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How popular is GMRS (in subjective terms)?


krvw
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Yeah, I ask a lot of questions for a noob. Sorry about that, but I'm playing the role of an information sponge right now. Trying to learn all I can about this stuff.

 

My question is about GMRS popularity. How popular is it?

 

I see a lot of "SHTF" prepper-types getting into the BaoFengs and such. I get that.

 

I'm within pretty solid reach of a GMRS repeater here in Alexandria, Virginia. I have myself and my wife on it just fine. For those unaware, Alexandria is at the southern end of the Washington, DC area "Beltway". As such, the repeater hits a pretty broad swath of a fairly densely populated region.

 

For a couple days, I was convinced I had made a mistake in configuring my radios because I wasn't hearing any activity at all. I did a few radio checks and didn't get any responses.

 

I must have programmed and reprogrammed my repeater offsets a dozen times to ensure it wasn't my fault -- which I entirely assumed to be the case. I openly admit I'm a newbie here, after all.

 

Then, out of the blue, I heard from someone driving through the area and checking in on the repeater. I responded with a radio check and we had a short chat. All went fine. At least now I knew my radios were set up correctly for the repeater.

 

Since then, I've had a few more casual contacts and have even had a couple conversations with the repeater's owner. All good.

 

But, candidly, I expected more traffic here. Yeah, everyone has an iPhone or Android in 2020, so back to my questions.

 

How popular is GMRS? Is it growing? Is it shrinking? Are equipment manufacturers producing new products in this space? Or are the BaoFengs taking over and all the big guys' profit margins shrinking to 0 or negative?

 

Basically, among you experienced GMRS jockeys, how does our future look?

 

I'm not trying to sound pessimistic, trust me. For my primary use case (emergency comms with my family), I'm committed to GMRS. My wife will never sit for a ham exam. The shared license model here fits us perfectly. Is GMRS as committed to me as I am to GMRS?

 

Opinions welcome, with gratitude.

Cheers,

 

Ken

WRFC318

 

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Hi Ken

I have a repeater here in central WI that is linked to another one about 40 miles away. The 2 repeaters get very little use. There is however a bigger linked system in southern WI that is tied in with about 10 other machines that gets used everyday. But not to the point where it can't be used pretty much when you want. So i guess in answer to your question, i would say in some areas its holding its own. And in other areas there is very little use if that helps. 

 

Take care

Jeff

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Thanks, @Rogers4133.

 

I spend a fair amount of time traveling, so I'll definitely seek to sample a bunch of repeaters around the country.

 

I suppose it's a bit of a tough balance. We want GMRS to be popular enough to be used, but not so much that repeaters get over crowded and channels become difficult to use.

 

Still, I'm a bit surprised our local repeater doesn't see more traffic. I've been making it a point to check in from time to time with my call sign. Every once in a while, someone responds or a stranger drops in for a radio check. The other day, I asked folks for a situation report on a huge plume of black smoke a few miles away. (Turned out to be a construction fire. News reported today it was an accident, but with a cost of $48 MILLION... It was big.)

 

As I said, my main justification is for emergencies, but I'd also like to see a fun and thriving hobbyist community. I'll be checking some ham repeaters as well once I pass my tech exam.

 

Cheers,

 

Ken

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I know I have posted this before, but I can't seem to find it. So, here it is again.

 

GMRS is a radio service designed for a specific purpose: family communication.

A mobile two-way voice communication service, with limited data applications, for facilitating activities of individual licensees and their family members, including, but not limited to, voluntary provision of assistance to the public during emergencies and natural disasters.

 

​Contrast that with Amateur radio

a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.

B) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.

c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.

d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.

e) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

 

It sounds like some of what @krvw and others here expect from GMRS is actually found in HAM (Amateur) radio. If you want to try and make GMRS into another HAM like service, you are doomed to failure.  My suggestion is, take advantage of GMRS for what it is and don't fret what it is not. If you are looking for a broader hobbyist community, try amateur radio. You will find repeaters everywhere with all-kind of communities (some of which you will love, others which you will hate). An Amateur tech license is not only not hard to get, but in the process of getting the license you will learn a lot about radio in general that will help you with GMRS as well. And, if you become interested and go for your amateur general license, then there is the world of low-band, short-wave...

