I’m trying to figure out for my neighbors family, which lives in Puerto Rico, a mobile communication solution. They want to be able to communicate, from a home base station, around the island with family members using either hand held or mobile mounted radios. They are not amateur radio operators nor do they wish to be. (I’m a ham and that’s the first place I was going). Let me share what I know, what I have been able to exclude, and asks for feedback.
I originally thought this was a request to assist in a recommendation for ham gear. After exchanging email, I learned that was not the case. I’ve been looking at the FRS and GMRS solutions which do not look like they provide much distance in any configuration. The island is 100miles by 35miles. The home is located in a valley. They have power at the home and in the cars. They would like to have capability to communicate throughout the entire island.
The gentleman was thinking about buying a few marine rigs. I don’t see where that will provide the level of communication he seeks.
I’m told that budget is not an issue. I take that with a grain of salt.
Given that the amateur radio option is out and FRS/GMRS does not look like it has distance capability, I am curious to know if a business radio solution might be the fit. I know nothing about business radios other than what I can read on this site. It looks like you pay one price for a business license and it doesn’t look like you have to take a test. Can anyone speak to a business system being a viable solution for communicating on the island?
I have a little time to figure this out. The family is coming to New Orleans for Thanksgiving. I understand they will use the time on the main land to acquire whatever equipment is needed to put this together.
Hi Jay, to put it simply, the options are limited. He won’t get that sort of coverage on a handheld - any handheld - on simplex. He may get across the 35 mile width of the island on high power mobile or base station radios on a good day with finely tuned antennas and nothing in the way, but not across the entire 100 mile length. Whether he is using UHF or VHF business, GMRS or ham radio doesn’t matter, it’s going to be a problem if using simplex.
In addition, unless he has a business or is willing to invest in the costs of purchasing a license for an assigned business frequency, a business radio may not be an option for him anyway. Nevertheless, a business radio won’t meet his requirements on simplex, either.
However, if there are repeaters on the island, and they are available to him on the radio service he will be using, it may not be a problem at all. A quick check on mygmrs.com lists 15 repeaters across Puerto Rico, which, if spaced out accordingly, could provide ample coverage across the island with repeater capable GMRS radios.
There are a couple of caveats here. Although about half of these repeaters are open systems, the other half require membership or permission from the repeater owner for access. He would also need to purchase a GMRS license, which is currently $70. However, the license would cover his entire family, and there are now high powered GMRS mobile/base radios available from Midland with full repeater capability, so you may want to research the GMRS option further. Using repeaters, it could work.
Also, at last check there seem to be about twice as many amateur radio repeaters in Puerto Rico, and many of them are linked. Most of these are on the 2 meter band but there are also some on 440Mhz and it looks like there are even a couple on 10 meters. These are frequencies available to Technician Class hams, so even if it an amateur license isn’t desirable, if all else fails, the ham option may be worth reconsidering. At the end of the day, it really depends on how much they want to pursue the idea of establishing radio communications across the entire island.
One more thing to note. Marine radios are not a viable option. Marine frequencies are for ship-to-ship and limited ship-to-shore communication only. Marine radios are not legal for use over land.
To purchase a GMRS license, you need to go to the Universal Licensing System on the FCC website, register for an FRN, file FCC form 605 and pay the fee. You can do all of this online at the FCC website, and they usually issue the GMRS license fairly quickly.