This Summer, there have been openings almost every day to Europe and I have logged 22 Countries to date in 1999. My experience has been that the most, but not all openings have been in the evening from about seven o'clock for about two and a half hours. Other operators may have found openings at different times, and there is a good chance that these times coincided with my work schedule more than band conditions! DX openings on Six Metres are great fun, as there are so many European (and farther a field) operators anxious to work EI on the band, and as a result, pile-ups are common. I usually work around 50.145 MHz, SSB. You never quite know when the band will be open, one minute it is silent except for static, the next minute the DX is there. For this reason it is called the "Magic Band".
The band is located at the lower end of the VHF spectrum and as a result exhibits the characteristics that you would expect of a VHF band. This is particularly true during the sunspot minima years when, for the most part, it is similar to two metres. The maximum usable frequency or MUF rarely reaches the ten metre band during this time, never mind six metres and consequently the band is fairly quiet except for Sporadic-E during the Summer, and occasionally Winter months. The proximity of the six metre band to the HF bands however is what makes the band totally different from its higher frequency neighbours. During periods of high sunspot activity, the MUF can rise up to and beyond 50 MHz allowing some really spectacular propogation to take place. Even when the MUF does not reach 50 MHz, solar activity can be the trigger that will allow various other types of propogation to occur. In fact, six metres is probably the only band that will support just about every form of propogation that you can think of and this is just one of the many things that make it so interesting and unpredictable.
In Ireland, experimenters can operate from 50.000 to 52.000 MHz. Beacons operate at the lower end of the band and there are about 150 beacons worldwide which operate mainly between 50.000 MHz and 50.100 MHz. A few operate above this frequency up to 50.500 MHz. From 50.080 to 50.110 MHz is where most of the CW activity takes place although, in common with the other bands, CW can be used in the SSB portion as well. 50.110 MHz is probably the most monitored frequency in the entire band. This is the intercontinental DX calling frequency, and is where the first signals during an opening are likely to be heard. Weak DX signals will generally make their first calls on 50.110 MHz; it is for this reason that general operation on or near this frequency is discouraged.
(Note that the Intercontinental Calling frequency is 50.110 MHz, the European SSB calling frequency is 50.150 MHz. 50.100 to 50.130 MHz should be used only for QSO's with stations outside Europe....de EI7GL)
In the UK, FM repeaters operate between the frequencies of 50.700 MHz and 51.400 MHz. There are no Six Metre repeaters in Ireland at present. Many of the newer transceivers models include 50 MHz as standard, - Icoms's IC 706 Mk.1, Mk.2, and Mk2G models include this band, as does the IC746 model. Yaesu's FT920 has excellent Six Metre facilities, and the Alinco DX70 and 70TH cover the magic band also. Many other rigs include 50 MHz also. Antenna in Ireland are restricted to horizontal polarization, which in my view is a pity. I use a G5RV HF antenna for 50 MHz, after it has been tuned by the ATU of my rig. In addition, I have a 6 Element beam which I rarely use. I am awaiting delivery of a rotator. When I put the beam up, I pointed it in the general direction of Spain and Portugal, as I had not had many contacts at the time with these countries. Last year when I first got interested in the band, I used a half wave dipole manufactured from lightweight aluminium tubing.
Another interesting aspect of DX on the Magic Band is the phenomenal QSL response. Both the QSL rate and the speed of the bureau are stunning!! I have even recieved IRC's and US Dollars in the post along with QSL cards.
The International or Maidenhead Locator system is widely used by DX stations on 50 MHz and awards are based on the squares worked. A typical QSO would include an exchange of signal reports and locators. At the 1999 IRTS AGM in Dundalk, Mr. John Breen of the O.D.T.R. repeated the "Use it or lose it" statement that we have been hearing recently, regarding our bands and the pressures and demands for spectrum allocation, by commercial interests. Six metres is a great band and is available to all who possess an experimenters license in this country (on application to the O.D.T.R.) be it a Class A or a Class B. I wonder how many have actually applied for permission to use the band, let alone use it? Have you?
This article was first printed in the October 1999 edition of the IRTS Newsletter. John, EI7IQ, is active from IO53 square and recently achieved the RSGB 50 MHz Squares Award (50 Squares).......de EI7GL
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