfeited.

I wanna hear some pescadores tho!! Bueno!
« Last Edit: June 03, 2018, 0211 UTC by [tRMZ] »
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Offline TheRelayStation

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while the law may still apply concerning the divulging of certain sensitive information onto others that may be heard through a radio transmission, many law enforcement agencies have been switching their analog radio transmissions to encrypted digital, eliminating that possibility of sensitive information being leaked to unwanted ears.
whether those who listen to law enforcement communications (and other types of communications) find this fair or not is totally subjective upon the specific user.
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Offline [tRMZ]

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so with the digital scanner...like the RadioShack $400 handheld digital scanner...that receives Police band...even with that, msgs are encrypted?

Are their transmissions typically encoded further than that? Like, isn't the typical digital/800band Police traffic receivable with a digital scanner like that? Or are Police going further with ecncryption?

Quick anecdote here...I have family in Escanaba, MI. So I visited them with my VHF/UHF scanner. There is lots of railroad activity there. But the cops just talk on the old VHF Police band! I couldn't believe it! I assume they use digital communications also but they're reading ppl's names! License plates! Criminal record! Vehicle registration + information! I...I still can't believe it man! That's terrible to read all that over-the-air VHF...like all you need is a free outdated radio like Uniden Bearcat BC-145XL 16-channel scanner, like I have in my kitchen! I got it for free. It wasn't worth more than $5 anyway.

So when you visit Escanaba...tell em...that this is the 21st century now
« Last Edit: June 10, 2018, 1743 UTC by [tRMZ] »
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Offline TheRelayStation

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so with the digital scanner...like the RadioShack $400 handheld digital scanner...that receives Police band...even with that, msgs are encrypted?

Are their transmissions typically encoded further than that? Like, isn't the typical digital/800band Police traffic receivable with a digital scanner like that? Or are Police going further with ecncryption?

Quick anecdote here...I have family in Escanaba, MI. So I visited them with my VHF/UHF scanner. There is lots of railroad activity there. But the cops just talk on the old VHF Police band! I couldn't believe it! I assume they use digital communications also but they're reading ppl's names! License plates! Criminal record! Vehicle registration + information! I...I still can't believe it man! That's terrible to read all that over-the-air VHF...like all you need is a free outdated radio like Uniden Bearcat BC-145XL 16-channel scanner, like I have in my kitchen! I got it for free. It wasn't worth more than $5 anyway.

So when you visit Escanaba...tell em...that this is the 21st century now
what you may have heard is the "village/hamlet" police who tend to use the older communication systems because its cheaper.
the police departments who use digital P25 un-encrypted communications also use a mobile PC console where 95% of the information is dispatched to the police officers, you may not hear much of anything voice wise that would make much sense at times as a result - even PD's who encrypt their communications use a mobile PC console too.
it doesnt matter what kind of receiver you use, if the incoming transmission is encrypted, there is no way to decode it without knowing the "key".
to further buffer the issue, police officers can use a department issued cell phone in the event radio communications are not available.
its annoying that many police departments are changing their communications to P25 encrypted but there is no law that says that do not have that option if they so choose to use it.
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Offline Pigmeat

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In the same way that it's still actually illegal to pass on to anybody what you may hear on a radio transmission (believe it or not!).

Years ago in the era of flip-phones, I had a minor fire. My cousin calls me and asks, "Do you know your house is on fire?" I came back with, "Well, yeah, I'm sittin' the curb waiting for the all clear. How in the Hell did you hear about it?" He comes back with "On my poh-lease scanner." I hung up on the SOB.

Offline R4002

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so with the digital scanner...like the RadioShack $400 handheld digital scanner...that receives Police band...even with that, msgs are encrypted?

Are their transmissions typically encoded further than that? Like, isn't the typical digital/800band Police traffic receivable with a digital scanner like that? Or are Police going further with ecncryption?

Quick anecdote here...I have family in Escanaba, MI. So I visited them with my VHF/UHF scanner. There is lots of railroad activity there. But the cops just talk on the old VHF Police band! I couldn't believe it! I assume they use digital communications also but they're reading ppl's names! License plates! Criminal record! Vehicle registration + information! I...I still can't believe it man! That's terrible to read all that over-the-air VHF...like all you need is a free outdated radio like Uniden Bearcat BC-145XL 16-channel scanner, like I have in my kitchen! I got it for free. It wasn't worth more than $5 anyway.

So when you visit Escanaba...tell em...that this is the 21st century now

While the general movement is towards Project 25 digital systems (some with and some without encryption...) - there are still plenty of public safety users still on the older generation analog systems.  For some, its simply a question of cost effectiveness.  In some areas where the county/city/etc has upgraded to a digital system, some users keep their "legacy radios" for talk-around (simplex),  tactical and other specialty purposes. 

The state I live in operates a statewide Project 25 trunking system in the VHF high band 150-162 MHz for State Police, game wardens, Department of Corrections, etc...but all of the agencies on that system still have their analog systems up and running for backup purposes at the very least.  Even the State Police have VHF low-band FM (39 MHz) radios in all their vehicles, their headquarters buildings and many of their radio sites for backup use in the event of a major failure of the VHF P25 system. 

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