JT65 Bringing New Activity To 50MHz

JT65 Waterfall

As mentioned in previous blogs, this summer's Es season on 50MHz has seen a huge increase in the number of stations using the weak-signal JT65 mode.

Although this mode has been around for a few years, for some reason, it really took off this season. I witnessed many long-time, 'CW-forever' operators (myself included), gingerly move up the band to see what this mode could offer.

At first I thought the activity I was seeing was probably mostly from magic-band regulars, who like me, were also curious ... but I now think this is not the case.

Normally, my 6m summertime Es activities result in just one or two stations requesting a QSL to confirm the contact. These are usually guys that either need a VE7 card or are looking to confirm my grid-square ... just a few cards arrive, in spite of many dozens of contacts over the summer months. This summer I noticed a much different pattern.

This summer saw a tenfold increase in the number of QSL requests and every single one was for a JT65 or JT9 digital mode contact! It soon became apparent that these were not 6m diehards that had just moved up the band, but rather, very enthusiastic newcomers to the band ... what an exciting thing to see! Many of the cards did not have any grid-square information ... the telltale sign of all VHF operators. They had discovered the magicband, using JT65.

Perhaps these were mostly 'no-code' amateurs or those living in antenna-challenged situations such as condos or apartments. Whatever the reason, it really is interesting to see such a profound change in 6m operating tactics, by both the veteran ops and by the newcomers ... all happening so quickly. Hopefully some of the new arrivals will venture down the band to try CW or SSB where contacts can be made much more quickly than on the digital modes but all of this new activity is wonderful to see.
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

8 Responses to “JT65 Bringing New Activity To 50MHz”

  • Dave, WD8CIV:

    Six is starting to sound like fun! What kind of antenna is favored for DX? I know a guy who’s an avid VHF DXer and he told me on 2m they favor horizontal polarization.

  • Tony N8WAC:

    When the band is open (In Ohio most times starting end of May beginning of June)you’ll be surprised on what kind of antenna you can get away with. Years ago my buddy from here in Ohio worked a fella in 4 land with a dipole in his attic using 25 watts. This was before the JT65 days. Of course the better the antenna the better the log book. Just this weekend (8/14/2016) I worked SV9CVY (5400 miles, Crete Island of Greece) using 100 watts and a 6 element beam. Just put up something and enjoy the Magic Band!


  • Larry, KG4ZAR:

    I agree with Tony,when the magic band opens in mid-winter(in Kentucky that’s late December thru January)and again late May thru July I’ve used all sorts of antennas. I even built a dipole with weed whacker shafts just to prove you can find antenna materials anywhere without spending your hard earned savings. That one got me to the Island of Trinidad with 10 watts SSB.

    Back to the subject,Steve I’m also curious what setup you use for JT65,including radio and antenna. This old VHFer is ready to learn some new tricks!

  • Joe Volkel N4CPQ:

    I have been licensed for about 40 years and my radios sat packed away in the closet for the last 30 or so. Recently moved to north Florida and decided to get back on the air, if gear still works. I quickly found that my morse code ability was not very good after so long and started to work slowly to get back up to minimum speed. It is slow going – tough relearning at my age. I was getting antsy to get on the air but was afraid of Florida lightning storms and community code regulations. I discovered JT65 and strung up a bent dipole cut for 40 meters along the ceiling of my living room (no XYL to keep happy) and started JT65-ing. My IC728 will only go down to about 15 Watts, so I have been working in the 15 to 25 Watt range and have made contacts from Nova Scotia to Brazil, each about 1400 miles away. Pskreporter has shown that my signals were heard from Poland to Australia – on only 25 watts and a compromised antenna. Also trying to get Mag Loop tuned up to see how that works. In the meantime I am still working on my code and hope to get back to CW one of these days.

  • Steve VE7SL:

    Interesting comments fellas…good luck with the CW Joe. CW is my favorite mode and always will be as it is so much fun. As for my 6m system, nothing fancy for JT65A … my IC-756PRO III throttled down to as low as one watt at times, into a homebrew widepaced 4 el yagi at 55′. Many stations I worked this summer were running around 25W to verticals. When the band is open, signals are loud! The downside of JT65 is that you can’t exchange more than 13 characters at a time so ragchewing is out of the question.

  • Andy DK7OG:

    Another downside of JT Modes on 6m is sometimes the volatility of the signal. I had QSOs where the other station completely disappeared (starting with S9). Fast exchange of only callsign and locator is then more likely with CW or SSB.


    if you like ragshewing you can use PSK31 or olivia may olivia is the better choise decode inside the nois and is not sensitive about aurora ore more way reflections , for a fast dx qso i prefere JT65 more than FT8
    take a view on my qrz.com page
    my rig is a 5 element DK7ZB and 25 w according the german rules for 6m haming
    hope to read or speak you on the magic band may in summer we have the chance on ES multi hop condx
    vy 73 the uwe DG1RUG

  • Jim - KH2SR:

    I wish there was a TNC iPhone app for running JT65, JT9, Olivia, & FT8.

    This would really be useful for those who operate portable such as SOTA, field day, maritime mobile, & pedestrian portable.

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