What is QRP and why it is interesting for Hams?

QRP – low power operating is one of the most popular ham radio activities in which a ham operates at low power output of up to 5W. Connecting to other stations at such a low power is a challenge for a ham, but on the other side, it is an interesting activity for hobbyist as well. Initially, the term QRP was used to request “Shall I reduce power” or “reduce power”, but today apart from using QRP as per its original meaning, it is being practised by hams as a challenge to operate at as little as possible power.

Why hams are interested in QRP?

It is an interesting question “why hams do QRP” at low power when they have options to operate at much higher output power. What’s making them interested in using a weak signal for ham radio operations? The most obvious reason is the “challenge” involved in operating at low power and a weak signal. Not every ham can do QRP because it needs SKILLS that only experienced hams do have. While operating at low power, the quality of your antenna and location does matter a lot, also the quality of transceiver may influence the possibility to make a connection. So, picking up the best transceiver is also a challenge for a ham.

Understanding QRP Operating Modes

Depending upon the QRP transceiver, it may support CW (Morse Code), SSB (Single Sideband) mode, or both and maybe even more. Let us have a quick go through on these modes:
CW (Morse Code): It is used to transfer information in a series of lights, clicks, or on-off tones. These codes can be easily understood by an experienced listener without any specific equipment. In amateur radio, it is referred as Continuous Wave (CW) to distinguish radio transmission from spark transmission. CW is allowed for all amateur radio bands, including LF, MF, HF, VHF, and UHF.
SSB (Single Sideband): It is a refined mode of Amplitude modulation. It uses transmitter power more accurately then Amplitude modulation while avoiding the doubling of base band.

Understanding QRP Transceiver with some examples of Transceivers

To perform a QRP operation, a ham should use a good quality QRP transceiver. An ordinary transceiver may also work for QRP but a QRP transceiver is particularly designed to provide hams a small and a portable system with 5W or less power. Some of the QRP transceivers may have power above 5W as well, but most are designed with 5W or less power. Moreover, some QRP transceivers are designed for CW (Morse Code), SSB (Single Sideband), or both. Usually, QRP transceivers have one band, but nowadays, QRP transceivers are being designed for dual band and multi-band. Given below are some of the well-known QRP transceivers:

  • Xiegu X1M
    • Developed by Xiegu, this transceiver is available with 5W power. It supports both CW and SSB modes. It supports 5 Band, including 80, 40, 20, 15, 10M.
  • Softrock RXTX
    • Developed by KB9YIG, this SDR transceiver is available as a kit that supports 1-3 HF band. It has 1W power.
  • SDR Cube
    • This SDR transceiver is available in both kit and assembled forms. It has 5W power and supports CW, SSB and AM.
  • Rockmite
    • Developed by Small Wonder Labs, this transceiver is available as a kit. Its power is 0.5W. This transceiver has a very small footprint!
  • KX1
    • Developed by Elecraft, this transceiver is available in both kit and assembled forms. Its power is 5W and supports CW only. This is for the geeks ;)

Given above are some examples of QRP transceivers. There are many more transceivers from which you can pick the best one that suits your needs.

QRP Contest and SOTA

The fun with amateur radio for hams lies in its contests and awards. In fact, many hams operate an amateur radio because they love to accept challenges, and for that, they participate in contests while doing their best to win the content and secure an award. Likewise, QRP contests make it a really interesting activity. SOTA (Summits on the Air) is such an interesting award for hams. To secure this award, hams need to participate in QRP operation in mountainous and wilderness areas. SOTA has been now recognized as an international award.

Read more about contests and awards.

SOTA is not just designed for mountaineers, but for everyone so that maximum hams can participate in this award scheme. SOTA awards are for activators – hams who join the summit and chasers – who operate from home or a local hilly area. Different countries have recognized SOTA summits to manage this award scheme.

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