Following A52FH in September 2000, and A52CDX in October and November 2004, we were for the third time in Bhutan from 18th November to 3rd December 2005, again with the callsign A52CDX. We again found Bhutan to be a wonderful country, even if its location is far from ideal for Amateur Radio. We have formed a fruitful relationship with the Bhutan Information Communication and Media Authority (BICMA, ex-BTA).
Some have expressed doubts about the interest and relevance of our projects, and also about the benefit and even the existence of these "club stations" that nobody ever hears They have also wondered about the "small" number of contacts we have made from Bhutan…We invite them to visit these deep Himalayan valleys, where signals have to bounce across a maze of valleys before passing the high Himalayas and reaching Europe or the US. We would probably make more contacts from a seaside "lodge" with aerials perfectly in the clear. It would certainly be more efficient, but if we want this country to be active, we need to accept the local conditions and deal with them as well as we can.
Installation of the Bardo and Shingkhar stations by A51WD with the equipment donated by French radioamateurs.
The club stations installed by BICMA with the equipment donated by French radio hams are active very day. In particular, a network operates every day in Dzongkha – the country’s official language – between the schools of Phuentsoling A50B, Thimphu A50D and Bardo A50F on 40 metres at 9h30 and 12h30 local time. Conditions can be described as QRP, with 100 watts at best, sometimes with solar panels, always with wire antennas. However, these radio clubs are genuinely active every day. Two additional stations will be installed by BICMA in the East of Bhutan with the equipment we have been able to donate this year thanks to the help of our sponsors.
The team for this new activity was the same as in 2004, Gérard F2VX (SSB), Vincent G0LMX (SSB), Jean-Louis F9DK (CW) and Alain F5LMJ (CW et digital modes).
We operated from 18th to 28th November from the Ham Centre of our friend Yeshey Dorji A51AA, with participation in the CQ World Wide CW contest. We then tested conditions from other regions of Bhutan from 29th November to 2nd December:
Thimphu (Locator NL47) :
At the ham Centre, the
available equipment allows running two fully operational stations in
aerials are to a large extent obstructed by trees and mountains, but they allow
operation from 10 to 160 metres, and have generally given good results after an
This is not very academic, but it works when properly tuned. Conditions at Thimphu are difficult because aerials are close to trees and nearby mountains, and the high Himalayas obstruct the path between Thimphu and Europe / USA, and because of the local noise and QRM between S7 and S8.
Ogyen Cholling (locator NL57)
This was the first amateur
radio activity from the Bhumtang province in central Bhutan, at an altitude of
3000 metres and one hour on foot from the bottom of the valley where we left
The antenna was clear of
any object, with no background noise. We contacted all of Europe as well as
other DX, and showed to the Dacho, head of the village, that radio
communications were possible from this remote village.
Trongsa (Locator NL57) : Deep valley, open only towards the south. We installed the TS-50 and G5RV antenna but with very limited success. Not the ideal location for amateur radio
Paro (Locator NL47) : The last two days before our return to Paris, we operated from the same place as last year where we had made a substantial number of QSOs at the Gantey hotel, above the Paro Dzong. This year in spite of an identical set up, TS-50 and G5RV installed at the same place, results have not been nearly as good. We could hear European stations, but our signals did not get through.
During our whole stay, at Thimphu, in Bhumtang and at Paro, the weather has been remarkably good with blue sky during the day, but night fell very quickly at 5pm and temperature at the same time. At the Ham Centre, Yeshey explained that given the available electric power, the choice was between the linear amplifiers and the electric heaters…. we chose the amplifiers. The outside temperature was close to freezing at night, and only +12°C in the shack. Temperature was even lower at Uguen Cholling, between -5°C and -7°C at night and only +5°C in the bedrooms and the room where we had set up our radio station….
We bring back from this third trip 7,047 contacts (final count), of which more than 1,000 during the CW contest, i.e. a total of more than 27,000 contacts from this country with the A52FH and A52CDX call signs.
With four operators, we managed to operate “non stop” most of the time during the first week, with gaps in the propagation between 11h30 and 1330 UTC and at around 23h UTC, and peaks of activity between 8h and 9h UTC on the high bands and between 16h and 21h UTC on the low bands as shown on the band vs. time graph. This pattern was repeated fairly regularly every day, and matched fairly well the 160 metre propagation forecast prepared for us by F6AOJ and F5CW
Plenty of CW this year, accounting for 55.3% of the contacts vs. 42.4 % in SSB and only 2.3 % (162 contacts) in PSK31 and RTTY. The local QRM was too strong for satisfactory signal decoding
split by band illustrates perfectly the propagation conditions: absolutely no
contacts on 10 and 12 metres, and less than 300 contacts on 15 metres. The low
bands, 160, 80 and 40 metres accounted for 51% of our contacts, and 20 metres
As for last year, QSL is via F9DK … 100% ok via the bureau as always
A few highlights to finish…
wish you the opportunity to discover one day this wonderful country.
to the clubs, associations, companies and individuals who have supported this