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A Beginner's Repeater


Ian
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I need at least two each of two kinds of repeater:  Home, and mobile.

 

Both should operate as close to fifty watts as is legal.

Both shall use type-accepted transmitters, but as far as I know, if you can receive 462 MHz intelligibly with a chicken McNugget, more power to you.

Duplexers are a necessary evil?  Solid-state ladder filters are preferred to can-filters.

Home repeaters shall have some kind of identifier; mobile repeaters should have some kind of identifier.  I'm not afraid to use a goo.gl link to a long-ass page of "this is my repeater, play nice, and you, my guests, have my welcome and permission to use it when I'm not".

Car repeaters are to be… basically GMRS radios with wireless speaker-mics.  I'd go with GMRS radios with mobile speaker-mics, but only Australian UHF-CBs mix UHF radios with handheld control heads, and DECT-based wireless speaker-mics. And American units, type-accepted, don't take wireless speaker-mics, no matter how legal they are now.  And American units with handheld control-heads don't do anywhere near the legal 50 watts.  Hell, current production radios top out at 40, I think?

 

Next I need to find repeater capable handhelds… like at all.  (I know the Baofeng GMRS radio exists… but it doesn't count, I really hope…)

 

Everything I want is legal, but some of it just isn't available without ignoring type acceptance, and I'm not willing to do that.

 

Lastly, I'd like to link the two home repeaters over ~50 miles as a tech demo for a family operated network of repeaters… but I'm almost 80% sure that the new rule clarifications have eliminated any gray area for linked repeaters (whereas before, you could link them if you had cable internet, but not if you had DSL…).

 

Can I get those assumptions sanity-checked, please?

 

I've been part of ham chats, and they just said "get all your people to get their tickets" and it just makes me want to cry, because my grandfather's pushing 100, my mother's a technophobe, and it's all downhill from there…

 

I'm hoping desperately that encoding the callsign in a PTT-ID is legally compliant, and that I can find a handheld that can be programmed with a PTT-ID, especially one in fast Morse or something similarly trivial to interpret.

 

:facepalm:

 

Sorry for being the FNG with a crazy request, but I'm not swimming in great options, and cell phone coverage is frequently inadequate over here.

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Corey, I want a beginner's repeater that can grow with me as I go from trying to manage in big box marts with no cell coverage, to dealing with those shit weeks when hurricanes take down the everything.  Mostly the goal of mobile repeaters is going to be a repeater pretending to be a mobile, with a few mW of input -- if I can find gear like that.  If not, I'm looking at other options, but they price is just unbelievably unaffordable.  

 

Hans, wireless mics are better for really short ranges between the user and the radio, but you can't be arsed to find a wired mic.  Repeaters are better for when you're at least a block away or more from the repeater and you still want to use your big 'ol transmitter.

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I think you must be talking about something like the police use, which is a UHF walkie on their person that transmits to their cruiser parked outside, which then re-transmits it at higher power on either the 800MHz trunking system, or else VHF High-band back to dispatch.  That works because of cross-banding.  It won't work on GMRS, even with big cavities, and cross-banding such as GMRS to MURS is not allowed in Part 95.

 

If you are trying to talk back to your base station located 15 miles away, then a simple mobile repeater might do the trick.  Just run a normal base station, not another repeater.  Your handies could talk to the car repeater on 167, and your base would also hit the car's repeater on 167. The car transmits back to all on 162. That would be legal, and do-able.  (I would use a separate battery for that however. Otherwise, rag chewing might disable your ability to start the engine later.)

 

You talked about your repeater being blocks away... do you mean your base station, or your car is parked that far away?  If your home base station is only blocks away, you don't need a repeater. Use simplex.  If you are trying to talk with other walkies inside those giant box stores or malls, again, use simplex.  You don't need a repeater for that.

 

It sounds as if you are trying to make things way too complicated, yet you still haven't explained your true needs. To whom, and where do you need to speak?  It is possible that GMRS might not be your best solution.

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Hans, wireless mics are better for really short ranges between the user and the radio, but you can't be arsed to find a wired mic.  Repeaters are better for when you're at least a block away or more from the repeater and you still want to use your big 'ol transmitter.

Yeah, I'm well aware. The wireless mic/repeater comparison was yours.

