The ARRL looks at 60 Meters, One Week Later

The ARRL posted this today, 60 Meters: One Week Later, and attempted to clarify PSK31 operation on the channels.

To have a PSK31 signal transmitted on the center frequency, the control operator should not set the carrier frequency to the center frequency but should instead set the carrier frequency 1.5 kHz below the center frequency (i.e., the same as for phone and data emissions).

OK, I follow that. But they lose me here:

The word ‘carrier’ in this context means the suppressed carrier frequency of a transceiver when operated in the USB mode, but some have taken it to mean the PSK31 signal itself. They read this text and come to the conclusion that the PSK31 signal should be 1.5 kHz below the channel center. They are mistaken. The PSK31 signal must be in the center of the channel.

Let me see if I can sort this out. So if you are centered on a frequency and transmit on the USB, your carrier is 1.5 kHz below the center, but you are technically still “on center.” So perhaps some data operators are tuning down 1.5 kHz, from the center frequency, then transmitting on the sideband, which would then place them another 1.5 kHz off where they should be? Argh… who’s on first?

For the record, here are the frequencies of the five channels:

  • Channel 1: 5332.0 kHz
  • Channel 2: 5348.0 kHz
  • Channel 3: 5358.5 kHz
  • Channel 4: 5373.0 kHz
  • Channel 5: 5405.0 kHz

Channel 5 is used mainly for sideband DX.

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Static crashes into me

Well, no real DX tonight, but it was still an interesting, albeit noisy, evening on the bands.

I attempted to work a weak Italian station on 20 meters, but my call went unanswered. Just when conditions seemed to improve, I completely lost him.

I heard AD5WB from Galveston, TX, calling CQ further down 20 and I responded, receiving a 59 signal report.

I worked three stations after dinner: NP2/N0TG on 60 meters (!) operating from St. Croix (very loud static crashes); C6AAJ on 40 meters, operating from the Bahamas; and WB2OHN, also on 40, from upstate New York.

There was plenty of local action on 80 meters and 40 seemed remarkably quiet compared to every other band. I assume the band conditions were poor tonight thanks to the X5-class solar eruption this week.

In other news, I welcomed my uncle, KG4ITV, onto HF this week. He upgraded to General a few weeks back and jumped head-first into the hobby with a nice new FT-950. He sounded good on a local ragchew on 80 meters last night. It’s nice to know another ham is in the family!

Why yes, I can afford to operate on 60 meters

Well I’ve been taught a bit of a lesson tonight: I reckon I should check my gear more thoroughly.

Wait a sec. Read my previous post regarding the 60 meter band plan.

Just for fun tonight, I manually entered one of the 60 meter channel frequencies on my FT-847. Now keep in mind, this rig was made before the 60 meter allocation. I was amused to learn I could get on the channels using direct entry — then I was SHOCKED to learn I could transmit on them.

I thought for sure the LDG autotuner would glitch out when I attempted to tune up my dipole on 60. I got a high SWR warning initially but the LDG chattered away, eventually settling in with a 2:1 SWR. Not great, but seemingly usable. I turned my RF power down to about 50 watts.

I heard two strong stations on 5371.5 and transmitted my call after they broke. Silence. Then very loudly, KD8NLL, Chuck, out of St. Augustine came back to me. He told me I was 10 db over 9.

Mind blown: 50 watts on a non-resonant antenna with a wonky SWR, on a band I’ve never worked, on a rig that wasn’t made to work on 60 meters. And I get one of the best signal reports I’ve ever had.

This all coming just hours after I decided 60 meters wasn’t worth messing with.

I’m still scratching my head about my FT-847. Obviously one of the previous owners modified the rig. When I bought it, I was told it hadn’t been modified. I can’t switch to 60 meters using the “band up and down” buttons like I can 160, 80, 40, etc. I can only get to 60 meters with direct keypad entry. But I’ll take that one-off quirk any day over buying a new rig.

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