ARRL

Estimated Field Strength from Amateur Radio Stations -- ARRL #1

Operating Parameters of Typical HF US Amateur Stations

  • Document T1E1.4 96 finalized:

    11/7/96

  • Prepared by:

    Ed Hare, KA1CV, ARRL Laboratory Supervisor
    Mike Gruber, W1DG, ARRL Test Engineer
    American Radio Relay League, Inc.
    225 Main St
    Newington, CT 06111
    (860) 594-0318
    ehare@arrl.org

  • Discussion:

    Amateur stations operating in the HF range usually have a receiver noise floor of approximately -140 dBm in a 500-Hz bandwidth. Amateur HF stations connected to an antenna exhibit a system sensitivity of approximately -120 dBm, although this can vary some in either direction, depending on local and atmospheric noise sources. This system sensitivity is usually limited by external noise to the values measured.

    While some amateur communication enjoys a significant signal-to-noise margin, it is not uncommon for amateurs to be working within a few dB of the noise floor. Some amateurs even do experimental work as much as 20 dB below the noise. When HF propagation is excellent, the limiting factor is usually in-band interference between stations. When propagation is marginal, as it varies over a daily, seasonal and 11-year solar cycle, much lower signal-to-noise margins are common.

    Amateur antennas are usually mounted between 5 and 50 meters above ground. On the 3.5 - 4.0 MHz and 7.0 - 7.3 MHz US amateur bands, common antenna heights tend to range toward the lower end of the scale. Antennas used on 10.1 - 10.15 and 14.0 - 14.35 MHz tend to range from 15 to 30 meters in height above ground.

    Amateur HF stations employ a wide range of antenna systems. While some antennas used can operate at a considerable loss, it is much more common for antenna systems to exhibit significant gain over an isotropic radiator, especially when modeled over real ground.

    On the 3.5 and 7.0 MHz amateur bands, a half-wave dipole antenna is perhaps the most common antenna in use. Random-length wires or quarter-wave verticals monopoles are also not uncommon. A half-wave dipole antenna mounted over real ground can exhibit a typical gain of 6.0 dBi or so over average ground, slightly higher over excellent ground.

    On the 10.1 and 14.0 MHz bands, one tends to see more directional antennas, especially on 14.0 MHz. A three-element Yagi or similar design is typical. Over real ground, this type of antenna typically exhibits approximately 12 dBi gain. Some amateur HF antennas can exhibit much more gain. A longwire or rhombic antenna, for example, can have gains in excess of 20 dBi.

    US amateur stations are licensed to use up to 1500 watts PEP RF output power on most bands (250 watts on 10.1 to 10.15 MHz). This is a transmitter output power specification, not an EIRP or ERP specification. These parameters must be calculated from the transmitter power, published antenna gain and an additional gain of 4 to 6 dB for ground reflections, as appropriate.

    If fed with 1500 watts , the magnetic fields from a 3-element Yagi array range from 0.627 A/m at 1 meter separation from the antenna, 0.185 A/m at 5 meters separation and 0.128 A/m at 10 meters separation. The electric fields are 45.4 V/m at 1 meter separation, 59.4 V/m at 5 meters separation and 49.6 V/m at 10 meters separation. (This is not an error; what occurs in the near field of a radiating element does not follow the "square-law" formula that applies in the far field.) The antenna used for the above example is a 3-element, 14.0 MHz Yagi array, 10 meters in height over average ground. These data were calculated at points in the main lobe of the antenna, at a height of 10 meters above ground, using NF.EXE version of MININEC. These data points do not represent a worst case, but may be considered as typical of what can be expected of a station operating toward the high end of operating capabilities. A small percentage of stations exceed these reference points by a significant amount.

    Current US FCC regulations permit an amateur station operating from 1.8 to 29.7 MHz to radiate an electric field into "general-public" areas of 824/F(MHz) V/m or a magnetic field of 2.19/F(MHz) A/m. This ranges from 457.8 V/m on 1.8 MHz to 27.8 V/m on 29.7 MHz. In "controlled" areas, which include the station location itself, the permitted field strengths are 1842/F(MHz) V/m and 4.89/F(MHz) A/m. These levels are in compliance with current FCC regulations for continuous duty cycle operation. Most amateurs use intermittent operation with operating modes that have a duty cycle ranging from 15% to 45%, typical. The regulations permit RMS values of power to be used, averaged over 6- or 30-minutes, so the peak fields could be significantly higher. These maximum permitted levels are, however, significantly higher than the levels which typically cause EMC problems in consumer electronics equipment.

