How to get the most out of Six Metres - By Lionel VK3NM VK6DC

Six Metres is a band of challenges, excitement and a way to increase your adrenalin at crucial times. To be successful you need to be willing to sit for hours listening to
band noises trying to pluck out that weak signal and your operating
techniques need to be sharp, That is how Steve VK3OT got his DXCC on 50 Mhz.

What equipment do I need ? Well that depends on your budget and
how much effort you put in, one watt into a dipole you will work a lot of stations 1000 miles or so on sporadic-e during good openings but you will do better with ten watts with a small beam, better still  if you run 100+ watts into a large beam.

Receiver sensitive is most important, most modern commercial ham rigs lack the sensitively for serious long haul DX-ing ,so a good low noise pre amp is a must.
Band openings can last for hours to just a few minutes and that is where proper operating technics come in - If a new country is coming through, that DX station is going to hear a Dog Pile calling him, you must listen to him carefully and don't try to call him if he is working another station - remember the other station he is working  could be in another state which you cannot hear, wait till he announces QRZ  DX and calls you in.

When working the DX station keep the overs short all you need is  to exchange signal reports and call signs that is all you need for a valid QSO.  If you waffle on others could miss out in working him and you would not be popular!

How do I know when 6 is going to open up? Unless you own a crystal ball, 6 metre openings cannot be 100% predicted but there are signals you can monitor such as distant TV carriers, overseas pagers, two way radios , beacons etc . A good scanner covering 30 to 60 Mhz is a very useful item to have and a wide band aerial such as a discone or an old TV antenna designed for the low TV channels will do.  HF signals are not good indicators, I remember one day six metres was wide opened to U.S.A and at the same time 20 Metres was dead, that is while the M.U.F. was above 50 Mhz and at the same time the A.L.F. was higher than 14 Mhz.

                                      SPORADIC - E

Sporadic - E communications happens with signals refracting of ionized E  "clouds"  resulting in contacts up to 3000 Kms with very strong signals and sometimes heavy QSB.  A  sporadic - E  opening can last all day.


This mode of propagation happens when a signal fires across the
equator via 2 sporadic - e "clouds" one in each hemisphere eg between VK4 and JA.  The TX signal from VK4 hits the cloud in the southern hemisphere then straight across the equator to the second cloud then down to JA. This type of openings can last for
long periods with signals ranging from being very strong to barely readable.

                           BACK SCATTER

If a signal hit the e layer or a sporadic e cloud part of the signal can be reflected back eg a VK5 working a VK3 with both stations beaming north or north east but not beaming at each other direct, this mode can be useful for short distance contacts, distances can vary from a few hundred kilometers to thousands. Signal strength usually depends on power and antenna used.

                           F2 PROPAGATION

This  is more like HF type propagation when contacts are world wide both short and long path, this is when a well equipped station comes into play. Signals refract of the F2 layer of the ionosphere when the MUF is very high, an important note with this type of progation is - when the MUF is going down getting very close to 50 Mhz signals can be extremely strong due to low absorption of the signal but the band can close very quickly when the MUF goes below 50 Mhz.  The MUF can go up to and over 60 Mhz.

                     TROPO PROPAGATION

This also known as temperature inversion it is usually happens on hot summer evenings, bands higher than 50 Mhz enjoy such phenomenon as well. Normally as the height increases the temperature decreases but some time there can be a layer of warm temperatures in the troposphere which can bend the signal or form a ducting to provide long range communicating over several thousands of kilometers,
It is more common along coastal areas more than inland. Antenna polarizing is very important to make the most of tropo work.

                            CORDAL HOP

Cordal hop happens when signals skip between the upper  f layers of the ionosphere coming out the end half around the world.  Not too much is known about this mode of propagation but to make the most of cordal hop it is an advantage to have a well equipped station with reasonable power and antennas.

                        AURORAL PROPAGATION

Auroras which put on spectacular light shows near the poles can also reflect radio signals eg VK3 to VK5/7 with extreme auroral distortion. To make use of the aurora, CW is the best mode of transmission or on SSB speak very slowly, levels of distortion can be nearly 100% and fairly weak signals.


EME contacts using the Moon as a reflector requires a super six metre station you need to run very high power, extremely sensitive receivers connected to large antennas arrays on a fairly large real estate.This mode would be out of reach by most hams.

This sums up this page, hope you found it interesting and please E-mail me with any comments.

73 Lionel VK3NM  VK6DC