 

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Hi Ken

I have a repeater here in central WI that is linked to another one about 40 miles away. The 2 repeaters get very little use. There is however a bigger linked system in southern WI that is tied in with about 10 other machines that gets used everyday. But not to the point where it can't be used pretty much when you want. So i guess in answer to your question, i would say in some areas its holding its own. And in other areas there is very little use if that helps. 

 

Take care

Jeff

Jeff,

Why not tie your system into MyGMRS.com system? 

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I think one cannot base one’s opinion of GMRS on repeater use. I drive around with my mobile radio set to scan. After more than a year, I’ve discovered different areas where GMRS/FRS are used daily.

 

Bubble pack radios have low power, which allows more people to use the limited channels with limited interference, if they are separated by some distance. The more popular channels in my area are 1, 7, 15, 20, 22. I don’t understand why people prefer those channels. As I drive around, I’ll hear conversations on the same channels, separated only by distance.

 

Channel 18 is not used much around here because there is a GMRS repeater that covers the entire county. The repeater will routinely step on any conversations using channel 18. I do hear the occasional chat on 18 simplex when the repeater is silent.

 

In short, I think GMRS is popular. Much of it is unlicensed. Even among the licensed, I don’t think many are aware of or understand how to use repeaters. After all, you can’t find bubble pack radios that are repeater capable. Most of us licensed, regulars are buying ham equipment to access repeaters, with the exception of mobile radios that come repeater capable.

 

I believe without evidence that there are many more households with GMRS/FRS radios stashed away in drawers. Some are ready to use for the occasional outdoor or family activity. Others are only for emergencies. I think the vast majority are for simplex use.

 

AND

 

FRS is Family Radio Service, which is how most people use GMRS on bubble pack HTs.

 

GMRS is General Mobile Radio Service, emphasis on Mobile.

 

I don’t think most users are buying mobile radios. There is a world of difference between a 2 W HT and a 50 W mobile. In that aspect I would agree that GMRS is less popular. Fewer people are taking advantage of the higher power options and the availability of repeaters on GMRS.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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Two points that have been made, that I agree with, are that GMRS is "family" radio communications (definitely not a rag-chew community) and you can't judge its success or failure by repeater use.  I would like to add that, because this is a low power, line of sight service, you can't judge the popularity by who you hear... not at all.

 

With limited exception, UHF radio waves (where GMRS lives) either leave the atmosphere or get absorbed by the ground.  Where we live, the numerically subtle elevation changes are actually somewhat drastic.  There can be hills and low spots that only vary 100 feet, but that variation can occur over 200 yards of road/trail distance.  So we end up with a bunch of natural earth walls blocking UHF RF paths.

 

What all this comes down to is, depending on the noise floor and your location compared to the location of the other station, you may not hear anyone more than a mile or two from you.  I am just to the south of you, in Woodbridge.  When I am at my house, using 40 watts, my mobile will only get about 1 mile.  However, if I drive 6 houses up the street, I go up 100 feet in elevation and can talk 5 miles on simplex or 20+ miles to a repeater in Warrenton or the Alexandria repeater. 

 

All that said, I think the radio service is increasing in popularity.  Many people use FRS and GMRS for outdoor activities.  I spend a lot of time camping, 4-wheeling, and at car shows. 

 

Many people are moving away from CB for camping and 4-wheeling and going to GMRS.  Mostly because the GMRS radio performance is much more forgiving than CB and many people can't get their CB to work more than 100-200 yards.  With some of the OTC GMRS kits that come with mag mounts, its almost impossible to screw up the install and get a couple miles of range on average.

 

In the arena of outdoor stuff like car shows, food festivals, art festivals, etc., GMRS and FRS become a great tool for family to stay in touch.  My family has 3 HT's and while we are at these events, we use the radios when someone goes on a food/water run, to go look an an exhibit without the whole group, as well as commuting to the location, allowing us to find each other to all meet back up.

 

So, I think it is popular and gaining popularity.  Just remember, use the right service for the desired purpose.

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GMRS is a general radio service. That means it is for pretty much any two-way communications use that individual licensees desire, as long as it is not used for illegal activities (a lookout for a team of burglars, for example). Your family is covered under your license, but that does not mean it is only for family use. Nor does it say so anywhere in the rules.

 

Hobbyist use is more common in some areas than others. Nothing wrong with getting on there and trying to drum up some activity, though. I'm a ham (not HAM by the way; it's not an acronym) and have been for a long time, but I still enjoy playing with GMRS. MURS, too.

