Non-licensed Radio Operation

Topics on Radio (CB, GMRS, Ham, etc), GPS, Smoke Signals, or whatever else you can use to talk to other people who are not within yelling distance.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by crypto » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:50 am

nateted4 wrote: Back on topic, Has anyone every seen a GMRS repeater? Or are they the unicorns of the radio world?
The only ones Ive seen started out as Part 90 UHF repeaters.

Until recently, the real unicorn was finding GMRS radios that would work with different in/outs. However:

http://www.amazon.com/Motorola-MR355R-3 ... 683&sr=8-1" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.amazon.com/Motorola-MR356-2- ... 683&sr=8-5" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by NT2C » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:52 am

nateted4 wrote:Back on topic, Has anyone every seen a GMRS repeater? Or are they the unicorns of the radio world?
In doing a little research for this thread I Googled "GMRS repeater" and several sites popped up that seem to sell them, but I didn't go to any of them.
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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by Boyscoutdreams » Thu Jan 19, 2012 12:15 pm

I know there is a GMRS repeater near me,,, don't know if it is city or private company but I hear crews on it on a regular basis. Right now most of the traffic sounds like snow plow drivers. I have not bothered to check the PL tone or offset freq. since I don't have a GMRS license and don't think my General ticket counts for GMRS. Heck, I don't even know it's location other than I get a great signal from it.
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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by zommoz10 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:06 pm

nateted4 wrote: Also, you don't have to memorize anyones call sign but your own.
And you don't even need to memorize that one.

If you're lazy enough you can let a CWider or some robot recording do it for you

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by Bunsen » Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:50 pm

On the subject of simplex repeaters on GMRS, they're probably not treated like normal duplex repeaters at all in the regulations. I'd go looking for regs concerning automated or remotely operated stations. The only thing I've spotted so far is this:
47 CFR 95 wrote:Sec. 95.171 Station operator duties.

When a GMRS station is transmitting, it must have a station
operator. The station operator must be at the control point for that
station.
Which sounds to me like it prohibits an unattended automatic transmitter.

As for ham vs. unlicensed or GMRS, I can see the OP's point. Getting an entire bunch of buddies licensed for the amateur service probably requires a level of getoffyourassitude and a quantity of round tuits beyond those readily available, particularly if some of them don't have any interest of their own in comms.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by williaty » Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:56 pm

Bunsen wrote:As for ham vs. unlicensed or GMRS, I can see the OP's point. Getting an entire bunch of buddies licensed for the amateur service probably requires a level of getoffyourassitude and a quantity of round tuits beyond those readily available, particularly if some of them don't have any interest of their own in comms.
As a counterpoint, don't we normally not think those things are an excuse for not prepping and not getting training?

I ran into the same thing with the car groups I was leading. Everyone wanted better coms, no one really wanted to work for it. It took 9 months, but we eventually chivvied 14 guys through their tech licenses for the sole purpose of being able to talk car-to-car. Herding cats doesn't begin to describe it, but it was doable.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by crypto » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:25 pm

Yeah, but in the OP's case it sounds like theres a dozen people who go out to this cabin, who may or may not be the same people every time.


By way of hijacking the OP's problem and substituting my own, let me magnify his problem to show you where some of the breakdown occurs.

The Z-con comms problem:

Every year at Z-con we have approximately 60 people in the wilderness for a week, spread out over 80 acres or so of terrain that can only charitably be described as 'challenging'. Most of it is a continuous wooded 20-30 degree incline on a hill made entirely of shale and rhyolite, but this grade contains many smaller terrain features. Cellular communications are sketchy to non-existant.

So, we have the following 3 problems:

1. The volunteers maintaining operations at Z-con need a communication system that can for the most part be relied on to cover the before-mentioned area. These volunteers vary from year to year and only a small percentage have amateur licenses.

2. Z-con attendees would like a way to have general communications between themselves for camp chatter and general bullshitting.

