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Re: [VHFcontesting] FM Underutilized?

To: "vhfcontesting@contesting.com" <vhfcontesting@contesting.com>
Subject: Re: [VHFcontesting] FM Underutilized?
From: John Young via VHFcontesting <vhfcontesting@contesting.com>
Reply-to: nosigma@aol.com
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 2021 02:21:31 +0000 (UTC)
List-post: <mailto:vhfcontesting@contesting.com>
It was sure fun in Northern VA this weekend on FM, particularly since FM is "an 
underutilized" category as some have pointed out.  I may have been the guy Greg 
mentioned trying raise activity levels on FM.  I have worked hard at driving up 
FM participation and it has paid off handsomely.  Every year there is more and 
more activity.  This year it was almost too much activity, if there is such a 

This weekend there were always contacts available except maybe between midnight 
and 5 am.   I have 150+ separate FM stations in my log with 360 FM QSO's.  
There were far more than 150 hams on the air using FM in our area, I just 
couldn't work all of them (capture effect favors the strong).
520 was a mad house with lots of people calling CQ contest.  You could call CQ 
contest on 52.525, 146.520, 223.500 or 446.000 and get a reply.   Replies were 
instantaneous on 520 and only a slight delay on 446 with 223.500  perhaps 
taking a minute and 52.525 being several minutes between replies.  Lots of 
QSY's and the QSY piggy backing was constant.  It was not uncommon that when I 
or others would try to run the bands quickly with another station, especially 
Rovers, anywhere from 3 to 5 others would follow us from band to band to get in 
on the action.
Generally when someone got on calling CQ (not CQ Contest) to another station 
directly people stood down as per the rules since contesting is secondary but I 
wont say it was universal. I did not hear ANY complaints.  There are a few nets 
held on 520, especially informal "church nets" on the Sunday morning Church 
drive.  They moved to 550 or 580 and then many got on 520 afterwards to take 
part in the fun. 
Sunday night if a new station showed up they had a half dozen contest stations 
all over them instantly.  Much unexpected fun was had by non contesters.
Going back to FM being Underutilized:I have to laugh at the FM is underutilized 
comments.  People complain that SSB PH is dead, yet SSB PH has a reach of many 
hundreds of miles and you cant be constantly busy working stations yet I and 
others can on short range FM?   Ignoring the big dog contest stations, the FM 
reach is 40 to 100 miles since the typical FM station worked is a 5W HT or 50W 
mobile on an omni IN A NOISY CITY, yet the activity was constant here.  I 
suspect that we had more hams on the air per square mile in this region on FM 
than anywhere else in the country on any mode.  There is not an activity level 
problem on FM around here.
In SoCal, Rochester and Northern Va a few hams make the effort to generate turn 
out.  For my part I emailed every ham with an email address on QRZ in a 200 
mile radius before the September 2017 contest (about 2,000) asking them to get 
on the air on FM.  Every year since then I only email FM stations I have made a 
QSO with. I send that email a month before the contest requesting they get on 
the air. Over the last 4 years that email list has grown from 150 to 400, it 
will be closer to 600 now.  Most get on the air and look forward to the event.  
I have made many friends.  Only two hams have asked me to delete them from the 
email list.  99% dont submit a log, they just get on the air to have fun.  Logs 
submitted does not equal activity level.
FM is regional and a person or a club can make a big difference in activity 
levels if you put some effort into it.  Make the effort to generate turn out.  
VHF/UHF contesting is FUN even on lowly boring underutilized FM.  

-----Original Message-----
From: Gregory Winters <greg_winters@hotmail.com>
To: James C <jabeco@gmail.com>; Mark Spencer <mark@alignedsolutions.com>
Cc: vhfcontesting@contesting.com <vhfcontesting@contesting.com>
Sent: Mon, Jan 18, 2021 11:25 pm
Subject: Re: [VHFcontesting] Prpposal: change SOFM to allow more bands

I'm guessing bandwidth isn't an issue with FM voice being just kHz wide, until 
something like a wideband gunnplexers are considered. But I might be wrong on 
that. Some FM ATV 900MHz on up units do exist, though the older PCE and AEA 
units used are is older Vestigal Sideband, some version of AM, or other things 
which aren't 'FM'. Like most gunn units they never get used in these contests 
either, and their use has plummeted.

