I’m very new to hand held radios, and hoping someone can help me get started. I live in Southern California, and was given a couple Kenwood TK-380 radios. I purchased the programming software (KPG-49D), and ready to start programming the radii, but again I’m very new, and not sure how to begin. The way I’d like to use these radios is when communicating with people on an off-road remote trails, to communicate in an emergency situation, to listen to any emergency services, and simply radio to radio direct communication (I believe this is simplex). I searched for a list of repeaters, and plugged a frequency in just to test it out, and the program gives an error that shows frequency is out of range. If the frequency is outside 450 - 490 MHz, I get an error, but it will still write the frequency to the radio. Any help, tips, or guidance will be appreciated. Thanks!
First step is to read the radio and find out what is in there. Remember the radio had three versions * Type 1 450-490 MHz
Type 2 470-512 MHz
Type 3 400-430 MHz
It sounds like the radio is the high band version, so unless your wanted channels are in that 40MHz band - you’re stuck. It writes the frequency, but can’t operate on it.
Thank you for the reply paulears! The radio had frequencies that were previously programmed by a past user, but none worked. They were mainly between the 450 & 490 MHz band. Although I will use the radios for direct comm (as long as I have line of sight), I would like to see if I can program local repeaters, and program frequencies for local emergency services in the event I’m in trouble in a remote area. I know the Talk Around button works, but even though I program local repeater stations, I can’t receive the transmission on the other radio when I test it out. The other thing I noticed when I program a local repeater, the available frequencies are slightly outside of the radio range. For example, there will be a repeater station that’s 449.xxx. This is just below the 450 MHz min, and so the software has a popup window that says Out of Range, but will still let me write the frequency onto the radio. When I test it out though, it doesn’t seem to work (unless I’m programming it wrong). Again, I’m new to this, and just learning, so thank you for helping me out.
As paulears said, there are three versions of the TK-380, and based on the frequencies found that were previously programmed into it, you have the 450-490MHz version, which may not work with a repeater on 449MHz. It sounds like the local repeater you are attempting to access is a ham repeater, and this is not a ham radio. Although some hams may use it, it was specifically designed to operate on business and government frequencies.
In the UK where I am, we don’t have the luxury to be able to programme radios to repeaters unless we’re hams, or are in business and have our own repeater. We have similar bands to the US for short range radios - either totally free and unregulated, or licensed with a bit more power and different frequencies, but no repeaters. I take it that on some ‘public’ bands in the US there are repeaters available for anyone to use? How do they make them pay? We also don’t have the ability to hear emergency communications and we have no public emergency organisations other than the ones the hams use (RAYNET and others).
The only repeaters available to the public in the US are ham and GMRS repeaters. Both require the appropriate license to operate on them and the rules are a different for each service. Amateur repeaters are usually open to the hams, while many GMRS repeaters are private or require permission from the owner to use.
Thanks Rick and paulears! So I guess for now, just to get started. I can really only use this radio as a direct comm with the other radio, correct? I believe this is a simplex mode, or talk around, and can only use this radio with Line of Sight? Programming any frequencies really doesn’t do me any good unless I have a ham radio license (which I am looking to obtain eventually), or special permissions. The other question is, while I study to obtain a Ham radio, is there anything real useful I can do with this Type 1 radio, or should I invest time and money learning a different radio? One where I can eventually use local repeaters, and program local frequencies? Is there one you guys would recommend I can start with? Thanks!
If you ignore the licensing issues - just ask yourself a question. Who do you want to talk to? What I mean is that becoming a ham - doing the study and taking an exam means your desire is to talk to strangers local strangers who might become friends, or distant strangers who once the contact is made, you probably never speak to again. The fun is the quest for communications and for many, collecting callsigns. Other hams like experimenting. They might like building radios, or antennas, and their hobby is gradual improvement. If you only want to talk to the same people, and that is your requirement, ham radio will drive you mad. Repeaters - simply create a cell - a small one in a city, or a large one in rural areas when the repeater can sit on a tall point, geography wise. Anyone in the cell area can talk to anyone else, within limits - so a few miles up to 30 miles could be possible. Rick mentioned the US GMRS system which seems to mean (thanks Rick) that repeater access could be open to anyone, and I expect the internet provides the programming info. Equally I expect others will limit access to people they want to use it. Anyone can with investigation find the access info for analogue repeaters, but the users are under no compulsion to talk to you.
