July 12, 2017
Hey all, The FCC just restructured some of the radio services. Below is an overview... I think the club could make great use of the restructuring for trail communications.
FRS (Family Radio Service) - Operates in UHF spectrum, so it works better at getting through glass and metal (vehicles cabs). It is has now been bumped up to 2watts of permissable power, which will give you 1-3 miles of range off roading in the sierras. Now opened to 22 channels. Limited to .5 watt on a handful of those channels though. UNLICENSED.
MURS (Multi Use Radio Service) - Limited to 2 watts, so similar range as FRS, but it operates in VHF spectrum, so it will work a little better at getting signals around ridges and down into valleys than UHF. But you need an antenna on the outside of your vehicle. UNLICENSED. 5 channels.
GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) - Designed for families. A family can buy a license for 70$ and everyone in that family (defined by last name and blood relation) can use GMRS devices. Has channels for repeaters (very unlikely to find any repeaters in non-populated areas, so for emergency communications, still not a viable option imo). Operates in UHF spectrum, so better for having an antenna inside the vehicle. 2-5 mile range. Mobile radios can now run 50watts of power which can get your signal out upwards of 5-15 miles depending on the terrain. The downside to this, is GMRS shares all of its frequencies with FRS, so it is more likely that you will have trouble finding an open channel (of the 22 available to both services) in populated areas. But for offroading, an excellent choice... especially if you have a mobile radio setup. For the 70$ license fee, you can get a ham license, and 2 handhelds though lol.
Amateur Radio (Ham) - Same as it was... limited to 1,500 watts. Most handhelds are 5watts, there are some awesome 8watt handhelds that I have found recently. Most mobiles are 50 watts, some single band mobiles are 75 watts, and there are a couple of mobile radios that will hit 100 watts. The benefit to Ham for off roaders is the ability to use repeaters (increase your range upwards of 300 miles), APRS, and still have access to all of the above services.
An article I just wrote covers it a little bit more in detail, and includes radio options on amazon that work in each of these services.
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