Thursday, August 27, 2009

222 MHz VHF's Best Kept Secret

The 222 MHz band is VHF's best kept secret. I can't hope to explain the physics, but like many VHF Men, I can swear that similar equipment and antennas on 222 will have the same or slightly better range than you'll get on 2 Meters.

How is that possible? Beats me...but I suspect it has something to do with a much lower noise floor on 222. Unfortunately, the 222 band is not available in Japan, nor in many other parts of the world. This limits the amount of commercial "plug & play" gear for the band.

But new rules in ARRL Contests may help to encourage more participation on the band. The new "Limited Rover" category requires that entrants use the bottom four bands available for any contest. This means that all VHF/UHF contests will now require 222. Anyone hoping to win this category will certainly want to add 222 Mhz.

A good way to "break into" 222 MHz, especially during contests is to try FM first. There are a number of new and used 222 FM rigs out there, like the Kenwood Units pictured in the vintage ad above. Also, Jetstream is producing a new 222 MHz rig, the JT220M, which is very resonably priced. Check it out at:

http://www.randl.com/shop/index.shtml

In addition, several HT's offer the 222 MHz band such as the Kenwood TH-F6A (a great radio with full five watts output on 2M, 432, and 222!), the new Yaesu APRS HT, and others. Most simplex activity during contests is on 223.500mhz. Best results will be obtained by working stations on SSB on 2 Meters or 432 (if you're in the UHF contest) and then "moving them" to 223.5 FM. Buy or build a gain antenna such as a "Cheap Yagi" and make sure that it's turned horizontal. Even with 5 watts, you'll be able to work out a good distance.

The next step up is to purchase a used 222 multi-mode rig or better yet, a good transverter to work with your 10 Meter rig. I have a Down East Microwave Transverter married to a Yaesu FT-817ND IF rig. The transverter puts out 30 watts, which I use to drive a Mirage 125 watt amp. This works great, and isn't terribly expensive. Getting more power than this on 222 requires another large expense, and someday I may add it, but right now I'm having fun working folks on this modest station.

Meteor scatter on 222 is possible (I have two contacts to date) but more difficult than on 2 Meters. E-Skip makes it to 222, but it's rare, not more than once every two or three years. EME activity on 222 is growing, with lots of stations to work. The main mode of enhanced propagation is tropo, but as I said, signals are often much louder on 222 than on 2 Meters.

During the June Contest, I worked Marshall, K5QE in Texas on 2 Meters with signals ranging about 57 on my end, and 53-55 on his end. When we switched to 222, he came back to my call immediately saying, "Man, you're the loudest signal I've heard on 222 tonight!" Signals were 59 to 59+ in both directions. As a rover, it's great to get reports like that.

222 MHz is my favorite band, and I really miss it's biggest supporter in the Southeast, "Mr. 222" Rex, W5RCI from Marks, MS. Sadly Rex is a silent key now, but the Southeast still has several voices on 222, all of them eager to work you on the "Secret Band".

Join us in Room 222 soon!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good to see someone promoting the 222-225 MHz band before it gets eaten away. I keep a webpage of 220 rigs, including some latest prices on eBay for what is mostly used equipment. See:

http://members.shaw.ca/francislyster/220/

I also keep a listing of 220 repeaters in the Vancouver (B.C.) area, including ones I can hit into down as far as the Seattle (WA) area. Local clubs in the Vancouver area have just put up two new 220 repeaters, which is one answer to the chicken and egg problem.

A few weeks ago I worked a guy on 223.500 simplex who'd scaled a tall mountain with a Yaesu FT736R fitted for all mode operation - he also had a 23 element 220 antenna. From Vancouver Island (at height) he worked northern California on SSB on 220. He wanted to try 1.2 GHz, but I didn't have that gand available.

Good to keep this best kept secret going.

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