Friday, April 15, 2011

I presently hold a Technician license, but I can listen with my TS-430S transceiver. Can you suggest a few HF ‘hot spots’?

Q John, KD5JUP, asks, “I’m a new ham and I was wondering if you could suggest some active HF bands that I might monitor to get a sense of what goes on there. I presently hold a Technician license, but I can listen with my TS-430S transceiver. Can you suggest a few HF ‘hot spots’?”

A A frequency chart is a good tool for new hams. One is available for download and printing from the ARRLWeb at Or, you may request one by sending an SASE to:

Field and Education Services
225 Main St
Newington, CT 06111
…and ask for the US Amateur Band Chart. 

The key to capturing hams on the air is knowing which bands are open, and therefore in use, at what times of the day and year.

For the most part, 20 meters (14.000-14.350 MHz) is open from early morning to late evening all year around and is a “round-the-world” band—the best place to hear DX (foreign) stations. You should be able to turn your radio on and tune between 14.000 and 14.060 MHz and hear CW; and 14.150 and 14.350 and hear SSB just about any time from 8 AM to 8 PM Local, almost 365 days a year. 

Eighty meters is a “local” band and is populated in the early morning (before folks go to work) and early to late evening, but the band is more active in the winter than in the summer. Summer produces electrical storms that emit static that can be heard for hundreds of miles. The upper portion of the phone sub-band (3.850-4.000 MHz) is densely populated with conversations on all sorts of topics. A plus is that on this band you can almost always hear both sides of the conversation.

Forty meters is a 24-hour-a-day band. It is good out to about 300 miles during the day and worldwide at night. CW is fun all the time on this band, but foreign broadcast stations start to creep into the phone portion in late afternoon and into wee hours of the morning.

Fifteen meters often has activity in the daytime, but it tends
to fall off in the evening. The same is true of 17 meters.

Ten meters is a different animal. It is greatly affected by
the solar cycle. A good place to look for activity is in the phone portion between 28.400 and 28.500 MHz. Since we’re presently at the peak of a solar cycle, 10 meters will open almost every day from early morning to evening. At the bottom of the cycle (probably around the year 2005), 10-meter band openings will not be as common.

From QST March 2001