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
| 160m |
|Ground wave (120km)||DX but antennas often compromised||Noisy with summer storms||Data modes, SSB and CW, some AM to be found.||Yes|
| 80m |
|Ground wave / NVIS||DX||Lots of long-winded chat. Massively busy during contests.||Everything, lots of SSB, CW, AM and data||Yes|
| 60m |
|Ground wave / NVIS||DX and local||Channelised, shared with military, caution operating here. Full UK Licence Only||FT8, SSB. No contests.||No|
| 40m |
|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|
| 30m |
|Open worldwide||Generally closes after sunset||Very narrow data-only HF band. Often great conditions.||Data/CW only, no voice allowed||No|
| 20m |
|Open worldwide||Closes after sunset||Bread and butter HF band. Massively busy during contests.||Everything here. A bit of a zoo.||Yes|
| 17m |
|“Polite 20m”. 20m non-contest traffic often comes here during the major contests.||SSB, CW, FT8||No|
| 15m |
|Big wide allocation, not much traffic||SSB, CW, FT8||Yes|
| 12m |
|No contests.||SSB, CW, FT8||No|
| 10m |
|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|
| 6m |
|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|
| 4m |
|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|
| 2m |
|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|
| 70cm |
|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|
| 23cm |
|Normally no atmospheric prop||Normally no atmospheric prop||Is present on IC-9700||SSB, repeaters, beacons, ATV||Specialist|
| 13cm |
|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
|20m||14.230||SSTV. 14.233 is digital SSTV too.|
|30m||10.000||WWV, American time station|