144 MHz SSB - The Forgotten Mode
Posted by Mike - G7FEK on Sat, 17 Jan 2009 12:39:46 +0000

Poor HF propagation should not stop the real radio Amateur. 144 SSB (2 meter SSB) offers regular openings into Europe and...

..can also be used for local nets on your vertical, working well under weak signal conditions.

When I first became a licensed radio amateur in the late 1980's, the vast majority of my operation on Amateur radio was using an old Belcom Liner 2 SSB transceiver on 144 MHz (all I could afford at the time.

Back in those days we were restricted to 144 MHZ and higher, unless we had passed a morse test which encouraged a lot of experimentation and operation on 144MHz and the UHF bands. It was possible to make good contacts over large distances most of the time and 144 MHz openings are not affected by the Sunspot minimum.

There are many propagation modes affecting 144MHz, with tropo scatter and tropospheric ducting being commonplace, and the summer Sporadic E openings also affecting the band.

Antennas

Antennas are small and easy to handle. I used a small 5 element beam in the attic at that time, and today I use a simple, attic mounted HB9CV. I would often go on to a small hill with a small tripod stand and my homemade 2 element beam, when working portable. Contacts over many hundreds of Km were commonplace. My Belcom Liner 2 would transmit a maximum of 8 watts PEP and, although more power is preferred, it was plenty enough to make contacts.

144 Still works today

Of course all of these benefits still hold true today, yet few radio amateurs are willing to make the rather small effort needed to put up a suitable horizontal antenna and play with this mode.

Why has activity declined?

The reasons for a decline in activity seems to be threefold. 1) Amateurs were buying cheaper FM only radios, 2) The removal of the Class-B licence encouraged many VHF hams onto HF and 3) The Internet and other "interests", such as watching X-factor, browsing eBay or phoning on Skype have taking interest away from the hobby. But, I believe the biggest problem is that 144 MHz SSB, and the fun it can bring to the hobby, has simply been forgotten.

Today, many Amateurs own radios like the Icom 706 which include 144MHz SSB so equipment is readily available. A simple 2 element yagi can be built in about an hour from junk and, while not as effective as a larger antenna, can work well.

Try it out

As all bands and modes are suffering low activity, don't just sit quiet listening, put out a call on 144.300 - USB. A small amount of persistence will bring contacts most days, and, conveniently, early evening is the best time for Tropo due to temperature inversion as the ground cools. The good thing about this band is that, unlike HF, there is a clearly defined calling frequency to start from, so even low activity is not such a problem to find contacts.

Comment for the Lazy Amateur

One thing that strikes me today, is whether some Amateurs even know whey they chose this hobby in the first place. Few new amateurs these days take the trouble to learn any technical aspects, and few are willing to experiment with antennas and different operating modes. Instead, their VHF commitment is limited to: buying an dual band FM transceiver or handheld; putting up a Watson vertical and listening to the local repeater or Internet gateway. Their HF commitment: A G5RV (usually half size) for 20 quid out of a packet or some kind of feeble vertical; an MFJ ATU and an Icom 706 or similar. - Well that Icom 706 is a good little radio and can do a lot more besides, so why not find out what it can do for you and start making direct contacts again - even at sunspot minimum.





Comment by 'Paul MM7WAB' on 2 Sep 2021 - comment
“After having much fun on 2M FM with an old Kenwood TM-701e and missing out on the fun on 2M SSB I Managed to get hold of a FTV-707 transverter with 2M VHF module fitted. It is now set up on my trusty old FT-707 hooked up to homebrew 5ele yagi and tunes up quite nicely on 144.300 Always good to add another mode/band to the station and have another string to the bow. It is also handy to have FM on one radio and AM/SSB on another as both modes can be covered at the same time. Not bagged any long range contacts on SSB yet but will be giving it plenty the next time there is a bit of a lift on and can happily rag-chew on 2M FM on the ol' kenwood while keeping an ear on SSB portion of the band and put out a few CQ calls on 144.300 with the Yaesu FT-707 and transverter. It's all good fun and I now have a good excuse to build another antenna for 2M. 73 de MM7WAB 'Hairy' Paul, Ayrshire, S.W.Scotland.”

Comment by 'Kev 2W0NED' on 29 Jun 2020 - comment
“I Monitor and call out on .300 quite a lot, get the occasional reply, but nothing much. Im on a vertical here which doesn't help, can only go horizontal when working /P but hey, ill take the db hit and keep calling... 73's”

Comment by 'Greg Podmore' on 2 Jun 2020 - comment
“Hi.just dusted off my ft480/100w mm linear. Had quite good results years ago and have more time for radio now. Enjoyed all the comments, maybe catch a few on 144.300 best 73 all. Greg.”