3. The volunteers need a way to communicate with the attendeesthat will get to enough of them that they can word of mouth it to the others.


Now, the part that all three of these problems share with the OP is thus: a variable list of participants who may or may not give a shit about amateur radio nor want to buy a 2m.

Currently we meet the need with GMRS only, but its a lousy solution with point-to-point comms only. Having a GMRS repeater on the top of the hill would be great, but none of the 30 or so ZS-owned GMRS radios handle GMRS duplex (a problem shared with the OP). A simplex repeater seems like it would be a prime solution, but now we run into regulatory compliance problems (like the OP).

Currently our options appear either thusly:

* buy Part 90 radios (unlikely, since we need to run on AA's for the week given that there's no good way to recharge battery packs), * explore MURS and hope that 2W of VHF covers better than UHF does on the terrain
* explore a duplex GMRS repeater and buy duplex-capable radios
* buy a simplex repeater and roll with existing radios.


It doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out that the latter option is by far the most simple and cheap way to go.
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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by williaty » Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:37 pm

Tell them to suck it up. Using tools takes training. If you want to be able to achieve a difficult goal (reliable RF communication in hilly terrain), you have to accept that you'll have to put some work into it. If people aren't willing to do this, I have no sympathy with their whining and wanting everything handed to them on a silver platter. If they want the radio equivalent of "I bought a shotgun so I don't have to aim", then they're not going to get something that works very well. If they want the equivalent of an entire battery so they have a tool that fits the task regardless of the situation, they have to work for it. If they're unwilling to work for it, accept the fact that they're not going to be reachable by RF.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by zommoz10 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:26 pm

crypto wrote:Yeah, but in the OP's case it sounds like theres a dozen people who go out to this cabin, who may or may not be the same people every time.


By way of hijacking the OP's problem and substituting my own, let me magnify his problem to show you where some of the breakdown occurs.

The Z-con comms problem:

Every year at Z-con we have approximately 60 people in the wilderness for a week, spread out over 80 acres or so of terrain that can only charitably be described as 'challenging'. Most of it is a continuous wooded 20-30 degree incline on a hill made entirely of shale and rhyolite, but this grade contains many smaller terrain features. Cellular communications are sketchy to non-existant.

So, we have the following 3 problems:

1. The volunteers maintaining operations at Z-con need a communication system that can for the most part be relied on to cover the before-mentioned area. These volunteers vary from year to year and only a small percentage have amateur licenses.

2. Z-con attendees would like a way to have general communications between themselves for camp chatter and general bullshitting.

3. The volunteers need a way to communicate with the attendeesthat will get to enough of them that they can word of mouth it to the others.


Now, the part that all three of these problems share with the OP is thus: a variable list of participants who may or may not give a shit about amateur radio nor want to buy a 2m.

Currently we meet the need with GMRS only, but its a lousy solution with point-to-point comms only. Having a GMRS repeater on the top of the hill would be great, but none of the 30 or so ZS-owned GMRS radios handle GMRS duplex (a problem shared with the OP). A simplex repeater seems like it would be a prime solution, but now we run into regulatory compliance problems (like the OP).

Currently our options appear either thusly:

* buy Part 90 radios (unlikely, since we need to run on AA's for the week given that there's no good way to recharge battery packs), * explore MURS and hope that 2W of VHF covers better than UHF does on the terrain
* explore a duplex GMRS repeater and buy duplex-capable radios
* buy a simplex repeater and roll with existing radios.


It doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out that the latter option is by far the most simple and cheap way to go.
All you need is a base station "command" to handle traffic.
Simplex repeaters are annoying. ((Simplex repeaters are annoying.))
Hearing staticky bits and pieces of transmissions echoing and then having to wait and wait for a reply will have people turning off their radios.
There's a reason nobody uses those.

