Radio usage, flexiblity, organization, reference stuff, etc.

CanuckMariner

Adventurer/Explorer
#1
I have read a great deal of the 15 pages or so on this portion of the Expo regarding Ham, CB, GMRS/FRS radios, etc. It seems a lot of us are requesting similar info in different ways but ultimately it is what types of communication devices people are using, for what purposes, in what areas and what channels/frequencies. Primarily we want to talk teach other on trips, maybe even others (not in our group) in the same area and most importantly emergency situations.

As an engineer (I like to be organized and research the heck out of stuff before I go further), and a relatively new Ham operator (FT7800R), I have been researching how people use their radios (all of them/above) so I can be the most flexible and as you, stay in touch. I also travel solo on most of my trips and hope to connect with various people I have met in person, on ExPo, etc. on my travels.

Here is a summary of what I have found out as I feel there are sufficient newbies out there like me, as well as a few more expert users in all categories.

CBs (Citizen Band): been around a long time, easy to find, cheap generally, no licensing required and no identification required (at least in Kanukistan, usually quite small and relatively easy to install. They operate on 40 channels in the 27 MHz range (you can internet search "CB Channels" and get the actual freq. for each channel), have a very limited range (having a top notch antenna tuned correctly [with SWR meter] has everything to do with range) usually within 1-5 miles but can get more under excellent/freak conditions. Most I ever got with my Cobra 75 WX ST with a Wilson Trucker 2000 was a bit over 5 miles on those straight stretches going across Nevada chatting with a couple of truckers. We wanted to see how far we could get apart and still hear each other.

CH 9 is the emergency channel, although I have monitored it on more lonely times of the highways travelling solo, I have never heard anyone on this channel.

CH 19 has been adopted by the truckers but most use Cell phones and other radios to cummunicate now. CBs are considered old school now that there is a plethora of other comm devices out there.

Some have 10 weather channels (mine does in English and French - Kanukistani) which repeat the forecast constantly. You cannot TX (=transmit/RX is receive) on these.

These are a great, cheap way to stay in touch within your group when travelling on blacktop as well as on the trail provided you are quite close to each other, say within a mile or less, depending on mountains, bush and road bends. I suggest using CH 22/23 as they have the largest freq difference (.03/.02) between them and other freq which limit interference. Others with smaller differences are CH 3/7/11/15/19/25. All the rest have a .01 difference and hence are quite close to each other in frequency.

Haven't been able to figure out how one can TX/RX CB freq on any other radio than on the CB. Any one know any different? Apparently the more expensive high-end Yaesu units have some of the frequencies.

GMRS/FRS (General Radio Mobile Service/Family Radio Service): These are relatively small, cheap, no license and no identification required (in Kanukistan at least), hand held radios. Great for trail rides or convoys and have taken over where CBs have left off. Limited range but much better than CBs, I have Cobra LI6000 which has a range of about 20 miles or so (again conditions vary). They also have the 10 NOAA weather stations preset. Various technologies within these units (with 19 subchannels) allow for privacy on frequencies depending on how you set them up. Lots of more features (depending on model chosen) than a CB but then do your really use/need them all?

They operate in 22 channels in the 462/467 MHz range (again internet search will give you exact frequencies/channels) and a Ham radio can be modified to TX/RX these freq. (no legal stuff please, BTDT!).

First 7 channels are both GMRS/FRS, 8 -14 are FRS only and 15 - 22 are GMRS only. Easy to figure out where you want to be (both) and again the channel with the largest difference between it and others is CH 4, my preferred channel. USA requires a license for all GMRS frequencies use, in Kanukistan, no such requirement as we like to chat with each other a lot in Kanukistani.

Some other freqencies which are useful to know are:

Commercial frequencies (used by itinerant businesses [special industrial], commercial use (common/itinerant mobile/base VHF/UHF, low power), truckers, TV, radio, businesses [low power] etc.): 150-158/464-469 MHz for which you need a license and must identify yourself.

MURS (Multi-Use Radio Services): no license, no identification require, can operate anywhere a CB can, limited range (up to 20+ miles depending on antenna, installation and conditions). Operates on 5 channels in 151 MHz. Ham can be modified to TX/RX.

Wilderness Monitoring Protocol: Everyone should know of this and how it works as it could mean the difference between life/death for you one day or you maybe in a position to help someone else out. This was written up on one of the threads (can't remember which one) in this section but I will summarize it here.

