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Thread: Maximum power unlicensed band?

  1. #1

    Default Maximum power unlicensed band?

    Hi, Just bought a handheld - my very first Ham experience. While my wife and I work towards our tech license, I wonder what the maximum power band is that we can use? Short of getting our licenses, are we really limited to just 2 watts and the FRS / MURS bands? Our radios will go to 8 watts ... and we want them for back-up communication (and new hobby for me, but not her). It would be nice if we could use them at 8 watts sooner rather than later.... legally that is.

    Thx,
    James

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by James Madison View Post
    Hi, Just bought a handheld - my very first Ham experience. While my wife and I work towards our tech license, I wonder what the maximum power band is that we can use? Short of getting our licenses, are we really limited to just 2 watts and the FRS / MURS bands? Our radios will go to 8 watts ... and we want them for back-up communication (and new hobby for me, but not her). It would be nice if we could use them at 8 watts sooner rather than later.... legally that is.

    Thx,
    James
    To be able to use the FRS, GMRS and MURS services, the radios must be type certified by the FCC for the particular service. From your description of your radios (8 watts) it sounds like they be Chinese-made Baofengs. If that's the case, you CAN NOT use them for FRS, GMRS or MURS as they are not type certified for those services. In a nutshell, you will have to wait until you pass the Technician exam and your call sign is issued by the FCC.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by K6CPO View Post
    To be able to use the FRS, GMRS and MURS services, the radios must be type certified by the FCC for the particular service. From your description of your radios (8 watts) it sounds like they be Chinese-made Baofengs. If that's the case, you CAN NOT use them for FRS, GMRS or MURS as they are not type certified for those services. In a nutshell, you will have to wait until you pass the Technician exam and your call sign is issued by the FCC.
    Yes, Baofeng BF-F8HP ... and thanks. Didn't know about the 'type certified' bit. I/we don't intend to break any laws! In thinking about it a bit further, noting that maybe on the salt flats you might get 3.4 miles or so with the radio at 6' off the ground, longer distance communication that we'd need (20-25 miles) probably needs to use a repeater. They're up on a hilltop that we can see from here, so that's good. I told my wife tonight that she needs to get her tech license too, then we can communicate legally via a repeater if we need to. Power's not the question ... line of sight transmission versus distance is our bigger problem. We'll get trained and will take the test ... working on it already

    James

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    GTGallop's Avatar
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    When I was looking to get into Ham Radio, I wanted a Unicorn. I wanted a radio that would transmit on FRS / GMRS, CB (Citizens Band), MURS, and Ham Radio frequencies like 2 Meter and 70 Centimeter as well as 10 Meter and maybe some other longer range frequencies. But that radio doesn't exist - and for a good reason. Actually for TWO good reasons.

    The First Good Reason - Because the FCC and many other governments don't allow it.

    The Second Good Reason - Because each of the bands is like a tool meant for specific types of communication. Creating a "Lord of the Radios" (One Radio to Rule them All) would cause bleed over and cross contamination as well as being big, bulky, expensive, and a jack of all trades but a master of none.

    So radios have a class like race cars. But in radio the class is called their "Part" referring to the part of the FCC legislation that governs the use on that specific frequency. It keeps people from racing a Monster Truck (CB) in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (40 Meter Ham). So to keep each class of radio or Part pure, they set aside specifications to meet regulations.

    The FRS, Family Radio Service, is meant to give families a cheap but reliable means of communicating but not over great distances. As a mater of fact, most of the FRS bands are limited to only .5 watts and must have a fixed antenna to prevent you from upgrading to a higher gain antenna and increasing your radio footprint. This means that the 15 or so channels can handle a lot of communication with out traffic interfering with other radios. Imagine you and your wife split up at home depot and use FRS to stay in contact. Your communication is limited to inside the store and furthest corner to furthest corner of the store is maybe a quarter mile at best. You don't want conversations from another family at the mall three miles away or kids playing "Army" in the back yard five miles away to be jamming up your communications - or listening in.

    Same way with CB - 20 channels limited to 4 watts. Meant to get you good solid local information. You don't want to be in Miami and ask for a weather update on the radio only get a response that it's going to snow soon. That's useless because it's coming from Bangor, Maine.

    Baofeng radios are Part 90 Compliant which does not include FRS / GMRS bands. That is because the lowest they will put out is 1 watt (already 2x more than allowed for FRS) and have a removable, up-gradable antenna. The radios are capable of transmitting on FRS frequencies, but Part 90 requires that there be an option in the software that allows that to be shut off so end users in the field can't accidentally do that. Transmitting on those frequencies is against the law. Just because your car can do 120, doesn't mean you should go that fast on residential streets.

    Baofengs are not really a "Ham Radio" or an "FRS/GMRS Radio." They are an Internationally Available Business Radio. Since different countries allocate different frequencies for different uses, (FRS isn't the same in every country) the Baofeng has the ability to be programmed by a business to operate legally in any of the countries it operates in. In the US, that means no go on FRS frequencies because we use FRS for very localized radio traffic. But maybe in Brazil, they don't have FRS and its is a business frequency there. Making one radio that has a wide range of potential countries that it can be sold to lets the manufacturer take advantage of economies of scale and keep the price low (only one of the many reasons they are cheap). But coincidentally they can operate on Ham radio bands so they are allowed.

    So to answer your question; while you are studying you may operate on FRS bands with out a license using a radio that transmits at 0.5 watts and has a fixed antenna - which you do not currently have. You may also apply for a GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) license that costs about $60 to $80 and requires no test. Then you can operate your Baofengs on GMRS frequencies between 462 and 467 mega hertz and at the full 8 watts.

    I hate to rain on your parade, but that's the current situation. Feel free to use Chirp to program repeaters into your radios and let them scan and receive only so you can listen in. But don't key up on any frequencies or channels until you have a GMRS or Amateur Radio (Ham) license. Until then, if that radio transmits you are breaking the law.
    N5MKH - The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper. Once we as a society lose that affinity we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself. Up is down and down is us and man is no longer an alpha predator.

  5. #5

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    GTGallop - Thank you for the great explanation! While all this may be obvious to everyone here but me, it was a very useful education. I've literally only just been involved with the whole radio business for a few days - and have much to learn (and no desire to break any laws or to annoy anyone with inappropriate use). I bought training materials for the tech license, and will very likely continue on to the general license after getting the technician level license - I'm an electrical engineer with both bachelor's and master's degrees and wonder why I took so long to start on this fun new hobby ....

    I don't think we'll bother with the GMRS licensing and all that ... We'll stick with the tech license, and my wife has agreed to get a tech license as well. We're not in a hurry and we'll do it right. No major disasters likely here in the Boise, Idaho area ... no pending doom and gloom issues that would make us need emergency communications (low probability anyway). The Boise River is in flood, however, and will rise another 40-50 percent higher when the snow melts. But OUR commute routes and home are all above all flood plains ... thankfully. Depending on who you believe, we're in a 30 to 100 year precip and flood year.... The biggest thing that the river is doing for us, and the white-out snow conditions combined with the silly run on groceries that we had around here (empty shelves at Fred Meyer!), is the reminder that we should have at least basic preps ready - including communications (that's my excuse anyway )

    James

  6. #6

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    I don't understand why (in the UK and the US) people use the internet to buy equipment, but don't use the internet to find out what to buy? Anyone who buys ANY radio before they read the rules just make my eyebrows raise. Like buying a non-auto transmission car before you've even had a lesson driving one with an auto box, or buying a racehorse without finding out how much vets bills are likely to be.

    GTGallop's viewpoint coincides with my UK one - we have very similar licence situations here!

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulears View Post
    I don't understand why (in the UK and the US) people use the internet to buy equipment, but don't use the internet to find out what to buy? Anyone who buys ANY radio before they read the rules just make my eyebrows raise. Like buying a non-auto transmission car before you've even had a lesson driving one with an auto box, or buying a racehorse without finding out how much vets bills are likely to be.

    GTGallop's viewpoint coincides with my UK one - we have very similar licence situations here!

    part of the reason some of the true newbies buy the radios they do and then find out that they can not use them as they thought they could is because of the internet...they get an idea... look at the websites that tell them all the frequencies the radio will operate on, without telling them it would be illegal for them to do so...it never dawns on them that someone would sell a radio, talking about what it can do, when they are not legal to use that way...and they do not know enough initially to think to look deeper....sometimes the advertising and method of operations the sellers use leaves a lot to be desired.

  8. #8

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    paulears - See what Obed said. He's right.

    In my case, I didn't care if the radio were legal to use unlicensed or not .... right from the start, I intended to get my license ASAP and I've stated that several times over. My question here had to do with whether my wife and I could use it legally in some (temporarily) unlicensed mode or not, and what band might work best (hence the 'highest power' question that started all of this). No offense, brother... Many are in the same boat as me, and that's entirely acceptable....

    James

  9. #9
    Super Moderator 5B4AJB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Madison View Post
    whether my wife and I could use it legally in some (temporarily) unlicensed mode or not, and what band might work best
    No, in a word, but, once you are licensed, your wife can use it under your direct supervision (that's what the license says).