Talkaround, by the way is a function that swaps the input and output frequencies you use for a repeater. So if you are close to another user, pushing the talk around button lets you two communicate without the repeater. It does not function when you use simplex, as in both using the same single frequency.
You mention communicating with people on trails, or in emergency situations, but who are these people? A family on a trail where the kids all have a radio, maybe for safety don’t by and large want to talk to strangers. A few people will have the free radio service type kit, with the lowest power and a few frequencies - but again, while some might like to chat, most don’t - they want them for group comms.
I’m not sure about the USA, but the only emergency service who will communicate with the public here is the Coastguard. Nobody here has the ability to call the fire or police service other than by phone - using 999 (your 911).
You have some nice radios, but what use are they? You need to program them, but while you can do it in your area, who are the people you think might want to chat with you? Hams? Yes - if you take the test, but it’s a bit like joining the fishing club when all you do is buy frozen fish in the supermarket. Hams are notorious for being quite difficult with strangers locally. Odd when they want to talk to strangers on a different continent! A new licencee is often welcomed when they ‘are the right sort’, and shunned when they are not. A strange community. CB in the US is the same I’m told, but a little more welcoming from what I read. The people who break the rules and use the short range free systems with higher power and illegal antennas are a very small group again.
You seem to have some radios and want to talk to people. That I get, but you’ve not really worked out why these people actually are?
It think the first question we need to answer is where you are located, because what you want to do depends somewhat on in what country you will be using the radios. Paulears is in the UK and I am in the US, and the rules vary by country, so our responses will be quite different.
If you are in the US and want to use radios, there are a number of options available to you, and some of them don’t require a license. Radios are extremely useful in a lot of applications, both personal and professional, and sometimes even vital. They can also be a lot of fun. Of course, there are rules, and the rules can seem confusing. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place, because this forum is filled with a lot of useful information that can get you started.
You ask some very good questions and they are not unique to those new to radios. Typing a question or topic in the search bar will usually provide you with an answer of some sort. There are discussions, articles, podcasts and videos that address many questions you may have.
To help clear up any confusion about what your options are, here are some links to forum posts with articles, podcasts and videos that will help you figure out where you want to go with this, because there are options, and it’s a personal choice.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s how we all learn, and discussion of them is what the forum is for.
Thanks for your patience guys! Really appreciate it!
I’m located in Southern California in the East side of Los Angeles County (Inland Empire). Like you had mentioned, the rules are a little confusing to me. To continue replying to your post while also answering some of the questions Paulears asked, for now (while I’m getting familiar with radios), I’d like to use these radios when hiking with friends in our local mountains and trails. There was an instance where we went hiking up San Gorginio mountain, and our group got split. I didn’t like that situation cause the fast ones just kept going, and left the slower hikers behind. We were all carpooling so I didn’t see the rush, and risk losing someone. Having a radio would have been helpful in that instance (one radio could’ve stayed with the fast group, and one for the slow group).
Second use I’d like to get with these radios. I like overlanding. I like to go off road in sometimes remote dirt roads with my vehicle. I was thinking there may be a way to communicate to someone with a radio nearby in case I run into an emergency and get stuck, whether it’s emergency service, or just another person that keeps a mobile radio in their vehicle (not sure if there’d be frequencies I can dial to and ask for help). I’ve also seen other off roaders use their radio to indicate a narrow trail they’re traversing to notify any potential vehicles that may be coming in their direction. Also, in the event I travel with another vehicle, it would be nice to give them my other radio to communicate while driving on the trail, or if they have their own radio, I can tune to their frequency. Lastly, I just like radios, and it would be fun just to give one radio to my little nephew, and while he’s out with his dad, I can give him one radio, and I can communicate with him while he’s out and about locally within a 5 mile radius or so. Just to have fun.
As for the Ham license, once I get good at operating the radios, and tuning/programming into different frequencies, it would be fun to contact people from all over the world, and hopefully one day the Space Station. I’d also consider volunteering for my local fire department when they have events that need volunteer radio folks to help. Also, I’ve read a ham radio would be beneficial if there’s a large scale emergency and cell towers are down.
I figure since I was given these radios, I can maybe become familiar using them as a start, and if I really really like it, I can buy a little more fancy radio.
I will be going through the links you sent Rick, and thanks for the help as well Paulears!