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Author Topic: Where has all the 2m activity gone?  (Read 10754 times)
KA1KXL
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« on: May 28, 2013, 10:05:51 AM »

I was first licensed as a novice back in the early '80s; monitoring 2 meter activity back then, I was always impressed by the amount of action.

I recently upgraded to general class, and last Saturday I bought my first VHF/UHF transceiver (a Yaesu FT-60R).

After reading enough to get it properly programmed for my area (the included manual and several helpful online posts), I set it up to scan and waited to hear some QSOs so I could get a feel for "how it's done..."

After many hours of silence, I gave up and tried calling; at first I could only hit one repeater, but after throwing together a simple 1/4 wave ground plane I was able to hit two more for a total of three (a nearby 440 repeater with the rubber duck, and two 2-meter repeaters with the ground plane).

No answer.

Over the weekend I brought my new HT and my son to the top of a modest mountain, and was able to hit half a dozen or more repeaters with the stock antenna. I called on all of them, no answer. Now I didn't try all that long, only about 20 minutes because I figured I was boring my son (I certainly wasn't giving him any inspiration to become a ham).

Several more hours of trying back home, I did manage a contact - one brief one, answering my call for a radio check (all was fine, he was monitoring while taking care of something else so I didn't keep him).

I had the radio scanning before work today, and during the drive in. I think I heard a faint signal at one point - but was gone before I could get close to the rig and respond.

I've even tried monitoring the repeater that used to be busy back in the '80s - I know the repeater is still active because I can hear it ID, but there's virtually no traffic.

While I don't live in a major population center, I'm not in the middle of the antarctic either.

Is this common elsewhere? What happened? Cell phones and internet killed 2m radio?  Cry
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K0GGC
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« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2013, 10:24:15 AM »

I think what you describe is typical for 2m these days. Not very much fun, is it?

Some areas are more active than others but around me the only activity on 2m, are the local nets. One in the morning and one in the evening. The rest of the time it is "Crickets".
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2013, 02:53:03 PM »

2m FM (and to a similar degree, 70cm FM) repeater work had its big heyday in the late 70s-early 80s.

Easy to understand why: It was something reasonably new (repeaters only came into popularity in the late 60s-early 70s) and there was "finally" a plethora of inexpensive commercially made gear for it.  In the earlier days, we all used converted taxicab radios and such, as there wasn't any "ham" gear for 2m FM in the 60s, and very little in the early 70s.  And what it was, was not very good and quite expensive.

Then, the Japanese "big 3" companies discovered the market and the competition and gear became very good and very inexpensive, very quickly.  So, everybody bought something and used it.

It was still "something new," and many repeaters had Autopatch, so this was a cool way to make phone calls from your vehicle or hand-held, before the cellular system even existed.

Now, all that's changed. Wink

In some places, there are more repeaters than there are users. 

I don't see that changing going forward; the heyday is long past; and now going mobile on HF has become cheaper and easier than it used to be, so that's become the "new" mobile fad. Smiley

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K5TR
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« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2013, 04:18:22 PM »

I think the other big factor is that without the CW requirement there is no reason not to be on HF these days.
Many of the guys that were on 2m FM and 2m SSB are now able to get on the HF bands. 
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George
K5TR
WB2WIK
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« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2013, 05:55:12 PM »

I think the other big factor is that without the CW requirement there is no reason not to be on HF these days.
Many of the guys that were on 2m FM and 2m SSB are now able to get on the HF bands. 

I think you're right.

"Newbies" are often enamored with the thought of a small hand-held "walkie talkie," being able to communicate with others. 

That was cool in 1973, and maybe even in 1977.  But it's 2013.  You can buy a KX-3 and set up a portable dipole on a tripod and work "the world," as opposed to working repeaters and making contacts mostly within 200 miles on VHF.  For those who like to "communicate," the world seems like a bigger target.
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KC9NVP
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« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2013, 06:08:13 PM »

my ht is generally on from the time I get up to when I go to bed as I monitor the local repeater as a weather spotter and assistant EC.  When I do hear a new call sign for the first time, I generally respond and welcome the new comer as well as ask them to join out county ARES net on Tuesday evening.

