1997 50MHz bandplan survey - the results!
Issue 53 Six News, May 1997
Written by Chris deacon, G4IFX.

Thanks to all of you who returned the bandplan survey form sent out with the last ‘Six News’.

As well as sending out the paper forms, the questionnaire was posted on the UKSMG web site, on various VHF discussion forums on the Internet, and was sent out via packet radio. By these various routes, 230 questionnaires were returned from UKSMG members and non-members; not surprisingly, the largest number were from the UK but many responses also came in from other parts of the World. This must be the largest and most representative gathering ever of opinions on any topic related to 50MHz.

Overall, the survey shows a large majority in favour of change, although there is less agreement on the form that any change should take. There is solid support (particularly in North America) for a framework basically similar to the existing bandplan, although many want to see a widening of the DX window and/or CW section. On the other hand, there is a significant minority (mainly in Europe) who want to see 50MHz looking more like an HF band, without DX windows or calling frequencies but with a sizeable CW segment.

One area where many people agreed was that we all need to spread out! Even in countries with restricted allocations, only a small fraction of the available bandwidth is normally used, and at times it seems as though the whole of Europe is around 50.110 MHz. Getting band users to spread out and reduce QRM must be one of the key objectives of any future changes.

Another topic on which there was general agreement is that the definition of ‘DX’ needs consideration. ‘Intercontinental’ just isn’t adequate, especially when parts of the same continent are many thousands of km apart. Conversely, stations only 50 km apart can be in different continents. From the survey it seems that a definition based on distance (e.g. over 4000km), supplemented by rarity (e.g. 3A, if only!) would command wide support.

There was also a strong consensus that, whatever the bandplan looks like, it needs to be communicated widely and effectively, otherwise we are all wasting our time.

Figure 1: Banplan survey
responses by region

Question Yes No
Update the bandplan? 87% 13%
DX window? 80% 20%
CW section? 78% 22%
DX calling frequency? 63% 37%
Non-DX calling freq? 66% 34%
Single calling freq? 21% 79%
Centres of activity? 53% 47%
Table 1 - Summary of results

Many of you also sent your comments and I’ve reproduced extracts below. There are many pertinent points made on all sides of the debate, I hope you enjoy reading them.

Question 1: Do you think that the bandplan for the DX end of 50MHz needs to be updated?

Yes: 87%
No: 13%

Your comments:

G8BCG/H44PT - Band Plans are useful, reviewing them is a good idea. BUT the key ingredient for health (no heart attacks), wealth (DXCC) and happiness (many QSOs of the type YOU like) is good operating practice, courtesy and tolerance!

GJ4ICD - The DX end has just been updated, the centre of activity was discussed at length at the IARU R1 meeting in Israel late last year. It was then agreed to TRY and move some of the European activity away from the DX window and 110, this will take time as the new bandplan only came into operation in Jan 1997. Changing bandplans does not educate people! Since the IARU meeting last October many are now using 50.150 for calling in Europe. The cluster reports prove this, BUT! PAØ is still working G on 50.110! I have been keeping a watchful eye on cluster reports, and after the debate/discussion people started to realise what they were doing.

VE9AA - The bandplan should DEFINITELY be updated, however a WORLD-wide assault needs to be launched to publicise whatever is agreed upon. Magazines, packet, e-mail, newsletters, HF/6m rig manuals, everything , everything, everything. THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ITEM TO BE CONSIDERED. Publishing a few token paragraphs once or twice in the UKSMG newsletter and QST will be a big failure, and actually create more problems than it will solve. Japan, South America, Africa are all to be considered. There is more out there than USA/EUROPE-hi! We must collectively get the word out with GUSTO for the years that follow.

K1DAT - There is no perfect solution for all who enjoy/use six metres. We have a very WIDE band and are attempting to keep all the activity at the low end and should start to lead by example and spread up the band. That is one of my primary reasons for supporting a new band plan.

