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  1. #1
    Lagomorph Demonicus stumpjumper's Avatar
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    2-way radios: WTF????

    I dropped by my local Best Buy and picked up a pair of Motorola 32 channel GMRS 2-way radios on sale for 15 bucks. Figured it would be nice to have on group rides, and for 15 bucks you cant go wrong.

    Looking at the enclosed info sheet, I evidently need an FCC license to operate these. Who knows why, but okay whatever. Off I go to the FCC website to register, when much to my suprise I find its going to cost me $75 bucks for a license!

    What the heck?!?!?

    So, how many of you with 2-way radios actually have a license? Should I bother? The chick on the FCC's consumer info hotline warned me of hefty fines and dire consequences if I use mine without a license.


    This is like buying a car for $15,000 and finding out license and registration are going to cost me $75,000. What a ripoff.
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    Only buy the license if you really feel motivated. We were all supposed to have licenses for our CBs too. Enforcement is almost non-existent.

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    Well, the first 14 channels (FMR - I think that's what they're called) do not need licensing.

    GMRS do. But like MisterJ said, most people do not have the license.

    BTW, which model do you have??? $15 for 32 channels sounds like a great deal!

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    Senior Member firebolt's Avatar
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    Originally posted by stumpjumper

    This is like buying a car for $15,000 and finding out license and registration are going to cost me $75,000. What a ripoff.
    Kinda remind me of this car-control measure:

    Buying a car in Singapore is very expensive. This is because of some additional money to buy "permission to buy a car" that may be 75% of the cost of the car.

    You are not too far off

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    Originally posted by MisterJ
    Only buy the license if you really feel motivated. We were all supposed to have licenses for our CBs too. Enforcement is almost non-existent.
    GMRS is different. There is enforcement.
    Robert Tankersley

  6. #6
    Footballus vita est iamlucky13's Avatar
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    I just did a google search on GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service). It sounds like it is a higher power complement to the FRS (Family Radio Service) bands.

    The FRS are the handhelds you see joggers and people at theme parks carrying around and DO NOT require a liscense. They are 14 channel digital radios with privacy codes that act sort of like extra channels. They are cheap and conveniant, but the clarity could be better (I think the frequency might be too low for good digital quality).

    Handheld GMRS are more powerful (2 watts instead of 1/2) and may also be operated from base stations of up to 50 watts. There are also special frequencies in GMRS which are used for repeaters stations, which can signifcantly extend the range of a handheld, if there is a repeater in range.
    And yes, you are legally required to have the $75 liscence.

    Another available band is the MURS (multi use radio service) citizens band (different from the original AM cb's which are still available). It operates at 2 watts and with 5 channels and does not require a liscence, but is not as popular currently as FRS or GMRS, so the radios cost more right now.

    Of course, if you only bike in areas where there is cell phone service, one those new phones with "walkie talkie" features work pretty well.

    I'd say return the radios to where you got them and pick up a pair of FRS radios. They cost about the same as what you paid and should work fine for cycling. Sorry for the essay, hope it helps.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member nebill's Avatar
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    Yes, there is a difference between GMRS and FRS. FRS is just the UHF equivalent of the old CB radios, and no licenses have been required for over a decade here in the US for any of the CB bands. CB bands are actually scattered all over the radio spectrum. Team Cycle Sport uses FRS radios every year on RAGBRAI, and fequently they can be found on our mountain bike excursions. They are just very handy to have. I don't know how aggressively the FCC will be monitoring the Ground Mobile Radio Service frequencies, but personally, considering the huge fines they can levy, I'd not risk it!
    Keep Spinning!!
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    Originally posted by Cadd
    Well, the first 14 channels (FMR - I think that's what they're called) do not need licensing.

    GMRS do. But like MisterJ said, most people do not have the license.

    BTW, which model do you have??? $15 for 32 channels sounds like a great deal!
    Not True! The first 7 are both FRS and GMRS. If you are on one of those with a GMRS radio you are probably transmitting with the power of the GMRS and thus would be in violation. On those first 7 you can talk to someone else who has a FRS but you with a GMRS still need a license.