I'm involved with a group that does communications for special events and people show up with all kinds of radios. From FRS radios to Motorola XTS3000's and everything in between. A central command station relays traffic to the volunteers using FRS, also to the off duty police officers using municipal public safety systems, and hams.

Even a duplex repeater isn't going to magically solve your communication woes for a special event. You still need a central command.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by crypto » Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:30 pm

Eh, nothing like a command center is going to happen. No one wants to stay at the one place at camp thats farthest from the beer and swimming hole, and constantly baking in the sun.

a FDX repeater would work, but at the cost of needing all new radios.
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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by zommoz10 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:04 pm

crypto wrote:Eh, nothing like a command center is going to happen. No one wants to stay at the one place at camp thats farthest from the beer and swimming hole, and constantly baking in the sun.
People that volunteer to do communications for special events normally do it because it's rewarding to serve and give back. Getting to use one's equipment and skills in a real life situation is more rewarding than beer and swimming holes.

You said the area is 80 acres. That's about 2/3 the size of the average public high school parcel in my area. Now perhaps you misjudged the actual land area but figuring out communications challenges is what many hams live for. If you want to PM me the location, I'll pull up topo maps and tell you what should work in the future. Usually the events I work are on 10-20 size the land area. Also, there may be existing repeaters already in the area, high up on a mountain that may be able to serve the whole place.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by nateted4 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:09 pm

A net control station would handle the Zcon thing, but it does sound like too big a hassle. Also, net control stations work best when there is some leadership hierarchy. This does not sound like it is the case.

Re-equiping with new Radios, plus the cost of the GMRS duplex repeater seems cost prohibitive.

I think simplex net round robin could work. Ask for relays from intermediate stations as necessary?

If I had 60ish non-comms people spread out over a non-line-of-sight coverage area I would give them a quick 10 minute demonstration of how to relay simplex voice comms. Not difficult, but hearing it done is helpful. Lack of a central control point will make it messy, but you guys are just hanging out, not running and event or disaster recovery.
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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by crypto » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:55 pm

And again, the traffic over the nets at z-con isnt appropriate for the amateur service. I promise.


And we have way more people who need radios than hams.
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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by Atomic_Dog » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:25 am

I may have missed it, but is 11m out of the question? From what I'm reading the language alone would make it an obvious option. You could use an 11m HT and connect it to whatever antenna is required. Field base stations would be easy as well. Heck, I once saw a guy with a car battery, full sized CB and a 102" whip on a backpack frame. Wouldn't be my first choice but I'm not gonna mess with anyone who can carry that around all day, or crazy enough to do so.
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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by zommoz10 » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:32 am

nateted4 wrote:A net control station would handle the Zcon thing, but it does sound like too big a hassle.
Of course it does. To the event organizers, it *is* a hassle. But to hams that do comms for special events, it's just another day at the office.
nateted4 wrote: Also, net control stations work best when there is some leadership hierarchy. This does not sound like it is the case.
Yes, there must be leadership. It's all behind the scenes to event attendees and participants.
nateted4 wrote: Re-equiping with new Radios, plus the cost of the GMRS duplex repeater seems cost prohibitive.
A used repeater with all of the things needed to get it up and running, you're looking at a minimum of $2000.
There are some radio rental outfits that rent repeaters. They're most often on a trailer so if there are no roads where the repeater is then you can forget it.
nateted4 wrote:I think simplex net round robin could work. Ask for relays from intermediate stations as necessary?
Has anyone here besides myself that is advocating for simplex repeaters actually used one before? They're really not very useful, especially if there are a lot of users on the system. People will be transmitting over others because they can't hear their traffic.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by 44Dave » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:35 am

crypto wrote:And again, the traffic over the nets at z-con isnt appropriate for the amateur service. I promise.