 

Again, the closest and cheapest thing I can think of would be dump GMRS and rely on 100% networking; like the Inrico network radio products. https://network-radi...-network-radio/ They also produce handheld models.

 

Good luck.

 

Edit: If you are relying on email notifications to reply to messages then you are missing edits. There is more to these messages than to which you appear to be reading or replying.

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I want a beginner's repeater that can grow with me as I go from trying to manage in big box marts with no cell coverage, to dealing with those shit weeks when hurricanes take down the everything.  Mostly the goal of mobile repeaters is going to be a repeater pretending to be a mobile, with a few mW of input -- if I can find gear like that.  If not, I'm looking at other options, but they price is just unbelievably unaffordable.or more from the repeater and you still want to use your big 'ol transmitter.

Simply put, a mobile repeater would do this part. Two used mobile radios from eBay that are part 95 accepted and a repeater controller. If I remember correctly, the Motorola M1225 radios are part 95 (verify first). They would only require a cable to connect them (dirt cheap or roll your own), programming, a duplexer, and an antenna. Easy peasy. Not particularly rocket surgery.

 

We have a repeater like that sitting in our radio room. You can purchase the two radios with cable, programming, and a microphone; often for under $200. We used the seller "mineforyours" on eBay for our initial look-see into this type of repeater. The cheap China duplexers are under $100 tuned on eBay. Add feedline and a mobile antenna. Consider solutions to battery drain on the vehicle.

 

You could also purchase two Motorola or similarly suited part 95 radios and a repeater controller (there are a few out there new production on the cheap). It doesn't have to be pre-made.

 

Does this not satisfy this part of your project?

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Mostly the goal of mobile repeaters is going to be a repeater pretending to be a mobile, with a few mW of input -- if I can find gear like that. more from the repeater and you still want to use your big 'ol transmitter.

This is one of those extraneous bits of information that throws me off in these posts. Getting into the mobile repeater takes whatever watts it takes to get in. If you are relatively close enough and the propagation is good enough, it might only take a few milliwatts. BUT, in everyday use, it is merely the settings on the handheld used; low, medium, or high if ya got em. Low might be more than a few milliwatts but it's what you have at the time. Too much minutuae in some of this description is muddying the waters, IMHO.

 

Again, cross-band repeat would be simplest but we don't have that option in GMRS. So, a basic mobile repeater is the way to go. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There is affordable used gear available right now to do it.

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Ian. You titled this topic “A Beginners Repeater.” But, then you describe a very complex system that nobody here seems to fully comprehend. Then, when people suggest you simplify things, you respond that each suggestion offered won’t meet your beginner needs. Finally, you seem to misunderstand or misinterpret parts of Part-95 and in so doing, you seem to go in unsupportable directions and avoid other, much simpler, potential solutions.

 

At this point, I too will join the growing crowd watching from the bleachers, at least until you can provide a simple use case example that does not involve any discussion of how it should be done. Something like: “4 people are hunting in the woods and a 5th person is coordinating their a actions from a fixed location and they need to share their ideas for lunch.” Really, something that basic would be a good way to start getting the help you have requested.

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Yeah, I'm well aware. The wireless mic/repeater comparison was yours.

 

Again, the closest and cheapest thing I can think of would be dump GMRS and rely on 100% networking; like the Inrico network radio products. https://network-radi...-network-radio/ They also produce handheld models.

 

Good luck.

 

Edit: If you are relying on email notifications to reply to messages then you are missing edits. There is more to these messages than to which you appear to be reading or replying.

 

Oh, crap.  I'll be doing this the manual way for the foreseeable future, then.  Thank you!

 

Simply put, a mobile repeater would do this part. Two used mobile radios from eBay that are part 95 accepted and a repeater controller. If I remember correctly, the Motorola M1225 radios are part 95 (verify first). They would only require a cable to connect them (dirt cheap or roll your own), programming, a duplexer, and an antenna. Easy peasy. Not particularly rocket surgery.

 

We have a repeater like that sitting in our radio room. You can purchase the two radios with cable, programming, and a microphone; often for under $200. We used the seller "mineforyours" on eBay for our initial look-see into this type of repeater. The cheap China duplexers are under $100 tuned on eBay. Add feedline and a mobile antenna. Consider solutions to battery drain on the vehicle.

