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If GMRS, Then Why VHF/UHF Amateur?


SeldomSeen
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I've been studying for the Technician exam for a couple of weeks now. I'm sure I could pass it right now. Last week I purchased a very good GMRS HT with full repeater capability and a mobile antenna. Listening to both GMRS and the 2 meter band on my scanner, I can not tell any difference between the efficacy of either. If you already have a good GMRS stetup, the Amateur repeater bands seem redundant. Sadly I am beginning to lose my motivation for the latter. Are the Amateur repeater bands just a somewhat glorified version of GMRS? Sure, Technician class is a stepping stone to General privileges but I am definitely not interested in HF. The equipment poses an endlessly fascinating prospect but the great majority of participants there do not appeal. Their average age seems to be about eighty, they all sound like the late great Ben Johnson (of John Wayne film fame) and only talk about their equipment or Conservative ideology which gets pretty vitriolic at times. The VHF/UHF folks are an order of magnitude more eclectic. Incidentally I am a moderate so neither paradigm appeals to any great extent. Both bands are obviously geared toward mobile communication. Neither have dedicated base rigs. I wonder how many VHF/UHF proponents actually use their mobile units for a base station. Sitting in a comfortable chair in front of a nice warm fire listening to and or commenting on casual conversations is what I am interested in. So once again I ask, Is the Technician class really worth It?

GMRS is a utility service. Typically, users only wish to communicate with others of their group. Amateur radio is a hobby service, where users wish to communicate with everyone.

 

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I'd dearly love to have that OCF antenna instead of my G5RV-Jr "compromise" antenna, which is 52' long, 40-6m and resonant on no particular band at all...

 

In fact, it says a lot about its efficiency when it takes around six to ten seconds for my IT-100 "Autotuner" to find minimum SWR... :huh:

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Discovering the OFC antenna has changed my plan. I cancelled the order for the Yaesu FTM-7250DR Dual Band radio and instead ordered the FT-991a. The ability to immediately take advantage of all Tech privileges and only having to buy one modern radio through General seems the best route to keep my interest. I will get the Ham Radio Deluxe software for decoding CW too. I don't want to learn Morse code - tried that unsuccessfully years ago.  I wonder if the old timers find that offensive. No one and I mean no one has the FT-991a in stock. It will be two weeks before my order will be shipped.

 

BTW what is a good ham forum that is beginner friendly?

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Discovering the OFC antenna has changed my plan. I cancelled the order for the Yaesu FTM-7250DR Dual Band radio and instead ordered the FT-991a. The ability to immediately take advantage of all Tech privileges and only having to buy one modern radio through General seems the best route to keep my interest. I will get the Ham Radio Deluxe software for decoding CW too. I don't want to learn Morse code - tried that unsuccessfully years ago.  I wonder if the old timers find that offensive. No one and I mean no one has the FT-991a in stock. It will be two weeks before my order will be shipped.

Awesome.!!!

 

If you get the FT991a.

 

A)Read the manual.. It is a really menu driven radio, and it sucks sometimes. To bury down menus to adjust sql and stuff, instead of just hitting a button then adjusting.

 

B)Get RT system download, really just need an old school printer usb cable to utilize cat control and program.

 

Keep in mind, two big downfall of the radio. 1.) 99 memory slots 2.) no true vfo B... Otherwise, I have been loving mine. I am waiting on the SDRPlay RSP1a to see if HRD will let me trying and control the radio through the Panadapter. I heard some week signals on the SDR that the FT991a couldn't hear.

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B)Get RT system download, really just need an old school printer usb cable to utilize cat control and program.

 

Keep in mind, two big downfall of the radio. 1.) 99 memory slots 2.) no true vfo B... Otherwise, I have been loving mine. I am waiting on the SDRPlay RSP1a to see if HRD will let me trying and control the radio through the Panadapter. I heard some week signals on the SDR that the FT991a couldn't hear

 

I have absolutely no clue as to what these two sentences allude to. My ignorance about this new endeavor scares me and I am a pretty smart fellow otherwise. :)

 

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RT systems is basically is just programming software much like CHIRP. DO NOT use CHIRP for a Yaesu radio, it has been known to brick the radio.  Even Yaesu basically points to RT Sytems. You don't need it, just easier to download repeaters from Repeater Book from inside RT Systems then upload to the radio.

