Update on the Proposed Changes to the GMRS

TWRS-56 - Update on the Proposed Changes to the GMRS

We give you an update on the FCC’s proposed changes to the GMRS. We’ll talk about the current license requirements, some of the proposed changes to those requirements, and the current status of the proposed changes. We also review the XLT TM-200 Adjustable Throat Mic.

As long as someone is willing to pay $80 for 5 years for a license, the FCC is not going to drop the license requirement.

It would in fact turn into the CB radio that we know of today in a matter of just a couple of years if they did drop the license requirement.

The license fee is high enough and the penalities severe enough that if someone got caught using it for illegal activities - they would get into trouble.

Where as the CB radio - is pretty much like the Wild Wild West!

Could you see the GMRS with 1000 watt LINEARS and beam antenna’s?
There wouldn’t be a quiet place to talk!

The FCC has proposed dropping the $85 license requirement, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened. I think they’re short on options.

I support it because when companies started producing dual service GMRS/FRS radios and selling them in big box retail stores, the license requirement effectively became moot. The FCC doesn’t, and at this point can’t, enforce it so having a required $85 license only punishes people who want to follow the law.

The FCC granted 742 GMRS licenses in April. We sold considerably more than 742 GMRS radios in April. Can you imagine how many were sold by Walmart, Target, Radio Shack, Dicks, REI, Best Buy and Amazon? I’m sure that far less than 1% of GMRS radios are used by licensed operators, and I don’t think anyone could logically disagree with that.

So at this point, what should the FCC do? Round up and fine everyone who owns a Motorola Talkabout? Most of whom aren’t even aware they’re breaking any laws? The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no going back at this point. If they wanted to keep more control of GMRS, their window of opportunity closed over 10 years ago.

The only option that I see is for the FCC to accept reality and go to license by rule. I understand a lot of people get upset at this, but in my experience these people are short on solutions. The complaint is that if you move to license by rule it will be the wild west, but what is more “wild west” than what we have now - where we have rules that no one knows about, no one follows, and no one enforces? They’ve gotten themselves into a tough spot with limited options, but I do think these proposed changes are a step in the right direction.

I do not think that you understood what you just wrote - else you wouldn’t have wrote it.

All signals reduce at the square of the distance away - period.

When you look at the PART 95 - you will understand that there is two seperate types of users for the FRS and GMRS.

The Family Radio Service by nature is the Family Radio Service.
If a manufactuer came out with a transceiver that produced more then one half of one watt of power, produced a transceiver with a detachable antenna - they would be in violation of the Part 95 sub part 15 which is the testing standards of most radio services.

With GMRS - there is two seperate enteties, the one being the little Motorola Talkabouts - where Motorola - if that is what you want to call them, makes a little bubble pack radio, which you can transmit on both the GMRS and the FRS frequencies, with one half of one watt on FRS or a full one watt on GMRS.

Do you understand line of sight communications?
Line of sight - if you stood at the edge of the earth and looked forward, gives you anywhere from 1000’ feet to 10 miles of decent coverage with just one watt - depending upon if you were in the middle of Lake Erie - while standing at the top of the mast of a tall ship - free space, or were in the middle of the Allegheny National Forrest.

As long as you cannot remove the antenna and replace it with a antenna that has more gain, or of a different design that increases it’s length, it isn’t going to talk far enough to matter to most people.

The only people I know that legally has a repeater on GMRS is those individuals that already had a licensed radio before the change of rules - that were grandfathered in - and those individuals that participates in REACT…

Because GMRS is a type of buisness radio - you cannot work it as a hobby.
You cannot call CQ and the people who are licensed for GMRS usually won’t talk to you if you don’t belong there.
They will ignore you until you go away…

Now - when you get into duplex conversations that uses a repeater, or a radio that produces more then one watt - then you need a license.

You can buy a GMRS / FRS basestation radio that produces about 5 watts and uses a external antenna. Posted directly on top of the radio inside of the package is a license application and the rules.

If you stick the antenna more then 25’ above the ground, if you use more then the 5 watts, if you use a amplifier - someone is going to hear you and someone is going to know and someone is going to tell.

Beyond that - when you get into Amateur Grade Equipment and buisness radios - most of them will do 30 - 50 watts with no problems.
But the people that sells those radios will not sell those radios to you - or at least should not sell those radios to you - unless you have a license.

Even if you order something from AES or HRO - the first thing they ask you is what is your call sign?

Anytime when you take a radio from one radio service and use it on another radio service, it still has to be part type acceptable.

The FRS / GMRS walkie talkies that you are talking about are not narrowbandable. Hence by their design - they are illegal to begin with.

