The Amateur Bands

This page is intended as a basic introduction and guide for new (and not so new) radio amateurs and shortwave listeners and beginners to the hobby. I hope you find this information useful in finding your way around the amateur bands.

 

The HF bands are by far the most popular bands in the amateur service. Local contacts and world-wide propagation are all possible at almost anytime with careful selection of the right frequency for the time of day, time of year, and current state of the sunspot cycle. For specific characteristics of each band, click on the links below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HF (high frequency) or shortwave bands as they are also known is where most of the contacts take place

 

 

UK Amateur Radio Frequencies

 

1.810 to 2.000 MHz
3.500 to 3.800 MHz
5.258.5 to 5.406.5 MHz * read below
7.000 to 7.200 MHz
10.100 to 10.150 MHz
14.000 to 14.350 MHz
18.068 to 18.168 MHz
21.000 to 21.450 MHz
24.890 to 24.990 MHz
28.000 to 29.700 MHz

 

 

1.8 to 2.000 MHz (160M)

This is known as top band. A neighbour to the AM Broadcast band just slightly higher in frequency, 160 has very similar conditions to what you hear on AM Broadcast, quite localized during the day, with long distance capability at night. During the summer months the long distances at night can be several hundreds of miles and during the winter it can be several thousand miles. Lots of noise created by static crashes hinder communications in the summer months but very nice in the winter! When there is no static.

 

3.500 to 3.800 MHz (80M)

This band is also shared with commercial stations. 80 Meters is very similar to 160 meters but with greater distances especially at night. 80 tends to be a very reliable band less subject to variations of the sunspot cycle and is used a lot for regular net operations and "local rag chewing". Again can be very noise prone in the summer static.

 

5.258.5 to 5.406.5 MHz (60M)

* 5MHz is allocated on a secondary basis to holders of a UK Full Amateur Licence. *

The 60 metre segment tends to be known by its frequency equivalent - 'the 5 MHz band' - and is the subject of active research by radio amateurs due to its propagation properties. This research commenced in August 2002 with the allocation of five 3 kHz-wide channels, which by mid-2006 had been increased to seven. In December 2012, UK regulator, Ofcom, announced permission for 11 new frequency blocks, following representations from the RSGB and subsequent Ofcom discussions with the 'Primary User' of 5 MHz in the UK, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD). Although the MoD was unable to permit a continuous band, this allocation of seven channels was substantially increased to eleven frequency 'blocks' (or 'bandlets'), integrating the existing channels. These became active on 1st. January 2013.


Communications with Military Cadet Stations on 5 Mhz

Communication with UK military cadet stations is permitted. These stations will identify with callsigns of a different format to amateur calls and they use a concise operating procedure. They are unlikely to give operator names or locations but will often exchange information on equipment and aerials. Whilst military stations may be heard on any frequency around 5MHz, amateur stations must never attempt to contact military stations outside the frequency allocations above.

5Mhz HF Bandplan

 

Lower Limit kHz
Upper Limit kHz
Notes on Current Usage
5258.5 5264.0 CW activity. 5258.5 kHz international use
5276.0 5284.0 USB dial frequency 5278.5 kHz international use
5288.5 5292.0 Experimental beacons on 5290 kHz. WSPR
5298.0 5307.0 All modes, highest USB dial frequency 5304 kHz
5313.0 5323.0 All modes. AM 5317 kHz. Highest USB dial frequency 5320 kHz
5333.0 5338.0 Highest USB dial frequency 5335 kHz
5354.0 5358.0 Highest USB dial frequency 5355 kHz
5362.0 5374.5 Digital modes activity. Highest USB dial frequency 5371.5 kHz. International use
5378.0 5382.0 Highest USB dial frequency 5379 kHz
5395.0 5401.5 Highest USB dial frequency 5398.5 kHz
5403.5 5406.5 USB dial frequency 5403.5 kHz international use


7.000 to 7.200 MHz (40M)

This is a very popular band. It only used to be 100KHz wide between 7.0 and 7.1MHz, but in the UK and several other countries there has been a 100KHz extension.  Most of the UK can be heard through the day and night, it is always open somewhere. During the summer daytime distances of 300-400 miles and night time distances of 1000 miles are very common. Winter days with 500 miles or more are usual and night time conditions bring DX intercontinental communications. Not as affected by the sunspot cycle as 20-10 meters. Many nets frequent 40 meters both day and night.

 

10.100 to 10.150 MHz (30M)

This is a narrow band at only 50 KHz wide. And can only be used for CW (Morse) communication and narrow band digital modes. Good signals from Europe can be heard during the day, a reliable band for long path DX including Australia and  New Zealand early in the morning.

