The 60m Band is a relatively new allocation for Amateur Radio Operators in North America. I’ve long wanted to try this band so last evening I took some time to understand what was required and to determine if my available antennas were up to the task. U.S. Amateur Radio operators with a General Class or higher license have secondary privileges on the 60m band. U.S. HAMs can use either USB Phone, CW, or a limited set of digital modes on 60m. The band is “channelized” meaning that one must operate on specific frequencies only. For Phone communications, one must use USB mode only, limit the bandwidth of your signal to 2.8 kHz (most rigs operate USB at a 2.4 kHz bandwidth) and you must set your rig’s frequencies to one of the values shown above corresponding to the five available channels. These same frequencies/channels would be used for digital modes such as PSK31 or RTTY (see the article on this blog for information on how to get started if your interested in operating using digital modes). For CW operation, you need to set your rig to 1.5 kHz above the frequencies indicated above which will ensure your CW signal is in the center of the associated channel. The highest frequency channel (5403.5 kHz) is shared by HAMs in the U.K. and often provides opportunities to work DX on 60m.
There is an 100W Effective Radiated Power (ERP) limit on this band. See the following page on the ARRL site for information on channel allocations and operating tips. There is also an excellent 60m FAQ page on the ARRL site.
*** Note that this information was taken from the ARRL website and is presumed to be correct for U.S.-based HAMs at the time this article was written. I recommend that you consult the ARRL website or the equivalent source for license information in your home country prior to operating on 60m to obtain the most up to date operating privileges and rules for the 60m band as they pertain to your home country and license class ***
Most modern rigs can be tuned to the frequencies used on the 60m band. To make this easy to do and error free, I configured the rig control application in the DXLab Logging Suite which I use to set my transceiver to the correct frequencies, bandwidths and modes corresponding to the five 60m channel allocations for Phone/Digital and CW.
The next step was to determine which of my available transmit antennas would work on the 60m band. After some checking with an antenna analyzer, I determined that the 75m Delta Loop on our tower would tune up well enough to use as a 60m transmit antenna (the feed point for the Delta Loop is on the white fiberglass rod which protrudes to the left of the tower about 15 ft up in the picture above and the apex of the loop is suspended from the upper set of guy cables). I also have a SteppIR BigIR Vertical which will work on 60m but I don’t have that antenna completely installed yet.
The 100W ERP power limit on the 60m band is relative to a Dipole antenna with 100W PEP in. If your antenna has gain relative to a dipole your must adjust your power out accordingly. For example, if your antenna has 3 dBd (3 dB gain relative to a dipole), then you’d be limited to 50W PEP output (50W PEP out + 3 dB gain = 100W ERP). You can use the following link to a handy dB calculator to help you do this calculation if your antenna requires it. Also note that you are required to maintain records based on manufacturer’s antenna gain specifications or equivalent information for your 60m transmit antenna.
The Delta Loop also makes a fairly effective receive antenna on 60m. Fortunately, we installed an 8-Circle Directional Receive System for 160m – 40m this past summer and this system works very well as a directional receive antenna on 60m. The 8-circle System has about 10 dB Front to Back performance on the 60m band and is considerably less noisy than the Delta Loop.
I could hardly have picked a better time to begin operating on 60m. It turned out that Canada had just granted 60m privileges to Canadian HAMs on a broad basis on the same day! This will no doubt create many additional opportunities for contacts on the 60m band. Wikipedia provides an excellent overview of regulatory information associated with the 60m band as well as up to date information on countries which provide 60m band privileges around the world. My very first contact on 60m was a phone QSO with Joe VE3BW in Ontario, Canada. I was also able to work some additional DX including Dragan 9A6W in Croatia, Bo OZ8ABE in Denmark, and Rick, G3XAJ in the U.K. The best part about the 60m band is the relaxed atmosphere I found there. I encountered many HAMs were willing to have a nice conversation and this coupled with surprisingly quiet band conditions made the 15 or so contacts that I have completed to date on 60m a very positive experience.
I’d encourage our readers to give 60m a try. Many antennas such as OCF dipoles, G5RVs, open-wire fed dipoles and long wires will tune up reasonable well on the 60m band and the 100W ERP limit is a good equalizer for small and medium HF stations. I hope to work you on 60m in the near future!
– Fred (AB1OC)