28 Jul 2003, updated 16 Jan 2007

 Echo Charlie

While access to HF was restricted to amateurs geeky enough to learn Morse code, other radio enthusiasts resorted to pirating the airwaves to get their fix. There is some activity on the following kHz frequencies, usually in "Aero En-Route" (civil) or "Fixed" bands. Echo Charlie dates back decades to at least the 1960s (to 1950s? late 40s?) and means the 6.6MHz band, which started on AM, on war-surplus equipment. What the E and C actually mean seems to be a mystery. I have been told that there was a small army radio set for commando use that had several crystal channels, labelled "Echo Charlie ch 1-6" or similar, that operated on or around this band; and that "EC" was a code for commando operations.

This might be a red herring, but I found this at the Eddystone website : "In the early 1960s a new system of numbering started, to run in parallel with this traditional nomenclature. It was the two-letter prefix of which the first was always ‘E’ (for ‘Eddystone’) and the second was a type designator, viz:
EA Amateur
EB Broadcast
EC Communication
EM Marine
EP Panadaptor (not strictly a receiver)
EY Yachtsman"

Mike P reports : "The 45 metre area has been used for pirate amateur-style activity for many decades ... was certainly active in the 1960's, with most people using ex-WW2 equipment (19 and 62 sets, etc) ... VERY old (1920's) amateur radio publications talk about (legal) use of "45 metres" ... in the 1970's, there was an EC Club run by a Mr Jenkins of West London, and even EC rallies (one of which, at Drayton Manor, was spectacularly raided by the Post Office). In the early 1980's, it was sometimes called the IB (International Breakers) Net, and the operators were usually wealthier CBers using converted Yaesu FT101s and similar. At one time, the Italian company CTE International actually manufactured a CB to 6.6MHz transverter, the TR45 (27MHz in, ten watts of 6.6MHz out) and matching BABO45 mobile antenna (175cm long)"

  • 86/85m 3430-3500

    calling 3475 LSB

  • 45m 6530-6700

    calling 6670 LSB

  • 21m 13900-14000

    calling 13970 USB

  • 16m 18010-18050

    calling 18030 USB

  • 14m 20900-20980

    calling 20930 USB

What 6.6MHz is ACTUALLY for!

The En-Route section is divided into 53 channels 3kHz wide, from 6526 to 6682 USB, en-route meaning flights on pre-determined standard routes, either civilian passenger flights or military aircraft using the same routes. The OR off-route band (6685 and up) is used for anything else, hence the mainly military usage.

The main legitimate use for the Echo Charlie band then is the International HF service - High Frequencies available to enroute stations serving international flight operations on the Major World Air Route Areas (MWARA's), as defined in the international Radio Regulations and the ICAO Assignment Plan. MWARA's such as NAT,AFI,CWP,CAR,MID,SAM,EA,SEA,EUR etc. See http://www.rcic.com/reg/fcc/clauses/87.263.htm for info.

Also LDOC - Long distance operational control frequencies "provide communications between aeronautical enroute stations and aircraft stations anywhere in the world for control of the regularity and efficiency of flight and safety of aircraft" i.e. private airline channels, sometimes provided as a service by a third-party.

You may encounter strong anti-EC sentiment, especially from the arrogant opinionated type of amateur who believes that the Morse code test he passed (often the only real difference between him and the EC operator) qualifies him to call for the hanging drawing and quartering of anyone who has ever so much as received anything outside of an amateur band. According to them, there will be aircraft falling out of the skies any time anyone transmits on a naughty channel. The next time someone says Echo Charlie puts lives at risk, consider the following :

