HAM Radio 101

222 MHz: Is Anybody There?

“W8XYZ listening 223.500.”

Whether you get a response or silence could depend on where you’re located. Calls in some locations in the United States—major metro areas in states like New York, New Jersey, Texas, Washington, and California—are more likely to produce a QSO. Other places, not so much. So what gives?

History of 222 MHz

To really understand 222 MHz, some knowledge of its history is helpful. Amateur radio on 222 MHz has endured several reallocations and other changes through the years. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved VHF bands in 1938, 1.25 meters (224 MHz) being one of them. Amateur radio activity spiked rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s as 2m and 70cm bands quickly became the go-to bands. The 1.25m band, however, never became as popular.

Radio equipment for 1.25 meters was scarce in the beginning, partly due to lack of commercial rigs that could be easily converted for the band. Amateurs wanting to operate here generally had to build their own equipment or buy specialized amateur radio equipment, such as transverters.

In 1973, the FCC considered a proposal to establish the Class E Citizen’s Band Service at 224 MHz. The proposal was opposed by the ARRL and after the explosive growth of 27 MHz Citizen’s Band usage, the FCC dropped the plan in 1977.

In the late 1980s, the United Parcel Service (UPS) began lobbying the FCC to reallocate part of the 1.25 meter band to the Land Mobile Service for the development of a narrow-bandwidth wireless voice and data network using a mode called ACSSB (amplitude-companded single sideband). UPS argued that amateur use of the band was sparse and that the public interest would be better served by approving their proposal.

In 1988, over the objections of the amateur radio community, the FCC adopted the 220 MHz Allocation Order, which reallocated 220–222 MHz to private and federal government land-mobile use while leaving 222–225 MHz exclusively for amateur use. The reallocation proceeding took so long that UPS eventually found other options for meeting its communications needs.

Today, the 1.25m band VHF radio spectrum is reserved for amateur radio use with a 219 to 220 MHz allocation for secondary local communications and data in the U.S.


Why hasn’t 222 MHz reached its potential as a VHF frequency? Reasons that are frequently cited include a history of frequent changes/proposed changes, lack of harmonic relationship to 2m/70cm bands, and limited access to the band worldwide—only region 2 (North and South America) has ham allocations on this band. Traditionally, the blame has been put on the big three (Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu). Some believe they weren’t motivated to produce radios for the band due to a “limited market.”

However, they’ve marketed a few HTs and base/mobile radios over the years. In the 1980s, Icom offered the IC-37A—a 220 MHz, 25-watt FM transceiver. Other examples that followed include the Alinco DR-235T, Kenwood TH-F6A, Yaesu’s VX-6R, VX-7R, VX-8R, BridgeCom Systems BCM-220, and the BaoFeng UV-82X. Offerings weren’t anywhere near the number available for 2m and 70cm, but enough to help generate some interest in 1.25m.

Among the currently available VHF/UHF radios, some have continued to add 1.25 meter coverage to the 2 meter and 70 centimeter handhelds and mobiles. Just about all are Chinese imports, with the exception of well-known brands like Yaesu’s VX-6R or the Alinco DR-MD520T tri-band DMR mobile.

222 MHz Repeaters

According to the ARRL, the majority of repeaters—more than 6,000—are on 2 meters. There are more than 5,000 on 440 MHz, but only about 1,600 repeaters on 222 MHz. Yet 222 MHz repeaters have some advantages over those designed to operate on 2m/70cm.

Hams that use 222 MHz repeaters have discovered that it’s an excellent, low-interference band. It has the long range of 2 meters, some of the signal bounce characteristics of 440 MHz, and a lower noise floor since it is farther away from public safety and other land mobile services. Best of all, the band has a primary allocation to amateur radio, unlike 440 MHz and 900 MHz.

Many repeaters are constructed from converted gear, such as Motorola MICOR High Band and GE Mastr II High-Band mobile, pairs of 222 MHz mobile transceivers, as well as several units from various Chinese manufacturers. The BridgeCom Systems BCR-220 repeater appeared on the market around 2014 but was discontinued. You can also find them on the used market, though they can sometimes be difficult to locate.

Changing Perception

Adapting a one-liner from comedian Rodney Dangerfield, “This band don’t get no respect.” It’s a chicken vs. egg problem. There’s not much activity because there aren’t that many radios available. There aren’t many radios because there’s not much activity. If this band were included in the various DC to Daylight rigs from the get-go, many more hams would probably be using the band today.

For those who don’t want to deal with the crowded band conditions, interference from commercial equipment located just above the band, or some of the bad operating found on 2m, 222 MHz is a great alternative.

The 1.25 meter band has some unique properties, blending the propagation advantages of the 2 meter and 70cm bands. So 222 MHz radios and repeater systems can potentially have better range and coverage than similar VHF and UHF systems.

Maybe the time has finally come for 222 MHz. What are you waiting for?

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