 

You could also purchase two Motorola or similarly suited part 95 radios and a repeater controller (there are a few out there new production on the cheap). It doesn't have to be pre-made.

 

Does this not satisfy this part of your project?

That's definitely the solution I'm leaning towards, if the $100 crystal-controlled Ebay special (it includes a tuned duplexer, sometimes!) doesn't happen to me soon.  I'll probably use Midland -- wait. They can't listen to repeater inputs.   <_<  I'll probably find the cheapest receiver I can, since unless contradicted, the best information I've found yet says that only the exciter has to be 95 certified.  (Read as a component of the transmitter, when used with an amplifier, or the whole transmitter, when used without.)

 

And no, it doesn't have to be pre-made.  I'm sorry if I gave that impression, as I'm well aware that borders on impossibility.  I just really want all the components to be replaceable on short notice if something goes belly-up on me.

 

 

This is one of those extraneous bits of information that throws me off in these posts. Getting into the mobile repeater takes whatever watts it takes to get in. If you are relatively close enough and the propagation is good enough, it might only take a few milliwatts. BUT, in everyday use, it is merely the settings on the handheld used; low, medium, or high if ya got em. Low might be more than a few milliwatts but it's what you have at the time. Too much minutuae in some of this description is muddying the waters, IMHO.

 

Again, cross-band repeat would be simplest but we don't have that option in GMRS. So, a basic mobile repeater is the way to go. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. There is affordable used gear available right now to do it.

 

It should only take a few mW from inside the car.  If this was Australia, I'd just get a Uniden UHF-CB, and the first party wireless mics, but they aren't even trying to make that available in the US, even though it's explicitly legal.  Wait, that's not true - they're only making them available with connectors for three high-dollar CB radios.   :(

 

Cross-band repeat would be simplest, but we __do__ have the option in GMRS, as I realized last night just before bed.  MotoTALK does about 0.7 watts of 900 MHz FHSS in the ISM band there, so with a custom cable and turning on vox on both the GMRS transmitter and the cellphone I'm using as a base for the "wireless mic", I really could have a cop-a-like system.  

 

Having said that, and with requests for more clarity in my needs, my "minimum viable product" is:  I want a garage repeater that'll cover the neighborhood and those stores I use the most 'cause they're closest.  I'm leaning towards using an Ed Fong J-pole attached to the chimney as a my antenna, and a cheap Chinese duplexer tuned so I can change channels on the repeater without visiting a radio dealer.

 

The first enhancement to this minimum viable product shall be a battery backup, for I live in Florida.

 

 

Ian. You titled this topic “A Beginners Repeater.” But, then you describe a very complex system that nobody here seems to fully comprehend. Then, when people suggest you simplify things, you respond that each suggestion offered won’t meet your beginner needs. Finally, you seem to misunderstand or misinterpret parts of Part-95 and in so doing, you seem to go in unsupportable directions and avoid other, much simpler, potential solutions.

 

At this point, I too will join the growing crowd watching from the bleachers, at least until you can provide a simple use case example that does not involve any discussion of how it should be done. Something like: “4 people are hunting in the woods and a 5th person is coordinating their a actions from a fixed location and they need to share their ideas for lunch.” Really, something that basic would be a good way to start getting the help you have requested.

 

Understood and I apologize - I really muddied the waters by not clearly breaking this up into more sane chunks.  IE, garage repeater, car repeater, fun projects to add later.  Only thing I'm worried about is the ready availability of repair parts, thus the requirement that all components are still in production, though I suppose a sufficiently large supply of old stock might soothe my nerves.

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Breaking this out for tl;dr -

 

With multiple requests for more clarity in my needs, my "minimum viable product" is:  I want a garage repeater that'll cover the neighborhood and those stores I use the most 'cause they're closest.  I'm leaning towards using an Ed Fong J-pole attached to the chimney as a my antenna, and a cheap Chinese duplexer tuned so I can change channels on the repeater without visiting a radio dealer.
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Oh, crap.  I'll be doing this the manual way for the foreseeable future, then.  Thank you!

You're welcome. The replies started to seem like you were missing the edits. smile.png

 

And no, it doesn't have to be pre-made.  I'm sorry if I gave that impression, as I'm well aware that borders on impossibility.  I just really want all the components to be replaceable on short notice if something goes belly-up on me.

