Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Handiham World for 07 March 2012

Welcome to Handiham World.

J-38 code key
On March 5, 2012 the latest version of the United States Amateur Radio Bands chart from ARRL became effective.  If you will recall, last November the FCC made some changes to the 60 meter band, and this new chart brings us up to date.  Of course that will mean that you will want the latest version on your computer or in your ham shack for reference. Prior to this week, only upper sideband operation was allowed on the channelized 60 meter band.  Few of us had actually made the move to 60 meters and made contacts, partly because of the odd restrictions in frequencies and modes, but also because many antenna systems just didn't tune on 60 meters.  Even so, those who were adventuresome took the plunge and were delighted to find that propagation on 60 meters made it quite a useful alternative to 75 and 40 meters since it has characteristics of both of those popular bands. This morning I was surprised to be listening on 5.330.5 MHz and hear a station in the southeastern United States calling CQ using CW at around 30 words per minute. He called off and on for perhaps 15 minutes, obviously using a programmed keyer before he was finally answered by a station somewhere on the East Coast. I have to admit that 30 words per minute is too fast for me to copy comfortably, so I had to listen up to make sure I was hearing correctly. After all, only upper sideband operation was allowed on the 60 m band. When I was sure I was copying the call sign correctly, I decided to check the frequency chart on my wall just to confirm that only upper sideband operation was allowed. The chart confirmed this, but then I recalled the changes that the FCC had made and decided to check the ARRL website for a new frequency chart. Sure enough, a new version was available and had been released just two days ago!
The difference is pretty significant, because the effective radiated power, the modes of operation, and even one of the channelized frequencies have been changed.  Let's go over the "new" 60 meter band as shown in the ARRL Frequency Chart.  Here is the new information for our blind members in an easy to listen format:
The 60 meter band is also known as the 5.3 MHz band.  Only General, Advanced, and Extra Class licensees may use 60 meters.  All of these license classes have full band privileges. 
The five channels available on a secondary basis with a maximum effective radiated power of 100 W PEP relative to a half wave dipole are:
5.330.5 MHz
5.346.5 MHz
5.357.0 MHz
5.371.5 MHz
5.403.5 MHz
Some readers and listeners may find it odd that we have listed two decimal points in each frequency. I decided to do it that way because this preserves the concept of the "5.3 MHz band". The ARRL chart lists kilohertz, so that the frequency would read 5330.5 kHz, for example. On my ICOM IC-7200 transceiver the readout follows our listing in megahertz and has two decimal points.
Only USB suppressed carrier voice, CW, RTTY, and data such as Packtor 3 transmissions are allowed on the 60 m band. 
There is a bandwidth restriction on 60 m.  Bandwidth is limited to 2.8 kHz centered on 5.332, 5.348, 5.358.5, 5373, and 5.405 MHz respectively. (For example, you will be on the right frequency if you use upper sideband and tune to 5.330.5 MHz, which is the carrier frequency.)
All things considered, the 60 m band has been improved by these changes. It is still quite unique in its channelized nature, but the addition of new modes of operation do increase its versatility and will make it more attractive to a wider variety of users. Although there is no restriction on which mode of operation may or should be used on which channel, I did hear the CW station on 5.330.5 MHz, perhaps because that is the traditional lowest frequency spot on the band where CW operators might decide to congregate. Perhaps at some time in the future there will be at least an informal band plan beyond the more or less agreed upon use of 5.403.5 MHz as a DX frequency. The increase in power from 50 W to 100 W makes the band more useful still, especially during summertime band conditions when more power is likely to be needed to be heard above thunderstorm static.
I hope you will consider giving the 60 m band a test drive if you have a General Class license or above and an antenna that can be tuned to 5.3 MHz. I think you will be surprised and delighted with the propagation characteristics on 60, and will likely add it to your regular list of useful frequency bands.
For Handiham World, I'm...
Patrick Tice,
Handiham Manager