Primary frequency is 146.52 MHz, Secondary are 52.525/223.5/446.0/1294.5 MHz. Although these frequencies are also used for non emergencies, they are meant to be in common usage to allow users to monitor them in case some one is calling for help. They are monitored from 7:00 AM local time onward every three hours at 5 minutes past the hour. It is during this time that all on these frequencies should take a break from TX and just listen...just in case!

Ham Radios: Won't get into this too far as lots of info on the internet (Yaesu, Icon, Kenwood, etc.) and on this section of ExPo. Operates in the multi band (frequency ranges) depending on unit bought. Most common is 2 Metre and 70 centimetre bands (144-148 MHZ/430-450MHz), many others exist (10M, 6M, 1.25M, 33 CM, 23 CM, etc.). Most have 10 NOAA weather stations preset, have extensive range capability (+/-50 miles without repeater, and even more with repeaters used), can make phone calls (land/cell) with right equipment with the right setup and repeaters, can utilize internet, and many other features I don't even know about yet. Would be good if someone [experts] can do a layman's write up on how these features work and can be used, in separate write ups [1. phone calls, 2. Internet access, etc.)
 
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CanuckMariner

Adventurer/Explorer
#2
Common frequencies/repeaters used by Expo members?

If this exists, I get the feeling more people would like to know them to get in touch with like minded members on their travels. Hence thought I would begin here. Please comment on the differences and why in each category.

CBs: in my travels I use CH 23 the most for group runs, monitor CH19 on highway trips (solo - so I can have someone to chat with to pass the time, get local knowledge [fuel, food, etc.], or scan all CH for construction zones chats - this has saved me countless hours and miles as most are coordinated by CBs. remember CH 9 is emergency. Also 10 NOAA weather stations for local conditions.

GMRS/FRS: In our area (Calgary) we use CH4, but I can also monitor with my Ham (no legal, BTDT!)

HAM: My radio (FT7800R) has both 2M and 70cm and would like to know by state/area what frequencies people use and the repeaters so we can have database of preferred frequencies/repeaters. I use Simplex 146.46 in our area and would like to add others (database) so that when I do travel within your area I might be able to contact others in the area. Here is what I have gleaned from this section so far. I will update this post with your input.

4WD Freq
CH Frequency Area
4WD 1 146.430
4WD 2 146.460 - AZ, Calgary
4WD 3 146.490
4WD 4 146.580
4WD 5 147.420
4WD 6 147.450
4WD 7 147.480
4WD 8 147.540
4WD 9 147.570
4WD 10 146.520 National Emergency Frequency
4WD 11 146.535

Lastly about Hams, are the repeaters and how to use them. Looking for one of our experts to explain this to all newbies in layman's terms.

A great database would be for locals in various province/states/areas to put together (Excel spreadsheet) the repeaters that they use. I would be willing to collate these into one master spreadsheet (tabs denoting states/provinces/areas) of repeaters and frequencies used and then make available to all who want it. Then us like minded folk on ExPo who want to stay in touch or get together when we are in town (or near), we can!

HOpe this has helped some of the newbies like me!
 
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mr r2fj

Adventurer
#3
Great info and good start on this.. Some comments.

GMRS requires a license (at least in the US):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GMRS

For Arizona I can only really speak for the AZFJ.ORG folk:

HAM: we mostly use 146.46 for simplex and different repeaters depend on where we are.
CB: 16
FRS: no one in our group really uses this (most use CB)



Repeater use (work in progress but this is my first draft):

My only experience is with 2m/70cm repeaters. This information may not be universal to all bands. A repeater is nothing more than a echo of your signal. In most cases it is used to gain further range than you would normally have under your own power. There are many other features of repeaters, but you must access them first before you can use those. There are three things you need to know to use one. All of these should be listed under the repeater you are trying to access.
1. The output frequency
2. The offset
3. The access tone (PL Tone)

1. The output frequency
In your local repeater listing you may only see one frequency. If you do, it's the output frequency. This is the frequency that you will listen on. Anything that the repeater broadcasts will be heard on this frequency. This is what you set your radio to. It's not necessarily the same frequency you will talk to the repeater on. That's where offset comes in.

2. The Offset
This is the offset from the output frequency you will use to access a repeater. Most radios are preset with common offsets for particular frequencies and do not need adjustment. However there are repeaters that will use no offset. They will transmit and receive on the same frequency. When reading repeater listings you will see these denoted by a plus, a minus, or nothing. Your radio should have similar markings. The amount of offset (bandwidth between input and output) should not need to be set. So all you really need to worry about is if the repeater is a positive, negative, or zero offset.

