The majority of new ham users begin their ham band journey using the FM mode, with 2 m and 70 cm the most popular bands used. It’s an excellent way to begin utilizing VHF simplex and repeater communications. Because of the large availability of FM repeaters, FM is the most commonly used mode. The repeaters expand the range of operation on VHF and allow lower power hand-held transceivers to communicate over a distance of 100 miles. Additionally, FM is used on simplex in order to make direct contacts without the need for a repeater.
Despite the many benefits of FM, it’s important to note that there is a downside, and that’s that FM doesn’t perform well when the signals are weak, and that’s where SSB is really beneficial. When an FM signal is weak, it can totally disappear into the noise, whereas a comparable SSB signal can still be read. What kind of a difference does that make? An estimated 10 dB or maybe even more, which corresponds to an S-unit or two.
In other words, using SSB as opposed to FM can be the difference between using a beam antenna with a 10 dB of gain by simply altering modulation types. That’s a pretty big deal, and amateur radio operators who are thinking about doing serious VHF work have opted to use SSB as their preferred mode for voice transmission.
When and Where to Use
The SSB segment of the 2 m band ranges from 144.100 MHz to 144.275 Mhz, and therefore Upper Sideband (USB) is utilized. The calling frequency of the 2M SSB is 144.200 MHz. As such, that’s the first place that you should check for activity or to call CQ.
If you plan on using SSB operation, you do need to understand that operation isn’t channelized. Therefore, you’ll have to tune around in order to find other stations on the band. Adjusting the transceiver frequency is way more important, as compared to FM. Therefore, if you aren’t on the same exact frequency as the station that you are listening to, the audio won’t sound good.
One of the actualities of 2M SSB operation is, often, that no one is on air; compared to 2M FM, there really isn’t that much activity. As such, some amateurs do get frustrated, shut off the radio, and miss out on the excitement that can be experienced when using far off stations during a band opening.
In order to begin using 2M SSB, you’ll want to get on air during times when you know other people will be on it; particularly during VHF nets and VHF contests. With a VHF net, you’ll have to look around to see if there are any SSB VHF nets in your location, and checking the net is an excellent way to test SSB and connect with 2m SSB operators in your location. VHF contents can be likened to a “VHF activity weekend”, as they’re an excellent chance to get on air and connect with 2m SSB fans.