  10. #10
    GTGallop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Obed View Post
    part of the reason some of the true newbies buy the radios they do and then find out that they can not use them as they thought they could is because of the internet
    When I got my $36 Baofeng and found out how much other hams despised me, I thought it was because they were jealous that they spent $3000 on a radio that took up an entire desk and now I had one for a fraction of a fraction of that and it fits in my pocket. I didn't understand that it didn't do all of the bands. But then I studied for the test and it all became apparent. Only problem is, the wife still thinks it does everything and is the last radio I need to buy. SMH........

    She use to ask me if I had been talking to Portugal or Germany. "Babe, a Baofeng wont reach Germany even if you are sitting in Munich when you use it" I use to explain to her.
    N5MKH - The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper. Once we as a society lose that affinity we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself. Up is down and down is us and man is no longer an alpha predator.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5B4AJB View Post
    No, in a word, but, once you are licensed, your wife can use it under your direct supervision (that's what the license says).
    So, does that mean my wife doesn't have to have her own call sign and license in order to speak with just me (assuming that I _do_ have a call sign and license)?

    I'm about 15% of the way through my study book... please take that into consideration (thx)

    James

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTGallop View Post
    When I got my $36 Baofeng and found out how much other hams despised me, I thought it was because they were jealous that they spent $3000 on a radio that took up an entire desk and now I had one for a fraction of a fraction of that and it fits in my pocket. I didn't understand that it didn't do all of the bands. But then I studied for the test and it all became apparent. Only problem is, the wife still thinks it does everything and is the last radio I need to buy. SMH........

    She use to ask me if I had been talking to Portugal or Germany. "Babe, a Baofeng wont reach Germany even if you are sitting in Munich when you use it" I use to explain to her.
    Despise you? Why? Because people with low-cost entry level radios that can't communicate on every available band end up crowding the bands that they can communicate on? A ham guy at work, a friend, recommended the BaoFeng radio to me as a low-cost entry-level radio that would meet my primary need of being able to communicate with my wife in emergency situations where cell phones may be down or failing due to too much traffic ... and an intro to some popular amateur radio bands. I see nothing wrong with that, and no reason for someone to despise BaoFeng owners ... but what do I know? I'm fresh as a spring daisy in the ham world.... all things take time.

    Thanks in advance (and sorry that this thread has diverged off the original, albeit bad, topic),
    James

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    Super Moderator 5B4AJB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Madison View Post
    So, does that mean my wife doesn't have to have her own call sign and license in order to speak with just me (assuming that I _do_ have a call sign and license)?
    You both need licenses, or at least be under the "direct supervision" at either end.

    Here if the document (for the U.K.). they're pretty much the same rules worldwide...

  14. #14

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    yes your wife would need a license to talk TO you on the radio. She would not need a license to talk on YOUR HT under your supervision.
    In order to communicate to each other via radio you would both need to be licensed.
    Since you are in the process of studying the book, I would suggest you try and find a elmer and have him/her help you understand what the answers to the questions in the pool mean. It is much better for your long term enjoyment of the hobby to understand what it is you are doing and not just memorized which is the correct answer from the pool of answers.

  15. #15
    Super Moderator pmh's Avatar
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    Interesting thread.

    Many people buy a Baofeng when they get a spark of interesting in amateur radio. They are excellent starter radios, and not too expensive should you decide amateur radio is not for you.

    The next course of action would be to read band plans or general guidelines and allowed frequencies. This information is easy to find by a simple search. The ARRL band plan can be found here:- http://www.arrl.org/band-plan You should look at the 2m and 70cm bands, which your handheld should cover.

    An even better way would be to join a club, explain your wants, then be guided by them.

    Regulations do change from Country to Country. In the U.K. you may only supervise somebody who is not licensed if you are a Full license holder. This will be of no use if you want to talk to each other; each being licensed seems to fulfill your needs.

    Anyway, good luck with your studies.

    Kind regards,



    Phil

  16. #16

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    The despise thing does exist in many hobby/work areas. Some brands just have a terrible rap sheet, often for no sensible reason. Not a new thing, either.

    When I was first licensed, I remember the old hams moaning about Jap Crap - because I bought an Icom. If you are a musician and have a Fender, that's cool, unless it says Fender MIM (Made in Mexico), or worse Fender Squier. Gibson guitars are cool too - unless it's an Epiphone. If you buy a sound mixer or effects unit - it mustn't be Behringer, because the owner of the company is slagged off everywhere - he's actually a nice guy and now people are starting to forgive him because he's making some excellent and ground changing products, but you still get the digs. AKG are one of the most respected microphone manufacturers going, unless you own a C1000 microphone - which is described almost universally as only slightly better at being a microphone than a hammer - and a hammer is more useful.