 

14.000 to 14.350 MHz (20M)

This is a good band for DX, it is the most consistently suitable for long distance communication. Just about all of the serious DXers hang out on 20 meters! This can be a very exciting band with some of the best DX found on any band. Around the world daytime communications are generally possible and when the sunspot cycle is peaking 20 can be used around the clock! Not likely to be used for short-range communications. The only way to work someone a few hundred miles away would be scatter or possibly "long path". Ground wave signals of about 50-75 miles might be all you would expect. At the bottom of the sunspot cycle, openings to other continents are short, rare and few and far between!

 

18.068 to 18.168 MHz (17M)

One of the WARC bands, this band is prone to seasonal changes. However it can produce some very good DX. Band conditions are very similar to 20 meters. It is a fairly narrow band, just 100kHz wide, and is designated contest free. Be careful to avoid transmitting on the International Beacon Project frequency of 18.110MHz.

 

21.000 to 21.450 MHz (15M)

The 15-meter band is considered a DX band. Since signals on 15 meters propagate primarily via reflection off of the F-2 layer of the ionosphere, the band is most useful for intercontinental communication during daylight hours, especially in years close to the solar maximum. However, the band also sees long-distance openings during solar minima, and into evening hours, and does not require high-power station equipment to make contacts even at these times. Because the 15-meter wavelength is harmonically related to that of the 40-meter band, it is often possible to use an antenna designed for 40 meters on the 15-meter band, as well.

 

24.890 to 24.990MHz (12M)

The highest frequency WARC band, and also contest free, 12 metres is often over-looked. But it can frequently provide good propagation even when 10 metres is closed. Aerials are small and it is usually not a busy band, so in good conditions it is an easy band on which to make good DX contacts with stations over 1000 miles during sporadic E daylight summer conditions.

 

28.000 to 29.700 MHZ (10M)

This is an interesting band, It has normal shortwave conditions and also some types of propagation associated with VHF frequencies. This is the HF band most heavily affected by sunspots and the sunspot cycle and it can be erratic and exciting at the same time with lots of Dx for the QSL card hunter or just as a fun band. Ground wave coverage is around 30 miles or so. Lots of beacon stations worldwide for DX hunters. If you can hear beacons that run very low power on 10 Meters, there is an opening to that part of the world

These are the main and most widely used HF bands, there are two other bands which are 73 KHz and 136 KHz, But as they are a more specialist subject and very low in frequency.

 

WHY BAND PLANS?

In each and every band there are certain sections and certain frequencies set aside for a specific mode or type of transmission. The bottom section of each band is reserved for CW (Morse) only, some have repeater, beacon, ssb and FM sections, this helps to eliminate cross modulation interference. The idea is to make the best use of available space.

 

VHF AND UHF FREQUENCIES

As well as HF (shortwave) there are also amateur bands in the VHF and UHF regions. Some of there characteristics can differ quiet a lot depending on where they are in the spectrum. They are different to the shortwave frequencies because of the type of propagation. You will notice straight away when listening that stations are only heard up to about 100 miles or so because the mode of communication is line of sight, unless there is a lift in conditions, such as sporadic E, or tropospheric ducting. These bands are also affected with the Aurora and meteor scatter to enhance further contacts. 

If you are interested in listening to these frequencies there are receivers available from most good amateur radio dealers as well as on the second hand market. Because of the frequency the antennas are much shorter than that of HF which makes it possible for more directive antennas such as beams with more elements and much more gain.

 

50.000 to 51.990 MHz (6M)

This is a very interesting band because it exhibits both shortwave and VHF propagation (sporadic E, F2 layer, and tropospheric ducting). While sometimes it is completely quiet, other days it can be full of long distance stations. It is the old television band which has now declined and is becoming available in more countries. Modes used are CW, USB and FM.

 

70.000 to 70.487.5 MHz (4M)

This band is becoming very popular here in the UK. There are only a few commercial transceivers available, until recently most amateurs used home made gear or converted PMR radios.

 

144.000 to 146.000 MHZ (2M)

This is the most popular band and most used on VHF. The FM frequencies are organized into channels, there is a repeater network around the country as well as internet gateway stations allowing greater distances to be achieved. CW and USB are also used. Some great DX contacts can occur when there is sporadic E, tropospheric coastal ducting making it possible to contact Europe.

 

430.000 to 440.000 MHz (70CM)

Although 70 cm's is not the highest band available, it is the highest of the popular bands. This is another band for local communication with a repeater network around the country, there are also some gateways. The FM part of the band is channelised, other modes used are CW, and USB. Amateur TV is also used. Propagation is similar to 2M with the exception of sporadic E, the tropospheric on this band can be better than 2M and good DX contacts can be made many hundreds of miles away.