Ham Radio 101: The WARC Bands and 60 Meters

The World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) was a 1979 technical conference of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Delegates from member nations met to revise or amend international radio regulations pertaining to all telecommunication services throughout the world.

The conference, held in Geneva, Switzerland, produced the allocation of three new amateur radio bands: 30 meters (10.1–10.15 MHz), 17 meters (18.068–18.168 MHz), and 12 meters (24.89–24.99 MHz). Due to the relatively small bandwidth and a “gentlemen’s agreement” among contest organizers to not allow WARC bands to be used due to that bandwidth limitation, they are generally not used for contesting. This allows non-contesting radio amateurs to use them during some of the largest international contests without interruptions. Though the band plans for the WARC bands vary between regions, country and even license category, they still tend to keep CW at the lower end of the bands.

The ITU was restructured in 1992 and WARC was renamed the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC). The WRC is held every three to four years to review and, if necessary, revise the international treaty governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and the geostationary-satellite and non-geostationary-satellite orbits.


ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) will be in Dubai November 20 to December 15.

60 Meters and Proposed Changes

First introduced in 2002, the 60-meter band (5 MHz) is a relatively new amateur radio allocation that was originally available in just a few countries. The 2015 ITU conference approved a worldwide frequency allocation of 5351.5-5366.6 kHz to the amateur radio service on a secondary basis, which came into effect January 1, 2017.  

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made 60 meters available to General, Advanced and Amateur Extra U.S. amateur radio license classes in 2003. The NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) says that hams planning to operate on 60 meters, which is primarily used by the federal government, “must assure that their signal is transmitted on the channel center frequency.” This means that amateurs should set their carrier frequency 1.5 kHz lower than the channel center frequency.

Center‘Dial’ Frequency (USB)‘Unofficial’ Channel Designation
5332.0 kHz5330.5 kHzChannel 1
5348.0 kHz5346.5 kHzChannel 2
5358.5 kHz5357.0 kHzChannel 3
5373.0 kHz5371.5 kHzChannel 4
5405.0 kHz5403.5 kHzChannel 5

Per the ARRL, radio amateurs in the U.S. have access to five discrete channels on a secondary basis: 5332 kHz, 5348 kHz, 5358.5 kHz, 5373 kHz, and 5405 kHz. Users of these channels are limited to an effective radiated power (ERP) of 100 W PEP.

The FCC has proposed to allocate 15 kHz of contiguous bandwidth between 5351.5-5366.5 kHz on a secondary basis with a maximum power of 15 W EIRP (equivalent to 9.15 W ERP). This allocation was adopted at the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference.

The ARRL reported that “doing so would result in amateurs losing access to four of the five discrete channels, and power limits would be reduced from 100 W ERP to 9.15 W ERP. However, it would provide access to a new contiguous 15 kHz band that includes one of the current five channels.”

The ARRL is asking that all radio amateurs urge the FCC to continue the existing use of the 60-meter band. A public comment period is open until October 30, 2023. The ARRL encourages expressions of support to the FCC for the current 100 W ERP power limit (instead of reducing the power limit to 15 W EIRP) and continuing secondary access to the current channels. Read much more about the proposed changes and how to make a comment to the FCC here.

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at KE8FMJ@gmail.com.

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