Looking for long range radio (50+ miles). What are my options?

I’m looking for options in the area of long range (50 mi. at least) two-way radio. My understanding is that CB radios don’t broadcast that far. Nor do FRS/GMRS (to my understanding; please correct me if I’m wrong).

I need something mobile. I’m open to the possibility of stationary dispatch w/elevated antenna.

I also need something that will broadcast an encrypted digital signal, that can only be decrypted (theoretically; I realize that there’s probably always SOMEBODY out there who could hack any digital code) by another radio familiar to my radio network.

I understand that Motorola has something called SECURENET, but I don’t know which of their radios carry it and would give me the range I’m looking for.

I would like to get something that is Motorola, if possible. My familiarity with the quality of their brand is very satisfactory.

I’m open to the possibility of securing a license from the FCC in order to have and use the kind of radio I’m wanting.

I am a private individual, but (if it’s possible) I’m open to commercial/business type radios.

I’m also open to shortwave. Is there anything out there that broadcasts an encrypted shortwave digital signal?

I’m also looking to keep this as low-budget as possible. $500 would be ok, and anything less would be great. $800 would be iffy.

Thanks ahead of time for all your help. :slight_smile:

Unfortunately 50 miles of communication is going to be tough for your budget. Unless you have very favorable terrain that affords you line of sight communications, it would be very difficult to get this much range with just two handheld radios.

The problem isn’t so much the quality of the equipment you’re using, it’s a limitation of RF signals in general. When you’re transmitting from ground level or slightly higher, things like hills, trees, buildings, and other things that radio waves can’t penetrate are going to prevent the transmission from making it from one radio to another at such a large distance. You’ll hear of CB and HAM users communicating with someone thousands of miles away, but this isn’t consistent and relies on certain atmospheric conditions.

You mentioned a stationary dispatch with an elevated antenna, and this is a good option that could give you the range you’re looking for. You also mention though that you need to be mobile. In most areas, to get 50 miles you’re going to need an antenna that is pretty tall - like mounted on a tower or at least on top of a building, and these aren’t very mobile.

Now, if you’ve got favorable terrain then there’s a much better chance that you would be fine with something like a base station and maybe a mag mount antenna, or maybe even handheld radios. An example of favorable terrain would be if you were on the side of a mountain or on top of a hill and needed to communicate with someone in a valley below you.

Usually when you see people communicating over a large area, for example a cab company that has communications throughout an entire city, they’re almost always using a repeater. A repeater is usually a stationary device that is connected to an antenna that is mounted very high. The repeater will receive on one frequency, and re-transmit the signal at a much higher power on a different frequency.

Depending on what you were trying to do, I might suggest that you look at a ham radio license. Most likely there are amateur repeaters set up in your area that are open for use by licensed hams. You could get a few very low cost ham radios and get the range that you need. This isn’t a problem if your use is commercial in nature. With this option your communications would be public however, and it sounds like you’re looking for something that offers more privacy.

I know this is a lot of information but I hope it was helpful. Please let us know more about your terrain and what you’re trying to accomplish and maybe we can find a more specific solution.

Thanks for the reply, Danny.

I live in Northeast Central Indiana where the terrain is pretty flat. Just a few “rolling hills” (really, they’re not substantial enough to even qualify for that label).

Actually, what I was hoping to do was save money long term on phone bills. My wife and I currently have two cell phones, but I don’t really think we need two of them. So, I was thinking that if we could get set up with a long range radio, we could just have a phone at home, and whoever is there (usually my wife) could be in contact with the other person anywhere within a 50 mile radius or so (it wouldn’t be a problem for the mobile radio to be car-mounted).

Considering info I’ve found on repeaters, etc. it appears to me that there is some sort of solution to the range issue within the powers available to ham radio operators.

Now, I just need to know whether I can discretely broadcast and receive a unique digital transmission that can only be accessed by “pre-approved” transceivers.

I think I got my answer in another thread of mine you replied to, Danny.

Thanks, again.

I think that Danny did not get what the OP was trying to tell him.

You cannot encrypt Amateur Radio Communications - it is against the Part 97

All effective communications is line of sight.

Many people are trying to think of ways to circumvent the cell phones and are trying to build their own communications out of what ever is in the neighborhood - handy - like Red Green with some old junk and a roll of duct tape.

$500 won’t even buy you two good VHF transceivers and antenna’s…

The top of a building isn’t going to do you much good.

As a example - TV Channel 3 WPSU operates on UHF CH 15 with 825,000 watts and on a tower 500’ tall and can’t transmit 50 miles in all directions and they are on top of Rocton Mtn Clearfield County Pennsylvania - the highest point along I 80 - east of the Mississippi river.

A 3 - 100 watt transceiver and a antenna 6’ off the ground isn’t going to out talk that television transmitter.

Even a amateur radio VHF repeater with a 350 watt PA on a 180’ tower in the same location has a hard time talking reliably more then about 28 miles.
Just too many hills and valleys…