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I'm living at the 6th's and top floor of an apartment building. I have a balcony with a metal balustrade. Above the balcony there is a metal roof rail. I need an antenna which won't be noticed by the house owner or which can be put away easily while not being used.

One thought I had was talking to my neighbor, who has a balcony roughly 6m away, whether I could throw a cable over. If this is done close to the wall it might be hardly noticeable from the ground. The issue I see is that both ends will end close to the metal balustrades and be close to the house wall which I fear will be causing trouble with emitting and receiving radio waves in good quality.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure you're allowed to do this in your apartments? The first step is to make sure you don't violate your lease/rent etc. $\endgroup$ – Seth Oct 22 '13 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ You need to be more specific about what frequencies. Medium frequency is a technical term meaning from 100 meters to 1000 meters, which is almost definitely not going to happen in your situation. Do you mean HF/VHF? What kind of radio are you trying to use and what are you trying to do with it. $\endgroup$ – Dan KD2EE Oct 22 '13 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Seth There is no strict rule forbidding it, I may not do add any permanent constructions (like a fixed satellite dish) and may not change "the appearance of the building" $\endgroup$ – johannes Oct 22 '13 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Dan I want it to be open - in the end I'd love to do everything but I know there are quite a few restrictions, so I'm looking for an idea where the limits might be so I can start with a viable start and then start experimenting (that's what ham is about, no? :) ) to see where I can get without moving. $\endgroup$ – johannes Oct 22 '13 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I'd suggest narrowing your question to a specific frequency range. You can always ask another question for a different frequency range. $\endgroup$ – Amber Oct 23 '13 at 21:15
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So it sounds like you want to do everything. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's no single answer of one antenna that can do everything. You are going to hit a certain wall at either 40 or 80 meters where there's just nothing you can do with the space you have, but here are some solutions for frequencies above those. Google (try "compromise antenna HF", "apartment antenna ham", and the terms below for more) will find thousands of pages of people in the same position as you are!

  • Lower HF bands (20m, 30m, 40m, 80m) - you're not likely to be able to get a dipole at these lengths to fit anywhere. You can try a loaded dipole to get it shorter but your best bet is likely to be either a random wire antenna or a magnetic loop antenna. There are ways to do either of those completely homebrew or completely commercial, and you'll be able to get a few different bands either way.

  • Higher HF bands (6m, 10m, 12m, 15m, 17m) - in addition to the solutions above, you may be able to get away with a dipole or random wire outside at these lengths. All you need is two points, a half wavelength apart. At 10 meters, that's pretty easy to do - a five meter antenna with the feed point in the center. Again, can be done with parts from the hardware store or you can buy a fully built and tested dipole, off-center fed dipole, or G5RV antenna.

  • VHF/UHF (144MHz, 222MHz, 430MHz) - this one is easy. The antennas are tiny, you can easily mount one on a mag-mount base and stick it on your balcony. It won't be ideal because you won't have the same ground plane that a metal roof would get you, but it will be good enough. The J-pole is another common antenna at these frequencies. It's important to note that if you use a normal quarter wave dipole, you'll need to use it vertically, to match the vertical polarization of most handheld radios.

  • Microwave (GHz range) - this band is the experimenter's dream. You don't need a big antenna, but you do need specialized components and there isn't as much activity up here. Certainly something to consider, but you probably want to get something set up on one of the lower bands first.

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    $\begingroup$ 6 meters (50 MHz) is most certainly VHF (30-300 MHz), not HF (3-30 MHz). The propagation is also much closer to the more commonly used VHF bands than it resembles HF propagation, most of the time. Also, both 1.2 and 2.4 GHz are UHF (300-3000 MHz), although 2.4 GHz is commonly considered microwave. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 26 '13 at 18:14

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