You did not give that impression and I didn't mean to imply that you were or were not looking for pre-made. I was pointing out that you can purchase the components and make it yourself, purchase them already assembled by someone else, or any stage in between. Regardless, with repeaters made from used mobile radios, it's possible to have spares already programmed up and ready to replace at minimal cost. If you are using two mobiles, you can program each for the reverse function so if the Tx goes out on the transmitting radio, you can quickly swap the Rx for the Tx radio, change channels, swap the duplexer cables, and you are back in business in minutes.

 

Cross-band repeat would be simplest, but we __do__ have the option in GMRS, as I realized last night just before bed.  MotoTALK does about 0.7 watts of 900 MHz FHSS in the ISM band there, so with a custom cable and turning on vox on both the GMRS transmitter and the cellphone I'm using as a base for the "wireless mic", I really could have a cop-a-like system.

I don't believe that is permissible as it is linking radio services.

 

Having said that, and with requests for more clarity in my needs, my "minimum viable product" is:  I want a garage repeater that'll cover the neighborhood and those stores I use the most 'cause they're closest.  I'm leaning towards using an Ed Fong J-pole attached to the chimney as a my antenna, and a cheap Chinese duplexer tuned so I can change channels on the repeater without visiting a radio dealer.

I'm no radio expert but, unfortunately, duplexer tuning doesn't work that way as far as I know. Sure, some people talk about tuning the duplexer to the center of the service and changing channel. However, I've always been told that the duplexer needs to be tuned to each frequency pair or you will end up with lousy performance or no performance at all.

 

Go with the best antenna and feedline you are willing to pay for. Between that and height, it will pay for itself. Height is king! Even a good system is made lousy by insufficient line, antenna, and height. (That said, my budget allows for a cheap antenna and only 50' off the ground right now.)

 

For the garage repeater, don't close the door to purchasing a good used repeater from eBay or other sources. The two mobile radio repeater cost us $200 a few years back as there were no good full repeater deals found. We needed a duplexer so add another $100. Then, add a power supply at $20 or less from Amazon. We just found a commercial, 100% duty cycle repeater with duplexer for $350. It will cost around $60 to have the duplexer tuned if we cannot find a local fellow Amateur to do it for less. So, the mobile radio repeater would end up costing us about $320, would not be 100% duty cycle, and would not be able to identify as is. The commercial repeater will end up costing us about $410, is 100% duty cycle, has many options (including automatic battery backup with trickle charge), and can identify. On top of that, the latter has a good quality, brand name mobile duplexer as opposed to an iffy China franken-plexer.

 

Understood and I apologize - I really muddied the waters by not clearly breaking this up into more sane chunks.  IE, garage repeater, car repeater, fun projects to add later.  Only thing I'm worried about is the ready availability of repair parts, thus the requirement that all components are still in production, though I suppose a sufficiently large supply of old stock might soothe my nerves.

No problem. I think we can all now make better headway. Thanks for clarifying. smile.png

 

As to replacement parts for the mobile radio repeater... I would suggest that you take a look at the common mobiles used for these setups and evaluate the vast supply of used parts. I image that you could squirrel away some backup radios at bottom dollar prices. Once you have your repeater working, you could program each and swap them out to test before storage. In all likelihood, you could have enough backup parts to last decades. I do understand where you are coming from as this research soothed my nerves at the time. I planned on purchasing a couple of radios each month for a little while and a duplicate of the other parts. My nerves were happy with that plan. With the commercial repeater, I will probably spend the next year looking for another identical one on the cheap and have it ready to go into service should something fail on this one.

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I'll probably find the cheapest receiver I can, since unless contradicted, the best information I've found yet says that only the exciter has to be 95 certified.  (Read as a component of the transmitter, when used with an amplifier, or the whole transmitter, when used without.)

Good deduction but you will tear your hair out getting there. Save the stress and pick same mobiles that have been tried and tested through the years in the repeater configuration. Scanner front ends are wide so they are really unsuitable; or so I'm told. There will also be connection and control issues if they aren't tried and true combinations. Vox sucks. Drop it from consideration. Now you are left with signalling and controlling the transmitter at the low voltage level. Mobile radios already capable of doing this make life so very much nicer.

