FCC Releases New Rules for 60 Meters


On November 18, the FCC released a Report and Order (R&O), defining new rules for the 60 meter (5 MHz) band. These rules are in response to a Petition for Rulemaking (PRM) filed by the ARRL more than five years ago and a June 2010 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). In the R&O, the FCC replaced one of the channels in the band, increased the maximum authorized power amateur stations may transmit in this band and authorized amateur stations to transmit three additional emission designators in the five channels in the 5330.6-5406.4 kHz band (60 meters).

The Amateur Radio Service in the United States has a secondary allocation on 60 meters. Only those amateurs who hold General, Advanced or Amateur Extra class licenses may operate on this band. Amateur stations must not cause harmful interference to -- and must accept interference from -- stations authorized by any administration in the fixed service, as well as mobile (except aeronautical mobile) stations authorized by the administrations of other countries.

Here is a summary of the changes. Please note that these changes have not yet taken effect. These new rules will take effect 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register. The ARRL will announce on its website when the rules are published.

  • The frequency 5368.0 kHz (carrier frequency 5366.5 kHz) is withdrawn and a new frequency of 5358.5 kHz (carrier frequency 5357.0 kHz) is authorized.
  • The effective radiated power limit in the 60 meter band is raised by 3 dB, from 50 W PEP to 100 W PEP, relative to a half-wave dipole. If another type of antenna is used, the station licensee must maintain a record of either the antenna manufacturer’s data on the antenna gain or calculations of the antenna gain.
  • Three additional emission types are authorized. Data (emission designator 2K80J2D, for example, PACTOR-III), RTTY (emission designator 60H0J2B, for example, PSK31) and CW (150HA1A, i.e. Morse telegraphy by means of on-off keying). For CW, the carrier frequency must be set to the center frequency. For data and RTTY the requirement to transmit “only on the five center frequencies specified” may be met by using the same practice as on USB, i.e. by setting the suppressed carrier frequency of the USB transmitter used to generate the J2D or J2B emission to the carrier frequency that is 1.5 kHz below the center frequency.

Automatic control on data and RTTY is not permitted; a control operator must be in a position to exercise either local or remote control over the transmitter. The FCC noted that “amateur operators must exercise care to limit the length of transmissions so as to avoid causing harmful interference to Federal stations.” This is a very important caveat: If a Federal station requires amateurs to cease using a frequency, the amateur station must be able to do so without delay.

A reasonable person might wonder what the difference is between data and RTTY. According to former ARRL Chief Technology Officer Paul Rinaldo, W4RI, there used to be a difference, but there’s not much of one today. “Years ago, a B designator (telegraphy for automatic reception [i.e. narrow-band direct-printing telegraphy emissions]) meant decoding and display on a teletypewriter (TTY) or other mechanical machine,” he explained. “A D designator signified transmission of data, telemetry or telecommand intended for data processing or just storage for possible future use. When computers or computer-like devices were introduced to emulate RTTY transmission and/or reception, the line between telegraphy and data transmission blurred to the point of little or no practical distinction.”

PACTOR-III and PSK31 are cited in the new rules as examples of data and RTTY emissions, respectively, that will be authorized; however, in paragraph 28 of the R&O, the Commission states that amateur stations will be permitted to use “any unspecified digital code, subject to the requirements of Section 97.309(b).” Therefore, as a practical matter it appears that any J2D data emission is to be permitted up to a bandwidth of 2.8 kHz, provided that care is exercised to limit the length of transmissions.

Amateur Radio and the 60 Meter Band

The 60 meter band is part of the larger 5.060-5.450 MHz band, which is a federal/non-federal shared band that is allocated to the fixed service on a primary basis and to the mobile (except aeronautical mobile service) on a secondary basis. The 5.060-5.450 MHz band is primarily used by federal agencies for ship-to-shore and fixed point-to-point communications. Non-federal use of the 5060-5450 kHz band includes state government licensees and licensees in the Industrial/Business Pool that operate standby and/or backup communication circuits for use during emergency and/or disaster situations, entities prospecting for petroleum and natural gas or distributing electric power, coast stations and aeronautical fixed stations.

The Commission added the Amateur Radio Service as a secondary allocation after determining that such frequencies could be useful to the Amateur Radio community for completing disaster communications links at times when existing frequencies in the 3.500-4.000 MHz (80 and 75 meter) and 7.000-7.300 MHz (40 meter) bands are not available due to ionospheric conditions. It concluded that such an allocation represented the best compromise available to give the amateur service access to new spectrum while assuring the federal government agencies that their use is protected.

At the request of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Commission restricted amateur stations operating on the five channels in the 60 meter band to upper sideband (USB) voice transmissions (phone emission 2K80J3E), and to a maximum effective radiated power (ERP) of 50 W peak envelope power (PEP). The Commission adopted these operating restrictions to decrease the interference potential between amateur stations and federal stations.

In October 2006, the ARRL filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC, requesting that the Commission amend Parts 2 and 97 of its Rules to replace one of the allocated center frequencies (5368 kHz) with a less encumbered frequency (5358.5 kHz), to increase the maximum ERP from 50 to 100 W PEP and to authorize the use of additional emissions types, limited to emission designators 150HA1A, 60H0J2B and 2K80J2D. In its Petition, the ARRL pointed out that its proposals were designed to facilitate more efficient and effective use of the secondary Amateur Radio Service allocation in the 60 meter band. As part of its petition, the ARRL attached a letter from NTIA, indicating that it would “look favorably” on the ARRL’s proposed modifications.