David S
KC9NVP
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K0JEG
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« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2013, 06:42:29 PM »

Local activity seems to generate local activity. A few years ago some of us who had radios in our work trucks and lots of windshield time would keep repeaters busy all day. Then the one guy got sick, someone else moved and cut his commute to 10 minutes (from 1 hour or so), and the rest of us ran out of things to talk about. These days I still tune into that repeater, but don't hear much other than the ID during the week, some more activity on weekends, especially holidays when there's a lot of drivers on the road.

Now I belong to a very active and close knit club and I hear club members on the repeater off and on all day. On Tuesdays the guys who don't work all meet up at the local breakfast spot, and most of them will talk on their way in. Same thing for club meeting days, and usually before the weekly net. Not many people on outside of the club, but anyone is invited, and we'll basically talk to anyone.

I know that's sort of a non-answer, but there is activity out there. The other thing to check is find out if any of the local repeaters are on IRLP, and see if the owner is OK with you using IRLP to connect to "reflectors," basically big conference calls. While it won't do much to get you in touch with locals, it might get the attention of some of them when the machine opens up the squelch on their radio.
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KA1KXL
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« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2013, 07:13:41 PM »

I've made a couple more short contacts; was told my signal strength isn't great - which probably compounds the issue (who wants to talk to some guy across town when it's a difficult copy?).

Thanks for sharing your thoughts guys, I do appreciate it.

73's!
Bruce.
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KQ6Q
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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2013, 08:09:29 PM »

Bruce - have you joined a local club ? use the club locator on www.arrl.org to search by zip code.
See if there are ARES groups in your area There might not be much activity on VHF locally for you -
you might have to get on HF, put up a dipole, and reach beyond the horizon !

Fred, KQ6Q
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KC9NVP
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« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2013, 05:27:03 AM »

If your signal strength is not that great, that's one problem.  Have you tried an aftermarket antenna on the HT?  Many of the stock antennas that come with HT's are poor at best when you check their SWR across the 2m band and some of the longer flexable wire antennas such as WEP-12 for 140 and 440 MHz will out perform the stock antenna.  for several years I ran a home built J-Pole in PVC tubing from the peak of my house roof using RG58 and than RG8 (RG8 is better, but did not have it on hand when the J-pole went up). 

Take a look around your area and see what type of buildings (steel building) and hills are between you and the repeater, both will cause signal strength issues.  Even though I have a good line of sight to my local repeater from my home (5 miles at most), I still find dead spots in my wood frame house, so move around and see if you can find a better spot to work the repeater from your house.

David S
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K1CJS
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« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2013, 06:02:04 AM »

It seems that it's a combination of factors.  The dropping of the code to obtain a higher class license--and HF access, the proliferation of cell phones and the Family radio service, the push of the emcomm people to take over use of the 2 meter and 440 mhz repeaters whenever they want to, and other less evident things.

Back when the 2 meter repeaters were fairly new, mobile phones were available, but only to the fairly well off or the commercial users that really needed them.  Pocket size cell phones were unheard of.  The 440 mhz band was fairly new--a novelty.  Two meter ham radio was 'the' way to communicate locally among hams.  2 meters became crowded, and the activity expanded to 440 mhz--and that band 'took off.'

Then came the cell phones--still expensive, but much more available.  Personal communications were becoming available to everyone, and the 'openness' of radio--with everyone able to hear what you were saying--started to lose its appeal since cell phones were more private.  Then came the Family radio service.  All of a sudden, you didn't need a license, anyone could talk on it.  Even though the range left something to be desired, it still hurt the VHF and UHF ham radio bands.  Ditto the MUR service.  A person 'bought' a license and radios that had greater range were available.  No studying or testing needed.

Today, with cell phone use widespread--and with it being so inexpensive (you can get and keep a cell phone that only costs you $10 to $20 a month for less than $30) the appeal of getting a ham license and spending a minumum of around $100 for a good radio (even though there is no further cost) has fallen to the wayside.