G3UKV - There is too much emphasis underlying these questions that we need to regulate. The nature of propagation at 50MHz is such that over-regulation will fail every time. However, as 80% of the time the band is dead, a dedicated listening frequency, recognised world-wide, is essential. 50.110 is as good as any other. Any change will tend to dilute activity and reduce world-wide monitoring effort. Incidentally, 50.200 is still used as inter-G calling frequency here in the Midlands. Again, tampering with it (e.g. 50.150) only confuses and dilutes activity. The IARU, like RSGB, don’t always get it right!

VE3CTT - What’s needed is common sense operating not a new band plan.

N6CA - Glad to see your survey!! We need to get the show on the road.....asap

G3SYC - I feel more than ever that a regularisation of six metres to the form of other HF bands would more than suit the needs of users. The provision of spot calling frequencies for DX, intercontinental, Europe etc. will only renew the nonsense.

N8NQS - There is no need to adjust the six metre band plan! Only a need to better elmer and instruct our new friends on Six, that we are a cooperative community, and volunteer to QSY when interference happens. There will continue to be conflicts with whatever ‘new’ plan is conjured up. Many happy hams have been enjoying six metres just fine, just the way it is.

W3BO (ex W3IWU) - No matter how the majority votes, there will remain contrary individuals who will not follow a consensus and will interpret any "plan" to meet their wishes. This makes it tempting to say NO, leave things as they are since the human race is hopeless! I refuse to take this easy way out

KD5XB - I do think the bandplan should b updated, but I think education and fostering cooperation will go a long way to making anything work, even what we have now. The main problem now is hostility, not ignorance. No one should call CQ on a quiet band and have someone 3000 miles away tell them to get the h@#$ out of the DX window.

VE7FJT - A rearrangement of the six metre bandplan is obviously overdue and must be in place as Cycle 23 warms up, because the pressures and inadequacies already evident will only grow more intolerable. Given that, I suggest that any rearranging should be both bold and comprehensive so that we are not kicking this around again a scant two to three years from now. This is a big band that can stand "upward" allocation of various DX activities before it starts to intrude into any local FM repeaters.

W9FS - This whole discussion is just plum silly. The last peak, the band sounded like HF, people were calling CQ everywhere even 50.225... Why, instead of getting a lot of people hot under the collar, just leave things alone. When the band opens now people spread out, the ones that don’t, won’t anyhow.

VE7SKA - Yes, the bandplan should be updated, however I agree with those that say co-operation of ALL six metre ops is crucial to implementation. Yes, retain 50.110 for mixed CW/SSB inter-continental calling only. That means I’ll continue to ignore the W1, W2 & W4’s that call me when I call "CQ DX" on .110 during long-haul Es & F2 openings.

N6XQ - Thank you for doing this survey. We need an organisation with leadership to push a worldwide bandplan.

W3EP - Yes, clearly - for the entire world.

G7LJN - Great idea to survey. It’s a big band, can’t the lowest section be for intercontinental DX (i.e. make it bigger) and move European working up the band?

GØSUQ - I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about, altering the bandplan etc. It is up to the ‘Mega’ six metre stations, with 400W upwards and 11 ele yagis or stacked arrays, to move away from 50.119 and encourage everyone else to scan the band for that ‘elusive’ DX.

SM7AED - A definition of ‘DX’ on six metres should be agreed. Just to say ‘intercontinental DX’ is a bad definition. For example, is ‘Gibraltar’ (Europe) DX for a station in Tangier (Morocco, Africa)? Better have a distance as a definition for DX, say stations more than 4000km away.

F1MXE - I agree that it is necessary to change the band plan, but with large agreement of amateurs in all regions and local regulations! We can not transmit below 50.200 in France at the moment.

GM4DGT - The biggest problem is users unable to read CW calling on top of DX on SSB and ignoring pleas to QSY or QRX for a minute or so. The best option is to tear the band plan to pieces and set it up like 10m or 20m for a real fresh start.