3. The Access tone
Repeater access tones are used to make sure that signals do not get inadvertently repeated. If your station, (your mobile, base or handheld) does not transmit the tone when you key up (push the mic button), then the receiver of the repeater does not hear you and will not be usable by your station until you set the tone in your radio. They can be called pl tones, CTCSS tones, and other things. The only you really need to be concerned with is the actual frequency of tone that the repeater listens for. Their is a common list of tones so you should start seeing a pattern with most repeaters after you use them for awhile. This is something you will need to know how to set on your radio. It should be listed with the repeater listing. There are some instances where repeaters do not use access tones, but with the popularity of 2m/70cm bands these days they are much more rare.

Hopefully that's straight forward. If there are any questions about it, let me know and I'll modify it so it's more clear. I tried to leave out extra technical details that are unnecessary to simply get up and working on a repeater. Fortunately most radios will already have the correct offset set when you tune to the repeaters output. So all you really need to know is the access tone.
 
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ntsqd

Heretic Car Camper
#4
Haven't been able to figure out how one can TX/RX CB freq on any other radio than on the CB. Any one know any different?
You can use a 10 meter ham radio on the cb freqs if it is modified to TX in the 11 meter band. Note that this would be illegal in the U.S. if you exceed the cb TX power limitation, and may be illegal even if you do not. Also note that doing this is pushing the output section of the radio into a frequency range that it is not idealized for. Possibly resulting damage to the radio if it is not re-tuned to operate in the cb frequencies.
CB's are also AM where most ham radios are FM. Some ham radios can be switched between AM and FM.
 

mr r2fj

Adventurer
#5
ntsqd said:
CB's are also AM where most ham radios are FM. Some ham radios can be switched between AM and FM.
I know my ft8800 can do AM. Although I don't really understand why I'd want to use it and of course it's not going to operate in the 11 meter band.
 
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CanuckMariner

Adventurer/Explorer
#6
mr r2fj said:
Great info and good start on this.. Some comments.

GMRS requires a license (at least in the US):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GMRS

For Arizona I can only really speak for the AZFJ.ORG folk:

HAM: we mostly use 146.46 for simplex and different repeaters depend on where we are.
CB: 16
FRS: no one in our group really uses this (most use CB)



Repeater use (work in progress but this is my first draft):

My only experience is with 2m/70cm repeaters. This information may not be universal to all bands. A repeater is nothing more than a echo of your signal. In most cases it is used to gain further range than you would normally have under your own power. There are many other features of repeaters, but you must access them first before you can use those. There are three things you need to know to use one. All of these should be listed under the repeater you are trying to access.
1. The output frequency
2. The offset
3. The access tone (PL Tone)

1. The output frequency
In your local repeater listing you may only see one frequency. If you do, it's the output frequency. This is the frequency that you will listen on. Anything that the repeater broadcasts will be heard on this frequency. This is what you set your radio to. It's not necessarily the same frequency you will talk to the repeater on. That's where offset comes in.

2. The Offset
This is the offset from the output frequency you will use to access a repeater. Most radios are preset with common offsets for particular frequencies and do not need adjustment. However there are repeaters that will use no offset. They will transmit and receive on the same frequency. When reading repeater listings you will see these denoted by a plus, a minus, or nothing. Your radio should have similar markings. The amount of offset (bandwidth between input and output) should not need to be set. So all you really need to worry about is if the repeater is a positive, negative, or zero offset.

3. The Access tone
Repeater access tones are used to make sure that signals do not get inadvertently repeated. If your station, (your mobile, base or handheld) does not transmit the tone when you key up (push the mic button), then the receiver of the repeater does not hear you and will not be usable by your station until you set the tone in your radio. They can be called pl tones, CTCSS tones, and other things. The only you really need to be concerned with is the actual frequency of tone that the repeater listens for. Their is a common list of tones so you should start seeing a pattern with most repeaters after you use them for awhile. This is something you will need to know how to set on your radio. It should be listed with the repeater listing. There are some instances where repeaters do not use access tones, but with the popularity of 2m/70cm bands these days they are much more rare.

Hopefully that's straight forward. If there are any questions about it, let me know and I'll modify it so it's more clear. I tried to leave out extra technical details that are unnecessary to simply get up and working on a repeater. Fortunately most radios will already have the correct offset set when you tune to the repeaters output. So all you really need to know is the access tone.
All great stuff as well and many thanks from a newbie and possible silently from others as well. As for GMRS/FRS there are no licensing requirements in Kanukistan. And, yes a license is required in the USA for GMRS (CH 1-7 and 15-22)

Now for the hard part; getting websites listing repeaters for various provinces, states, etc. is not the hard part, most do not have an export function so one has to type it in by hand. Perhaps some have it in spreadsheets (I would love a copy) or can download it from their radios to a format they can send to me. I will collate it all and make available once I have enough info to make it worthwhile.
 
