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Author Topic: 6 meter expectations  (Read 8538 times)
KF7GTU
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Posts: 36




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« on: August 17, 2010, 11:55:28 AM »

 Smiley

Hello folks!

I am a fairly new HAM, licensed less than a year now. To this point, I have been a big 2 meter fan and spend a little time with UHF as well. I do not have any 6 meter equipment and am holding off on buying it until I hear a little about 6 meter. I have a basic question, but I expect to get a less than basic answer. Smiley

I put off getting the HAM license for many years but have been interested for over a decade now (a lot of scanner listening). Now that I have my ticket, I have been convincing family members to get their license and equipment as well. My burning desire is to use the HAM band as a means to keep in touch with family up to 150 miles away (via the highway). I am wondering if using a 6 meter radio will help me reach further in simplex mode, compared to 2 meter. As it is now, I have to drive about 16 miles up the road to reach a repeater that would allow me to rag chew with family/friends (2 meter, repeater) and I am hoping to get something in place at the house with a fairly modest outdoor antenna that would allow simplex (or repeater if they are not terribly busy and I would not be in the way) operation (preferably with a 24 hour a day functionality) with these family members (About 80 miles as the crow flies)

And now, for some topography... We are on the Oregon coast, looking straight into a 350 foot hill directly in my line of sight, looking east and slightly north. Then, the coast range of hills and mountains, with some of them reaching to 4,000 feet or so.

I programmed the northwest repeater frequencies into my scanner and have heard nothing from them. I also tried receiving the beacon at 50.075 (Central Point) but with no luck.

I guess I am hoping that 6 meter is more regional than local, with the ability to communicate over a 100+ mile range, a supposition I made based upon the geographical location of the repeaters.

Am I way off base on this? If so, any ideas on how to reach out via 2 meter, with the most effective range? I have both a regular j pole (in white PVC) and a 144 Isopole.

Thanks folks, have a splendid day!

Jason
KF7GTU
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AA4PB
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2010, 01:28:24 PM »

With a limited antenna you are not likely to consistently get that kind of range on 6M (short of using FM and a good repeater). Most 6M activity is SSB and you can work some nice DX during band openings - lots of fun. Those stations who have a good location (not blocked by a mountain) and a good tower and antenna can consistently work similarly equipped stations over distances of several hundred miles. You probably won't do it with a rooftop antenna looking into a mountain however.
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KF7GTU
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Posts: 36




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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2010, 01:34:41 PM »

Okay, thank you for the advice. I will keep looking for another option, I was really hoping that 6 meter would have more range, especially over somewhat mountainous terrain.

Thanks again, have a splendid rest of your week...

Jason
KF7GTU
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2010, 02:12:25 PM »

What kind of two meter antenna(s) do you have at home, now?  You mentioned having to drive 16 miles to get into range of an appropriate repeater for you, but I didn't see where you mentioned what you have "at home."

Without seeing your location, I'd bet everything I have in the bank and then some I can make it work for a 150 mile path on two meter simplex (or six meter simplex, for that matter), if I can put up any kind of antenna I want, which of course could be a large beam on a 90' tower.

It's all in the antennas -- all of it, everything.

6m can have quite different propagation than 2m, but not necessarily better over an obstructed and mountainous path.  Sometimes even higher frequencies work better for knife-edging over a high mountain, especially if the mountain top can be "seen" by both parties who want to work each other.

I can work VHF and UHF stations 150 miles away over on the other side of the San Gabriel Mountain ridge, which runs 6000 to 10000 feet above sea level, when the "other" station and I are both very low by comparison, with rock solid communications on FM even at 3.4 GHz, as long as we can both "see" the mountaintops and use good directional, gain antenna systems (not mobile antennas).
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K9KJM
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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2010, 09:47:17 PM »

While 6 meters should give you better range simplex than two meters, I think your best bet is going to be something like 75 meter SSB.   If I were you, I would put some time and effort into upgrading to general class, So you can use all the bands available.
Same for the rest of your family.   Just pick up one of the books for general, Highlight the correct answers and read and reread the question, And the CORRECT answer only. After a few times through the book you should be able to easily pass the general exam.
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K3GM
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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2010, 04:18:59 AM »

6 meter expectations:

95% of operating time is listening to nothing....the remaining 5% is perhaps the most operational fun of any amateur band.  