GM3WOJ - In 1997 we seem to have a much more competitive operating environment, and, as on most other bands, many pile-ups are markedly increased by the influence of the DX packet cluster. We have a much greater number of stations QRV in Europe than in the last sunspot cycle, with many running high power. Many stations new to six metres will be unfamiliar with the rapidly-changing propagation that can occur, and cause QRM because of this inexperience.

KG7FU - I feel that as Six becomes a worldwide allocation we should strive for continuity between bandplans in all nations and regions. What good is having a DX Window if DX can’t work you within it?

F5OIH - Why do we use only 100kHz when we have 2MHz?

Question 2: Should there be a ‘DX Window’ (currently 50.100-50.120 MHz) where contacts within your own continent are discouraged?

Yes: 80%
No: 20%

Figure 2: The distribution of answers to Question 2A: "How wide should the DX window be?"

Your comments:

G4AFJ - I believe it is essential to have parts of the band relatively quiet where weak DX signals can be listened for. It is equally important that lone operators in rare countries or where there is very little 50MHz activity know where to call to have a chance of a contact.

GJ4ICD - Of course there should be a DX window. Contacts should be discouraged in the window (as in the UKSMG Contest rules), and - this is a most interesting observation - during the past few UKSMG contests I have sat listening in the DX window, NOT a single station came within the window or was reported on packet, and why?

Well quite simply, participants knew they would get disqualified if found to be operating within the window! So why can’t it always be left clear like in contests?

The current width is a little too narrow, but add in the CW section and it then covers 50.080 to 50.120, this, in reality, is the DX window, as serious operators will rarely sit and work locals between 50.080 and 50.100. So really it does not need expanding, and could not be policed if it were! People do spread out during big USA openings, I have even seen stations up to 50.300... common sense rules!

JR8DAG - I think the reason for the DX window is easy QSO to DX in order to keep some frequency on condition that it is unexpected, short period and spotty opening on six metres. So, I think it is enough to keep 20-30kHz. If it would be Big Opening, we can spread upwards flexibly. Basically, it is better border less between DX school and domestic school, I think.

NH6YK - Attitudes about the bandplan need to be changed, plus there is a need for education of new six metre ops. From the KH6 point of view, NO there should not be a DX window - VK is OC, KH6 is OC - it is a fair far distance!! I call it DX. But the answer could be YES, if you have a small continent with lots of countries and lots of operators. There are about 10 six metre ops in KH6... We do chat on 50.110, hoping for ANY DX signals.... PLEASE BREAK IN IF YOU HEAR US!!!!!

PA3BHK - What is DX on Six? With the very changeable propagation even an Es contact over 300miles can be considered DX as it is a distance not easily worked, not via tropo nor via Es. ACTIVITY is what it’s all about, when intercontinental DX can be worked there’s a better chance on an active band than on 50.110 where everybody is just listening or chasing other European callers away. On the other hand. with often weak multi-hop Es and around-MUF F2 signals a DX activity window low in the SSB/CW section might be useful.

W7HAH - Many antenna systems such as mine are cut for the low end of the six metre band, so I am not in favor of a 100 kHz special DX portion. I am in favor of a wider DX portion but I want it to be sensible in size such as 50.130 to 50.180. This doubles the present size.

N6XQ - In countries where there are only one or two six metre operators they should be able to operate anywhere, i.e. Caribbean stations should be able to work W6 in the DX window.

W3EP - The band is very big and mostly unused - plenty of room for a DX window. Most of the HF bands are used for DX, for example.

K6QXY - We in the US have a problem with the term ‘intercontinental’. For us, ‘international’ would be a better substitute (though not in Europe - Ed). Paths from San Francisco to, say, VP2A, VP2E, V47 etc. are over 6,000km, three hop or more by Es, two hop F2. Certainly DX in anyone’s mind, but these countries are in North America!

G8VOI - It seems a minority want exclusive use of 50.110 while the rest of us can go to hell! The band is for everyone’s use, definitions of DX are pointless, to someone with 1 Watt and a dipole, European sporadic E contacts are DX.

