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Welcome to Freeband Radio. Laws governing hobby radio operation vary according to country. It is suggested that those interested in such communication check their country's laws before attempting operation.

73 and good DX de Fraze  "Gray Squirrel"

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A (very) Brief Overview of Freebanding in the U.S.A.

Through the years, certain rigs have gained great popularity amongst freeband radio operators. In the early years of CB, back in the 1960’s, CB’ers quickly found that by swapping crystals in their rigs, frequency expansion beyond the upper and lower limits of the 23 channel Citizen’s Band was accomplished. Freebanding was born (although "bootlegging" [unlicensed operating] in the ham radio bands goes back to the first days of Amateur Radio). Thanks to the folks at E.F. Johnson and their straightforward design, the Johnson Messenger 1 (see example in Photos section) soon became a favorite rig for exploring the magic, uncharted regions of 26 and 27 MHz. Channels below CB channel 1 began seeing activity. Even "secret" channels within the band, such as the RC (radio control) channels like 26.995, 27.045, 27.095, 27.145, and 27.195 MHz began seeing many new, "bootleg" (unlicensed) and licensed but unidentified stations secretly operating from their undisclosed locations. Most of the early freebanding activity was below and within the band. And some of it was actually done by ham radio operators, who were trying to secretly get back at the FCC for "taking away" their ham radio privileges on 11 meters.

It wasn’t until SSB became popular that operators began to seriously experiment with the frequencies above CB channel 23. By the time SSB rigs were plentiful, although they remained quite expensive, knowledge of conversion to "extra" channels was widespread, and SSB operators quickly adopted the "upper" channels. Soon external frequency control devices that replaced the crystals in the SSB rigs made their way into the radio market, and VFO’s, or variable frequency oscillators, both analog and digital were becoming the rage amongst 11 meter freebanders. The release of the Yaesu FT-101 ham transceiver (see example in Photos section) heralded a new era of freebanding and sent the number of freeband operators skyrocketing. On the ‘101’s bandswitch appeared "11 meters" along with the regular ham bands, and a simple modification "opened up" the rig to transmit in forbidden territory. Soon, the "upper" channels (27.405 to 28.0 MHz) were filled with stations from all over the world. (Yaesu has long been a manufacturer of solid state rigs that are easily converted to general coverage transmit. Other Japanese manufacturers, like Icom, Kenwood, and Alinco, have since followed suit and offer gear that is easily modified.)

Once 11 meters became overcrowded and/or unusable due to solar activity or the lack thereof, astute freebanders soon decided that they weren’t constrained to 11 meters. By building simple dipole and similar antennas, they could operate on different freebands, close to existing Ham Radio bands, using the Yaesu FT-101 and the successive rigs in the 101 series, and other ham rigs as well. Often those rigs’ VFO’s would reach below the ham bands where freebanders could establish long distance communications. The 21, 45, and 85 meter bands were born.

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One usually thinks of "Freeband" radio operation as taking place on the 11 meter band.  While that is where the majority of Freeband communication occurs, there are other areas in the HF spectrum that contain activity as well.  These virtually unknown frequency ranges lie close to Amateur Radio bands, and, therefore, are easily operable by using simple wire antennas, such as dipoles and end-fed wires.  The most common HF Freeband frequency is 6.670 MHz LSB.

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"Echo Charlie" frequency bands

Not many North American radio hobbyists are aware of the "Echo Charlie" bands. They are CB type "freebands" in different parts of the HF spectrum. There hasn’t been much activity here in North America as of 2004 (but that is changing!). There has been, for some time, activity in Europe. Check the following frequency ranges:

85 meter band: 3.450 – 3.495 MHz LSB. This Echo Charlie band’s calling channel is 3.475 LSB. The band is about 25 kHz either side of the call frequency, with occasional traffic from the UK, Germany, and Holland appearing. There’s heavy QRM at times from utility (commercial/military) traffic. Avoid interference with what you may hear, and never, ever attempt communication with any "official" traffic! TAKE CARE!

45 meter band: 6.600 – 6.700 MHz LSB. This is an Echo Charlie range of frequencies with the calling frequency of 6.670 LSB. It’s a good band for European traffic. There are often lots of stations from the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Some stations are running power as low as 2 to 5 watts, with other stations reportedly running up to 1,000 watts. Again, there are utility stations in this area (like long range air traffic control!). NEVER GO TO USB! This is very important!

22 meter band: This band has also been experimented with. Channels such as 12.105, 12.130, 12.160, and up to 12.256 MHz have been used, with any clear spots in between. (The originator of this information did not indicate mode, but one would think it is USB.)

21 meter band: This band runs from 13.630 – 13.995 MHz, and modes are AM/USB. It has transcontinental traffic and is only used occasionally. 13.360 – 13.960 MHz is the main hobby pirate broadcasting range. There is also an international CB band where the calling frequency is 13.995 MHz. (In the U.S.A., 13.995 is NOT recommended for CB type communication due to military and MARS traffic! Instead, U.S. stations are encouraged to use 13.555 MHz USB, which is a Part 15 allocation.  Refer to FCC rules and regulations as to what constitutes Part 15 stations.)

Non-government frequencies in the U.S.A.

Few U.S. radio hobbyists are also aware of the following frequency ranges that are listed as "non-government exclusive" by the FCC. (The Citizen’s Band, and most Ham bands are examples of non-government exclusive allocations.) These are generally considered "safe" areas around 12, 11, and 10 meters for Freebanding.

1) 25.010 – 25.070 MHz  (Use a CB antenna with tuner.)

2) 25.210 – 25.330 MHz  (Use a CB antenna with tuner.)

3) 26.175 – 26.480 MHz

4) 26.950 – 26.960 MHz

5) 27.410 – 27.540 MHz

6) 29.700 – 29.890 MHz

7) 29.910 – 30.000 MHz

-- (Also, a number of freeband stations have been known to use HF marine/boating  frequencies.) --

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In addition to the above mentioned frequencies, there are rumors of  Echo Charlie  communications taking place on 18.030 MHz.  Most likely the mode is USB.

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I'm pleased to announce some new images in the Photos section:

  Many thanks to the site's visitors who have submitted pics of their stations -- please keep 'em coming!  Check 'em out in the appropriately titled, "Station Pics."

In another album, you'll find pics of various transceivers that are popular on the freebands.  Some are no longer produced, but are widely available on the used market.

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Coming soon:

1) Info on some "suspicious" communications taking place on the HF marine/boating channels.

2) MORE  Echo Charlie/11 meter  station pics supplied by -- you!

3)  ??

Stay tuned for further developments in the wild and wacky world of HF FREEBANDING!









 You're invited to send email with questions, comments, station pics, etc., to me at:

freebandradio@zoomshare.com


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