Jason, you mentioned hearing a beacon so you must be interested in weak signal operation too.  I see no reason why you wouldn't be able to work weak signal Es from your QTH.  FM and repeaters is another aspect of the 6m band, but the "magic" that everyone refers to is found at the bottom on the band.  Yes, LOS communication may be difficult for you in some directions.  I have a similar hill which cuts me off from most of northern New England for LOS work.  If you're just getting into 6, you've started at a low period in the band.  Right now we're in the 6m doldrums.  Activity went from from spectacular transcontinental multihop Es back in JUne to almost nothing in just a few days.  With Fall knocking, the band should open again (a little) late in the season until December.  Also, with the solar activity ramping up, the CME's we're hearing about should generate some aurora contacts.  Get youself a 3 or a 5 element Cushcraft yagi, and stick it on a TV rotator, and then just wait for the band to open.  For me, it's like fishing.  You never know what you're going to hook into to.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 04:38:17 AM by Tom Hybiske » Logged
KB0XR
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Posts: 40




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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2010, 06:16:20 AM »

I've had some good results with my MFJ 9406X(10 watts maybe) and a simple dipole mounted 8 feet in the air under my 2nd story deck.  When the band opens, I can communicate hundreds of miles.  When I am in the shack, I have either the MFJ or my Icom R75 idling away on the calling frequency.  Mostly just static, but when the band pops open, I'm working stations.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2010, 07:17:17 AM »

He's not asking about working DX during an occassional band opening. He's asking about 24/7 reliable communications with family about 100 miles away - with a large hill in the way at that. Because he wants to rag chew with family, I also assume he doesn't have in mind weak signal down in the noise work either.

That's a pretty tall order for 6M unless you happen to have the right terrain and the right antenna and tower.

Short of going to 75M, he'd probably be better off trying to improve his 2M antenna to the point that he can hit the repeater that will make the link. He might also see if he can get an echo-link connection into a repeater that his family can hit.

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KF7GTU
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« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2010, 10:07:25 AM »

Well, good morning everyone! Thank you to all who responded thus far, very enlightening...

I have a habit of providing marathon emails, which may bore all of you to death, I apologize in advance. My wife and I are moving, so my new home is a blank canvas for antennas, etc. The sky (and the bank account, oh and the opinion of the YL) is the limit.

I currently have one 2 meter j pole in PVC plastic housing to use with my Motorola MaxTrac 2m base radio. A fellow HAM operator in the area has given me an Isopole which will require some repair, I haven't picked it up from her as of yet so I am not familiar with the issues with it currently.

I recently moved to the Langlois, Oregon (zip 97450) area, and my base QTH exists right at the western base of Langlois Mountain. I will be trying to reach Roseburg, Oregon (zip 97470) as well as Coos Bay (zip 97420) and Florence (zip 97439). Southern transmissions (Port Orford, Gold Beach) seem to be just fine currently using a mobile rig.

Since the house is still being repaired, I do not have any antennas in place for the base station currently. All of the local HAM folks I have spoken with tell me that I am wasting my time with the PVC J Pole unit, so haven't even tried putting it up yet, I really just kind of assumed that it wouldn't be functional (especially with my mobile unit testing results). I have spent many hours trying to work repeaters north and east from the driveway and surrounding neighborhood area via my Yaesu FT-8000R Dual Band with 5/8 wavelength mobile mag mount NMO antenna in one of our vehicles. I have also used the base MaxTrac in my F-150 pickup with permanent mounted NMO Larsen antenna. Both mobile rigs need to be in essentially the same location, just north of Bandon, Oregon (zip 97411) on highway 101 to hit a repeater in Remote, Oregon (details here: http://www.oregonconnection.org/lrepeaters.php?id=41) which we can easily use to chat and keep in touch (at least we have in the past).

I hope this isn't information overkill for everybody.

I am going to get my general, I know I can pass the test, but with moving lately and some family health issues, my mind has been other places until recently. I have been practicing at QRZ.com.

Again, thank you all for the input. I am encouraged by it and would rather work this with VHF/UHF than with 6 meter, I just assumed (out of ignorance) that 6 meter my propagate better in this terrain that 2 meter.

Have a splendid day!

Jason
KF7GTU
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VA3WXM
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« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2010, 10:23:31 AM »

To echo WIK's answer, if you're able to hit a 2M repeater after driving 16 miles from home you should definitely be able to hit it from home with the right antenna and tower.  You're going to need height and you'll need a better antenna than a j-pole.  As good as they are they're omnidirectional and have no gain.  You'll need a yagi having several elements, you'll need a high tower and a run of some good, low-loss coax.  The Maxtrac you're using for your current base radio will work fine.

