Ah, the great debate over ham radio. Everyone has their own ideas on what band works the best for them on FM operations. And while 2 meters continues to be the entry level operators choice in single banded consumer handhelds and mobile units there are other choices.
Let me start out by saying that you, will decide which band you wish to operate on. But, why limit yourself? You can enjoy communicating on the other FM portions of the spectrum just as easy.
One of my largest gripes is trying to get operators to move off their favorite 2 meter machine. Broaden your horizons, meet new people and get out of the rut you have fallen into.
440 has some wonderful features. First is the ability to penetrate buildings. A UHF signal will bounce or refract off of floors, steel and other objects far easier than VHF. Try getting out of a office building with your 2 meter HT? Not unless your near a window. And a commercial construction company that uses radios on site uses UHF. Why. You can talk several floor levels or more on UHF due to its propagation verses VHF. Try it yourself sometime. 2 watts goes a long way in these situations.
So, you say that you never hear anyone on 440. In many areas that is probably a true statement. Are you spending enough time on it? Probably not. Morning and afternoon commuting times are busy and the early evening hours. Call a friend and pick a couple of 440 repeaters to try in your area. You may be pleasantly surprised.
You don’t have to use a wide area repeater for local communications. This is probably the reason that only a few select repeaters get used in your area. There are many good repeaters that cover local areas that will suit your needs. Explore what’s out there. Who knows what you will find.
Get off the HT.
Yep, I said it. HT’s are great. But nothing is more annoying than trying to make out what someone is saying when they are using a HT with a rubber duck inside a vehicle. Good dual band mobiles are not that expensive. They come with a host of great features and adjustable power levels at the touch of a button.
Consider commercial mobiles from the public safety realm. GE, Motorola and Kenwood. You’ll need software and cables, some units have programmable power settings by mode or zone. Trunk mount commercial radios come in power versions all the way up to 100 watts.
Power and why QRP doesn’t work on FM.
From the rules “Minimum power” does not mean that you have to repeat your entire conversation because your trying to use 1 watt. Use enough power to ensure reliable signal strength into the repeater and everyone will thank you. As a repeater owner, I get frustrated by poor signal reports and operators saying there is something wrong with the repeater. When its the operator or their equipment that is the heart of the problem.
It’s not my fault someone tries to use a HT from 20 miles out, in their basement.
Most Important part of ham radio?
With no doubt in my mind- ANTENNA
The most neglected part of all. I understand that the spirit of amateur radio is that of building your own gear and antennas. And I have seen some very professional jobs that rival any commercially made piece.
But and this is the big one, when you can buy a brand new antenna for much less than it will cost you just for the materials? A good example are antennas made by Arrow Antenna. They make single and dual band ground planes that are some of the best I have seen. And they are cost effective and work for years. Check them out. I love them.
LEARN TO PUT ON CONNECTORS AND WEATHERPROOF THEM THE RIGHT WAY !
You may be able to get away with that sloppy soldering job on HF. (If you didn’t short the connector) But not on the higher frequencies. Over the years I have fixed more connector issues than I care to recall.
If you are having problems, talk to other hams or get someone from your local club to help you.
A word about……..
Magnet mounts. If I tell you that I hate them with a passion, you will probably dismiss me as some drooling crackpot.
They do have their place. The make great test antennas. More mobile installation issues result from these than any other reason.
First is no direct ground to the vehicle. Second is the change in the velocity factor of the RG-58 after being slammed in the door frame. And the result is high VSWR and poor radio performance.
Ok, so you don’t want to drill a hole in your roof. I get that. Be prepared for less than optimum performance from your mobile rig. If you are having clearance issues in your garage, I understand that too.
Once you drill your first hole and install a good mount and antenna system on your vehicle, you’ll never look back. BTW, that’s what they make those neat hole plugs for.
Come up in frequency, it’s a lot of fun!
Q. Why are you using Kenwood repeaters?
A. I am retired, not rich. I started in commercial two way radio as service tech for a large GE shop. While I love and know the GE line inside and out, the Kenwood line is durable and affordable on the used market. K4ETN East (443.100) is a TKR-820 and is due to be upgraded to a TKR-850 model sometime in 2016 (hopefully).
This will allow me to build a spare to have on the shelf in the event one of the sites has a problem. A simple programming change and receiver alignment and it can racked up and put back on the air very quickly.
Q. Are you going to build a 2 meter repeater into the system?
A. Not very likely. There are no available 2 meter pairs in my area. And with so many 2 meter repeaters that see no use at all, it really is a moot point. Also the cost is greater due to the .600 KHz offset when it comes to the proper duplexer for the system.
Q. Why doesn’t your repeater cover as it shows on the plot picture ?
A. While plot projections are a useful tool, the East Tennessee terrain issues are well known. I plot coverage maps using a 25 watt mobile and a antenna with a 2db gain reference. Allowances are made for a combination of urban and rural obstructions.
Again, as stated on each of the pages, your results may vary.