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By the way, if I would have been a bit more brave before we purchased the pre-made two mobile repeater, I would've bought the radios separately at a much cheaper price and assembled it myself. I had the knowledge at the time (thanks to you fine radio folks on the interwebs!) but did not have the experience. So, instead of paying $200 for two mobiles linked, I might have been able to make it myself for $100. Since I wanted Motorola, knowing about programming cables (BlueMax49ers on eBay!) and deciphering Motorola's label codes (thanks Batlabs and Repeater Builder!) made all the difference in locating and working with the components.

 

ETA: On these mobile radio repeater setups... big, slow fans... much air flow... need them. You don't want your hard work cooking itself.

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So much already written and available on this, yet every time we turn around there is a new post rehashing all of it. I think we all like helping others, but I can't frankly find the energy to do all that typing, bless you others for doing it. Some folks need to do a lot...a lot more reading before asking for the instant gratification answer. Not trying to offend anyone....just being direct. 

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So much already written and available on this, yet every time we turn around there is a new post rehashing all of it. I think we all like helping others, but I can't frankly find the energy to do all that typing, bless you others for doing it. Some folks need to do a lot...a lot more reading before asking for the instant gratification answer. Not trying to offend anyone....just being direct.

Yeah, there is enough information on the internet now that even a caveman such as myself can get most of the way, if not all of the way, to a working analog repeater. Between the websites and all of the forum posts at different boards, someone new to repeaters should be down to asking some focused questions on things they don't understand or for troubleshooting.

 

On the other hand, these threads improve my own skill because I have to think it through again in order to answer. Also, I believe it keeps this information at the forefront of the search engines. But, I do understand how one may no longer have energy for these threads. smile.png

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So much already written and available on this, yet every time we turn around there is a new post rehashing all of it. I think we all like helping others, but I can't frankly find the energy to do all that typing, bless you others for doing it. Some folks need to do a lot...a lot more reading before asking for the instant gratification answer. Not trying to offend anyone....just being direct. 

I did hundreds of hours of reading before asking for help.  The most important result of that reading was finding out what was possible, and how out of my depth I was.  The second most important result was to become angry and confused, as I realized that it's basically not possible to use new-production radios on GMRS beyond two watts, or with repeaters, with a few important (but non-overlapping) exceptions.  

 

I explored going business band, but I'm not entitled to buy a business license without using the radios to earn a profit, or at least performing activities tangential to or in support of it.

 

I started off with cell phones, but holes in their coverage usually lead to me being screamed at.  A social solution is impossible, so a technical solution, no matter how difficult or expensive, must be pursued.

 

I explored ISM radios, but the TriSquare eXRS - my first choice - is long discontinued and absent from the secondary market.

I tried MotoTALK, but it doesn't have the range to cover my entire block, and is therefore not fit for purpose.

I saw Motorola's DLR series, but they're a NXDN derived system, and are technically only incompatible with MotoTALK due to deliberate changes to the FHSS hopping order, in order to impose market segmentation; like MotoTALK, they're limited to one watt, and by the propagation characteristics of 900 MHz.

Even before the cell phones, I bought some early FRS radios, nice single-channel Radio Shack units, but the audio quality was unacceptable.  Allegedly.  (I blame reluctance from  the neophobe who yells at me.)

I bought some more FRS radios, and they failed within a week.  (Motorola Talkabout T4300, to name-n-shame)

 

I bought those last ones for some volunteer work, and the returns process took the entire period they would have been useful.

 

Bought a bunch of Motorola Spirit MURS radios, which were the first really useful things I laid hands on, and I love them.

 

But good luck finding a mobile MURS radio…. There was one certified under 95J for rally-car communication, but it was $600 new and it's been discontinued in favor of an intra-car intercom without a transceiver.

 

I went back to the ISM band with the EnGenius cordless SN-920 cordless phone system from the pawn shop, which does one watt of 900 MHz, full duplex, with some attempt at encryption and FHSS.  The system had been out of production for a decade, new batteries are not a thing, and their customer service told me to buy a new system.  The Durafon 1x goes for about $550 on Amazon with one handset, but the base that supports their good handsets is $1200, and each handset is $500-550.  Not happening soon.

 

I'm running out of subparts now, and I've failed miserably at getting anyone else I know to get a ham license, citing either not-giving-a-shit, or in one case, the toxic community of fudds, and in another case "that's great I'll do it" turned into "I never said that.  What's ham radio, anyway?"