Several years ago I met with a fellow from Niagara Falls, ON who had an elaborate 2M setup: 80' of tower, stacked Cushcraft boomers and brick amp.  He would routinely talk into New Jersey on SSB with or without band openings.  He also claimed to be able to talk to someone with a handheld in downtown Toronto near the lakeshore.  I suppose that's reasonable since while the distance between the two cities is about 60 miles it's almost entirely over Lake Ontario.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2010, 03:40:11 PM »

I have spent many hours trying to work repeaters north and east from the driveway and surrounding neighborhood area via my Yaesu FT-8000R Dual Band with 5/8 wavelength mobile mag mount NMO antenna in one of our vehicles. 

There's lots of stuff I can't work from my driveway with a mobile whip.

That includes about 90% of what I can work from inside the house, with a far better antenna up much higher above the ground.

I can easily work repeaters 100 miles to my north, over a terribly obstructed path (6000-10000 foot mountains in between me and there) if I use my home station antennas, which are bigger and better than j-poles and are up pretty high (like 60' above ground).

I cannot work any of them at all -- really can't even hear them -- in my car, parked in the driveway, using a Larsen NMO-150 mobile whip and any sort of 2m rig.

The antenna system is the place to put the effort and money.
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KF7GTU
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« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2010, 06:07:31 PM »

Excellent... So, let's go with the antenna setup. It is a two story house, and I can get the antenna up somewhat. What doe I need to expect the very best 2m range for under a couple hundred dollars complete? I wouldn't mind building something, I have some copper tubing, if that would be of any assistance. Any home brew projects you'd recommend, keeping in mind that I am fairly new to this whole HAM radio thing and have never constructed anything more than a j pole.

I wouldn't mind buying a kit, etc. if there was something like that to assemble.

Also, is there any point in working on the Isopole? Would it be of usefulness in this situation? I have heard they are legendary.

Thank you again folks!
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KF7GTU
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« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2010, 06:24:05 PM »

Also... I forgot to include this information... The winds really whip through this area. Wind gusts of 100 MPH are not out of the question, 75 sustained are common at least a few days every winter.

I am probably driving a pretty hard bargain here. Thanks folks...

Jason
KF7GTU
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K9KJM
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« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2010, 11:43:46 PM »

One of the very best, Simple to build low cost, Foolproof high gain antennas for VHF is the "Quagi"

http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/woverbeck/quagi.htm

(If you install a high, VHF gain antenna, Be sure to also use some good low loss coax feedline, Like Times LMR 400, And keep the length as short as possible.)

While the practice exam tests on sites like QRZ are great for finding out if you can pass the exam, They are of little value for actually
passing the exam.

The easy way is to obtain a hard copy printed general exam manual, And highlight the CORRECT answers only. Then read and reread that book.

Short of having a good high elevation homesite and/or tall tower with high gain antennas and low loss coax on two meters, your best bet for over 100 miles is going to be 75 meters SSB.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2010, 11:09:32 AM »

The Quagi is a great and pretty easy to build antenna, but I don't know how well one would withstand 100 mph winds.  Maybe not well, using the suggested materials.

Height makes a big difference, too.  You'll never get high enough to clear mountain ranges and such, but height always helps, even if it just gives you a better "view" of those mountain ranges, with minimum possible obstructions.

With a budget of a few hundred dollars, I would likely:

-Install 50-60' of tower like Rohn 25G (often available used for $40/section or so, so this is $200-$240 worth of used tower)

-Do the excavation and installation myself (no cost, just work!)

-Bracket it to the house as high above ground as possible, then add a set of guys at the 50' level (requires three solid guy anchors, cables, turnbuckles -- all of which are cheap, but this is just "more work")

-Even before a beam, try a well made, gain-type vertical collinear omnidirectional antenna like the Hustler G7-144.  It has a very low takeoff angle, which can give you a head start for knife edge refraction over mountains that are 10-20 degrees above your horizon; it will also withstand high winds (very robust), and it's not very expensive

-Feed with the required length (maybe 80-100 feet?) of LMR400 coax to minimize loss

All of that can be done for "a few hundred dollars," and doesn't require homebrewing anything or buying a rotator and rotator control cable (which can add a couple of hundred dollars to overall cost) -- may not be needed with a decent omni up high enough above ground

Of course, the station at the "other end" would need to do something similar.
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