    In the lighting world, Martin and Robe rule, with Clay Paky at their heels. Other makes like American DJ and Chauvet draw smiles, and of course anything Chinese with an own brand name of Pretty Flower just has people rolling about laughing.

    Baofeng fall into the same trap. The products are by and large amazing value for money. You don't get, and cannot expect, Rolls Royce performance for Ford pricing. Rolls Royces and Fords both get you to the shops on time.

    We all know this - but if you can afford the Icom/kenwood/Yaesu, then you have the right to snigger at the Baofeng own - just like the expensive Fender guitars does to the young guy with the Squier! Of course, that Squier playing kid could easily be a far better player - just poorer!

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by pmh View Post
    Interesting thread.

    Many people buy a Baofeng when they get a spark of interesting in amateur radio. They are excellent starter radios, and not too expensive should you decide amateur radio is not for you.

    <snip>

    Kind regards,



    Phil
    And therein lies the Catch-22... The Baofengs are good starter radios only from a price point. Because they don't have the sophisticated firmware of more costly radios, they can be a bugger to program, especially for someone just starting out in amateur radio. If someone comes to me looking for a recommendation for a starter radio, I will usually suggest the Yaesu FT-60R. It's reasonably priced, durable, dual band, and fairly simple to hand program.
    Last edited by K6CPO; Thu 27th Apr 2017 at 21:13.

  18. #18

    Red face

    Cool ... You've all been great. I will absorb the disdain for BaoFeng's easily ... no problem. Price was right. If Ford performance isn't to my liking, then the radio will motivate me to get the 'Cedes....

    I've been studying some FCC regs as well - Good way to get the full scoop. For example, my ham buddy said MURS doesn't need a label from the manufacturer that states the radio is MURS reg compliant - wrong! Same guy said you could go 4 watts on MURS - wrong! It's just 2 watts. He's a great source of info, but there is a LOT of info to keep rolling around in your head ... I'll forgive him his lapses if he'll forgive mine

    I heard there's an FCC reg somewhere that says in a true emergency, the "dial 911 or the guy will die" type of emergency, that it's legal to grab a radio and call someone... I haven't researched that yet - but in that situation, who wouldn't try to get help ASAP?

    Those YAESU FT-60R radios are about $150-$160 (at first glance online) - about 3 times the price of the BaoFeng but still reasonable. I haven't tried programming the BaoFeng via the radio's keyboard, but have downloaded the Chirp program and found it very easy to use. Close enough for now! Haven't found anything to listen to yet (lots of empty frequencies and channels), but I haven't tried real hard yet either.

    So OK ... I only have so many hours in a day to work with (like anyone), so I'm going to focus on getting that license test passed and getting a call sign - and will play with listening on the radio now and then.

    Thanks again for everyone's patience with my newb questions... It's been an educational discussion

    James

  19. #19
    Super Moderator pmh's Avatar
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    I have the FT-60E, which is an absolutely excellent radio. I picked mine up at a radio rally, absolutely mint, for just a little over half price, so you don't necessarily have to buy new.

    With regards to the Baofeng, I program mine with a free download called Chirp. There are YouTube videos showing you, but I ran it simplex mode (calling frequenting then moving to continue conversation) for a few months before programming in the repeaters.

    Kind regards,



    Phil
    Last edited by pmh; Wed 26th Apr 2017 at 22:48. Reason: System crash preventing completion

  20. #20

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    I look at the Baofeng as a gateway radio. When I first got interested, it gave me an inexpensive way chance to listen and insure ham was something I'd be into long term. While listening, it also gave me an opportunity to learn and apply some basic principles along the way. I have since picked up three mobiles, (yaesu,kenwood and alinco) and they do show greatly improved performance from a receiving perspective ( my test date is two weekends from now ).

    My interest has only strengthened,, and I owe it to the lowly Baofeng. I hear a lot of folks speak negatively of it, but so far I can't put my finger on a single thing that I am dissatisfied with about it. As for programming it, I never really understood why folks are having such a hard time. One afternoon on youtube and some printed out American instructions and I had it. Maybe it's just different than what folks were used to seeing. Maybe my lack of previous experiences made it easier for me to grasp the new product. Later I got the programming cord and used CHIRP for the first time on the radio. No problems, but again I read several instruction sources before hand.

    Now these mobile units on the other hand,,, I certainly don't have a grip on them yet. Especially the Kenwood with all that GPS capability too.

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