Insight : Group Ops Are Go (post-covid)

Thinking from a view we’ll eventually get to roam again, eventually, and actually do group activities beyond nets, from a cost and opportunities point of view, there’s much to be happy about actually how cheaply you can buy personal radios for involvement in group ops and, if you’re responsible for sourcing/organising loan pool gear, and the scope of choices out there.

At the lowest rung, radio wise, you have cellular POC/VOIP over WiFi, cellular and potential mesh based p2p based stuff you can run on almost any android 4.xx supported device. Whilst I’m no fan of, I do appreciate how this low rung radio option is highly available, and using currently owned devices, ■■■■ near totally free beyond network/data costs where cellular usage goes and sometimes with public WiFi hotspots.

Clearly there’s still the classic 27mhz CB, which in some regions is virtually or total permit-free or at least cheap, along with decades worth of legacy gear and modern ‘export’ model radios. Where legally usable, this is probably the most accessible balance for long range simplex - I’ve had sustained contact on a 2w handheld over 30m on internal antenna and that covered a walk across three towns (and walkthroughs of covered shopping malls) where the range of communication varies between 15-45 miles. Admittedly, much over 30 miles in that context wasn’t that great readability wise, but for NBFM on basically a toy grade leisure radio service, it’s still a worth while inclusion, and with migration to more modern systems, quiet frequencies = lots of space to do group ops with.

Next up you’ve mostly analogue low power FM and some digital low-tier systems mostly VHF/UHF based - a lot of low tier stuff tends to be UHF, with VHF being more used by high-tier user services, but again its regionally variable a state of play. But what most LPD based low tier radios of low-cost and permit-free usage have in common are they are pretty exclusively simplex only (legally). Some do allow for legit IP based non-public setups allowing cross linking and gateway extension via the internet or lan based extensions AP crosslinks, but mostly those (legally) are the legit territory of high tier (not permit free) commercial and commercial/leisure high power systems. PMR446 tier 1, DMR Tier 1 and LPD frequencies usage handhelds being the more common UK legal examples - there are DMR and PMR446 Tier 1 qualifying mobiles too, but you’d be paying a lot for the same limitations which really don’t make much cost sense.

Once you go beyond EU/UK specifics, there are a whole load of legit and not-so systems usable in regions where FCC and FCC derived license and allocations go, but I won’t list them here as they are pretty well covered elsewhere in specific topic groups.

Of course, when you go beyond commercially manufactured gear, there’s all manner of low power potential diy customs you can develop from dev kit modules if hardware and software engineering inclined too. If data exchange is all that’s needed (short message and short send converse by text I mean) then LORA protocol based prototyping of such systems can be a pretty good long range potential low power route.

So whether you are looking at what you can get hold of ready for roaming freedom or to note for such times, we’ve probably never been in a better place for choices and scope.

Of course, for the best flexibility and scope, getting a ham license opens so many doors for long range options and adaptions to suit different operating conditions and lockdown conditions offers a lot of opportunity to find time to study and listen in if you’ve got a receiver/scanner. In fact, in some countries, they are already doing online exams for the restricted class ham licenses, so even being denied sitting an exam at a centre or radio club isn’t necessarily a barrier.

So overall, leisure radio for group ops is literally in it’s golden era options and cheap gear wise. I can see there could be more scope still, bargain wise, since leisure radio (portables more specification) sales aren’t exactly at their best and I’m sure some suppliers will want to offload gear ready to stock newer lines, so potential bargains may yet expand.

So think future, and if you can, take advantage of being able to get good gear where there is essentially a glut of unsold stuff out there to pre-equip yourself for when roaming becomes a thing again :slight_smile: