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Bands and Modes

This page is meant as a modern non-exhaustive high level reference of what kinds of propagation and activity you will typically find on the common amateur radio bands. It may be UK-centric.

Your contributions welcome!

Please edit this page directly or make suggestions via #wiki-discussion

Band Daytime Night-time Comments Traffic Contests
Ground wave (120km) DX but antennas often compromised Noisy with summer storms Data modes, SSB and CW, some AM to be found. Yes
Ground wave / NVIS DX Lots of long-winded chat. Massively busy during contests. Everything, lots of SSB, CW, AM and data Yes
Ground wave / NVIS DX and local Channelised, shared with military, caution operating here. Full UK Licence Only FT8, SSB. No contests. No
Often open worldwide Often open worldwide Bread and butter HF band. Massively busy during contests. Mind the upper limit, we have less than the US. Everything, lots of SSB and CW and data Yes
Open worldwide Generally closes after sunset Very narrow data-only HF band. Often great conditions. Data/CW only, no voice allowed No
Open worldwide Closes after sunset Bread and butter HF band. Massively busy during contests. Everything here. A bit of a zoo. Yes
“Polite 20m”. 20m non-contest traffic often comes here during the major contests. SSB, CW, FT8 No
Big wide allocation, not much traffic SSB, CW, FT8 Yes
No contests. SSB, CW, FT8 No
Generally closed but opens when the MUF gets up this high, then comes to life! Generally closed, but try grey-line to Japan (AM), South America (PM) Massive wide band, great for local experimentation, FM DX All sorts, including more FM than the HF bands. New York 10m FM repeater from the UK anyone? Perfectly possible with good conditions. Yes
Normally no atmospheric prop Normally no atmospheric prop “The magic band”. Sporadic E propagation makes this band look like 20m for really short periods in the spring. FT8, SSB, FM, repeaters! Yes
Normally no atmospheric prop Normally no atmospheric prop Pockets of activity around the country. Similar to 2m. Mostly FM, but more SSB now the IC7300 exists. Uncommon
Normally no atmospheric prop Normally no atmospheric prop Pretty much as high as sporadic E propagation ever gets. Tropospheric enhancements can open 2m up as far as southern Europe sporadically. FM simplex, FM repeaters, APRS (including ISS), FT8, SSB, pockets of AX.25 packet. There's a TV section you can request an NoV for above 2m. Satellites at the top end of the band and CW at the bottom. Yes
Normally no atmospheric prop Normally no atmospheric prop Shared with ISM / other users, some geographic restrictions on use, check your licence FM repeaters, FM simplex, some amateur TV, lots of bleeps and bloops to decode. Satellites in this band too. Uncommon
Normally no atmospheric prop Normally no atmospheric prop Is present on IC-9700 SSB, repeaters, beacons, ATV Specialist
Normally no atmospheric prop Normally no atmospheric prop Used as the uplink band for QO-100 geostationary satellite ops. Usable using transverters generally with 70cm equipment. Unfortunately not open to Foundation licence holders ATV, SSB Specialist


  • All bands are “open” all the time within line of sight. This is different from “ground wave”.
  • A band is “open” beyond line of sight when there is atmospheric propagation. i.e. the MUF (maximum usable frequency) has drifted above the band of interest.
  • Generally speaking, the MUF is low overnight and high during the day. Bands will “go long” or “go short” as the critical angle - the angle at which RF reflects off ionosphere layers changes.
  • When thinking about propagation, think of the ionosphere as a thick, imperfect, curved, liquid mirror. Not as a perfect solid metal reflector.
  • CW is Continuous Wave. Morse code is the usual method of using CW.
  • Simplex is radio-to-radio
  • NVIS is “near-vertical incidence skywave” - straight up, straight back down again. Only possible on low bands.
  • For SSB, 80m and 40m are LSB. The remainder are USB. This is the convention. Data modes are generally USB regardless of band.
  • There are two bands below 160m (2200m and 630m). These generally require highly loaded (compromised, lossy) antennas so lots of power in for hardly any power out.
  • There are multiple bands above 13cm (9cm, 6cm, 3cm (the only microwave band available to Foundation licence holders), then 24GHz, 47GHz, 76GHz, 122GHz, 134GHz, 248GHz, then a series of Terahertz bands from 275GHz to 3THz available by NoV application). This is highly specialised territory.
  • Both of those sets of bands are largely accessible using homebrew equipment only
  • It can be somewhat of a surprise to newcomers that chatting around the UK can be surprisingly difficult. If this is your goal, try 160m, 80m, 40m NVIS and/or ground/wave, then VHF (6m, 4m, 2m). Use SSB and horizontal polarisation for more range up here.
  • Rule of thumb: No FM on HF, CW at the bottom of each band, then data modes, then SSB/free-for-all. Mind the beacons.

Some interesting spot frequencies

Band Frequency What/why
2m 144.800 APRS
2m 145.800/825 ISS downlink
20m 14.230 SSTV. 14.233 is digital SSTV too.
20m 14.074 20m FT8
30m 10.000 WWV, American time station
40m 7.16 WAB net
80m 3.76 WAB net
160m 1.933 1933 net
bands-and-modes.txt · Last modified: 2022/01/30 16:54 by m0lte