Where to start?

I own a business that has 3 or 4 people in the field at a time. They need to be able to reliably communicate with each other and with the office. The maximum range would be about 6 miles. The ground is mostly flat with some one-story buildings but there are some small rolling hills which makes “line of sight” radios completely unusable. Also, the staff are walking and need to be able to carry the radio on their belt without a base unit in a car, etc.

We’ve used Midland two-way radios (e.g., GXT760VP4) but, despite claiming that it has a “up to 36 mile range”, the real range if you aren’t on the ocean is about one mile.

We’re now using cell phones which is a pain (requires a slow dialing process, separate phone service contracts, etc.)

I don’t particularly care if the public hears what we’re saying but I would not want to have to deal with a lot of interruptions from public chatter.

Should I be thinking of CB radios? 5-watt VHF radios? Nextel push-to-talk radios? I’m not sure of the pros and cons except that I think that PTT involves a monthly fee.

I also don’t know at what point I have to get an FCC license, what the fee might be, and what the advantages are (a private frequency?). What is involved in getting the hardware/license similar to what emergency service personnel use?

As you can tell, I don’t know where to start and would appreciate any advice.

If necessary, I could budget about $2000 a year in order to get a real solution but that would have to include equipment, license, fees, etc.


Hey Bob. I would definitely say that Jwilkers or another radio expert would be able to help you. My knowledge base includes the bubble pack radios you mention, CB radios, marine VHF radios (which you can’t use on land) and HAM radios. CB won’t work, not for a hand held needing 6 miles of range. I will say this…if you and each of your employers get a HAM technicians license (the easiest test), your range would be great if a repeater was nearby, 50 miles isn’t unheard of by any means. However, I have a feeling you wouldn’t want to go that route but if you would let me know, I can help you. Taking the test costs 15 dollars, and that’s for one test, or if you study for more than 1 like I did, 2 or all 3. (you keep taking tests until you fail) You could purchase a 2 meter HAM hand held radio with full repeater capability for about 110 dollars new, and that’s a good quality one. Each of your employers could keep it on their belt and within 15 miles of the repeater, you’re good to go. Certainly within 10. But I don’t think you’re interested in that and I’m not sure if 6 miles is doable with a business radio but I’m very sure that someone here can help you.

I hate to talk about radios that they don’t sell here but I’d rather be honest with you than try to sell you something that won’t work like what you want.

Oh, and the HAM tech’s license is VERY easy to pass. The questions are almost SILLY. And with a tech you could use up to 300 watts on 2 meters (or more actually) so it would GREATLY increase your range and options. Oh yea, the licenses last 10 years and are free to renew, just do the paperwork. It would be a one time test and fee for a lifetime of radio pleasure! I can even point you in the direction of FREE study guides which tell you the exact questions and answers that will be on the test out of a pool of a couple hundred you’ll have 30 or 40 on the tech test. It’s really easy, kids can and have gotten HAM licenses.

P.S. I know that some of the mods here might feel like all I do is push HAM radio, but IMHO, that would suit a lot of the needs of people who frequent this forum. If someone came on here saying I need to communicate across an open field, I’d happily push the bubble pack radios but 6 miles across hills to hand helds, I’d say go HAM every time. I’m very sorry if I offend or upset the mods here. I really don’t try to.

We can probably help you out, and stay in budget - or very close.

The first thing I would do is get four of these: http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/icom/ic-f4001.aspx

While you might not get 6 miles range from them, they may give you the range you need 90% of the time. They will work much better than a set of consumer GMRS radios. They are also repeater capable, making the next part possible.

If you still do not have the coverage you need, the next step would then be to get a repeater like this one: http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/motorola/motorola-rpu-2160.aspx

I would place the repeater at a central location and then hook it up to a big antenna. Even with the antenna you should be very close to $2,000. Once in place you can then add radios as needed, or even in the future more repeaters.

You will also need to get a commercial license from the FCC since you need a lot of range. There are some solutions for businesses available that do not require a license for short range radios, but they are about 2 miles in range at best. The FCC license fees though may push you over budget some. You will not need to have everyone pass a certification test (unlike a HAM operators license). The FCC license covers everyone in the business. HAM is great, but it is not business friendly and the radios are not user friendly enough or durable enough for most daily business applications.

Thanks for the suggestions. To what extent is this class of radios affected by the terrain and obstacles?

How reliable would they be across 3 miles?

At what point is an FCC license required and how would I go about getting one?


They are UHF radios, so they will be work well indoors and outside around obstructions. At one time VHF radios had the best range outside in the open, but lately UHF radios seem to work almost as well (the quality of UHF radios is better). They should work fine at 3 miles, but range depends a lot on how many obstructions are between the radios and where the operators are. If one is in the clear up on a hill for example, they may get 5 miles or more.

You need to have a license now. The FCC has been cracking down on those without a license, and we have read reports of them getting very aggressive. There is a service we like a lot that will do most of the work for you: http://www.landmobile.com/

According to your business, you may be able to have the licensing covered by another budgetary area since it is a federal regulation not too different from fire and safety requirements (depends on how you look at it).

You may find that the radios have all of the range you will need. If they do not and you get a repeater, you might want to call us so we can help you find the right kind of antenna to use (it depends on where you can mount one). 1-800-584-1445

Why would you suggest ham radio to someone looking to outfit his employees?

Last time I checked, using ham radio for business purposes was illegal.

Those look nice Jeff!

I have a Vertex Standard (it sure looks like a Yaesu) VHF airband radio. That thing is built to mil-specs and looks like the one pictured. You just can’t imagine how tough that stuff is. It’s heavier than a brick and tough as nails. As far as the range, Jeff knows his stuff. I know with my Vertex Standard 5 watt radio with a 12" (approx.) antenna I was able to communicate from inside of one plane level at 1000’ to another at 1000’ (approx) about 60 miles away and it was clear enough that I was actually able to have a conversation with him.

So don’t let small size fool ya!

Just so you know Bob, with a repeater your range could very well be tripled if it’s located in a good spot and high enough.

I wanted to read up a bit on this first before I mentioned the following. Since others will stumble upon this post, it would seem that there is a misunderstanding about who can use amateur (HAM) radio. According to the FCC, in the US it is illegal to use HAM for business purposes (from the FCC):

"Q: What types of communications are specifically prohibited?

Section 97.113 contains the specific prohibitions. In summary, your amateur station may not transmit:

  1. Communications specifically prohibited by the Rules;
  2. Communications for hire or for material compensation, direct or indirect, paid or promised, except as otherwise provided in the Rules;
  3. Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer. You may, however, notify other amateur operators of the availability for sale or trade of apparatus normally used in an amateur station, provided that such activity is not conducted on a regular basis;"

“The amateur and amateur-satellite services are for qualified persons of any age who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.”

Pecuniary: to make money



Also the misuse of HAM radio can carry a very large ($10,000) fine. So if you are a business owner, you will want to stay away from getting in a rather serious conversation with the FCC about running an illegal radio station.

Ahh, good one. I forgot about that. Most people on here aren’t using for business, shame on me for not catching that. I would refrain from calling it an illegal HAM station if you all had legit licenses. Most likely someone would kindly remind you after you got on the air. Most HAM’s aren’t out to screw people.

Good catch, Jeff. Bob, FORGET EVERYTHING I SAID about you using HAM for your business. You can’t do it. Sorry!

This entire section of the forum is about business radios.