 

There are only 99 memory slots that you can program. To do memory scans or quick recall. You can not use RT systems  to do quick on the fly changes, Rt-systems require you to perform a reboot of the radio after programming.

 

HRD has it's own memory slots so you can utilize that function. Download the trial AFTER you get your radio setup. You can download a trial key which is good for 30 days.

 

As far as VFO (Variable Frequency Oscillator), it only has one. The second VFO "B" is so you can do splits and kinda does a software flop between the frequencies. Unlike a Baofeng that lets you listen to two independent VFO's.

 

The radio itself can get frustrating till you get use to it. If you can get a member of your local club to help, you'll have an easier time with it. It is a lot to take in.

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You are probably wondering what a split is. Simply put Input and receive are on 2 different frequencies. Kinda like a repeater pair. On the FT991a you can manually program a repeater by using the split feature and then saving it. Nice thing about the radio is if you are a frequency range that is usually used for repeaters it will input the +- split for you. You just need to choose +- or the rep button to enable

 

Some time on HF, the other side will want to split for whatever ever reason.. QRM (interference) or adjacent frequency spacing.due to local users.

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Just a note about antenna restricted areas.

 

I read some time back a Ham had a problem with is HOA with wanting to put up some antennas. Well he researched the bylaws and came up with the following solution. He installed a small crank up tower on a trailer and parked it in his back yard where you couldn't see the trailer part. Cranked it up when he operated. Since the bylaws didn't prohibit antennas on vehicles, which you could reasonably argue applies to trailers. He moved the trailer every once in a while so they couldn't claim it was permanently parked in one spot either to qualify as a vehicle. The HOA couldn't say much.

 

Another Ham did something similar by installing a telescoping mast on his truck parked in the driveway.  He then snaked the coax across the ground to the truck from the house. The HOA wasn't very happy but he wasn't breaking any of the rules either. 8-))

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Just a note about antenna restricted areas.

 

I read some time back a Ham had a problem with is HOA with wanting to put up some antennas. Well he researched the bylaws and came up with the following solution. He installed a small crank up tower on a trailer and parked it in his back yard where you couldn't see the trailer part. Cranked it up when he operated. Since the bylaws didn't prohibit antennas on vehicles, which you could reasonably argue applies to trailers. He moved the trailer every once in a while so they couldn't claim it was permanently parked in one spot either to qualify as a vehicle. The HOA couldn't say much.

 

Another Ham did something similar by installing a telescoping mast on his truck parked in the driveway. He then snaked the coax across the ground to the truck from the house. The HOA wasn't very happy but he wasn't breaking any of the rules either. 8-))

I h was and some will set up a hf rig on the car and run the coax from the base rig to the antenna on the car. With the same thought.

 

Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk

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Change of plans. Last weekend I decided to start very simply. I cancelled the order for the 991a and ordered an IC-V86 2m HT. It came today and I tried it out. While sitting on my roof with the HT and two different antennas I tried to access all of the local repeaters with 7Watts. I was unable to access any of them. On one I got some static each time I transmitted but wasn't able to open the squelch. I even tried different areas of the roof.  As expected, this experiment proved that purchasing a dual-band FM base unit would be a total waste of money. My mountains won. Of course I can still use and have fun with the HT when I'm out on the plains.

 

Now, to have any sort of activity with my Technician privileges at home I would need to purchase an HF transceiver such as the IC-718 and use CW mode. Fortunately my Morse code studies have made fantastic progress. I should be able to use all of the letters, numbers and some of the punctuation marks very soon.  Then when I get my General license (hopefully within a months or so) I could then use the HF radio for voice. So there it is.

