60-Meters A Brief History and FAQs
In May, 2003, a long-awaited FCC Report and Order (R&O) in ET Docket 02-98 granted US amateurs secondary access to five discrete channels in the vicinity of 5 MHz. The atypical amateur allocation became available to US amateurs on July 3, 2003. The limited spectrum and stringent operating requirements mean amateurs must demonstrate their best behavior and operating skills if the Amateur Service ever hopes to get an actual band segment at 60 meters.
As ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, put it: "In terms of Amateur Radio spectrum, we usually say, 'Use it or lose it.' The watchword for 60-meter operators should be, 'Misuse it and lose it.'" Sumner predicted that, over time, amateurs "will develop a record of disciplined, responsible use of the five channels in the public interest that will justify another look at these rather severe initial restrictions."
The FCC grant followed a period of experimental operation on 5 MHz under the WA2XSY Part 5 license granted to ARRL. The channelized scheme is similar to the 5-MHz experimental operation under way in the United Kingdom.
The FCC changed one frequency effective March 5, 2012 and now grants amateurs access to channels centered on 5332, 5348, 5358.5, 5373, and 5405 kHz. The last channel is common to the UK amateur 5-MHz experimental band plan.
This new allocation presents some new twists in amateur HF operation as well as some unfamiliar technical demands. The channelized format was the result of a compromise between the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA), which administers spectrum occupied by government users--the band's primary occupants--and the FCC. The channels are available to General and higher class licensees.
Originally, amateurs could only operate upper-sideband voice (emission 2K8J3E) at a maximum of 50 W effective radiated power (ERP) and an audio bandwidth not exceeding 2.8 kHz. The power level changed to 100 W PEP ERP and permissible emission types changed effective March 5, 2012.
You will find the latest information and the ARRL's Recommended Practices useful.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which administers spectrum regulated by the federal government, raised eleventh-hour opposition to ARRL's request and the FCC's proposal that would have given amateurs a 150-kHz wide band at 5 MHz (5250 to 5400 kHz). The NTIA's opposition, expressed after the period for comments already had expired, cited ongoing spectrum requirements of federal government licensees having homeland security responsibilities. Following some give and take between the FCC and the NTIA, the latter agency reviewed its assignments in the vicinity of 5 MHz and found five "lightly used" channels it felt could be shared. Contrary to speculation elsewhere, the channels are no harbinger of a new trend in Amateur Radio allocations in general. This is a special case.
There are two concerns here. One is your suppressed carrier radio frequency and the other is your audio frequency bandwidth. There's apparently some confusion between the two as they involve using these new channels. The channels the FCC allocated for the Amateur Service in its R&O are 5332, 5348, 5358.5, 5373 and 5405 kHz. These are channel-center frequencies, not the ones you tune your radio to. The NTIA told the FCC that hams "must assure that their signal is transmitted on the channel-center frequency." This means the amateur signal must be centered within the 2.8-kHz-wide channel. The FCC has provided scant guidance beyond suggesting--in a footnote that follows the NTIA's advice--that amateurs tune 1.5 kHz below the center-channel frequencies to be "on channel." Amateurs need to be sure that the tuning display readout reflects transmitted (ie, carrier) frequency (most do). Consult your transceiver's manual if you're not sure.
Select a Link Label
The FCC said hams may run 100 W effective radiated power (ERP) on the five 60-meter channels. The new rules say, "For the purpose of computing ERP, the transmitter PEP (peak envelope power) will be multiplied by the antenna gain relative to a dipole or the equivalent calculation in decibels. A half-wave dipole antenna will be presumed to have a gain of 0 dBd." This means if you use a half-wave dipole (about 87 feet 3 inches for the "middle" channel according to the formula), set your transmitter's output power for 100 W PEP (many transceivers' meters can be set to indicate peaks), and you should be in compliance. The FCC asks licensees using antennas other than half-wave dipoles to "maintain in their station records either manufacturer data on the antenna gain or calculations of the antenna gain." This is a new record-keeping requirement for amateurs. The "best" antenna configurations are those with a proven track record on the lower bands, keeping in mind that using a loop or an array of some kind will require you to "do the math" to ensure you are not radiating more than 100 W ERP in any direction. For the math you must reduce your power by the number of decibels your antenna gain exceeds 0 dBd (0 dB relative to a half-wave dipole). Conversely, you can increase your transmitter power if your antenna exhibits loss compared to a dipole. Be prepared to document these situations in your station records.