JF6DEA/KE1EO - In Japan, so far, there is not a serious problem about DX windows, but I think there will be some trouble as conditions improve as we enter cycle 23. Actually, when it was open to the East coast of W via multi-hop sporadic E in Summer 1995, we did not have much of problem. Then stations W/JA spread upwards in frequency naturally. And more, on usual opening to VK in Spring/Autumn TEP, we make QSO on 50.130,150,170...etc., NOT 50.110 normally. In case of JA, the DX window is not defined clearly, but most of us know that we have keep clear below about 50.130 for DX. And we have no domestic calling frequency like as 50.125MHz in W. Usually they have been operating on any frequencies they like above 50.150MHz. Sometimes our operating frequency will spread to 50.400,500,600 or above, when there is some big event of field operation.

Question 3: Should there be a separate CW-only section?

Yes: 78%
No: 22%

Figure 3: The distribution of answers to Question 3A: "Should there be a separate CW-only section?"

These results require a little caution in their interpretation. The higher figures (100kHz and over) quoted by respondees, particularly from North America, generally seem to include 50.000-50.100 MHz, which is CW-only by law in the USA although much of it is occupied by beacons.

N4JQQ - I WOULD like more room to operate CW. Many of the VHF Plus crew in the US do not operate this mode and their will be many of us trying to get down there to beat the crowds.

GJ4ICD - Yes, but remember, the DX window can also support this mode. CW needs a great deal of support at the present time. CW (as far as many are concerned) will be the only way of making that valuable QSO, those who do not operate CW will certainly lose out on some DX. We do NOT need SSB in the CW segment, but CW should be encouraged wherever. CW is a valuable tool that we must give priority to.

KD5XB - YES! YES! YES! YES! (How many time can I say YES?), weak-signal/CW needs its own separate area. The worst thing is to try to work CW - whether moonbounce or whatever - and have someone on SSB (or FM, for that matter) jump on and cover up that weak signal in a new country you were just starting to hear.

G2ADR - Due to rapid 50MHz QSB it is frequently necessary to change from SSB to CW while on the same QSO frequency.

G2AHU - CW certainly needs a strongly reserved band. CW in the SSB band is acceptable but a strong SSB signal in the CW region will wipe out up to a dozen CW channels. CW, especially for rare DX, should be encouraged. It enables the low power station to complete.

W3EP - The HF bands, which are a lot smaller, all have 100kHz plus for CW only! Why not six metres?

Question 4: Should there be a calling frequency (currently 50.110 MHz), reserved for inter-continental calling only?

Yes: 63%
No: 37%

G4IGO - Yes, have a calling frequency but common sense and EXPERIENCE will rule supreme, that’s how I find my DX, wherever it is. Using a frequency that has no activity on it at the time is not bad operating. The bad operator is not the one CALLING on the frequency, it is the one who replies. If they know the convention and are in the same continent then they SHOULD NOT reply to the call on 110.

GM3JIJ - There is a de facto frequency where most stations listen and call. I have had many QSOs on 50.110 lasting seconds that would have been easily missed. I’m tired of DX ladder climbers bleating about QRM on 50.110 they should have a DX spot way up the band say 50.3 and leave 50.110 to Magic Band users who love to QSO the unusual, regardless of DX, but I agree, chat QSY away from 50.110.

W7HAH - I am not in favor of special calling frequencies because so many sit and rag chew on this frequency. On 50.110 I have heard DX stations pile up and will not move.

GJ4ICD - Yes there should be a DX calling frequency, we have this on 144MHz and it works well, QSY when you make the contact (unless the DX is very rare and he cannot move due to QRM etc.). Call on 50.110 and then move straight away when contact is made. It must be remembered that stations from South Africa and South America for example will initially call on 50.110 when openings are possible, so there has to be a calling frequency for inter-continental working otherwise everybody would have to be continually tuning the band to find activity.