    Bikers get a bad name for ignoring the laws of road use. Don't add to that the ignoring of radio rules.
    Robert Tankersley

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    I would not bother with a license. It is not like a HAM or shortwave radio that they will fine you for. Second I doubt they broadcast above 2 watt and the FCC will not come track you down for using them.

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    Originally posted by MattC
    I would not bother with a license. It is not like a HAM or shortwave radio that they will fine you for. Second I doubt they broadcast above 2 watt and the FCC will not come track you down for using them.
    They will fine you. The GMRS users monitor their channels and will report you to the FCC. It is not worth taking the chance. Use FRS (no license needed) or get a license.
    Robert Tankersley

  11. #11
    Chi
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    Can't you get a restricted radio license for free?

  12. #12
    Go Yankees MI_rider's Avatar
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    Originally posted by RobertTank
    They will fine you. The GMRS users monitor their channels and will report you to the FCC.
    How are the other users going to know that Stumpjumper doesn't have a license? Are you required to identify yourself and your license everytime you use the radio? Just curious.

    I would be suprised if anyone had any real problem with it if you weren't abusing the airwaves or harassing other users. On the other hand I probably wouldn't want to risk the fines and would either get the license or a different set of radios.

  13. #13
    Footballus vita est iamlucky13's Avatar
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    Why debate over liscences and fines. If there are no benefits to a risk you don't have to take (unliscenced GMRS) compared to a definitely acceptable action (FRS), why not be safe. Besides, if you start riding with larger groups, it will be easier to get in touch with them with FRS because others are more likely to have them.
    I still say return the GMRS (they didn't explain everything you needed to know about the radios, so I'm sure they'll take them back) and get a set of FRS radios.
    "The internet is a place where absolutely nothing happens. You need to take advantage of that." ~ Strong Bad

  14. #14
    Lagomorph Demonicus stumpjumper's Avatar
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    BTW, which model do you have??? $15 for 32 channels sounds like a great deal!
    Oops, its not a Motorolla, its a Uniden GMRS540 (22 channels: 8 GMRS, 14 FRS, plus 7 weather/NOAA, has about a 2-mile range which is all I really need. ) They came as a set of 2 for about $15. Yeah, I thought it was a good deal too until I realized the FCC wanted to bend me over for a license

    Bikers get a bad name for ignoring the laws of road use. Don't add to that the ignoring of radio rules.
    Uh.. okay.
    Somehow I dont see how using these particular channels in the backcountry is realy going to interfere with anything or even come close to the severity of ignoring the laws of road use and risking ones life/health and the health of others, but okay fine. I'm not sure anyone could tell I'm a cyclist by my voice, but again, ooookay I'm also not going to argue if its legal or illegal, I just dont see any sense in charging five times the price of a tool for the privelage of using it legally. That quite frankly is crap.

    Meaning no offense, just curiously Robert, why the strong opinion on this particular subject? I assume you Ham as a hobby or perhaps work for the FCC?
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  15. #15
    Indiana roadie mnppunky's Avatar
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    What can they do? Track you down on your bicycle way out in bfe and write you a citation! How will the fcc track you and know who you are if you are not using them but every so often on a ride?
    Touchstone Energy Cooperatives

  16. #16
    Footballus vita est iamlucky13's Avatar
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    Wait a sec...if it has the 14 FRS channels, you should be fine on those, as long as it only broadcasts 1/2 watt on those channels. Add in the availability to listen to NOAA channels and you've got a nice setup. I guess just leave it off of the GMRS channels.
    2 for $15 bucks!?! That's outstanding. Those radios are normally $100+ for a handheld and I would imagine a bit more more for a base station.
    My two cents - I doubt very much life or death traffic goes over the GMRS airwaves, but the FCC still can regulate the channels to ensure that they are used for what they are intended and those users who payed for the liscences have available what they payed for. There are, however, specific other wavelengths for emergency traffic.
    "The internet is a place where absolutely nothing happens. You need to take advantage of that." ~ Strong Bad

  17. #17
    Lagomorph Demonicus stumpjumper's Avatar
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    Hey! Amazing what research can do. Check this out.

    According to the specs, power output on ly lil' radio is only 500mW.