The decision to operate on 60 meters is up to the individual licensee. As ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, put it in his July 2003 QST "It Seems to Us . . ." editorial, "If we demonstrate that we can use [the 60-meter channels] responsibly, cooperatively and in the public interest, there is no reason we cannot seek expanded access at an appropriate time. If your personal operating practices are inconsistent with that, please do yourself and everyone else a favor and confine your operating to the traditional bands." We'd further suggest that if you own an older transceiver or transmitter that's modifiable but has an analog dial and a tendency to drift that you also avoid trying to operate on these channels--especially given the technical guidelines. 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. Stations might be expected to break in to join a QSO in progress or grab a signal report and, rather than calling CQ, they'll just announce that they're "monitoring" a particular channel (assuming that it's not already busy). 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 longer-range HF emergency communications links. As the FCC R&O states, "We believe that frequencies in the 5250-5400 kHz range may be useful for completing disaster communications links at times when the 3 [sic] and 7 MHz bands are not available due to ionospheric conditions, and [we] appreciate the desire of the amateur radio community to assist with disaster communications." Until now, emergency nets often had to switch off between 40 meters during the day and 75 meters at night. Of course, in the event of an emergency situation, amateurs should avoid channels carrying emergency-related traffic.
Whether or not you consider the five channels a "band" or not, the FCC has stipulated that our 5 MHz channels constitute a domestic allocation; it is not available worldwide (that would have to be determined at a World Radiocommunication Conference, and 5 MHz was not on the agenda for WRC-03). We're considered secondary because other users--primarily federal government stations--are primary. The most important thing is that, as secondary users, amateurs must yield to--and refrain from interfering with--primary users at all times. Giving us specific channels was one way to minimize the probability that hams might run afoul of critical government users . Internationally, the band 5250 to 5400 is allocated on a primary basis to the Fixed Service and on a secondary basis to the Mobile Service, except aeronautical mobile stations. In the US, the band's occupants include FCC Part 80 (Maritime) Part 87 (Aviation) and Part 90 (Private Land Mobile). Many specific government allocations are confidential.
The short answer: Stop transmitting! Assume the request is legitimate, vacate the channel promptly and ask questions later (off the air). For example, such government stations conceivably could include a US Coast Guard vessel running low power into a small antenna. While it's unlikely that federal government stations ever would ask amateurs over the air to vacate a channel, it's better to play it safe, since it's their band, and we're secondary users.
Different radios that were not originally designed to transmit at 5 MHz will require different modifications. If you're the owner of some of a late-model Ten-Tec transceiver, you are fortunate indeed. Ten-Tec announced in June 2003 that it would have 5-MHz firmware upgrades in place for its Pegasus, Jupiter, Orion and Argonaut V Amateur Radio transceivers via its Firmware Update Web site prior to the band's opening date to allow these rigs to be used on 60 meters. These upgrades are now available for downloading. Ten-Tec says it plans no hardware modifications to provide 5 MHz capability for older Ten-Tec transceivers at this time. SGC has published a Web page on 60-meter operation with SGC equipment. The page includes information on modifying the SGC SG-2020 to allow transmission from 1.8 to 29.7 MHz, as well as notes regarding the use of the SG-2000 and STEALTH kit antenna on 5 MHz frequencies. Elecraft is developing a new optional board, part K60XV, which provides 60-meter operation for their K2 model transceiver. However, they have also published an experimental modification to allow transceivers without the option to operate on 60 meters. For complete details, refer to their Web page, Putting the K2 on 60 Meters. ICOM America's Technical Support Department issued a statement by email: "At this time, there are no modifications or upgrades to any ICOM radio to allow operation on 60 meters." Kenwood Communications Technical Support department was contacted via telephone, and they similarly stated, "There are no modifications available for existing radios to enable coverage of the 60-meter amateur band." Likewise, Alinco's US distributor, ATOC Amateur Distributing, told the ARRL Lab, "Alinco has not released any modification information to enable 60-meter operation on their HF transceivers." Vertex Standard (Yaesu) has told ARRL that it wants guidance from the FCC on whether it has concerns over the notion of "frequency agile" transmitters in the band and the expected degree of frequency tolerance [the rules are silent on the topic of frequency tolerance.