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5.3 net / 60m InteropEx

posted Dec 23, 2016, 11:36 PM by Charles Boling   [ updated Dec 24, 2016, 7:47 AM ]

A couple of weeks ago on the net, Terry, KB7IFR tipped us off to a new regional 60m net run by Christine, AF7OK on Mondays at 1PM PT. (After the first of the year, she also plans to run it on the 2nd & 4th Saturday of the month at 7PM.)  I checked into it this week -- my first 60m contact -- and was very pleased with the propagation.  Obviously, lucky propagation for one net doesn't make a band magical, any more than it does a particular antenna; nevertheless, I think the band has real possibilities for regional ERC.

60m obviously lies between the 80m and 40m bands.  Like 40, during the day when the D layer absorption is up and noise is high on 80m, 60m can still be useful for NVIS, and can work when 40 doesn't.  Interestingly, it was for the purpose of ERC to the Caribbean that the ARRL petitioned for access.  60 is especially nice for me, because my owly HF antenna is an 80m dipole, which has incredibly high impedance at 40m, making it difficult to match and not very efficient.  60m is much easier.

The 60m band came into use for U.S. amateurs in 2002, and had quite a few limitations.  It's easily recognized on a amateur band chart -- it's the channelized one.  We're secondary users to the federal gov't on that band (so if you hear non-amateurs on a channel, stop your QSO), and only have 5 frequencies available. Allowed power increased from 50 to 100W in 2012, along with allowing digital modes.

The day after checking into the net, an announcement came of an interoperability ComEx being run by FEMA for the Northwest the next day.  This is where the disadvantage of having to share the band with someone else becomes an advantage -- NTIA and amateur users are actually allowed to talk to each other on the same frequencies!  I was able to participate in this net Wednesday morning, and it was interesting and informative.  The exercise alternated USB checkins on channel 1 with digital message tests (PSK31 and MT63-2kL) on channel 2.  I look forward to learning more about their station configs, for nearly everyone could hear the net control on voice fine, but was unable to copy the digital messages. For my part, I was able to get about 10% of the PSK on the first test, but could pull nothing out after that.  It was interesting to hear FEMA and MARS calls on the air in addition to the amateurs.  Curiously, the memo from the ARRL mentioned Civil Air Patrol participation, but I never saw an announcement through official CAP channels, and never heard any Air Force calls on the air.

FEMA plans to do these tests on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. It'll be interesting to see what next month's brings!