    The FCC website says
    "If you operate a radio that has been approved exclusively under the rules that apply to FRS, you are not required to have a license. FRS radios have a maximum power of watt (500 milliwatt) effective radiated power and integral (non-detachable) antennas. If you operate a radio under the rules that apply to GMRS, you must have a GMRS license. GMRS radios generally transmit at higher power levels (1 to 5 watts is typical) and may have detachable antennas. "
    ...so I think I'm in the free and clear as far as power goes.

    Also, according to the FCC site, 462-467 MHz is both the GMRS -and- FRS range of frequency. Is the only difference between the two power output???

    Does this mean the only difference is power outout??


    Indeed, according to this...
    http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/per.../bandplan.html
    ...the first 7 frequencies are shared between the two services. The footnote at the bottom says:
    "These channels are shared with the Family Radio Service. Any mobile station in a GMRS system may transmit on the 467.675 MHz channel to communicate through a mobile relay station transmitting on the 462.675 MHz channel."


    Whelp? what do you think?
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  18. #18
    Lagomorph Demonicus stumpjumper's Avatar
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    Holy crap, Lucky.. I looked around the internet and your right... The lowest price I can find for 2 is $38. These things must have been mismarked or something. I think I'll go back and check to see if they still have a few....
    Lord Bowler: Uh oh. You hit the sheriff
    Brisco County Jr.: Yeah, but I did not hit the deputy.

  19. #19
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    Originally posted by Chi
    Can't you get a restricted radio license for free?

    If you use a FRS radio there is no license needed.
    Robert Tankersley

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    Originally posted by MI_rider
    How are the other users going to know that Stumpjumper doesn't have a license? Are you required to identify yourself and your license everytime you use the radio? Just curious.

    I would be suprised if anyone had any real problem with it if you weren't abusing the airwaves or harassing other users. On the other hand I probably wouldn't want to risk the fines and would either get the license or a different set of radios.
    On GMRS you must identify yourself during each transmittal. On FRS you do not have to identify yourself.

    FRS is no license. GMRS requires a license.
    Robert Tankersley

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    Originally posted by stumpjumper
    Oops, its not a Motorolla, its a Uniden GMRS540 (22 channels: 8 GMRS, 14 FRS, plus 7 weather/NOAA, has about a 2-mile range which is all I really need. ) They came as a set of 2 for about $15. Yeah, I thought it was a good deal too until I realized the FCC wanted to bend me over for a license



    Uh.. okay.
    Somehow I dont see how using these particular channels in the backcountry is realy going to interfere with anything or even come close to the severity of ignoring the laws of road use and risking ones life/health and the health of others, but okay fine. I'm not sure anyone could tell I'm a cyclist by my voice, but again, ooookay I'm also not going to argue if its legal or illegal, I just dont see any sense in charging five times the price of a tool for the privelage of using it legally. That quite frankly is crap.

    Meaning no offense, just curiously Robert, why the strong opinion on this particular subject? I assume you Ham as a hobby or perhaps work for the FCC?
    No but I have researched the rules. I have strong opinions on things that are legal and not legal. (whether I agree or not). Stop signs, etc.
    Robert Tankersley

  22. #22
    LBAPD Bike Patrol Psykik's Avatar
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    Indeed to many, an FRS radio, a GMRS or ham radio are all the same, but with different funny letters assigned to them.

    Yes, many of these operate on UHF, but their frequency allocation, power levels and use designation may be different.

    GMRS can be used with repeater systems, which will take your weak signal and retransmit it. These repeaters are operated by licensed GMRS owners who must bear responsibility for the use of their repeaters. This is not unlike ham radio. As such, if you use a GMRS radio on a repeater, or even simplex (point to point), you are expected to use your license call sign.

    FRS is the Family Radio Service, which was designed with frequency allocations and power output for anyone to use without a license.

    GMRS was developed for other reasons, although they are not mutually exclusive with FRS. Bottom line is that you need a license to use a GMRS radio. This license, unlike a ham radio license does not require any written test to show proficiency in radio theory, physics, electronics and international laws.

    Yes, in this case, the cost of the license in respect to two radios for $15 sounds odd, but these radios were more costly when they first came out and the opposite was true. The radios were more expensive than the license.

    When you pay the fee to get your driver's license, it is not based on the rising or falling value of automobiles or cheaper for a Geo than a Ferrari.