 

Welcome to the hobby of GMRS.

 

ETA: I think the future looks good for GMRS.

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Agreed. I only say that I agree that is a family oriented service because family comms are the most common uses.  Especially because of the FRS overlap.

 

It's kind of like saying automobiles are commuter tools.  Its the most common use, but there are lots of other uses.  For instance, my car is a portable power supply for my radios.  LOL

 

 

...I'm a ham (not HAM by the way; it's not an acronym) ...

 

Not many people know what the origin of being a Ham (or ham fisted) comes from.  It's kind of a funny story about people being snobbish.  LOL  CW folk (and most Hams) wear it as a badge of honor.

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Around by me there seems to be more business use of the frequencies than anything else. Mainly what I hear are the cheap "bubble pack" FRS radios. They're easy to identify due to the funny "Roger Beeps" you hear. FRS is legal for business use as far as I know.

 

Some local retail and manufacturing business, and typically during the day the cleaning crews at the nearby hotels use them.

 

I hear very little personal or family use however. When I do it's mostly after Xmas with kids and lasts for a few days until the novelty wears off and or the batteries die.

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Hi, I live in SW Washington state, just accross the river and a little east of Portland OR. Almost all gmrs traffic I hear is simplex and mainly construction companies for traffic control. There is one factory on ch 18, also simplex.

 

The only other usage is during hunting season.

Beside mine (mobile) there are several repeaters poping up but well inside the national forest, Pinchot Gifford.

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My experience is that now more than ever, you're likely to hear a business using FRS radios bought at Menards, Lowes, etc., or online on the GMRS mains, because they now can. Well, "they" don't know that they can, but the radios they are buying can. Also large chains, like Hotels, Restaurants, Sporting Goods stores, etc., know they can get away with it and avoid filing for a multi-site, multi-state licenses. In my area, I regularly hear a Hotel, several automotive related contractors, and a couple of stores use GMRS mains. With that being allowed license free under FRS, a GMRS licensee has no idea if they are legal or not when they don't ID. They could be under FRS (although a poor choice for business) and 2 watts, or running 5 watts on portables and no license. Kind of catch 22 for us licensees who paid to be legal. Many businesses will pay $10 for a Boafeng and not a couple hundred for a Motorola, if they know no one is going to do anything about it. 

 

I would say, thanks in part to off roaders groups and family owned agriculture, GMRS is gaining in popularity. I do hear a little real GMRS activity, but not what I would call alot. I have been licensed for 25 years.  

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My personal use-case is mostly caravanning, much like what CB would be used for in decades past.  Just this last weekend, I had an hour-long conversation while driving on 22-22 (channel 22, 141.3)

 

I also plug radios into my hearing protection when doing something loud ever since a couple hurricanes ago (chainsaws are loud!).

 

But generally, lately, I favor FRS radios for the occasional around-the-house or around-the-store thing now, because they're smaller and easier to carry than GMRS or MURS radios I own.

 

One of these days, I'm putting up a Ventenna and setting up a home base radio doing 40-50 watts and/or a garage repeater, but that's pretty niche utility for me; scanning on handhelds produces basically no traffic around here, and I'm not super hopeful of reaching my neighbors.

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My experience is that now more than ever, you're likely to hear a business using FRS radios bought at Menards, Lowes, etc., or online on the GMRS mains, because they now can. Well, "they" don't know that they can, but the radios they are buying can. Also large chains, like Hotels, Restaurants, Sporting Goods stores, etc., know they can get away with it and avoid filing for a multi-site, multi-state licenses. In my area, I regularly hear a Hotel, several automotive related contractors, and a couple of stores use GMRS mains. With that being allowed license free under FRS, a GMRS licensee has no idea if they are legal or not when they don't ID. They could be under FRS (although a poor choice for business) and 2 watts, or running 5 watts on portables and no license. Kind of catch 22 for us licensees who paid to be legal.

 

They are so fun to screw with. Now that's entertainment. 

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Not even in jest.

 

§ 95.333Prohibited uses.

No person shall use a Personal Radio Service station:

[... ...]

(d) To intentionally interfere with the communications of another station;

[... ...]

 

Just trying to talk to them? Spill on Isle 3. Truck waiting at back door. Price check in pet supplies. ect. 

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They are so fun to screw with. Now that's entertainment. 

