*EDITORIAL* Ham Bands – a Hotbed for NEW 11m DXers

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard the reasoning that the 11m community is a terrific breeding ground for future hams.  I agree too.  After all, most of us know hobbyists that cut their teeth working 11m DX and then graduated to becoming a licensed amateur; especially at the nadir of the cycle when 26-27-28 MHz goes into a hibernation of sorts.  So yes, this has been a natural progression for many years and for many guys and I doubt it will ever change.

In the last few years however, I’d argue that the ham bands instead have become a hotbed for new 11m DXers.  That’s right…that a larger number of new freebanders are coming from the ranks of licensed hams than they are from the citizens band (CB) or any other source.

“Why would a ham ever venture onto this particular band when it’s sometimes frowned upon and he has so many other bands at his disposal,” you might ask?  Well here are some possible reasons from where I sit…

The first, in my opinion, is due to easier access.  Amateur transceivers, for instance, can be easily modified to allow operations on 26-27 MHz frequencies but these days most are sold with the mod already completed.  Most guys refer to this as the rig having ‘general coverage’ and a good number of retail outlets will be more than happy to complete the mod for you if it hasn’t already been done.

The second reason I believe that ham radio has become the new starting place for 11m DXers is due to burgeoning curiosity. Far from being a haven for good buddy rednecks who operate with dirty amps and roger beeps, as depicted by a minority of uninformed hams, the 11m Community is characterised by an enormous number of highly professional and committed DXers; operators with as much skill, experience and technical know-how as any licensed ham.  This is because, like them, they ARE hams.  A large majority of them anyway.  The others are guys who are learning the hobby via the medium of 11m with the occasional idiot thrown in for good measure – just as there is in the ham community – just as there is in life itself.

When hams recognise this, their curiosity takes them to 11m frequencies where they can see for themselves what all the fuss is about.

Meeting 11m operators on social media sites such as Facebook and then reading about their long list of accomplishments on this ‘mysterious’ band only feeds that curiosity.  I would argue, in fact, that sites such as Facebook are slowly breaking down the stereotypes and bigotry propagated by some in the ham community by bringing the worlds of 11m and ham closer together.

In my eyes, innovative systems are another reason why hams are moving to ‘test the water’ on 11m frequencies.  The 11m DX Community, for example, has many successful innovations that make it an attractive operating environment indeed for any ham.  Concepts such as Islands On The Air (IOTA), Castles On The Air (COTA), Lighthouses On The Air (LOTA), Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Inland Water Islands (IWI) activities not only have a strong presence on 11m frequencies but are far more easily recognisable than on ham bands due to novel callsign systems adopted by all 11m DX groups.

The fourth reason why hams are being attracted to 11m for my part is because of the lure of quality DX.  The fact is that a large number of DXCC, particularly underdeveloped countries, are often more easily worked on 11m than they are on ham bands.  Indeed, many argue that, at times, it rivals 20m as the premier HF DX band!

A large number of exciting DXpeditions to rare and most wanted DXCC and islands are also carried out on 11m frequencies so the newcomer is able to work those as well as the ones active on ham bands.  Great DX is great DX after all and these guys will argue that it doesn’t matter where you get it, as long as you do.

The 11m DX Community’s rich and vibrant club culture though is arguably the most potent enticement for hams.  While independent operators (i.e. those not aligned with any club) on 11m do exist, most are members of one or more clubs whom are readily identifiable by their callsign and QSL cards.  In my opinion, this membership breeds camaraderie and a sense of belonging not so easily fulfilled in the cliques of ham culture.

Whether or not this account is an accurate one or not will surely be contested by some. The fact is though that in recent times many hams are turning to 11m to hunt DX for the very first time; and as an administrator for a club which welcomes ham, 11m, CB and short wave enthusiasts to its ranks, I am always privy to the reasons why guys operate radios and where they choose to do it.

As you can see, it certainly makes for interesting musing…

73 de Darren