Is 60M worth it?

Back when I was studying for my General, I came across the strict rules of the 60 meter band allocation: Several “channels” with no more than 50W PEP relative to a dipole, USB phone. It didn’t sound very useful at the time.

On March 5, the FCC updated the 60 meter band to 100W PEP and allows USB phone, digital and CW. Last night during our monthly CARC meeting a representative from the ARRL was present and encouraged us to start using 60M, because as of now, it’s a bit of an experimental wilderness with very little activity. Several weeks ago one of my good friends in radio indicated to me that he’d like to begin using a channel on 60 for local communication with other club members. So now I’m intrigued.

I’m also broke. Since January I’ve dropped considerable coin on antennae, coaxial cable, an HF rig, antenna tuner and all the other bits that make the system function.

There are other problems besides my bank account. First and foremost, my rig, the FT-847, was made years before 60M was an amateur allocation, therefore I cannot tune any 60M frequency without a mod to open the range of the rig. Although it sounds like a simple enough mod, I’m not willing to start fooling around with an already delicate, fairly old radio that I paid a lot of cash for.

Since I’m getting interested in QRP and an 817ND is somewhere on the horizon, I’d probably just use the 817 for 60M operations. Of course if I hit the lottery or happened upon a massive amount of cash, I’d get a big-boy rig like the FT-950 or something comparable.

Second, what about antennas for 60M? Lets assume I cobbled together the wire to make a simple dipole, which is likely what I would do to keep costs down. Using the familiar formula of 468/desired frequency (in this case 5.3 mhz) = total dipole length, and assuming a 5% reduction in length for an inverted V arrangement, we get an antenna that’s just slightly longer than 83 feet long. Ugh! I’m already pushing the limit in regards to space in our back garden with the Buckmaster OCF dipole.

I know from hanging the Buckmaster that there is only one location in my backyard that would support an antenna with 44-foot legs, and that means I’d need to get another 150-feet of coax to run back to my shack. Not to mention the various jumpers I’d need to get the signal to my rig. So now I’ve invested more money in coax than I have in the antenna!

I’ve heard it’s possible to tune the Buckmaster dipole on 60M…

According to the ARRL, here is the experience we should expect on 60M:

Given the limited spectrum, it may not be the best allocation on which to start up an extended ragchewing session, indulge in long-winded transmissions or even to call CQ. ARRL anticipates that 5-MHz channelized operation will come to resemble repeater operation.

Makes me wonder what exactly we’re supposed to be doing up there. Then I saw this:

The 5 MHz channels also might provide the best propagation in the event of a Caribbean storm or other disaster, when stations need to establish needed longer-range HF emergency communications links.

Interesting.

At the least, I’d be dropping several hundred to get access to five channels where I’d be a secondary user at best. I’m no math expert, but it doesn’t add up for ME at the moment. Of course, I’ve only been on HF for a week at this point and there is no limit of fun to be had on the other allocations we have!

Links:

The ARRL on the history of 60M / FCC Rules

Dipole calculator

FT-847 open transmit mod

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