  • There are 53 channels, and not all of them have any known use. The 5MHz and 8MHz bands are much more heavily used, making 6MHz deserted in comparison.
  • The bands are only used for long distance traffic, where the usual VHF service is out of reach.
  • The volume of traffic is handled easily in any one area with a small number of channels.
  • Most radio traffic consists of positions being reported, all flights are given a good separation from each other, actual instructions regarding safety are rare (?). If positions are being reported, it follows that the aircraft are beyond the reach of radar - the ground station has no real clue as to where the aircraft is. Emergency messages are not likely to be passed TO the aircraft. Emergency messages FROM the aircraft would be pretty futile, could use a number of frequencies, and there wouldn't be much anyone could do to help an aircraft in mid-atlantic flight anyway!
  • Any interference on one channel can usually be handled quite easily be moving to another channel, there are numerous aircraft bands on HF, any ground operator will have a choice of a number of channels in various bands. Propagation will make communication possible using either the nearby 5MHz band or the 8MHz band.
  • From Europe, the main use within range is for transatlantic crossings - these tend to occur in batches at different times of the day - evening Echo Charlie use doesn't often coincide.
  • Consider the worst case - Echo Charlie occuring precisely on the channel where aircraft traffic is being attempted. Interference is seldom severe enough to render comms impossible. Traffic will usually be possible in at least one direction, allowing for a change of channel message.
  • Any problems caused by Echo Charlie could easily be addressed by use of current satellite solutions.
  • Most EC operators will avoid known channels, use LSB Lower SideBand, and would move frequency if strong USB Upper SideBand was detected. Interference would consist of inverted speech frequencies if it happened at all.
  • Many EC operators are licensed radio amateurs too! Both VHF/UHF licensees and those with "the full ticket".
  • There has never been a case of life-threatening problems due to unlicensed EC operators.
I'm not trying to justify or encourage Echo Charlie (obviously) but it has to be said there was an argument in its favour considering how the amateurs hogged HF spectrum with an insistance on Morse code proficiency. These "pseudo amateur" unlicensed operators may be many things, but I do not believe that they put any lives at risk to any degree worth concern. Maybe a legitimate user of this band would like to argue their case - please get in touch if so! The worst usual situation would be a channel with higher than usual levels of noise - at very worst a channel could be useless for it's intended purpose for a short while, but other channels are available. Yes this is undesirable, but you have to consider what drives people to do this.

If the demand is there, this sort of thing WILL happen if there is no alternative. If the amateur community (via the national groups deciding ITU policy) had allowed HF voice comms for amateurs without a Morse test, EC would probably have never taken off.

I will say quite clearly PLEASE DO NOT USE FREQUENCIES FOR WHICH YOU ARE NOT LICENSED OR ARE NOT PERMITTED TO USE. Not that I believe that anyone will pay attention to that, but to make it plain that this page is not supporting or encouraging such things. This is for information and entertainment only.

6MHz En-route USB channels, example users

REMEMBER : LSB on 6640 will use 3kHz downwards (6637 to 6640)
...whereas USB on 6640 will use 3kHz upwards   (6640 to 6643)
i.e. 6625 LSB will conflict with 6622 USB.

Echo Charlie operators could help their case considerably by
sticking to "safe" channels and steering well clear of air traffic!

6526   Air France, Air Jamaica Kingston
6532   CWP Central West Pacific, LDOC Sydney
6535   AFI-1, South Atlantic SAT-1
6550   SAM-1
6556   Southeast Asia SEA-1&3, Monarch ops Luton
6559   Africa AFI
6562   CWP Central West Pacific
6568   Rugby UK
6571   East Asia EA-1
6574   Africa AFI
6577   Caribbean CAR-A
6580   Alaska
6586   Caribbean CAR-B
6592   North Central Asia NCA-2
6598   EUR-A Europe
6604   America - VOLMET weather broadcast Gander, Alaska
6622   North Atlantic NAT-F Shanwick  **UK**
6625   Middle East MID, Air France
6628   North Atlantic NAT-E           **UK**
6631   Middle East MID-1&3
6634     (ex Portishead - BT Rugby)
6637   LDOC - airlines private channel
6640   LDOC - airlines private channel, CEP  ** EC '640' **
6643   LDOC - Berne Switzerland, Germany, Venezuela
6646   LDOC - (Royal Navy?)
6649   SAM South America
6655   NP North Pacific
6661   NP North Pacific
6667     (El Al Tel Aviv Israel?)
6670     EC calling  **LSB** '670'
6673   CEP Central East Pacific, Africa AFI, NHC 'D'
6679   Anchorage VOLMET
6682   GHFS, NHC
Thanks : http://raven.cybercomm.net/~slapshot/utelist.html
and Ralf D. Kloth for "HF channels in the Aeronautical Mobile Service" at www.kloth.net (if it ever loads again).