 

I have given myself panic attacks trying to read and understand case law and parse the federal register.  I am now confident that the real motivation is to destroy the personal radio services so that the frequency can be leased to the highest bidder (but let's be honest, probably Verizon).  

 

Meanwhile, in Australia, home of the UHF-CB, repeater capable hardware is more-or-less Walmart grade and fairly cheap.  Wireless microphones and headsets are not exotic.  UHF use (for "UHF" is all you have to say to express that you're talking about unlicensed personal radios) is relatively mainstream, and they have 80 channels to our 22 (though a few are blocked off for future inventions).

 

I find it profoundly frustrating and unfair - though I recognize nothing about the universe is intrinsically fair - that there is nothing really fitting into the niche of "prosumer" gear in the United States other than used gear of questionable reliability.  (Which is to say I've had poor experiences with used radios' reliability, and new radios as well!  Until my recent GMRS buying spree, I was at like one-for-seventeen UHF radios still working.  I've joked that "this is where UHF gear comes to die" with serious justification.)

 

 

 

TL;DR:  I'm tired, frustrated, and anxious about this.  I've done my homework, and I'm sick of owning inevitable failures.  I want some successes to be proud of, dammit!  I'm also aware that I wrote four pages of refutation to the accusation of "instant gratification" and that's not normal, but you discovered one of the psychological land mines I wasn't aware I had.  I'm sorry this came out pointed in your general direction, but I simply can't bring myself to delete it now.  May it instead illustrate some of the things I've tried that brought me to this place in my attempt to create elegant technical solutions to problems.

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I'm tired, frustrated, and anxious about this.  I've done my homework, and I'm sick of owning inevitable failures.

You've done quite a bit of homework. It sounds much like my experiences over the years. That's how I ended up with MURS, GMRS, FRS, and amateur radio. I split my time mostly between GMRS and amateur radio; some FRS with a very minute smattering of MURS. The first two are most useful to me because of repeaters.

 

I certainly share in your frustration! smile.png

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You've done quite a bit of homework. It sounds much like my experiences over the years. That's how I ended up with MURS, GMRS, FRS, and amateur radio. I split my time mostly between GMRS and amateur radio; some FRS with a very minute smattering of MURS. The first two are most useful to me because of repeaters.

 

I certainly share in your frustration! smile.png

My condolences.  :P

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I think it's a case of you can't get there from here. I'm pretty sure I understand what you are wanting from a mobile repeater, and it would be simple on the ham bands: a cross-band mobile with an HT talking to the mobile on one band, and the mobile repeating on the other band. But if your people won't get a ham license, I guess that's out.

 

It's just a step beyond what GMRS is designed to do, at least currently. Someone (Hans?) mentioned in another thread a wish for one or two VHF frequencies for crossbanding to GMRS. Perhaps one or two of the MURS freqs. I would like to see something like that too, specifically for this use. I think 900 MHz might be a better choice than VHF, though.

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I think 900 MHz might be a better choice than VHF, though.

I think that, from a technical standpoint, 900 MHz could be a better choice than VHF, but from the standpoint of availability of affordable equipment, it would be my preferred choice. There are also other reasons for my preference.

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900 MHz also avoids licensing, equipment authorization, and channel availability headaches. Any time there is significant separation ("outside the immediate vicinity of") from the 462/467 MHz transmitter and the person operating it, the transmitter becomes a remote base, and there are some additional restrictions that come into play. Since 2.4 GHz is already accepted for short-range wireless microphones, 900 MHz is also fine. The question then becomes whether crossbanding to 900 MHz causes a 95.339 violation. Fixed, base, and repeater stations can be operated by remote control. Short-range 2.4 GHz microphones are designed to only operate in the immediate vicinity of the transmitter, so use on a mobile station is acceptable. Crossbanding a mobile station to something like a set of DTR650s would enable violating 95.1745, producing a 95.339 violation, as the mobile station is considered remotely controllable.

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All good points.  Leaning towards MotoTalk as my cross-band solution, 'cause it's as license-free as FRS and so much less congested.

 

However, I'm backing off on the mobile repeater for the time being, and I'll figure something else out.  Probably going to double down on the garage repeater; with a little luck I'll find a used Kenwood TKR840 or Ritron Responder in acceptable condition to tide me over until I can get to the advanced stuff.

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