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Issue #25: Heard on the 2m Band Recently . . .

By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Let me ask you a loaded question. Just what do you think we should do with the 2m band? Here's why I ask . . . I've been thinking about this for a long time.

 

I had been monitoring 146.52, or "the 5-2" as hams here have referred to it for years. At one time, this was a fantastic meeting ground for people who were open to talk, as you could call out your friend on 5-2 and find him or her pretty easily. Even if they weren't on the air, others would come back to you and some great conversations would ensue. My friend K7CQX had a server for 5-2 that anyone with a laptop or phone could connect to from any worldwide location, and we'd have people join us from New Zealand or Europe on occasion. They had discovered Woody's server and the result was that our local Phoenix chatter often became supplemented by interesting conversations with people far and wide. All of this former action was on analog and easily accessible even for the newest of hams.

 

But on this day a week ago, my 2m radio was in the monitoring mode for 146.52 and had been for days without being touched. Many hams in the area had left the frequency due to its lack of general activity, or perhaps because it had become a place with no radio etiquette and home to unlicensed users. The reason I turned off my IC-7100 that day was that a belching contest had replaced the intelligent conversation that I listen for on the 5-2.

 

A belching contest? Yes. I left the radio on to see how long those idiots would carry it on. Quite a while later, without a single call sign being put out there, I spun the memory over to my radio club's 2m repeater and sat back to think about what the implications are for having a band as important as 2m deteriorate in this manner. 

 

Sadly, the radio remained silent for days even while monitoring my club's 2m repeater.

 

Just Why is 2m So Important?

 

We all know the importance of these VHF/UHF bands for the local community and especially emergency communications. That's a given, right? I wouldn't want to lose those frequencies and would always do my best to support my fellow hams who give their time and resources to set up emergency protocols like these. And that's a good part of the reason for my club or any others to set up and maintain their repeater operations. That said, I sure wish that people would get on the UHF/VHF radio more often just to talk and to use it in an intelligent manner like we do for our HF frequencies. No one even logs contacts on 2m any longer. 

 

As you know, when a person is first licensed at the Technician level, 2m is the first thing they gravitate to. I did the same thing when I came back to the hobby after being without a station for many years. I was browsing Amazon and they threw up an ad for an HT that looked cool and certainly not like what was available to me back in the "good old days." I bought it and was soon was on the air again again with my 2m radio.

 

As many newbie operators have said to me in the last year or two, "I listened but I didn't hear anyone talking." That's a part of the problem right there, isn't it. When I got back on, I found that there's not a lot of "radio action" on the band, unless you listen to certain repeaters in the evening when the local nets kick in. When SOTA was first kicking off -- before POTA became so commonplace -- those who were activating Summits would always take a local 2m frequency like 146.52 and have a blast from their Mountain to engage the local community. A SOTA station could stay on the air for an hour making/taking calls from one of the many summits around the Phoenix valley, and I don't hear those at all any longer. I would also think that a POTA station activating the local parks could take along an HT and a decent whip to supplement what they are doing on HF, but few people do this. We need to inspire more activity somehow on the 2m frequencies, as many new operators pick up their radios and quickly get bored trying to connect with someone -- anyone -- on 2m. I'm sure we've lost some great potential talent from our ranks because newer operators get bored trying to get something going on VHF/UHF.

 

Am I dumb enough to think that just because more "serious" operators get back on the air, we might see the nut cases and the belching contests go away? No. I don't know what the answer is for this, and I urge you to post your comments on the attached forum discussion (see the link at the bottom of this article). Let's hear what your thoughts are about this "ugly" side of 2m radio . . . Unfortunately, in the case of the Phoenix belching contest, I'm sad to report that it is not exclusively a few teenagers with illicit Chinese radios. Nope -- I recognized a voice or two in the crowd and I know they are licensed amateur radio operators, some of them known to get on the radio after enjoying more than a beer or two. It is just frustrating that, for some reason, the band in my backyard is treated as a place where it's OK to forget the rules of radio, not just the FCC but rules of common sense and courtesy. 

 

Ugh. You'll have a hard time getting me back on the 2m band in a hurry. Many other operators feel the same way. I'll pick up an HRO catalog and drool over some of the gorgeous and exotic new HT's, but would I ever invest that kind of money again in 2m? Right now, it's doubtful. I look over my backyard and see the 17' vertical I installed for 2m on a 30 ft. pole, and wonder if maybe I should install a hexbeam or something more useful to me on that push-up. 

 

As you have heard, the ARRL has been talking to regulators about a comprehensive review of the allocations that are made for the Technician class license. Read about the ARRLs suggestions at this link. If this goes through, I'm sure it will help us get and keep the truly interested newbies who are inspired by long-distance communications. The dark side of that wish is that maybe some of those belching contests start moving to the HF bands . . . 

 

If someone could post the latest updates on the Technician Class review, please put it into the forum discussion below. The document linked here is a bit old. (Also, a good way to invest $50 or more in keeping our bands -- especially if they start to deteriorate -- is the ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund. No one else besides the League is involved in Spectrum Defense. I've put my money where my mouth is. Please consider doing the same.)

 

73 for now,

Dave

 

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Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Dave Jensen, W7DGJ, was first licensed in 1966. Originally WN7VDY (and later WA7VDY), Dave operated on 40 and 80 meter CW with a shack that consisted primarily of Heathkit equipment. Dave loved radio so much he went off to college to study broadcasting and came out with a BS in Communications from Ohio University (Athens, OH). He worked his way through a number of audio electronics companies after graduation, including the professional microphone business for Audio-Technica.  He was later licensed as W7DGJ out of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he ran an executive recruitment practice (CareerTrax Inc.) for several decades. Jensen has published articles in magazines dealing with science and engineering. His column “Tooling Up” ran for 20 years in the website of the leading science journal, SCIENCE, and his column called “Managing Your Career” continues to be a popular read each month for the Pharmaceutical and Household Products industries in two journals published by Rodman Publishing.


Articles Written by Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

This page was last updated August 25, 2023 16:00