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Old 26-09-2017, 15:17   #1
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FRS Radio regs changing in US

Just a heads-up. As of September 28th the FCC is changing the rules for several radio services including GMRS and FRS. What may be of use for some folks is the change allowing FRS radios to have power up to 2 watts (from 1/2 watt previously), which makes them pretty well suited for ship to shore or shore to shore. And a number of good quality used commercial radios can be obtained cheap (Icom, Kenwood, etc.) that are capable of 2W operation and old enough to be grandfathered for legal FRS use. Or, simply used illegally (oh my!) but so inoffensively that no one should really have a problem.

Not saying to do it--just that some rules are changing. If you need something besides cell phones, check around.
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Old 26-09-2017, 18:00   #2
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Re: FRS Radio regs changing in US

This is good news! We use a pair of handhelds that have both VHF Marine and GMRS bands. Very handy to have both in one portable unit. The GMRS range is actually pretty good, considering. I can only assume the additional wattage will make future versions even better.
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Old 26-09-2017, 18:55   #3
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Re: FRS Radio regs changing in US

Not quite, Tom.
Your VHF/GMRS radio may be legal in the US, but the legality of radios does not just depend on what frequencies they use.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family...Service#Mexico
"Mexico[edit]
Since tourists often bring their FRS radios with them, and since trade between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico is of great value to all three countries, the Mexican Secretary of Communication and Transportation has authorized use of the FRS frequencies and equipment similar to that in the US. However, dual-mode FRS/GMRS equipment is not approved in Mexico, so caution should be exercised in operating hybrid FRS/GMRS devices purchased elsewhere.[8]"

If you had a GMRS-only radio that was MADE IN MEXICO, it would apparently be legal to use there. The same way that an FCC type accepted GMRS radio is the only type that is legal to use in the US. (Most of the Chinese heap radios you see sold online are in fact not legal to use here.)

So...you buy a Mexican GMRS radio in Mexico, and if it is similar to a US GMRS radio, you'll also need to apply for user licenses for it.

Otherwise...you are back to using whatever you feel comfortable that you'll get away with. Dunno about Mexico, but here in the US it is easy to tell if you have a license to use a GMRS radio. If you're not using that license when you make your calls...you're assumed not to have one.

Like jaywalking, speeding, and littering, it works as long as you get away with it. And I think only Singapore will cane you for the last. (In Switzerland they just stare at you until you pick up the trash.)
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Old 26-09-2017, 19:27   #4
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Re: FRS Radio regs changing in US

Hmm... I'm pretty sure our old West Marine VHF handhelds also do FRS, but we have never used them for that. Prolly half watt.
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Old 27-09-2017, 12:17   #5
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Re: FRS Radio regs changing in US

todd-
No VHF radio can do UHF frequencies. Yes, you can have a radio that does both--but it would not be a VHF radio, it would be something special. And since FRS also is required to have a fixed antenna, while marine VHFs normally have a removable replaceable one, that would also require "kneecapping" the special radio.
So...you might have some special radios that were built for dual bands, but they could not be "VHF" radios as such. They would be dual-band. You might as well call them "FRS radios that do marine VHF". They still have to be dual-band, not just VHF radios.

FRS is a great way to talk to the foredeck when they're upwind of you.(G)
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Old 27-09-2017, 12:58   #6
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Re: FRS Radio regs changing in US

What can I say? There's one sitting right here on my desk, running in scanner mode. It's a West Marine branded submersible "VHF 250" handheld. You press the "band" button and it rotates through VHF, FRS, AM, FM, AIR. A quick google shows lots of models that do that. They call them "VHF" radios because that's the primary function.
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Old 28-09-2017, 00:24   #7
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Re: FRS Radio regs changing in US

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Just a heads-up. As of September 28th the FCC is changing the rules for several radio services including GMRS and FRS. What may be of use for some folks is the change allowing FRS radios to have power up to 2 watts (from 1/2 watt previously), which makes them pretty well suited for ship to shore or shore to shore. And a number of good quality used commercial radios can be obtained cheap (Icom, Kenwood, etc.) that are capable of 2W operation and old enough to be grandfathered for legal FRS use. Or, simply used illegally (oh my!) but so inoffensively that no one should really have a problem.

