Did I say 15 would open? It has, but signals are disappointing and there is little activity. It is generally agreed that we are at the rock bottom of the solar cycle and that conditions will not get any worse. This is, however, the peak of the fall DX season where we get our highest daypath MUF's. From Texas, we are finding marginal openings to western Europe and some nice activity from Africa. Stations further east can expect some coverage to eastern Europe. Seasonally, it won't get any better - but contests have a way of opening up the bands and the CQWW Fone is coming up. Serious contesters thrive on the rates of a good European pipeline, which we may not get on this band. Newbies with lower DXCC credits will enjoy the African activity which may also appear on 10 Meters. The high bands will definitely be an important source of multipliers.
For long haul DX, 20 is still the best. Nightpath activity has thinned out, but we find openings to the Middle East through much of the morning. Europeans also come through, but signals are only strong for an hour or so after sunrise. After that, only the well equipped DX stations are workable. Our path to Asia occurs around sunset, with the high latitude paths opening after dark to areas emerging into daylight. The last paths to close will be along southern routes - such as to Africa, South America and the Pacific.
Activity is increasing on 40 Meters, but foreign broadcast activity occupies a lot of bandwidth. Even in the CW band we are finding new sources of QRM from hispanic bootleg stations. These problems exists in many parts of the world, as anybody can buy a radio now.
Signals are excellent from Europe in the evening beginning before our sunset. The area of darkness over the pole is broadening every day, bringing better opportunities to remote parts of the world. There will soon be many Russian signals on the band, with conditions peaking after their local sunrise. Most of them will be weak, because this is still a difficult path for us on 40. After our own sunrise, we look to Asia for exotic DX and in contests for high JA rates unavailable to the East Coast :-).
The true lowbands, however, are 80 and 160. Many SSB ops focus more on 80 than on 40 due to the propaganda services, and there is an abundance of DX to be worked on 80 fone. Effective lowband work requires a quiet QTH and real estate for laying out long receiving antennas. Being loud isn't good enough.
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