I have some complicated opinions and thoughts about 2200-meters, many of which are formed from speaking with others who have either operated there or those who have spent time listening there and studying the band characteristics.
First, here is a little background information that will hopefully help illustrate my point of view.
My very earliest recollection of the magic of radio as a kid was reading the R.W. Burhans articles in Radio-Electronics magazine on the topic of 1750-meters, circa 1984. I had been exposed to CB radio because of my uncle and grandfather but this was different. I was captivated with the notion of being able to communicate with others in far off lands without any wires connecting us. It was magical. When I was first licensed between my sophomore and junior year of high school, I realized this dream. The romantic ideas of communications with mystical, distant lands are very real. I have volumes documenting those arm-chair adventures that I hope to write about at length some day.
In 2005 I passed my 2nd class radio-telegraph operators license and had grand ideas of setting up a “coastal” station near 500 kHz from Dallas – 250-miles from the gulf coast. I didn’t say I had thought this through carefully. Not being terribly familiar with the FCC licensing process and being unaware of the work of experimental stations in this chunk of spectrum, I was content to continue on chasing DX on 160-meter CW, trying to complete DXCC there. When the opportunity presented itself to operate on 630-meters in 2012, it really was a dream come true. I had learned of the efforts of the ARRL’s 600-meter research group that had been instituted for the purpose of providing data for arguments in what ultimately became ET-Docket 15-99. I wanted to be a part of this. I wanted to be a communicator, on CW, working other like minded stations that were also mesmerized by how a time-varying signal could some how magically jump off of a wire only to reattached itself to another wire in some far off place, conveying intelligence using very simplistic and low-infrastructure means.
Becoming an operator on 630-meters really fulfilled all of my goals as a radio aficionado. I was able to operate in hallowed spectrum, successfully using a mode that so many would consider antiquated and I was able to have meaningful conversations with guys who love radio as much as I do. I was also able to build a station essentially from the ground up – no off-the-shelf items here. When I was a young ham I always marvelled at the stories of the Russians who had to build all of their equipment as part of their licensing process. If they wanted to operate, they were going to have to build it. This was much like the early pioneers in radio. My 630-meter situation was the same thing.
There seems to be a great divide in the type of operators who populate the higher bands compared to those that are typically seen in this esoteric radio spectrum below the AM broadcast band. It really does take a special breed to have the desire, motivation, and ambition to not only build a station from the ground up but also listen to the noise, digging out weak signals or staring at computer screens searching for weak traces of signal. In many cases we would be called the “radio fringe” by today’s amateur radio standards.
With the main-streaming of 630-meters through very strong participation by Part-5 experimental operators and the amateur community in a receive capacity, the divide between 630-meters and 2200-meters seems to have increased significantly. Historically the 2200-meter band has been populated with RF tinkerers and those interested in studying unique propagation features that are not seen on the higher bands. In some cases this chunk of spectrum was a way to escape the rat-race of traditional amateur radio. While some QSO’s have been completed over the years, the primary focus has not been with two-way communications but with beaconing. This is particularly true in recent years. That’s ok, beaconing has its place but for someone whose goal is to make regular two-way QSO’s it can be challenging to find like-minded operators who are willing to make a significant investment in a band that is 2.1 kHz wide.
I have spent a lot of time dispelling preconceived notions about how the 630-meter band works and touting the amazing capabilities of the band. I’ve asked others to suspend their disbelief and just try 630-meters because they will likely be very surprised. Therefore it would be hypocritical of me to not do the same for 2200-meters and practice what I have been preaching.
All that said, I have begun assembling parts for a 2200-meters station. I am taking a “do no harm” approach such that my 630-meter station can remain active through the process. Anything less would be unacceptable. I intend on starting out on CW only and might build a transmit converter later. While I find WSPR useful in determining quality of band conditions, I do not wish to get caught in the beaconing rut. Interference at this location at 137 kHz is significant and at this time the only useful receive antenna is the E-probe. The beverages seem to be mostly deaf as does the multi-turn resonant loop for 630-meters. I have not evaluated the standard-size K9AY loop.
My heart is with 630-meters and assuming that we are granted bands under Part-97, 630-meters is where I plan to be on “opening night”. I do not intend on modifying WG2XIQ to add 2200-meters, at least not at this time. My license renewal is due in September 2016 so I can re-evaluate then. My hope is to have the station ready in time for the unveiling of the 2200-meter amateur band, whether I use it immediately or not. There will be plenty of work elmering new 630-meter operators that might be interested in 2200-meters also. Its my firm belief that anyone seeking to operate on 2200-meters will have to “cut their teeth” on 630-meters first if they really are to have any chance at being successful on long wave. As I often say, “this ain’t 20-meters!”
So at risk of the world passing me by, I will continue my vigil on 630-meters, working hard to keep the station running while building a new 2200-meter station for air after Part-97 implementation.