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CanuckMariner

Adventurer/Explorer
#7
ntsqd said:
You can use a 10 meter ham radio on the cb freqs if it is modified to TX in the 11 meter band. Note that this would be illegal in the U.S. if you exceed the cb TX power limitation, and may be illegal even if you do not. Also note that doing this is pushing the output section of the radio into a frequency range that it is not idealized for. Possibly resulting damage to the radio if it is not re-tuned to operate in the cb frequencies.
CB's are also AM where most ham radios are FM. Some ham radios can be switched between AM and FM.
Figured as much, would be nice if you could as it would combine all three comm methods into one unit! Thanks!
 

mr r2fj

Adventurer
#8
CanuckMariner said:
As for GMRS/FRS there doesn't seem to be the requirement for a license in Alberta or maybe all of Canada, really do not know as everyone uses them and no ID required, so how would they monitor them?
I don't disagree with any of that. I'm just saying if you are presenting facts, you may want to let people know that GMRS requires a license in the US. I won't theorize on getting away with it. ;-)

Oh and I'm in no way an expert (pretty new myself), but I know that I was completely lost the first time I tried to use the radio. So hopefully the description makes repeater use a bit easier for new hams.

Now for the hard part; getting websites listing repeaters for various provinces, states, etc. is not the hard part, most do not have an export function so one has to type it in by hand. Perhaps some have it in spreadsheets (I would love a copy) or can download it from their radios to a format they can send to me. I will collate it all and make available once I have enough info to make it worthwhile.
Arizona has a great page for repeaters. They're in PDF though so I'm not sure if that helps your project:
http://www.azfreqcoord.org/listings.htm

I converted them to CSV myself awhile back so I could keep them on my phone. This is just Arizona (US) though. I know that the ARRL has a CD version of their repeater listing, but I have no idea what format it's in.
 
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nwoods

Expedition Leader
#9
Good info. I wish there was an idiot's guide to my HAM radio. I have an ICOM 208H, and the manual is terrible. It says all the things it can do, but never every says why you would want to do them, or when.

Your definition of the PL tones above was VERY helpful to me.
 
#10
ntsqd said:
You can use a 10 meter ham radio on the cb freqs if it is modified to TX in the 11 meter band. Note that this would be illegal in the U.S. if you exceed the cb TX power limitation, and may be illegal even if you do not.
Its illegal to transmit on CB freq with ANYTHING in the US unless its been certified as a CB and not modified. Even adding an internal echo or noise maker is a modification and make the radio illegal. While some ham radio can go into 11meters regardless of the power used it would be illegal in the US and most countries with FCC like cordinators.

CB's are also AM where most ham radios are FM. Some ham radios can be switched between AM and FM.
CB are AM, ham radio can be AM, FM, SSB, FSK and many other modes. I would not say MOST are FM, FM is used on UHF and VHF freq, SSB on most HF frequencies. CW (morse code) and digital modes can be used as well.
 
#11
mr r2fj said:
I know my ft8800 can do AM. Although I don't really understand why I'd want to use it and of course it's not going to operate in the 11 meter band.
Your 8800 does AM but in receive mode only. AM would be used in the 118-130mhz range to listen to aircraft.
 
#12
FRS is US and Canadian service. Both countries require type accepted radios to use on the band. FRS doesnt exist as a service anyplace else, but can be found in use. Many countires have similar types of radio, Europe has PMR radio's, PLR in several pacific countries. The US/Canadian, Europe and pacific radio all look the smae but are on different frequencies.

GMRS is only valid in the US and Canada (with a smaller number of channels) and BOTH countries require a license. Australia has a UHF CB service similar to GMRS but they require Specific radio's and the freq are different than the US, They also have more channels.
 
#13
gary in ohio said:
Your 8800 does AM but in receive mode only. AM would be used in the 118-130mhz range to listen to aircraft.
Ahh so the AM mode setting is for receive only then? It's not capable of transmitting on AM at all? I've never tried to listen to aircraft before. Thanks for the info, I might play aroudn with those bands to see if I can pick up anything.
 
#14
mr r2fj said:
Ahh so the AM mode setting is for receive only then? It's not capable of transmitting on AM at all? I've never tried to listen to aircraft before. Thanks for the info, I might play aroudn with those bands to see if I can pick up anything.
Aircraft, search and rescue craft, police air traffic. Lots of things to listen to while on the road.
 
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