New Ham Bands Spring to Life; Veteran LF Experimenter Denied Amateur Access to 2200 Meters
Amateur Radio’s two newest bands came to life on Friday the 13th. Both 630 meters (472-479 kHz) and 2200 meters (135.7-137.8 kHz) bands now are available to radio amateurs who have notified the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) of their intention to operate and did not hear anything back during the ensuing 30 days.
“Many of us filed notices with the Utilities Technology Council on September 15, the day the notification procedure was announced,” said Fritz Raab, W1FR, who coordinated the ARRL WD2XSH 630-Meter Experiment. “We did not expect to hear from the UTC unless they were objecting to amateur operation. Much to our surprise, on Friday, October 13, a number of operators received ‘okay’ notices. So, the first amateur operations commenced that night.”
Some Denied Access to 2200 Meters
UTC e-mails went out to an undermined number of US radio amateurs who had notified the Council, but not everyone got the thumbs up. One of those thwarted in his hopes of operating under his Amateur Radio license on 2200 meters was John Andrews, W1TAG, a long-wave veteran with thousands of hours on the band over the past 15 years or so under his FCC Part 5 Experimental license.
Andrews, who also participated in the ARRL’s 630-Meter Experiment, said UTC denied his request because he was within 1 kilometer of a power line using PLC (power line communication). Raab said another who did not pass UTC muster for 2200 meters was Alabamian Dave Guthrie, KN4OK, who is hoping to give 630 meters a try. UTC also told Guthrie that he was within 1 kilometer of a power line using PLC, and that operation on 2200 meters could cause interference, but added, “We encourage you to reapply and select only the ‘472-479 kHz’ range, as it is much more free of interference from utilities.”
Awash with Signals
Raab said a few operators reported making contacts on 630 meters the first night, although noise levels were high, and a geomagnetic storm was in progress. Saturday night, October 14, “was a bust,” he said. The next evening, however, things broke open. “The band was awash with CW and digital signals,” Raab said. “Operating modes included CW, JT9, SSB, and WSPR. Many operators were new to the band and not previously experimental licensees.”
Various Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) nodes heard W7IUV, AH6EZ/W7, N6TV, N6LF, KB5NJD, AA4VV, WZ7I, WA1ZMS, K4EJQ, K4LY VE6WZ, VE6JY, VE7AB, VE9WZ, and VE7CNF, among others. W0YSE/7 reported making JT9 QSOs with W7IUV, VE7CNF, W7RNB, and VE7VV, and CW QSOs with W7IUV, K7SF, N6LF, and VE7CNF.
WA1ZMS: SSB QSOs with NO3M and KL4Y. NO3M: CW: K4LY, K4EJQ, N4PY, WA1ZMS, K9MRI, KB5NJD, W0RW, WA9ETW (cross band 1805) JT9: K4LY, K2BLA FT8: K3RWR, VE3CIQ SSB: K4LY, WA1ZMS.
“Many were on 630 meters last night [October 15], and one highlight for me was an SSB QSO with K4LY,” Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, told ARRL. He and K4LY both worked NO3M, who also reported working K4EJQ, N4PY, K9MRI, KB5NJD, W0RW, and WA9ETW on CW. He made some JT9 and FT8 contacts too.
On October 17, W7IUV and VK4YB completed a JT9 contact, possibly the first US-to-DX contact between radio amateurs on 630 meters.
No Interference Reported
Andrews said he was an early applicant for a Part 5 license in 2003, after the FCC turned away from its own proposal to allocate a band on 2200 meters. He’s renewed his WD2XES license every 2 years since, operating “extensively” on 2200 meters between 2004 and 2016 and estimates that he has racked up 11,000 hours of transmit time. His license specified 1 W ERP, and his antenna was a 500-foot perimeter loop in the vertical plane, which he called “horribly inefficient.” Andrews told ARRL that it took about 500 W of transmitter output to generate the 1 W ERP, based on actual field-strength measurements.
Andrews said that national grid distribution lines feed and traverse his town of Holden, Massachusetts. “I was never notified of any interference problem other than a neighbor trying to run outdoor security cameras with CAT 3 network cable,” he said. “While 2200 meters is a pretty tortured part of the radio spectrum for receiving over-the-air signals, there was nothing audible that suggested PLC use.”
He said he responded to the UTC indicating that he would comply with their denial, and he included information about his many hours of WD2XES operation. He plans to apply for permission to operate on 630 meters from Massachusetts, and his notification for permission to operate on both bands at his summer home in Maine has not been denied.
Section 97.313(g)(2) of the Amateur Service rules requires that, prior to starting operation on either band, radio amateurs must notify UTC that they intend to operate by submitting their call signs, intended band(s) of operation, and the coordinates of their antenna’s fixed location. The new rules do not permit any mobile operation.
“Amateur stations will be permitted to commence operations after a 30-day period, unless UTC notifies the station that its fixed location is located within 1 kilometer [approximately 0.62 mile] of power line carrier (PLC) systems operating on the same or overlapping frequencies,” the FCC said in announcing approval of the notification system on September 15.