Sporadic Es

6-meter band

6 meters is the name given to a popular amateur radio band. Its spectrum is in the lower part of the VHF band, but still occasionally displays some propagation mechanisms of the lower High Frequency bands. This normally occurs close to sunspot maximum when solar activity increases ionization levels in the upper atmosphere. The mix of VHF and HF characteristics has led to 6 meters being dubbed the "magic band."

In the northern hemisphere, six meter activity is very popular from May through early August when sporadic Es propagation becomes a regular occurrence enabling 'DX' contacts over distances up to 2,500 km for single hop propagation. Multiple hop sporadic E propagation allows inter-continental communications at distances up to 10,000 km. In the southern hemisphere, sporadic E propagation is most common from November through early February.

The frequency allocations for 6 meters are not universal worldwide. In the United States, and Canada, it ranges from 50 to 54 MHz. But, in other countries, it is illegal to use due to local military communications. Further, in some nations, the frequency range occupied by the six-meter amateur radio band is used for television transmissions, although most countries have moved the channels to higher frequencies (see channel 1).

Over the past decade or so, the availability of transceivers that include the six-meter band has increased greatly. Most modern HF amateur radios now include the six-meter band, as do some handheld VHF/UHF transceivers. There have existed and do exist a number of stand-alone 6 Meter transceivers, although these have been relatively rare in recent years. Despite this, 6 meters does not share the popularity of amateur radio's 2 meters band. This is due, in large part, to the larger size of 6 meter antennas, power limitations in some countries outside the United States, and 6 meter's greater susceptibility to local electrical interference.

As transceivers have become more available for the magic band, 6 meters has quickly gained popularity. In many countries, including the United States, access to 6 meters is granted to entry-level license holders. Those without access to the international "HF" or shortwave frequencies often gain their first taste of true long-distance communications on the 6 meter band. Many of these operators develop a real affection for the challenge of the band, and often continue to devote much time to 6 meters, even when they gain access to the HF frequencies after upgrading their licences.

Although the International Telecommunications Union does not allocate 6 meter frequencies to amateurs in Europe, due to the decline of VHF television broadcasts and commercial pressure on the lower VHF spectrum, most European countries have a 6 meter amateur allocation. A list showing the status of amateur radio allocation in the countries of ITU Region 1

In North America, especially in the United States and Canada , a special section of the lower part of the six meter band, 200 kHz in width, between 50.8 and 51 MHz, is reserved by general agreement among the amateur radio community in those two nations, to allow licensed amateurs to enjoy the hobby of safely operating radio-controlled aircraft and other types of radio-controlled hobby miniatures. The upper end of the band, starting at 53.00 MHz, and going upwards in 100 kHz steps to 53.80 MHz, used to be similarly allocated to RC modelers, but with the rise of amateur repeater stations on the 53 MHz section of the band in the USA, at the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s, the move to the lower end of the six meter spectrum for RC modeling activities by licensed Hams was undertaken in North America.

In United Kingdom, it is legal to use 6 meters between frequencies 50 to 52 MHz, with some limitations at some frequencies. In UK, 50 to 51 MHz is primary usage and the rest is secondary with power limitations. The detailed band plan for UK can be obtained from RSGB Band plan documentation (PDF)

Many organizations promote regular competitions in this frequency to promote its use and to familiarise operators to its quirks. For example RSGB VHF Contest Committee has a large number of contests on 6 meters every year.

Because of its peculiarity, there are a number of 6 meters operator groups. These people monitor the status of the band between different paths and promote 6 meter operations.

Organizations

Books

SIX METERS, A GUIDE TO THE MAGIC BAND (Worldradio Books) by Ken Neubeck WB2AMU

Common uses of 6 meters

Links to 6m propagation sites

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