Often, ham radio operators who just got their general license are confused about which band to use. Here's an explanation of each HF band's typical usage and characteristics.
- 160 meters (1.8 - 2.0 MHz):
This band is known as the "Top Band" and is suitable for long-distance communication, especially at night. It is used for voice in lower-sideband mode and Morse code (CW). Because this band is very susceptible to atmospheric noises, FT8 is becoming popular on the 160 meters band. Antennas for this band are often large and require ample space.
80 meters (3.5 - 4.0 MHz):
The 80-meter band is commonly used for regional and medium-range communication day and night. It supports voice lower sideband, Morse code, and digital modes. This band is also popular amongst AM enthusiasts. Many hams use this band for local nets and rag chews.
60 meters (5.3305 - 5.3665 MHz):
The 60-meter band has specific channels allocated for amateur radio use. It is often employed for emergency communications, intercontinental propagation, and coordination with other services (MARS). The band typically supports voice and digital modes.
40 meters (7.0 - 7.3 MHz):
The forty-meter band is favored for medium-range communication day and night. It supports voice, Morse code, and digital modes. Forty meters facilitate contacts within a few hundred miles and occasionally long-distance propagation.
30 meters (10.1 - 10.15 MHz):
The thirty-meter band offers reliable medium-range communication, particularly during high solar activity. It is primarily used for Morse code and digital modes like PSK31 and FT8.
20 meters (14.0 - 14.35 MHz):
One of the most widely used HF bands, 20 meters allows for long-distance communication during the day and night. It supports voice upper sideband, Morse code, and various digital modes. This band is often active with worldwide DX (long-distance) contacts.
17 meters (18.068 - 18.168 MHz):
The 17-meter band is suitable for medium to long-distance communication, primarily during the day. It supports voice, Morse code, and digital modes. This band often exhibits good propagation characteristics.
15 meters (21.0 - 21.45 MHz):
Fifteen meters provide long-distance communication capabilities during the day. It supports voice, Morse code, and various digital modes. This band is known for its potential for worldwide DX contact, particularly during increased solar activity.
12 meters (24.89 - 24.99 MHz):
The 12-meter band offers medium to long-range communication, primarily during the day. It supports voice, Morse code, and digital modes. This band can provide enjoyable propagation conditions during certain times and solar cycles.
10 meters (28.0 - 29.7 MHz):
This is a popular band for long-distance communication, especially during periods of high solar activity. It supports voice upper sideband and FM, Morse code, and digital modes. Ten meters is known for its potential for "skip" propagation, allowing signals to travel long distances.
Remember that each band's actual usage and propagation can vary depending on factors such as time of day, solar activity, and current conditions. It's always a good idea to explore each band, listen to ongoing conversations, and experiment with different modes to discover their unique characteristics and opportunities.