Today the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
for changes to the 60 meter (5 MHz) band allocations in the US. These changes are based on a petition filled by ARRL. Currently amateurs in the US are allocated five channels in the band in which only upper sideband can be used with a maximum power of 50 watts. The channels are shared with government services and amateurs must not interfere with these primary licensees.
The proposed changes in a nutshell are:
- Swap one channel with another frequency due to federal licensee digital traffic which often on this channel
- Increase the power limit from 50 watts PEP to 100 watts PEP
- Allow CW, PSK31, and PACTOR-III modes
I think the first two changes are reasonable. The one frequency often does have digital traffic on it making it unusable much of the time. Going from 50 watts to 100 watts is only 3 db and it shouldn't cause any issues for government stations if interference from 50 watt stations hasn't been a problem.
I do not think PACTOR-III should be allowed on these frequencies at all. Unattended PACTOR operation has been infamous for interfering with amateurs on other bands, especially 40 meters. We don't want to introduce this into a band that we have been walking on eggshells with, avoiding interference with government stations and hoping to get more frequencies and capabilities. I think CW and PSK operation makes sense as they could utilize this small amount of spectrum well, however with the current channel arrangement, there needs to be some clarification on just how these modes can be used. The current channels are specified by a center frequency and ARRL has provided "dial frequencies" for use in the 60 meter band that center up the SSB emissions on the channels. Both CW and PSK do not need the full 2.6 kHz or so bandwidth that a SSB signal occupies on the channels today. It would be terribly inefficient to allow just one CW or PSK signal on each channel. Could we allow multiple CW and PSK signals on one channel as long as the stayed within the 2.6 khz passband? This would make for more efficient use of the channels.
Overall I think this is a good proposal, the FCC just needs to nix PACTOR-III and put some common sense rules or guidelines around CW and PSK operation. The NPRM is open for comment 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.