A Newbie Needs Help With a Couple of Ham Radio Questions

Hi, I have only some knowledge of amateur radio, but I’m considering getting involved with it because it seems to offer greater range than other forms of two-way radio communication. Here are a couple things I’d like to know before I take the plunge and invest hard-earned cash in something that ends up collecting dust in my basement:

  1. What kind of effective range can I expect to get from a mobile unit (either hand-held or car-mounted)?

  2. Is it possible to achieve any kind of real privacy while broadcasting over ham radio? For instance, is it possible to encrypt a digital transmission so that only a radio programmed to decrypt the code can interpret it back into an intelligible audio output?

  1. With ham radio, you would most likely have the option of communicating through a repeater. There are tons of them throughout the country that are open for use by anyone with an amateur license. (It is polite, however, to join or donate to a club or whoever may be sponsoring the repeater.) With a repeater it’s not uncommon to see range of 100 miles or more.

  2. You are not allowed to use encryption or anything else to purposefully obscure a transmission.

Thanks for the answers!

I think I finally got the answer I was looking for to my second question!

Now, for a follow-up question: Do you know why this limitation is in place?

And another question, does purposefully obscuring a transmission include audible transmissions of words and/or letter names that would sound like gobbledygook to anyone who didn’t know how to translate it?

The amateur service is intended to be public and open, so you’re not supposed to do anything that intentionally makes what you’re transmitting indecipherable to others. This link provides a few specifics.

This isn’t an exception, but you might be interested to know that you are not required to transmit using FM modulation. As I understand it, your transmission can be encoded as long as you are using some public standard and you don’t make a secret of the type of standard you are using. An overwhelming number of 2m and 70cm radios are going to be using FM. However, as one example, there are DMR radios and FDMA radios that are digital and should be fine to use on some amateur frequencies. Transmissions from them wouldn’t be understandable through a typical radio, but could be heard through a radio that uses the same digital standard. This would, however, likely eliminate using local repeaters as an option, but it would be an option to set up your own.

I think that what this web site has attracted is what we call preppers, or people who are trying to defeat the purpose of the cell phone - which is to provide personal communications.

Amateur Radio is regulated by the Part 97 sub part 15 of the FCC code.

Buy yourself a Part 97 manual and read it.

You cannot become a amateur radio operator unless you know and understand the rules.

About the only Two Meter ( 144 - 148 MHz ) communications that is used in conjunction with a repeater that is not analog FM would be D-Star.

APRS - also incorporates a type of TNC and display which allows you to send short text messages - but then again requires each user to be a licensed amateur.

APRS was never designed to be used as a tracking device or a text message system - but you cannot receive APRS unless you have the radio equipment to do so… The same is true with D Star - which doesn’t work anyways - because it is digital and you have to have a clear line of sight for it to receive all of the information, and in a mobile - that is impossible with trees and hills and mountains and buildings blocking the signal.

In Amateur Radio - you are not allowed to Broadcast…
Broadcasting is a one way transmission where you talk to people that cannot talk back to you. One example is scanner people. Scanner people can hear what you are saying - but they are not licensed, so they cannot talk back.
Because they are not licensed and because we are not allowed to broadcast - we are not allowed to say hi to them / to adknowledge them or to create a program designed for them to listen to.

We can read amateur radio publications and notices over the air - all legal within the part 97 and we can practice code as long as we do it X amount of hours per a week.

What kind of range can you expect - all effective communications is line of sight. Which means if the signal can go from here to there - you can usually talk to it. Normal line of sight exceeds visual line of sight by - 15% due to the fact that radio waves can be refracted over the horizon because they are a different wave length then light waves…