There are Prepper forums out there that is telling people how to build their own gmrs repeaters and how to link them to their cell phones.
Without a license or a call sign - this is illegal.
When the antenna is at more then 25’ above average terrain, when the transmitter produces more then one watt and when the repeater uses two frequencies - split - to operate - it is illegal to operate without a license.

The government does not prosecute anyone unless you violate a rule and unless you cause harmful interference to someone that is licensed.

The State of Pennsylvania had a problem about two years ago.
A Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Production company put a digital automatic reporting system on one of their wells, or on one of their towers - which was on the same frequency as the dispatch frequency as the Pennsylvania State Police for McKeon county - I belive.
All VHF communications in McKeon County for dispatch of the State Police was disrupted. You could hear the signal 50 miles away or more.
A call went out to the amateur radio community.
They gave the frequency and a simple set of instructions - take the transmitter off the air - use any means necessary. The state police will not prosecute you. Within about 6 hours, someone had found it and had disabled it - smashed the radio and cut the feed line with an axe.
It was taken off the air.

A second similar situation happened near Bigler PA in a construction zone.
A radio transmitter was put up, without first checking with a frequency coordinator and it blocked essential communications for a licensed radio service - state police, and it was found and taken off the air.

Every little iota of the band spectrum is spoken for.
With the exception of the FRS - it is illegal to operate a transmitter anywhere without a license, with the exception of a portion of the 900 mhz which is being used for automatic reporting meter reader systems.

I took one of those off the air last year because it caused harmful interference to my amateur radio equipment.
It was perceived everywhere from the commercial AM broadcast band the whole way up into the GHZ - XM radio.
The manufacturer turned up the transmit power to make it transmit further, and it had spurrious emmissions everywhere!

The Electric company spend thousands of dollars trying to get me to shut up about it. It was cheaper for them to replace some items such as transformers and insulators - which needed changed anyways - then to fix the problem, which would have involved scrapping the entire system and putting in a different auto reporting system.

In the end, I contacted the manufacturer - and they refused to get involved, so I called the FCC and within about a week, I had no more problem.

You have to compare apples to apples here.
1 watt vs more then 1 watt.

The life expectancy of one of those bubble pack radios is less then 10 years.
When the batteries goes dead, most people throws them away.
Eventually something better will come along that is cheaper and more powerful and on a higher frequency range and the GMRS / FRS will be forgotten. The same as the old 49 mhz cordless telephone and the VHF baby monitors.

Thanks for the detailed and informative reply! I don’t think you really addressed my points though. No one is calling for 1000 watt GMRS equipment. I agree with you that this would cause a large number of problems and should not be allowed. Changing GMRS to license by rule and eliminating the $85 license fee doesn’t mean that anything goes and 1000 watt transmitters are legal. License by rule means that when you use frequencies that are part of that service you still have to stay within the rules set by the FCC - you are just no longer required to register with the FCC, get a callsign, pay a license fee and all of that.

You seem to write off the Motorola Talkabout type users as irrelevant because of the low power, but these are overwhelmingly the biggest users of GMRS. With the way the law is currently written most everyone using these radios is breaking the law and is subject to fine. That’s a big problem and is the reason I support moving to license by rule.

If the FCC simply modified the current rules to move to license by rule for transmitters at 5 watts or less and required a license for transmitters of higher power, I think that would be a fine solution.

A few corrections to your post:

  • GMRS currently does allow repeaters. No grandfathering required. GMRS allows for transmitters of up to 50 watts and even allocates 8 frequencies specifically as repeater inputs. There are quite a few GMRS repeaters out there. MyGMRS.com has a nice directory.

  • GMRS isn’t what I would call a business radio. In fact, there aren’t very many currently marketed business quality products that are Part 95 type accepted. We talk to people pretty frequently that are looking for better quality GMRS radios, and they simply aren’t available. “Bubble pack” radios are quickly becoming the only option for legal GMRS, although many people still buy LMR (Part 90) radios and program them for GMRS.

  • There is no 25’ antenna height limit or 5 watt limit on GMRS. There is, however a 50 watt limit.

  • You said that FRS/GMRS radios are illegal because they are not narrowbandable. This isn’t true - GMRS doesn’t require narrowband.

Every little iota of the band spectrum is spoken for. With the exception of the FRS - it is illegal to operate a transmitter anywhere without a license, with the exception of a portion of the 900 mhz which is being used for automatic reporting meter reader systems.

  • There are quite a few services other than FRS and the meter reading systems that do not require an individual license. Among them are CB, MURS, marine, airband, certain 900Mhz frequencies for FHSS etc. I’m sure you’re aware, but there are many other (non two way radio) devices that transmit without an individual license requirement. Cordless phones, cell phones, wifi devices, Bluetooth, RC, PLBs, police radar guns. The list is very large.