 

Just trying to talk to them? Spill on Isle 3. Truck waiting at back door. Price check in pet supplies. ect. 

 

Read your own words. If the intent of your transmission is to interfere with the communications of another station, it is prohibited.  And, no, the rules do not limit that to properly licensed stations and for good reason. If they allowed you to interfere with improperly licensed stations they would be granting you the power to not only accuse, but also judge and then punish others for violating the rules. That job is reserved for the FCC.

 

However, the rules do give you a way to deal with improper use of the airwaves, If you think someone is violating the rules, then you can report it to the FCC. 

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If you have a business on the GMRS channels report them to the FCC at PSIX-ESIX Homepage - PSIX-ESIX...

 

Correct. However, as quarterwave previously noted, the problem is determining whether the station is operating under Part95A (GMRS) or Part95B (FRS). So, unless he is able to determine the output power or the bandwidth he won't know if they are legal or not.

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There have been some very good comments on GMRS/FRS. I have probably mentioned this before, but if you want to have backup communications, especially for families, GMRS is one of the best ways that I have seen. Because GMRS and FRS and pretty much interoperable, that does create some downsides if you have someone running higher power GMRS equipment, especially with the allowance of external/gain antennas and they are not licensed, you can not easily determine this. 

 

For rural families that may not have the best cellphone coverage, GMRS can be useful. Even though retired, we continue to live on our small farm, but if we were large enough to need other workers, it would be possible to use a GMRS license for the family members and HT's for non-family. This would allow a good base station to mobile/portables. This could also work for any small family business that may have a few workers who are not part of the family.

 

While there is not much activity on GMRS, there are commercial users of FRS. This past year I kept hearing stations talking back and forth and it sounded like they were loading something. Comments went on like "OK, Joe, a little further, oops too far, back off, OK that is good right there." And this would go on for long periods. I finally found out that these were fiber optic installers who were working along my ridge. My base antenna is a gain GP-9 at 40 feet so gets good distance. I have talked to hunters over 10 miles away if there were close to the ridge. If I monitor MURS frequencies I can pick up some of the Walmart channel five users at times. They must have to be in certain locations to make that work over the 7+ miles distance. 

 

For a lot of off road folks, it seems like MURS would be pretty good if you did not want to get any license. And now we are finally seeing some legal MURS radios that are reasonably priced. In a really serious emergency, without any planning ahead of time, I suspect CB will be useful because so many folks have them. I wish they would have SSB, as we do, but that is not common. There are SSB CB nets in my area, but most of the stations are very weak except one ham about 20 miles away. He is net control for one night a week so I check in there from time to time. Or talk to him on 2 meter FM. 

 

Realistically, most people just do not want to study for an amateur radio license. At one time my daughter had her Technician Class (she accidentally let it expire) and my wife and I still keep our Amateur Extra Class licenses, but rarely use them anymore. No one else in our family has the slightest interest in ham radio.

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He can determine the channel and if it's a GMRS, report it and let the FCC make the determination.

 

That was the case prior to the last rules update in 2017. But now all 22 FRS channels are shared with GMRS. The only GMRS channels not allowed for FRS are the 8 GMRS repeater inputs.  Since simplex use on the repeater inputs is now permitted under some circumstances, if you heard unidentified traffic on those channels, then you could assume they were illegal. But, for the 22 other channels, there is no way to know.

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I might mention that though GMRS and FRS can interoperate, not all types of GMRS equipment can do this on all of the 22 channels. If you have a base or mobile unit on GMRS, you will likely find that the equipment does not have the 467 MHz interstitial channels 8-14. The rules specify that those channels can only be used by handheld portable units. And it makes sense because those channels are limited to 500 milliwatts ERP. 

 

We stay on one of the 8 main 462 MHz channels when operating simplex since we can transmit up to 50 watts output. Even on the 462 MHz interstitial channels 1 - 7, we are probably exceeding power levels at times since even GMRS radios are only allowed 5 watts ERP. With a modest gain antenna it would be possible to exceed 5 watts ERP if your output was 5 watts. On the 8 main channels you do not have an ERP limit for GMRS. Of course, FRS always has an ERP maximum allowable power level, but that is easy to do considering the fixed built-in antenna.

 

My thinking is that if I had FRS equipment, and I wanted to limit the distance the signals can travel, the use of the 500 mw channels might offer better security. This could be useful for close-in groups or especially for preppers.

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