Comment by 'Nick' on 28 Nov 2019 - comment
“I also had a Belcom liner 2. I even tried a Belcom liner 430. I think I still have them both in my garden shed. On my desk, at the moment, is an FT991 monitoring 144.300. I do shout CQ every so often but hear nothing. GW6EWX”

Comment by 'Frank m0dpx' on 30 Dec 2017 - comment
“I am a serious 144.300ssb operator always have been, myself and a growing number of operators are on 144.320ssb most nights of the week. And it does get very busy most nights, so if you have a 2mtr ssb rig fire the bugger up and use it best 73 de m0dpx”

Comment by 'Mark M6LJX' on 23 Nov 2017 - comment
“I'm a new Foundation License holder, but been active in radio construction, SWL etc for 45+ years and failed the RAE in 1978. Had some real "boat anchors" in the past. I now own some old kit including a FT-757GX for HF, a FT-290R for QRP 2m SSB, a Baofeng UV-5R for FM & Repeaters on 2 and 70cm. I've also got an old Sommerkamp 788DX for mobile 10m SSB... And for the fun of it, my trusty old Trio R600 is dusted off and re aligned. I'm currently making J Poles, Slim Jims and a 4 ele beam for 2m and 70cm. My long wire has been up for donkeys years and now has a 9:1 UNUN so I could feed coax to the loft. And to my point... When I did the FL Exam (finished in 10 - 15 mins 25/26 coz I rushed) a lot of the "students" had no experience of SWL, construction or even CB radio operation in some instances. And that's the problem. They get the license and go out and buy a £750 "shack in a box." They connect it to a PC, press scan and then sit back and wait... And wait... And give up. Now... I'm currently building a classic Forty 9er, have an old WW2 Morse key at the ready to practise my "1978 4wpm" and I've got the Intermediate lined up for Febuary. Takes all sorts I suppose... But 2m SSB is a hidden gem!”

Comment by 'Mike, G7FEK' on 17 Nov 2017 - comment
“Hi Gary, that's kinda the point of the article. It isn't 1985, so we need people to install suitable stations and monitor .300 to an extent that's beyond the critical mass needed to sustain it. Even so, if you have a good enough station with a reasonable horizontal antenna, a little bit of persistence will yield activity. No good shouting on your watson tri-band!. Also, check for tropo and call at optimum times (sociable hours!). 300 Usually gets busy during tropo, but if it's not, your CQ call will still cover a much larger area.”

Comment by 'Gary, G7SLL' on 17 Nov 2017 - comment
“So wher are you all? 144.3 nothing heard no reply to my call”

Comment by 'GM4HYR' on 15 Nov 2017 - comment
“Very much agree with your article. I had great fun with my Liner 2 and a 10 ele beam. I have IC706 so will give it another go! Thanks.”

Comment by 'N7USR - Greg' on 22 Jul 2017 - comment
“Love the article and all the comments. Agreed. Here in the United States I'm working on getting others involved on 2M and 6M SSB. ”

Comment by 'ian wilkinson' on 25 Apr 2017 - comment
“that's the spirit.there is no fun left on HF,it's all about the latest radios,fiddling with menus,maximum power,and big outlays,it's pathetic.let's get back to the old days & activate vhf & uhf SSB ”

Comment by 'ian wilkinson' on 25 Apr 2017 - comment
“that's the spirit.there is no fun left on HF,it's all about the latest radios,fiddling with menus,maximum power,and big outlays,it's pathetic.let's get back to the old days & activate vhf & uhf SSB ”

Comment by 'G7CHY' on 6 Feb 2016 - comment
“I'm going to get my vertical up and see what's happening on 2 ssb with my tr751e. I used to use but all the time. The introduction of crippling QRM from everything but the insoles in your shoes is driving more people to hill top mobile and portable, maybe back to 2 if there is no PLT noise there. We should reactivate 2 ssb!!”

Comment by 'Ron Hampson' on 26 Dec 2015 - comment
“As an swl I to have noticed the decline, don't put this on the foundation licence shoulders, instead blame the older amateurs who sit "rag chewing " on 80 and 40 meters HF. also the blame must go to the " Radio " manufacturers , since the births of APRS , D-Star, 144 SSB has been ignored . The 706 radio is an excellent example ”

Comment by 'Ian' on 15 Aug 2014 - comment
“As with G7FEK I was proudly licensed B Class in the Eighties and was happy to be restricted to 144Mhz and above (70cms). I lived in the Midlands and bought a FT290R and FT790RT. SSB was where I grew up and enjoyed every minute of it. Working most of the UK. I do feel that the demise of the B Class license and the freedom to use HF as soon as you get a FL has itself contributed to the under use of 2m SSB. It has also helped the move away from homebrew antenna. Suffice to say, 144.300 SSB is where you will still find me... With my FT817ND, a 2 element HB9CV while sitting on the top of the Preseli's calling out and hoping for a reply.”

Comment by 'Jonathan' on 23 Jul 2011 - comment
“Hi, I think the thrill of amateur radio has gone. There is nothing you can make that can possibly match commercial products and computers and the internet are , sadly, far more interesting. Sex was never on offer with amateur radio. What little aquipment i have left is now in the garage and loft and will probably never be brought back to life. I had decades of fun home-brewing but thats gone now , never to return. I should shoot myself ! Love to all , Jonathan G8HHR. ( email me if you wish)”

Comment by 'Damian 2E0SFX' on 21 Jul 2010 - comment
“Hello, I would never have given 2M SSB a thought I only ever wanted to knock signals off the Ionosphere albeit QRP/817 and a little vertical wonder off that back of my bicycle that is until my other love the thought of hopping signals of spaceships bit deep, I bought a Dual band yagi 2nd hand that originated in the USA, SWR set(or so i thought) I mounted the yagi on a rotator on the chimney, SWR flat in the 144.300 range so I thought give it a go well Jersey UK, Belgium Germany later has got me Monitoring 144.300 slavishly loving it, 2M SSB Rocks. Cheers for now.73s”