    Several tables of data are attached. These data represent actual measurements taken at three local amateur stations.. Station #1 is W1AW, the ARRL bulletin and guest operator station. Station #2 is a more modest station operated at the home of W1DG in Somers, CT. Station #3 is W1INF, the operator's club at ARRL Headquarters in Newington CT.

    The test results are discussed after the tables, but it is worthy to mention that the station (W1INF) located near the computer systems in the main building at ARRL shows about a 10-dB degradation in performance as compared to the other two stations measured even though those stations used antennas with lower gain. The far field directivity pattern of the antennas used at W1INF are such that most energy received would be from angles above the horizon, although this does not necessarily apply well in the near field.

  • Demographics:

    In the US, there are 691,775 licensed Amateur Radio operators. Of these, 311,600 are licensed to use 1500 watts on HF amateur bands. In addition, there are 246,173 Novice or Technician Class licensees who may be licensed to use 250 watts on certain HF bands. (The FCC does not have data on how many of these licensees have passed the Morse Code test required for HF access.)

    Specific data on the percentages of licensed hams that actually transmit on specific bands or information on the power levels and antenna configurations in use does not exist. It is the best judgment of several active hams at ARRL Headquarters that a conservative estimate might be that 40%-50% of licensed hams are active and, of that number, approximately 25%-35% sometimes use output power in the 1500-watt class.

  • Field Testing:

    As prototype systems are brought on line in the US, ARRL may be able to help locate local amateur volunteers to assist in some field trials and measurements. If anyone would like to work with local amateurs in field trials, contact:

    American Radio Relay League, Inc
    Ed Hare, KA1CV, ARRL Laboratory Supervisor
    225 Main St
    Newington, CT 06111
    Telephone: (860) 594-0318
    Internet: ehare@arrl.org

  • Conclusion:

    Amateur stations operate with very sensitive systems that can be degraded by local noise sources. They also can radiate some relatively strong fields at heights typical of telephone-wiring installations. These factors must be considered when evaluating the compatibility of high-speed digital systems that may be installed in residential areas. Several papers previously presented indicate that VDSL technology may be compatible with the Amateur Radio Service, but just compatible. These additional data indicate that those conclusions need to be reconsidered and additional calculations made.

Appendix 1 - Station configurations:

Station #1 - W1AW

This station is a higher-end performance station, although not representative of the very best amateur capability. The transceiver used is an ICOM IC-781. The 3.5-MHz antenna is a half-wave dipole, at a height of 18 meters. The 7.0 MHz antenna is a 2-element Yagi array, at a height of 22 meters The 14.0 MHz antenna is a 2-element Yagi array at a height of 35meters. The external area around ARRL HQ is known to have a fairly high ambient noise level, primarily from power-line related noises. Measurements were made in the daytime, with good propagation conditions and normal office functions taking place.

Station # 2 - W1DG

This station is located in a relatively noisy-free residential area. The transceiver is a older Heathkit SB-102, using a 127-foot long dipole, fed with tuned, open-wire transmission line. The antenna is located 10 meters above the ground. Measurements were made in the early morning, with only the 7.0 MHz band open for worldwide communication. While not as quiet as the lower HF bands would be under the best conditions, these conditions do represent a relatively quiet operation.

Station #3 - W1INF

This station is located in the main building of ARRL HQ. It employs an Icom IC-765 transceiver and uses a 7.0 MHz, halfwave dipole located about 10 meters over the headquarters building and a Yagi-type antenna located about 12 meters above the building, on a tower. The building is a typical office environment, with approximately 60 Class B computers in use, associated peripherals. Most of the computers are interconnected by a building-wide shielded, twisted-pair Ethernet system. The external area around ARRL HQ is known to have a fairly high ambient noise level, primarily from power-line related noises. Measurements were made in the daytime, with good propagation conditions and normal office functions taking place.

Appendix 2 - Station System Sensitivity Measurement Results, Using Actual Antennas and Band Conditions.