And we have way more people who need radios than hams.
Net control doesn't have anything to do with what service you use, it just requires some organization which might not be doable from your comments.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by 44Dave » Fri Jan 20, 2012 9:36 am

Atomic_Dog wrote:I may have missed it, but is 11m out of the question? From what I'm reading the language alone would make it an obvious option. You could use an 11m HT and connect it to whatever antenna is required. Field base stations would be easy as well. Heck, I once saw a guy with a car battery, full sized CB and a 102" whip on a backpack frame. Wouldn't be my first choice but I'm not gonna mess with anyone who can carry that around all day, or crazy enough to do so.
Then everyone would have to buy CBs. Part of the problem is that there is no standardization, or the default standard has already been selected as FRS/GMRS just from the preponderance of existing gear that people already have.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by rpc » Fri Jan 20, 2012 4:11 pm

If there's a tall tree near the location of the beer, then there might be one inexpensive solution that would dramatically increase the ability to communicate, at very little expense.

The cheap FRS radios are not allowed to have any provision for an external antenna. And the cheap GMRS radios don't have any such provision, because the marketing folks decided it would be a good idea to add FRS channels 8 through 14. But it's quite legal to have an external microphone and speaker.

So it would be possible to hoist an FRS radio up into a tall tree (in a weather tight plastic container), with a long microphone cable (and power and speaker cable) coming down to a convenient spot near the beer. You would need to get a radio that always come on to the same channel when powered up, and you would be stuck using that channel.

It wouldn't work in all situations, and it wouldn't be the most convenient setup in the world. But for some situations, it would provide a lot of flexibility.

At one time, Radio Shack sold an FRS radio with a magnet that went on top of your car. It had a long cord to the speaker-microphone, and another long cord to plug in to the lighter socket. Even if you can't find one of those, you could use a cheap FRS radio, as long as it had a jack for speaker and microphone.

It would require a bit of playing around. In particular, the long microphone cord would be problematic, and would attenuate the audio in many cases. I haven't done it yet, but I suspect it could be made to work. Once you've got it working, the guy near the beer just has to pick up the microphone and push the button.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by zommoz10 » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:42 pm

rpc wrote:If there's a tall tree near the location of the beer, then there might be one inexpensive solution that would dramatically increase the ability to communicate, at very little expense.

The cheap FRS radios are not allowed to have any provision for an external antenna. And the cheap GMRS radios don't have any such provision, because the marketing folks decided it would be a good idea to add FRS channels 8 through 14. But it's quite legal to have an external microphone and speaker.

So it would be possible to hoist an FRS radio up into a tall tree (in a weather tight plastic container), with a long microphone cable (and power and speaker cable) coming down to a convenient spot near the beer. You would need to get a radio that always come on to the same channel when powered up, and you would be stuck using that channel.

It wouldn't work in all situations, and it wouldn't be the most convenient setup in the world. But for some situations, it would provide a lot of flexibility.

At one time, Radio Shack sold an FRS radio with a magnet that went on top of your car. It had a long cord to the speaker-microphone, and another long cord to plug in to the lighter socket. Even if you can't find one of those, you could use a cheap FRS radio, as long as it had a jack for speaker and microphone.

It would require a bit of playing around. In particular, the long microphone cord would be problematic, and would attenuate the audio in many cases. I haven't done it yet, but I suspect it could be made to work. Once you've got it working, the guy near the beer just has to pick up the microphone and push the button.
That's cute. It might improve your range somewhat but in order to get a marked increase in coverage area, you'd have to hoist that sucker so high up that you'd end up having to amplify your mic-in and maybe even your speaker out. And even then, you're still using a lossy, not really a very good antenna.