Other reasons are: the HOA craze that prohibits antennas, or in some cases, any RF transmissions, neighbors who see an indication of ham radio use and are up in arms because of the supposed 'interference' to their own electronics, the way some of the ham spouses/families reluctance to antennas on the cars--or anything that reduces the time spent together, (something that is becoming hard to come by these days) the economy and the vanishing of the spendable 'free cash' that people and families have, and other, more mundane items that all add up to what is happening to short range ham radio.  

What has also helped that fall is the insistence of the emcommers with the agreement of the repeater owners that repeater systems have to be cleared and turned over to them if they think they need it, or for their practice nets.  The result is that those repeaters are all but forgotten pieces of communications ability--or use.

Is it any wonder that two meters and 70 centimeters are all but dead?  The only two exceptions to that seem to be, first, the wide range repeaters during the commuting hours, but even that use is declining.  The other exception--the local social net--is rare, unless there are users that are on it all the time--and that is becoming difficult with the way society seems to be changing.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2013, 06:05:01 AM by K1CJS » Logged
AA4PB
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« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2013, 06:26:33 AM »

Good summary. I also think that there are sometimes people monitoring the local repeater while they are busy with other things and they won't take the time to answer someone who they don't know unless that person makes a specific request that they can help with (directions, radio check, etc). One way to become part of the "in" group is to attend local club meetings or regularly check into a local net on the repeater.

I think the common use of "AA4PB listening" often encourages this as it doesn't really specify what you are looking for. Being more specific may help get people to the microphone.
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KF7VXA
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« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2013, 02:14:03 PM »

VHF/UHF has been pretty darn dead around here.
I have found this to be dissapointing as I got my Tech license to be able to ragchew as well as get involved in EMCOMM, which I have.
I really didn't intend to upgrade to HF for a while due to the cost as well as the antennas needed for good communications, but this is what I have had to do.
I will be taking my General test as soon as one comes up, I've been ready for a while.

It really is a darn shame as the VHF/UHF is far cheaper and so easy to use. I sure did expect much more activity than what I have seen. Just an occasional QSO between friends and Thursday night net is about it.

Our area is heavily LDS and the LDS church has been pushing it's members to get GMRS equipment and tickets for emergency use. There is more ragchewing on GMRS than VHF. Most have got used commercial radios or commercial band HT's and there is a good repeater for the GMRS, so that seems to be where most of the activity is.

I am looking forward to HF, at least the bands are busy when they are open. At least with VHF/UHF, the local bands are always open anytime.

I now have just about everything that I may need for the HF except for an amp, but I'm sure I'll get by just fine with 100 watts, my antenna system is decent and I have a wide open area around my QTH, although there are mountains ringing most of the valley which I hope I can get over. I have a Gap vertical as well as some horizontal dipoles, so we shall see. My only worry is that the take off angle on the vertical may be too low. That said, I'm not really sure if the Gap antenna will have a higher take off angle due to it's design (vertical dipole's). Guess I'll find out. I'd like a tall tower and some yagi's to go with it, but am renting now and can only put up so much hardware.
Everything gets wired up and checked within the next couple of weeks, so maybe 6 and 10 will open up a little until I get my General.

My Best, John
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WB4M
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« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2013, 09:13:52 PM »

I think the other big factor is that without the CW requirement there is no reason not to be on HF these days.
Many of the guys that were on 2m FM and 2m SSB are now able to get on the HF bands. 

I think this would be the number one factor.  Back in the late 70's when I first was licensed, Techs jumped on 2 meters and got stuck there.  All they needed was to pass the 13wpm code for General but they got hung up on 2 meters and never went further.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2013, 05:37:32 AM »

... or perhaps they got stuck on 2M because at that time it offered plenty of activity and kept their interest so they weren't so interested in getting on HF. Back in 1960 I got a tech license and got on 6M. There was plenty of activity, DX, and home brew projects so I had little desire to get on HF. After I got deployed in the military I found 6M not so active in some areas so I had the incentive to get the code speed up, get my general, and get on HF.
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