--Ed]. "When these and other questions are answered by FCC and NTIA, Vertex Standard will be pleased to assist the amateur community in the most expeditious way possible in enabling transmit coverage of this new band," a Vertex Standard spokesperson said. Yaesu's current policies regarding 60-meter modifications include the following: # No modification kits or modification information will be available for very old sets, such as the FT-101, FT-301, FT-901, FT-757, FT-767 and FT-980. Yaesu notes that the FT-101, FT-101ZD and FT-901 service manuals do contain "some information," but notes that some transceivers of that vintage use a 5.0-5.5 MHz VFO. "So, this really is not a good situation," the spokesperson advised. # Vertex Standard will not release "general coverage" information to help Yaesu transceiver owners modify their sets for 5 MHz operation. # Vertex Standard is awaiting word regarding current production models. # The company cautions users of the FT-1000MP, Mark-V and Field not to set the EDSP modulation up for 100-3100 Hz operation on 5 MHz, since the bandwidth is restricted to a maximum of 2.8 kHz. Most modifications will "open up" your transceiver and permit it to transmit throughout the HF spectrum, so caution is in order. Some modifications involve nothing more complicated than clipping a diode or wire. There is no certainty, however, that a modified rig will meet FCC requirements for harmonics and other spurious emissions on all frequencies, so hams must either thoroughly check the post-modification performance of their equipment or wait for modification information that the manufacturer has validated. To provide some insight on the issues that hams need to be aware of, the ARRL Lab has performed some transmitter performance testing on a selection of modified transceivers. The report of the results of this testing can be found on the ARRL Technical Information Service 60-Meter Mods Web page. A listing of modification resources available via the Internet may be found on the AC6V Radio Modifications Web site. ARRL neither endorses nor warrants these or any similar modifications in any way. All licensees have the obligation to determine whether their equipment is operating properly on 5 MHz and all other amateur allocations).
In a word, no. While you might void the warranty on a newer piece of gear if you decide to modify it for 60 meters--and this may be true even if the manufacturer provides the modification information--it's legal to modify, then use, your radio in the Amateur Service, since FCC certification is not required. In general, however, it is illegal to use a modified radio outside Amateur Service allocations without the required license and FCC-certificated equipment.
There is nothing wrong or illegal with calling CQ on 60 meters, but given the limited spectrum, it may not be the best allocation on which to start up an extended ragchewing session or indulge in long-winded transmissions. Since the channels are narrow, it may be best to drop in your call sign or issue a very short CQ if the channel appears relatively quiet.
Part 97 transceivers do not require Certification. The method of incorporating the new center frequency channels (5332 kHz, 5348 kHz, 5358.5 kHz, 5373 kHz, and 5405 kHz), as specified in Section 97.303(s), into the device is at the manufacturer's discretion. The device must have capabilities so that the licensed amateur can operate the device in compliance with the Part 97 Rules. For 60 M operation, the tuning may be variable as long as the licensed amateur can tune to the specific frequencies listed in the rule. The device is not restricted for operation only in this band. The transceiver can have a PEP power output at the antenna terminal greater than the specified ERP as long as the operator can control the power so that the station does not transmit with more than 100 Watts ERP PEP.
Effective March 5, 2012 the FCC has permitted CW, USB, and certain digital modes on these frequencies. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is the primary user of the 60-meter band.
The FCC Report and Order permits the use of digital modes that comply with emission designator 60H0J2B, which includes PSK31 as well as any RTTY signal with a bandwidth of less than 60 Hz.
The Report and Order also allows the use of modes that comply with emission designator 2K80J2D, which includes any digital mode with a bandwidth of 2.8 kHz or less whose technical characteristics have been documented publicly, per Part 97.309(4) of the FCC Rules. Such modes would include PACTOR I, II or III, 300-baud packet, MFSK, MT63, Contestia, Olivia, DominoEX and others.
On 60 meters hams are restricted to only one signal per channel and automatic operation is not permitted. In addition, the FCC continues to require that all digital transmissions be centered on the channel-center frequencies, which the Report and Order defines as being 1.5 kHz above the suppressed carrier frequency of a transceiver operated in the Upper Sideband (USB) mode. This is typically the frequency shown on the frequency display.