You can probably get better reception on the ground with a better antenna and higher power.
Last edited by zommoz10 on Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by 44Dave » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:42 pm

Awesome solution.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by zommoz10 » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:44 pm

Our simultaneous post, 44dave, is an excellent example of why simplex repeaters suck.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by zommoz10 » Fri Jan 20, 2012 5:49 pm

44Dave wrote:
Atomic_Dog wrote:I may have missed it, but is 11m out of the question? From what I'm reading the language alone would make it an obvious option. You could use an 11m HT and connect it to whatever antenna is required. Field base stations would be easy as well. Heck, I once saw a guy with a car battery, full sized CB and a 102" whip on a backpack frame. Wouldn't be my first choice but I'm not gonna mess with anyone who can carry that around all day, or crazy enough to do so.
Then everyone would have to buy CBs. Part of the problem is that there is no standardization, or the default standard has already been selected as FRS/GMRS just from the preponderance of existing gear that people already have.

One thing I can tell you from my own experience is that if you have a net control or central command, people can bring their own radios- whatever they got.
Some people can be on CB, others on GMRS, others on UHF, others on VHF, others on 800mhz, others on Nextel. It doesn't matter as long as there's a central point to coordinate personnel and manage radio traffic.

Obviously it would be nice if everyone could hear each other but it's not necessarily essential.

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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by Commo141 » Mon Jan 23, 2012 3:15 pm

rpc wrote:If there's a tall tree near the location of the beer, then there might be one inexpensive solution that would dramatically increase the ability to communicate, at very little expense.

The cheap FRS radios are not allowed to have any provision for an external antenna. And the cheap GMRS radios don't have any such provision, because the marketing folks decided it would be a good idea to add FRS channels 8 through 14. But it's quite legal to have an external microphone and speaker.

So it would be possible to hoist an FRS radio up into a tall tree (in a weather tight plastic container), with a long microphone cable (and power and speaker cable) coming down to a convenient spot near the beer. You would need to get a radio that always come on to the same channel when powered up, and you would be stuck using that channel.

It wouldn't work in all situations, and it wouldn't be the most convenient setup in the world. But for some situations, it would provide a lot of flexibility.

At one time, Radio Shack sold an FRS radio with a magnet that went on top of your car. It had a long cord to the speaker-microphone, and another long cord to plug in to the lighter socket. Even if you can't find one of those, you could use a cheap FRS radio, as long as it had a jack for speaker and microphone.

It would require a bit of playing around. In particular, the long microphone cord would be problematic, and would attenuate the audio in many cases. I haven't done it yet, but I suspect it could be made to work. Once you've got it working, the guy near the beer just has to pick up the microphone and push the button.
I work at an air show with ISR radios which are basically the same as an FRS radio. This is the approach I used with the radio 25 ft up on a pole, I did use a D-104 mic and an amplified speaker. It did work and extended the range of the HT over most of the location.

I am looking at a cross band repeater as a way to tie our ISR's and the VHF radios we use for longer range work. There are repeater control unit that can be put between two radios and make a repeater both regular duplex and for cross band repeating on e-bay. Of course to use cross band both bands would have to be in the same service. so that would not be of any use from this discussion.

Setting up a communications center would be useful if you are going to be using more that one method of communication.
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Re: Non-licensed Radio Operation

Post by Redshirt » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:15 pm

KJ4VOV wrote: I couldn't agree more! A paper license simply certifies that you should know enough to stay out of trouble and operate legally, and that you've demonstrated the bare minimum competence required.
I'd like to mention that a paper license of any variety simply certifies that you passed a test. I have a technician license, a radio, and not a freaking clue other than that I shouldn't hit the transmit button until I have a sit down with a veteran ham to make sure I know what I am doing and I've listened to the chatter for a month or so.

I've seen people with computer certifications that know nothing about computers, and people without certifications that know more than some people with CISSP certifications.

I'm not even going to get started on the finance certifications. That might send me spiraling into the bad conversation zone. And then Raptor might ban me so hard I bounce across 3 subnets. :mrgreen:

So that being said, I hold no value in the licensing systems of any organization. Demonstrated competence is how I measure the competence of a person.

And now for my thoughts on a solution... Didn't Nextel have some phones with a 2-way radio component at one point that had decent distance?

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