Phil / Surrey :
in the very late 70's through the early 80's I was very
active most nights on 635 lsb from N. London and Dunstable.
I used to use the call Unit 148 mobile.
... there was quite a collection of operators. Frank DT308
Bedford, most everyone knew or heard him, Aaron Unit 990 mobile,
Jackie with her kilowatt out of Crystal Palace etc.
I've mentioned this crowd before in that rarely was anyone
allowed on channel unless they gave most everyone an S9 sig.
This way we were never in the situation of the typical wide
area group discussion where half the people cannot hear the
other half. The only op we let in was Steve in Kings Lynn,
Norfolk as he was one of the few people who could bend needles
in London from nearly 100 miles away.
You have respect for such people.

Surely you must have known Anna...Pizza Lady? I can't remember her DT number, she blew a lot of smoke from the Dunstable area. Frank is still in the boatyard... didn't he have a Polaris Comet antenna...sometimes used to think he was talking to himself, I couldn't hear half the stuff he did, not on my old half wave. Also Tony...Charlie Oscar 118, maybe you knew him? He was near Frank's QTH, unfortunately he passed away a few months ago (from Mar 2000).

Simon, 32010 :

Has there ever been a case where any CBer has caused interference
to a public service except where a receiver has just been overloaded
by strong signals? The only things which an illegal CB could do are

1) Cause direct breakthrough on to audio or video equipment. So can
   a radio amateur legally using 400 watts into a 4 element yagi on
   28.005 MHz. So can LF/MF and HF broadcast stations using up to
   2 Megawatts of AM power. What is done to stop these breaking
   through on telephone lines etc. - nothing, the phone lines in the
   area have to be filtered. It is BT who usually has to pay for RF
   filtering on telephone lines. There are MF transmitters using up
   to 5000 watts on sites which are virtually in somebodys back garden. 

2) Overload RF stages in recievers. So can anything. So could a taxi
   firm next door. So could a radio amateur using 400 watts to a 48
   element yagi on 70 cms. So could any broadcast station, many legal
   broadcast stations use 100 watts from the top of tower blocks (so
   do pirates but they are ALWAYS going to interfere with the
   emergency services for some reason). What about people on the top

3) Produce a lot of harmonics. So could a home made QRP rig. The
   amateur radio standards for out of band transmission aren't hard
   to meet. Something like no more than 1% out of band. 1% of 400
   watts is 4 watts. Any piece of commercial equipment would almost
   certainly be better filtered than this. Do SSB CB radios go
   through less thorough testing procedures than FM ones? Which has
   the cleanest output, a Ranger 2950 or something built from a kit
   on the 10 metre band which was set up using only a power meter?

4) Upset other CBers. There is always someone who complains about
   hearing foreign people on the CB. They probably believed the RA
   when they said it was a short range band. Yeah, and 10 metres is
   a short range band too, with distances of 5-10 miles expected. 
   What if you were doing CW on 28.02 MHz with a 100 watt radio.
   Wouldn't there be the possibility that local CBers would notice
   a blocking effect on distant signals when your key was down.
   This might become rather annoying after a while (especially on
   channel 40). You have the privilege of being able to cause
   interference to absolutely anything because you can remember
   some dots and dashes.

You might follow the theory of safety in numbers... enough EC operators and they won't bother tracing them all. Not so... where they find you, they'll bust you! You have been warned.

Press Release - 22 February 2002

John Plant, 35, of Clifton Drive North in St Annes on Sea was convicted of illegal installation and use of radio transmitting equipment at Blackpool Magistrates' Court on 20 February 2002. He was given a 12 months conditional discharge, and ordered to pay £250 costs.

Mr Plant pleaded guilty to offences under section 1(1) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949, and was also ordered to forfeit all equipment seized from his home address.

During November last year officers employed by the Radiocommunications Agency executed a search warrant at Mr Plants' home address during their investigations into unlicensed transmissions within the 6.6MHz frequency band, which is reserved for aeronautical services.

On entering the premises they found radio transmitting equipment and other items which were set up to operate on the 6.6 MHz frequency band. The owner of the equipment was identified as John Plant and all the equipment was seized as evidence.

Mr Plant was interviewed and admitted to the officers that he had transmitted on 6.6 MHz band, and did not hold any Wireless Telegraphy Act Licence.

Under Section 1.1 of the 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act it is an offence to install or operate a wireless telegraphy station without an appropriate licence.

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