Hatfields and the McCoys?

William Cantrell QA0057@email.mot.com
Sat, 27 Mar 1999 17:31:41 -0600

Hello All,
To promote cooperation and understanding between our two groups, I thought I would
give you the two viewpoints on the new LF Ham Band as expressed by the LowFER
community.  We had a lively discussion on this topic back in February of 1998 (a few
snippets at bottom).  The concern focuses on the 160 to 190 kHz segment of the band,
NOT on a possible new allocation at 136 kHz.  (Presently, we are allowed to transmit
from 160 to 190 kHz per FCC Part 15, but not at 136 kHz.)  In summary:

PRO:  The argument in FAVOR of a LF Ham Band:
We LowFERs can do very impressive things under Part 15 restrictions (one watt DC
input, 50 ft antenna) such as 1,500 mile communications with less than 5 milliwatts
ERP.  However, such distances are common only during the winter months when the QRN
is down in this hemisphere.  Summer shuts us down for distances of greater than,
say, 150 to 200 miles.  Even during the winter, automated Beacon operation is mostly
the mode of operation, actual QSOs are rare.  However, QSOs between stations to the
north, those within 200 miles of each other, are easily achieved.  If a Ham band is
granted, we would be able to increase our ERP by at least +23 dB, up to a max of 2 W
ERP, and would be able to carry on QSOs regularly.  Several LowFERs have done
experimentation, and then have tired of the yearly Beacon scene, and have moved on
to something else.  There is only so much that can be accomplished with such extreme
power limitations, and with such a sparsely populated chunk of the spectrum (I have
my own frequency!) as far as fellow experimenters are concerned.

CON:  The argument AGAINST a LF Ham Band:
We would all love to have fellow ham experimenters populate the 160-190 kHz band,
after all, most of us are hams too.  But what we Dread -- is that the commercial
manufacturers will figure out a way to sell ham gear profitably at LF.  Then the
appliance operators will come.  (Enough said on that, You know what I mean...)
Right now, we have to build everything ourselves, and that keeps it experimental and
technical and fun.  Granted, we aren't doing anything that hasn't already been done
by the military to enhance LF communications, but at least it isn't classified.  We
publish our results in The LOWDOWN.

I started out by converting surplus Motorola Motrac Two-Way Radios to 10m FM & 6m
FM.  It was a blast talking to Japan and Australia from the car during the sunspot
cycle of 1978.  I couldn't afford anything fancier back then, but the fun part was
doing the conversion and then talking to others on the band who had done the same
thing and who shared the same interests.  Over the years, the appliance operators
took over these bands, first with remote base activity from 2 meters, and then
directly using appliance radios with FM capability.  It would be a terrible shame to
see the LowFER band fall victim to such commercialization.

Anyway, those are the two viewpoints.  We would like more TX power and more
experimenters, but we are cautious.  We are probably leaning more toward the
favorable side of the argument for the most part, maybe a Gaussian distribution with
mean shifted 0.5 sigma toward "favorable".   :-)

Visit our Web site at:


Bill Cantrell

            US LF ham band?
            Wed, 4 Feb 1998 14:18:27 -0600
            Bill Cantrell <qa0057@email.mot.com>
            "lowfer@qth.net" <lowfer@qth.net>

I don't wanna sound "elitist" here, but let me throw in my two cents
worth.  My fear is that a new ham band would be placed right on top of
our 160 - 190 kHz band.  (After all, where else could it go?)  One of the
best things about our LF community is that it
gets us away from the "appliance" ham.  You have to build your own
equipment and know something about electronics in order to survive down
here.  It is a real challenge.  If commercial equipment were available,
eventually, we would have the "appliance" ham on the band.  QRP operation
and technical ability would become the exception rather than the rule.
Please forgive me for being a cynic.

 - Bill

        Re: [Lowfer] LF ham band in the US??
        Wed, 04 Feb 1998 13:52:41
        John Davis <longwave@mindspring.com>

I concur with Lyle that code/no-code is irrelevant under the circumstances.
 I hope, though, that an LF allocation would not be reserved for only the
higher class licenses, but that it would be available to at least General
Class... perhaps any licensee eligible for HF privileges.

Something else that needs to be addressed early in the discussion is what
bands are realistically available.  One suggestion was that "something
around 400 to 500 KHz would be nice."  Yes, it would be.  But it's not
going to happen.  That region is heavily occupied, and nobody's interested
in talking to us about even a secondary allocation there.

It's probably worth mentioning that a US LF ham band is not a new idea, so
some of this has already been covered elsewhere.  A consultant for the ARRL
started a dialog with the Longwave Club of America about a year and a half
ago, along these very lines.  I'm afraid we didn't contribute as much to
the discussion as we should have at that time, but the subject is on the
minds of the brass at ARRL, if not on the front burner.  This reflector has
prompted a lot of the type of discussion we should have had back then.  (I
believe this message thread is being noted, fortunately.)

Here's a little background on previous recommendations, and the current
Table of Allocations, which may help us focus on what's possible.  The NTIA
once recommended 160-190 kHz as a possible site for an LF ham band, along
with expansion of some HF bands.  However, 160-190 isn't the only
possibility, and might not even be the best choice, for a number of reasons.

Experienced LowFER operators know what havoc can be wreaked by European LF
broadcasters in this region.  (They, in turn, wouldn't care to have
potentially high-power American signals interfering with them; however, I
doubt we'll be granted enough power for this to ever be a problem.)  The
band is also allocated in this region to the International Fixed Public
service under Part 23, and apparently fixed stations under Part 80, as well
as government fixed and maritime mobile.

Evidently, neither Part 15 operation nor the much higher powered GWEN have
been considered a serious impediment to these services.  But there are
additional complications.  First, 160-190 kHz probably could not be made
available in Alaska or most of Canada, where aeronautical fixed services
have primary status for propagation reasons in the auroral zone.  Second,
there's no hope whatsoever of Transatlantic QSO's, not even cross-band, due
to the aforementioned LF broadcasters being in our target area.  Choosing
the 160-190 kHz slot would be to resign ourselves to domestic operation only.

For there to be any chance of Transatlantic contacts, we would need to
transmit below 148.5 kHz.  As it happens, the 130 - 160 kHz band is
allocated to the same type of services as 160 - 190, except that maritime
mobile is also available for non-government use.  Thus, it should not be an
insurmountable problem to share at least part of this band.  As Lyle noted
earlier, though, there are still some users here, and we might have to
settle for a rather narrow slot.

These are the basic trade-offs we face.  We can forget operation above 190
kHz, and we can hope not to be faced with an allocation below 130 kHz.
Within that range, we may have to choose between a relatively wide
allocation with no prospect of international communication, or else a
narrower band with at least some chance of DX.