G4FVP - The calling frequencies bring out some of the worst in people, for example on-air arguments, stubbornness and refusing to QSY, the 110 ‘policemen’, misuse of the DX cluster etc. This is sure to get worse as the solar cycle increases, whatever the designated calling channel. The argument for the DX calling frequency is greatly overrated. Weak signal DX gets through perfectly well on the HF bands without them. There is a tendency to underestimate the capabilities of DX operators to find a clear spot.

W3BO - I suggest leaving 50.110 as-is. It is most convenient to leave a receiver parked on a single frequency until activity appears. I see it as a modified beacon frequency!

GM3WOJ - I suggest that any bandplan which tries to designate a spot frequency as a ‘centre of DX activity’ or a ‘calling channel’ is unrealistic. I suggest that, for major DXpeditions at least, the same techniques are adopted as recent highly successful HF DXpeditions - they always work split frequency and listen over a range of frequencies.

ZL2AGI - Calling and receiving spots are good, but we found this last Es season that after the initial contact on 50.110 most shifted up to 50.120,50.130 etc. etc. Why not call CQ and nominate a listening frequency? After all, you know what the conditions on the band are at that particular time. By the way, Hands up all who will QSY if you are a G and you hear me in ZL at RST 229?

WA5TKU - No, there should not be a DX calling frequency, the problem with a frequency is that stations never move. Thus we get stations unable to hear each other calling on the same frequency. The stations that can hear each other try to work them. This just makes everyone mad.

ZL3TIC : Yes 50.110 should only be used for DX only, e.g. here in ZL the VK, ZL calling frequency could be 50.150. If 50.110 is to be used, QSY after contact is been made but QSY 10kHz+ from call freq not 2kHz off etc.!! Stations should NOT "rag chew" on 50.110 e.g. ZL3’s missed out on a north African station (never been worked from ZL)due to a certain ZL1 having a 20min over on 50.110!!!!!

K7CW - Calling frequencies may well have served a purpose in the past, but now there is no need for them. The only effective thing they provide now is anger, irritation and misunderstanding.

G8BCG/H44PT - I was not looking for intercontinental DX when, as H44PT, I called on .110 looking for my neighbours in PNG for a try on 144MHz. However, I was heard on .110 in the ZD8TC household and a Region 1 Distance Record resulted. Only the JAs and those who have lived in the TEP zone South of JA know what high six metre activity is. Yet .110 seems to work well in the Pacific. Less policemen? More gentlemen?

PA2VST - If there will come a world-wide ‘DX’ frequency or segment, let it be a bit off the famous QRM frequencies. Most active 50MHz hams experience birdies and computer QRM .100, .110 and around.

K6QXY - If we make the DX window 50.100 - 50.150 I would like to see the DX calling frequency at 50.125 in the centre of the window. 50.110, 111, 112, 113 are full of TV oscillator birdies from colour burst xtals over here.

GØTPA - I think everybody now has a tuning knob and is rock free! A DX window yes, but no calling frequency please!

W3EP - Yes, but not necessarily .110. Separate frequencies for different continents make sense.

G4RGK - I would endorse the comments of GW6VZW and G0AEV (Six News 52). Over the years many people have been upset by policemen on .110 calling European operators lids etc. This is not helpful in promoting activity on the band. We all have VFOs. The people who rely on .110 to warn of openings should learn to operate their equipment and realise how empty the band is. I’ve noticed most of the stations who complain about QRM on .110 are VHFers rather than HF DXers - perhaps if these people tried working VKØIR on 80m they would find out what QRM really is about!

G2ADR - Yes, plus a band plan note requesting brief calls only (3 by 3 maximum) of CQ DX on 50.110.

Question 5: Should there be a ‘non-DX’ calling frequency (currently 50.150 MHz in IARU Region 1, 50.125 MHz in Region 2)?

