Monday, May 16, 2011

Amateur Radio Bands

Amateur Radio Bands

Just as many of us have a favorite fast food that we come back to time after time Radio Amateurs tend to have a favorite band that they use more frequently than other bands. The question of what band to use may be secondary to that favorite band. But the first question should be what band(s) am I licensed to use? From the beginning of the licensing process you will find out what bands your license covers.

Next it is a matter of having the right equipment for the bands you want to use. As an entry level license generally covers VHF(2m) and UHF(70cm) and many beginning hams will use one of both of these bands. Also hand-held single-band or dual-band radios for these bands are affordable and don't require a sophisticated antenna or power source. Most metropolitan areas also have amateur repeaters to extend the coverage when using VHF or UHF radios.

Band Restrictions

In addition to deciding what band to use there may also be restrictions within the band depending on your level of license. Canada and the U.S. each have slightly different band allocations which amateurs in each country must follow. See the sidebar for links to web sites where the band plans are defined.

Also the world is divided into 3 ITU regions each of which have their own band plan. These plans all have a great deal of overlap so you can usually talk to anyone anywhere providing you get onto a frequency acceptable to both.

RAC Web Site Band Plan

ARRL Web Site Band Plan

Popular Bands

So what are the bands that most Radio Amateurs use? The table below shows bands that are relatively common and how and when they are in use. Again your license will determine which bands and what portions you are eligible to use.

Band (meter)MHzUse*
HF1601.8 - 2.0night
803.5 - 4.0night and local day
407.0 - 7.3night and local day
3010.1 - 10.15CW and digital
2014.0 - 14.350world wide day and night
1718.068 - 18.168world wide day and night
1521.0 - 21.450primarily a daytime band
1224.890 - 24.990primarily a daytime band
1028.0 - 29.70daytime during sunspot highs
VHF650 - 54local to world-wide
2144 - 148local and medium distance
UHF70 cm430 - 440local

* It should be noted that band conditions vary for many reasons and thus all of these bands can at times take on the characteristics of others. See the section on Propagation. This table should be considered a general guideline.

HF Bands

For amateurs who have an interest in long distance communication the HF (high frequency) bands will be of great interest. These bands offer propagation to all parts of the world at some time during the day, night or season. Do you want to talk to Japan from the east coast or Europe from the west? There will often be a time and a band where this communication is possible.

During a sunspot high cycle conditions are best for the higher HF frequencies and during a low the low frequencies are often in demand with all kinds of variation in between. Magazines such as QST and CQ Amateur Radio publish charts monthly that predict the best propagation to different areas of the world. These are just best guesses and will help you to choose your times and bands but there is no substitute for getting on the air.

Canadian and U.S. hams have different band allocations in the HF area although there is a lot of common ground. The following pages show a summary of the allocations in each country. For complete details go to the corresponding RAC or ARRL web site listed above.

Canadian HF Band Allocation

U.S. HF Band Allocation

Now that you have an idea of the band(s) you will be operating how about some instruction on operating practices. The section Basic Operating explains how to make contacts and exchange information with other amateurs on the air.

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