Not saying to do it--just that some rules are changing. If you need something besides cell phones, check around.
Baofeng comes to mind. Their UV-5R is a 2w transceiver fully FCC type accepted for BOTH amateur AND commercial, covers the VHF band from 135 to 175 and UHF from 420 to 512 and it has a broadcast FM receiver from 76 to 108. Oh, did I mention it sells for less than US$40 with charger? It's a throwaway price. They have more powerful models now for a bit more money but since they cover all the freqs you would ever need or want on VHF/UHF, why go with anything else? Yes, the antenna is removable, cables and accessories are available on ebay and Amazon, etc.
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Old 28-09-2017, 05:08   #8
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Re: FRS Radio regs changing in US

Just a warning about the Baofeng UV5R, of which I have four .

Yes its very cheap for what it does, and might serve your purpose fairly well, but its receive sensitivity on certain bands is abysmal according to hams who have the means to test it, and my experience bears that out. I would not count on it in marginal conditions.

When using it on FRS bands between two cars traveling down the highway, the useful range was only on the order of about 300 yards. Your mileage may vary. On the other hand it seems at least useable on the ham 2 meter band.

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Old 28-09-2017, 05:58   #9
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Re: FRS Radio regs changing in US

So many vendors import so many different versions of BaoFeng products that it is hard to tell exactly which one is which. Some of them may be Part90 certified for commercial use, or Part95 certified, or otherwise. Some have no apparent certifications.

Low power may be 1W or 2W, I didn't see any claim for it.

And while they are great radios for the price, every objective test of them has come back saying they are what they are: Incredible cheap radios. In performance and technical specs, they can't touch a commercial grade (real Part90) or even top-brand radio. They're software defined radios, and that makes them inexpensive but subject to certain other problems.

I'd be fairly certain that a number of older commercial-grade certified Part90 radios can work FRS on 2 watts, and if they were made before a certain date, they'd be grandfathered to legally do so. Well, aside from the antenna question, but I don't think anyone will get busted for that, as long as that's the only issue. Caveat emptor and all that good stuff.

And yes, I also have a BF radio. Can't beat the price as a spare. Can and do beat the performance if the real radio is working. Easily.
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Old 29-09-2017, 12:35   #10
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Re: FRS Radio regs changing in US

I picked up a pair of new ICOM V60 handhelds. These are FCC'd as general UHF transceivers. Mine are software tunable from 450 MHZ to 520 MHZ with a programmable power output 1,2,5W and all the features required by municipalities. Simplex or duplex communication in 125 channels in the available band from 450 to 520 MHZ. A noval feature is they have encryption ability. Won't fool the pros but casual receivers will hear crap instead of language. alpha identification are available and transmitted squelch. These radios were sold for $500 each until recently. I got min at West Marine at 85%off.
I got mine on the air by getting an FCC license for GMRS at $70 for 5 years.
Then I got the USB programming software and an adapter cable, and programmed full 5 watts on every GMRS frequency that is legal at that power.
In my first programming I tried to stick with all the FCC rules and make the radios as compatible with the cheap GMRS radios as possible.
In the next programming I will add some privacy and repeater/base selections. Along with making some duplex channels HH to HH.
Warning: The entire frequency range of 450 MHZ to 520MHZ can be transmitted on and received on by these radios, to keep the FCC off my back I will always be using the GMRS freqs BUT some of the programmable features I like are not legal for GMRS. Another serious issue is to accidentally select a channel aready owned by a business licensed operator when programming channels.
These commercial ICOM"S are tiny and waterproof and are great for marine operations even on the GMRS channels.
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