Yes: 66%
No: 34%

KØGJX - In the States we have real problems on 50.125. Hundreds of people, mainly new codeless technicians, are glued there. Some of them call CQ and then move up but then come right back and call CQ again and again... the problem is they don’t have HF experience and don’t know what to plus not listening also. I think the stateside QSOs should take place above 50.2 +/- 50kHz


VK3OT/VK3SIX - Yes, there should be a non-DX calling frequency, and well above 50.150 (50.200?) EXCEPT THAT 50.200 IS THE JAPANESE DOMESTIC CHANNEL. Probably no one except the JAs realise. They work two-way FM from there up as well!

Question 6: Should there be a single, combined calling frequency instead of separate ‘DX’ and ‘non-DX’ frequencies?

Yes: 21%
No: 79%

GJ4ICD - Most certainly not, whoever made that question up? (I did! - Ed) If that was the case you will never work DX again, could you imagine that happening on 80 m? No, that is certainly a non starter.

OZ1RH - There should be one calling frequency never used for QSOs. We can not monitor several QRGs.

VE9AA - NO NO NO there should not be a single, combined calling frequency -too much confusion !!!

GØAEV - I support a single, combined calling frequency, but only if it’s a centre of activity.

W3EP - No - clearly past practice has demonstrated the chaos that results.

G3TCT - Since most people want to work DX, and since the important thing is to hear it, we need to keep everyone off whatever frequency the DX is on, whilst being able to call CQ for either local or intercontinental DX. Therefore we need a common frequency for calling, whether DX or not, and a separate calling frequency for each continent, so that we can listen for a continent without interference.

ON9CFB - No, because if we do, there are ‘operators’ who don’t know when to move.

G8ZRE - There should be one calling frequency or centre of activity to call and listen on. My own experience is that unless the band is open you are never too sure where you should put out a CQ call. To make the most of the limited power available, one frequency world-wide would make life easier.

VE7SKA - NO!!!!! This question should be dropped from the survey, I doubt that even one serious DXer would support this suggestion.

G4FVP - You can’t be in two places at one time, it is simply impractical to have two calling channels. It hasn’t worked in the past and won’t work in the future. We do need a centre of activity, somewhere to listen when the band is quiet, to give an occasional call and to watch while the MUF is rising. It should not be prohibited to have a QSO on this frequency, indeed in some ways 50.110 acts as a centre of activity now.

WA5TKU - No, this would be much worse than the current two calling frequency approach.

Question 7: In general, should ‘calling frequencies’ (spot frequencies, QSY after making contact) be replaced by ‘centres of activity’ (approximate centre frequencies, where QSOs are acceptable)?

Yes: 53%
No: 47%

VK3OT/VK3SIX - Yes, calling frequencies should be replaced with centres of activity, if it is possible. Could any of the long haul DX contacts from VK3 to EU in 1989 have been made to QSY? It was hard enough to even copy the callsigns let alone say QSX up five .

G2AHU - Although ‘centres of activity’ have been suggested right from he beginning, they are far too vague at the limits, e.g. if you have CW and SSB centres of activity there is bound to be friction where they overlap.

GMØNAI - It’s a very big band but people crowd round 110. Let’s have CW and SSB sub-bands with suggested centre of activity frequencies.

TG9AJR - NO, centres of activity are a bad idea, you will have to be chasing someone all over the band!

General comments:

JR1LZK - Since the band situation is very different in each region, I think it is better to follow the more busy areas. In Japan, many stations are not aware how severe the situation is outside of Japan (including myself). Actually, it is quite easy to find DX stations in Japan as Japanese never speak English on a domestic QSO. If someone is speaking in English or Spanish that should be a DX QSO.

W3BO - As many have noted, the center of mass of 50 MHz has swung away from Region 2 and is now in Region 1. Region 1, therefore, should have its votes weighted accordingly.

W7HAH - One of the problems is the large number of non-CW hams that are not aware of what the band plan is. Education of all hams that use six metres is a must through SMIRK, QST, UK Six Metre Group and other VHF magazines and newsletters.

G3TCI - How about a small QRP - only section?

GJ4ICD - Publication will be needed of the new bandplan in ALL magazines, and why was the new R1 bandplan not published in the latest Six News? A good capture has been lost!

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