    Sure, you can get away with using a GMRS without a license. Likewise, there are plenty of people who use ham radio frequencies illegally. Is it legal to do so? No. Will you get away with it? Most likely, although believe me, I have been involved in cases where illegal operators were found and charged. Those who take the time to do the right thing and invest money into their radios/repeaters, etc. want to protect their investment.

    Basically, some bad-mouthed kid on an FRS radio can curse up a storm...with such little wattage, it will not go far. With the greater output of a GMRS radio and the ability to add an antenna with substantial gain and height, such actions can carry for miles, and many more on the repeaters. It is due to theses advantages that GMRS is more regulated.

    On GMRS and ham radio, you are not anonymous and the users tend to be self-policing.

    Ultimately, the choice is yours to do with the equipment what you wish. Any harm done or any lives in jeopardy? Basically not a chance. If you wish to use reliable short distance two-way communication on a tiny radio and without a license, you must use FRS.

    Is this what someone might want to hear? I dunno, but they are the facts. At least the difference between FRS and GMRS won't be as cloudy.

    The fact that you bought the radios only to find out later that you need a license is unfortunate. That information should have been more clearly conveyed on the package. Either way, the choice is yours to do as you wish, but at least you would have known before the purchase.

    Best,
    Rob
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  23. #23
    Footballus vita est iamlucky13's Avatar
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    The FCC website says
    "If you operate a radio under the rules that apply to GMRS, you must have a GMRS license. GMRS radios generally transmit at higher power levels (1 to 5 watts is typical) and may have detachable antennas. "
    ...so I think I'm in the free and clear as far as power goes.
    Yep...it says if you use it like a GMRS radio (on one of the GMRS channels at power greater that 500 mW) you need a liscence. If you operate as an FRS radio, (less than 500 mW, on an FRS channel even if it is a channel shared with GMRS, I believe), you are in the clear. Just make sure you keep your radios set on FRS. If a lawyer wanted to be an @$$, the exact wording MIGHT allow prosecution based on the fact that the radios are GMRS capable, but only if the judge were dumb and you have enemies close to you to report you
    "The internet is a place where absolutely nothing happens. You need to take advantage of that." ~ Strong Bad

  24. #24
    1.64x10^6 posts Grendel's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Psykik
    GMRS was developed for other reasons, although they are not mutually exclusive with FRS. Bottom line is that you need a license to use a GMRS radio. This license, unlike a ham radio license does not require any written test to show proficiency in radio theory, physics, electronics and international laws.
    If no test is required then what good does it do to require the license? If the power output and antenna config is such that a license is required, then shouldn't the users be tested to make sure they know what they're doing with the equipment?

  25. #25
    LBAPD Bike Patrol Psykik's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Grendel
    If no test is required then what good does it do to require the license? If the power output and antenna config is such that a license is required, then shouldn't the users be tested to make sure they know what they're doing with the equipment?
    The license, in this case is like a registration. No test is needed. This is a way to bring some organization to GMRS and to make users accountable, i.e. identifiable. Perhaps this does not make sense to some of you, (since I am a licensed Amateur Radio operator, the theory behind all of this is second-nature to me!) but there are various levels of frequency use with various levels of requirements and credentials.

    For FRS, none.

    For GMRS, minimal- the individual is licensed (registered)

    Business Band radios (like security/stores use) The frequency used is licensed to the location and covers all entities using the radios.

    Amateur (Ham) Radio- several levels of licensing in which the individual must show proficiency in various things, including Morse Code for certain frequency privileges.

    The GMRS radios (I imagine FRS too) should have some sort of blurb about proper use, i.e. no cursing, using them to commit crimes. GMRS can be used for business purposes and are not on any frequency in which international communication will be held. For GMRS, common sense and common courtesy are the only real requirements for operations. Amateur Radio is far more complicated and through international laws requires certain things, and through Part 95 of the FCC rules, a whole bunch of other things.

    I don't mean to become too technical here but in summation, GMRS although more powerful, upgradeable and repeater usable can still be operated without special testing. The extra abilities however causes the FCC to ask users to obtain an operator's license- no test required.
    '03 Specialized Sequoia Expert
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