Station

Frequency

Sensitivity dBW

(500 Hz filter)

Sensitivity dBm

(500 Hz filter)

Sensitivity

(dBm/Hz)

#1

3.7 MHz

-144 dBW

-114 dBm

-141 dBm/Hz

#1

7.0 MHz

-147 dBW

-117 dBm

-144 dBm/Hz

#1

14.1 MHz

-152 dBW

-122 dBm

-149 dBm/Hz

#2

3.7 MHz

-142 dBW

-112 dBm

-139 dBm/Hz

#2

7.0 MHz

-144 dBW

-114 dBm

-141 dBm/Hz

#2

14.1 MHz

-143 dBW

-113 dBm

-140 dBm/Hz

#3

3.7 MHz

-139 dBW

-109 dBm

-136 dBm/Hz

#3

7.0 MHz

-134 dBW

-104 dBm

-131 dBm/Hz

#3

14.1 MHz

-143 dBW

-113 dBm

-140 dBm/Hz

Note: These data were collected on 11/6/96. The represent the noise floor of the three typical amateur stations described in Appendix I. These figures are for amateur stations in actual use, using real antennas with local and atmospheric noise. While representative of the results expected, they cannot fully characterize the wide range of amateur use, experience and propagation conditions.

Appendix 3 - MININEC Calculated Field Strengths

Antenna #1 - 14-MHz, 3-Element Yagi Array, 10-Meters Height Above Average Ground (12.01 dBi gain). Values calculated in a direction perpendicular to the antenna elements, parallel to the ground, at a height of 10 meters above average ground.

Distance

H field

E field

1 m

0.627 A/m

45.4 V/m

2 m

0.328

55.4

3 m

0.247

59.3

4 m

0.208

60.2

5 m

0.185

59.4

6 m

0.168

57.8

7 m

0.155

55.9

8 m

0.144

53.8

9 m

0.135

51.7

10 m

0.128

49.6

15 m

0.100

39.9

20 m

0.0804

31.8

25 m

0.0647

25.4

30 m

0.0524

20.4

Antenna #2 - 14-MHz, 3-Element Yagi Array, 15-Meters Height Above Average Ground (13.02 dBi gain). Values calculated in a direction perpendicular to the antenna elements, parallel to the ground, at a height of 10 meters above average ground.

Distance

H field

E field

1 m

0.150 A/m

36.7 V/m

2 m

0.151

39.7

3 m

0.148

41.7

4 m

0.142

42.9

5 m

0.135

43.4

6 m

0.127

43.5

7 m

0.120

43.4

8 m

0.114

42.9

9 m

0.108

42.5

10 m

0.104

42.0

15 m

0.0902

38.5

20 m

0.0807

34.1

25 m

0.0712

29.4

30 m

0.0618

25.1

Antenna #3 - 7.0 MHz, Half-Wave Dipole, 10-Meters Height Above Average Ground (6.01 dBi gain). Values calculated in a direction perpendicular to the antenna elements, parallel to the ground, at a height of 10 meters above average ground.

Distance

H field

E field

1 m

0.710 A/m

48.4 V/m

2 m

0.354

34.6

3 m

0.236

30.5

4 m

0.177

28.3

5 m

0.141

26.7

6 m

0.118

25.3

7 m

0.101

24.0

8 m

0.0878

22.7

9 m

0.0778

21.4

10 m

0.0696

20.2

15 m

0.0444

14.8

20 m

0.0310

10.9

25 m

0.0227

8.20

30 m

0.0172

6.31

Antenna #4 - 3.5 MHz, Half-Wave Dipole, 10-Meters Height Above Average Ground (8.17 dBi gain). Values calculated in a direction perpendicular to the antenna elements, parallel to the ground, at a height of 10 meters above average ground.

Distance

H field

E field

1 m

1.12 A/m

26.3 V/m

2 m

0.557

15.3

3 m

0.368

13.3

4 m

0.273

12.5

5 m

0.216

12.0

6 m

0.177

11.6

7 m

0.149

11.3

8 m

0.128

11.0

9 m

0.112

10.7

10 m

0.0986

10.4

15 m

0.0585

8.71

20 m

0.0386

7.06

25 m

0.0272

5.66

30 m

0.0201

4.56