I'm newer to gunn units (don't have one yet) so I don't know the interference 
potential to narrowband, or wbFM and/or nbFM vs a narrowband SSB signal or digi 
on 3cm. I see some units at 10.250/10.280 with a 30MHz IF, and some other X 
band stuff above 10.500.

On SOFM I realized in the Northwest it was no challenge to win the division so 
I started multiop'ing to get senior hams back on the air.  They had old 
equipment and good QTHs but didn't like FM or digital, so I worked those sides. 
And like SOFM they usually won easily or by default. It worked okay until COVID 
hit and no one could contest. But given very few SOFM entries in any given 
contest across all divisions (I was #6 SOFM in the contest overall last year in 
Jan '20 with a rather minimal effort) I could see they could easily justify 
eliminating the SOFM class altogether and creating 'all digital' or something.

There was some article (QST?) a year or so ago where some ham wrote about 
entering and winning a VHF contest to try to drive interest to SOFM. It didn't 
significantly increase SOFM entries afterward. Uh oh.

I'd probably be happy if it didn't have 6m at all due to cross-polarization, 
but even moreso the SWR can be really high for other ops at 52.525. Its the #1 
reason why I frequently a 'thanks but no thanks' asking for a guy to run at 
52.525. To get around it we could have run FM around the SSB and digi segment 
to deal with the SWR issue (on their end) but only if we wanted people to curse 
us out. And if 900MHz is under consideration for 6G expansion or whatnot, it 
would be nice to get people to start actually using it. I'd bet most have FM 
only if they have anything at all on the band.

100w seems modest enough as a power level, and never occurred to me to propose 
a change to it. Some of the big guns may want a change to allow QRO SOFM and 
support a big change only so they can finally win their section on their DC to 
daylight superstation :/

There is probably some history of why those bands were chosen. I'd be curious 
what that is, though I am also curious if it is still relevant. Maybe because 
Yaesu or Icom came out with a quad band FM HT that year LOL


From: Mark Spencer <mark@alignedsolutions.com>
Sent: Monday, January 18, 2021 2:54:40 PM
To: James C <jabeco@gmail.com>
Cc: Gregory Winters <greg_winters@hotmail.com>; vhfcontesting@contesting.com 
Subject: Re: [VHFcontesting] Prpposal: change SOFM to allow more bands

Yep..  I carry a 1.2 GHz HT, an Alinco 222 / 927 HT, and a 50, 144, 432 HT with 
me on almost every rove I go on.  They get enough use to make it worthwhile to 
charge up the batteries and pack them up each contest.


Mark S

604 762 4099

> On Jan 18, 2021, at 2:43 PM, James C <jabeco@gmail.com> wrote:
> +1 on this idea Greg.
> Lots of FM 1.2 gear out there (and Alinco 902 HH & flashed Kenwood 902
> mobiles).
> I support your effort to increase SOFM to all bands.
> 73 .-James K7KQA
> On Mon, Jan 18, 2021 at 2:36 PM Gregory Winters <greg_winters@hotmail.com>
> wrote:
>> While we are pondering proposed changes to SO3B, why not also consider
>> updating one of the most underutilized classes as well: SOFM.
>> I like idea of SOFM, but its typically limited to just the lowest 4 bands:
>> 6, 2, 222, and 70cm.
>> Perhaps the SOFM was initially a good idea with those bands, but 6m in
>> particular gets very little play on FM. SOFM gets such little participation
>> in the contest overall, even a small score can win a division--and I say
>> that having done so (!).
>> But on 900MHz and 1296 there is considerable FM equipment in the amateur
>> community, as well as gunnplexers that never see voltage anymore. Can we
>> change that?
>> I propose either opening SOFM to all bands, or if that isn't palatable
>> opening it to a max of 4 bands (and the op chooses which 4). That way even
>> 10 and 24GHz gunn units and perhaps even FM-ATV units can be part of the
>> fun?
>> I haven't formally proposed a change, but rather wanted to facilitate the
>> idea to see if there is any support.
>> 73 de Greg, K3RW
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