Re-printed here with permission from

December 1998 QST "World Above 50MHz" copyright ARRL

by Emil Pocock W3EP

How to Work 6-Meter DX


There is little doubt that worldwide DX will become common on 50 MHz over the next four years. Stations with the largest antennas and highest power are more likely to make the first DX contacts and to work more stations under marginal conditions, but these advantages are easily lost with poor operating habits. Modest stations can do just as well with careful preparation, attentive monitoring and effective choice of operating frequencies.

Even during the peak of the current solar cycle, 6 meters may not open every day nor will the band remain open for very long to any particular place. Good knowledge of the band and the very best operating habits are necessary to be an effective 6-meter DXer. Sometimes 10-W SSB stations will come pounding in from halfway around the world, but you cannot depend on exceptional conditions to work the rarest DX. The rarest contacts often take place under difficult circumstances.

There are a number of ways to increase your chances of working DX. Be prepared by knowing what countries and even individual stations are on the air. Anticipate openings. Listen a great deal. Operate on clear frequencies. Use CW, especially when openings begin and whenever signals are weak. Always listen before you transmit, and then keep transmissions short.

Magazines, Newsletters and Web Pages

Monthly printed and electronic newsletters provide a wide range of useful information about 6-meter activity, including planned expeditions, new stations on the air, hints for effective operating. QSL addresses and other useful features. Two of the most widely circulated print publications are Six News ($22 per year from Iaian Phillips, G0RDI, 24 Acres End, Amersham, Bucks HP79DZ, England) and the 50 MHz DX Bulletin ($20 per year from Victor Frank, K6FV, 12450 Skyline Blvd., Woodside, CA 94062).

Several WWW sites from around the world provide news and summaries of 6-meter DX activity no more than a day old, in addition to a wide range of other useful information. An excellent place to start is 50 MHzDX News on World Wide Amateur Radio Information site maintained by GJ4ICD at The UK Six Metre Group site, at, also contains a number of original and useful pages.

28.885 MHz Liaison

During the previous solar cycle, 6-meter operators around the world used 28.885 MHz as an information and liaison frequency. There was nothing like getting reports on conditions first hand or making immediate arrangements with specific stations to listen on 50 MHz. Even with the Internet and WWW, it is likely that the 6-meter liaison frequency will still be useful, especially for stations not yet wired into the Web and e-mail.

Call "CQ 6-meter activity Europe" (or some other specific geographic region) if you like, or listen for DX stations seeking North Americans. Once you find someone on 28.885 MHz, move up or down in 5 KHz steps to leave the liaison frequency open for others. The 28.885 MHz liaison frequency is also a great place to monitor, as a good deal of gossip, news and timely band reports get passed here.

TV Video and Beacons

European and African television video signals at 48.250 and 49,750 MHz, plus or minus 10 KHz, make excellent indicators of the maximum usable frequency (MUF) over the Atlantic. Similar stations around 49,750 MHz in China and Siberia can be used for the Asian circuit. There are Indonesian stations around 48,250 MHz and New Zealand television can be found near 45,250 MHz. Europeans find the American 30 to 49 MHz FM service band useful as an MUF indicator.

Well over 100 6-meter beacons, worldwide, make excellent direct indicators of band conditions. Download the latest comprehensive list from


Backscatter propagation often provides warning that the MUF is approaching 50 MHz. Backscatter signals have a distinctive hollow sort of sound and are not usually very strong. Typically, stations along the East Coast may hear each other calling CQ or chatting early in the morning on 50 MHz, when all have their antennas pointed eastward. On many mornings when backscatter is evident, the band may open soon after to Europe or Africa. Backscatter propagation may continue even after the band opens. At other times, backscattered signals may persist for an hour or two, and even get quite strong, but without a subsequent opening.

Similar backscatter circuits are also common from the US directly south toward South America and west over the Pacific. Possibly related sidescatter paths make it possible to make much longer contacts when the apparent MUF is still under 50 MHz. US stations can sometimes find Europeans early in the morning with antennas pointed due east toward west Africa. In that case, Europeans direct their antennas south toward a common scattering region off the west coast of Africa. Signals are usually weak and have a raspy note. Similar side-scatter paths have also been noticed over the Pacific.

DX PacketClusters

DX PacketClusters can be useful for finding DX stations once the band is open, but you cannot depend on others to spot rare DX for you. By the time a rare call appears on the cluster, you can bet there is already a crowd waiting Many rare DX stations, especially those who wish to avoid creating a pileup, may not stay put long enough to make a spot on a PacketCluster in any case. Certainly, watch the PacketClusters for indications of general conditions, but tune around the band yourself for the best results.

In addition to your local DX PacketCluster, check several clusters from Europe and Japan that appear on WWW pages. It is sometimes quite interesting and informative to see what the band sounds like from the other side! A European PacketCluster is posted at For a peek at what the Japanese are spotting, see The European based DX Propagation Logger allows anyone to post a message relating to 6 meter conditions. Its address is

Calling Frequencies

The 50.110 MHz international DX calling frequency has been used for more than 20 years, but its original purpose has been largely eclipsed by the dramatic increase in 6-meter activity over the past decade. It was intended for making initial contacts with stations outside one's own continent when the band was dead. It is still used that way, but widespread abuse, crowding and consequent QRM around 50.110 has dramatically undermined the DX calling frequency's intended function.

It is probably most useful now as a place for American stations to listen for DX before the band opens. Leave 50.110 MHz clear so that others have a chance to hear intercontinental DX stations calling CQ. Resist calling there yourself. You merely make it impossible for others to copy weak DX stations you may not be hearing. If you feel the urge to call CQ, pick another frequency. You will be more likely to be in the clear on the DX side, and you will not interfere with those who are assiduously monitoring 50.110.

Europeans use 50.150 MHz as their ordinary SSB calling frequency. That might make another good place to listen. Try calling CQ 5 or 10 KHz higher or lower to attract attention while avoiding likely local European traffic right on 50.150. DX stations may also listen on or around 50.200 MHz, the proposed new domestic US calling frequency, for similar reasons. Some DX stations search high in the band, in any case, for stations in the clear and for vacant frequencies to call CQ.

Europeans are also promoting 50,090 MHz as a CW calling frequency. This seems like a great idea, as it is within the exclusive CW portion of the band and it is far enough removed from problems almost certain to plague 50.110. This also makes it an ideal place to monitor for DX activity, as the first stations heard in most openings are likely to be on CW. It might also be a good practice for North Americans to leave 50.090 open and call CQ at least a few kilohertz away.

Clear Frequencies

In practice, CW activity cannot go much below 50.085 MHz or so, because international beacons fill most of the 100 KHz CW subband. Even if activity starts around 50,090 MHz, CW activity is most likely to migrate up the band to 50.125 MHz, and even higher in search of clear frequencies. There is simply nowhere else for CW stations to go.

That being the case, it would make sense for SSB stations to operate above 50.125 MHz from the start. This may be especially important for modest and low-power stations, which will simply get swamped by the crowded conditions at the low-frequency end of the band. Move up in frequency, indeed move to the upper edge of apparent activity, to have the best chance of being heard. Some of the most successful Dxers immediately move high in the band, once it opens, for this reason. Do not be surprised to find lots of DX activity well above 50.200 MHz--and good luck!

DXCC and Beyond

More than 230 stations have already earned a coveted 6-meter DXCC award for confirming contact with at least 100 countries. During the next few years, the ranks of DXCC members will grow significantly, while those already over the top will continue to add to their totals. There has been 6 meter activity from nearly 300 countries, so even the most accomplished Dxers have a long way to go.

Table 1 shows the claimed number of countries worked by the leading stations around the world. Europeans dominate the list, but stations from three continents are represented. The leading US and Canadian stations are shown with their claimed totals in Table 2. Although the Americans are significantly behind the European leaders, that is likely to change quickly. There are more than 50 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa alone that few North Americans have yet worked, primarily because so many countries have only recently authorized 6 meters. When the band opens, many US stations will likely add two dozen or more countries to their totals in relatively short time. In contrast, leading European Dxers have already worked most of these countries via sporadic E and will probably have greater difficulty augmenting their totals.

Table 1. World 6-Meter Country Leaders

Source: GJ4ICD






























Table 2. US and Canada 6-Meter Country Leaders






















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