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... I tried to access all of the local repeaters with 7Watts. I was unable to access any of them. On one I got some static each time I transmitted but wasn't able to open the squelch. ...

Are you sure you weren't hitting the repeater? Hearing a short burst of static (called the squelch tail) after un-keying the transmitter is normal, and a sign you have keyed up the repeater. Unless you have a second radio, with a good (I.e. well designed) receiver, to use as a monitor, all you will get is the squelch tail, and maybe that awful roger beep.

 

However, not all repeaters have squelch tails. So, in that case, you would have no indication as to whether or not you had keyed the repeater. Also, if the repeater has been quiet for over 15 minutes or so, and you key it up, it should ID itself. Though, again, while generaly required, it does not always happen.

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Hearing a short burst of static (called the squelch tail) after un-keying the transmitter is normal, and a sign you have keyed up the repeater. 

 

The bold section is the key point. You are probably opening the repeater. 

 

1. Re-verify tones and offsets. (which sound like they are set right)

https://repeaterbook.com/repeaters/map/map.php?maptype=standard&state_id=08|Colorado&band=14&freq=&band6=&loc=%&call=%&status_id=%&features=&use=%

 

2. Get a second radio,to monitor or a cheap SDR receiver setup (monitor repeater output)

 OR

 

The simplest, throw your call sign out with a short message on the repeaters every so often. If someone answers you have your answer.

 

Another thing to think about if you are going to use CW a lot is to get a CW weighted vanity call sign. It will allow you to choose a call sign to apply for that is easier when using CW. https://fistsna.org/callweight.php There is also an option in the FCC ULS when applying for vanities to apply a CW weight to selections.

 

You actually are in hotbed of potential HAM activity due to all the parks. You actually have quite a few repeaters, try programming them and just set the radio to scan. BTW, there is a big difference with an HT (even with a 42" Abree antenna), a 1/4 mag mount attached to a car roof connected to your HT, and a base station antenna llike a Diamond X300. A lot of it has to do with height but the ground plane also makes a big difference.

 

Here is a fun project, make a tape measure yagi, connect it to the HT. Start pointing it at the repeater general locations and try again from the roof. Chances are the repeaters are on top of the mountains, Worst case you spent $10 and now have a yagi you can use for Fox hunts and satellite work (Which I think you'll need a new HT since the downlink is 70cm, might be able to repurpose some GMRS gear for receive only for that ).

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I spent some time studying the manual for my HT last night and discovered that I wasn't enabling the repeater tone encoder for some of the saved frequencies. Remember, I'm brand spanking new at this. :unsure: Today I found the sweet spot on the roof and made my first QSOs on three different 2m repeaters. They said I was a good 4 1/2 with just 7W and a (no need ground plane) mobile antenna. That was a total surprise! I'm pretty sure I could also nail some 70cm repeaters. There are a lot of them out there. Now, that do it all FT-991a ain't lookin' too bad.

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I spent some time studying the manual for my HT last night and discovered that I wasn't enabling the repeater tone encoder for some of the saved frequencies. Remember, I'm brand spanking new at this. :unsure: Today I found the sweet spot on the roof and made my first QSOs on three different 2m repeaters. They said I was a good 4 1/2 with just 7W and a (no need ground plane) mobile antenna. That was a total surprise! I'm pretty sure I could also nail some 70cm repeaters. There are a lot of them out there. Now, that do it all FT-991a ain't lookin' too bad.

Try lowering the wattage on the HT and make some repeater contacts. The repeater is doing most of the work, so that is awesome for you. For simplex,  communication a good base antenna and a radio with about 50 watts opens things up.

 

The IC7300 is an awesome HF rig. If you plan on dwelling in the land of HF it will be a better rig. It's a bit more sensitive the the FT991a. Comes down to superhet versus SDR radio. Remember, jack of all trades master of none adage it applies here also. If you plan on doing 2m simplex as well as SSB (with a different antenna setup) the IC 7300 can do it. You'll need a transverter to accomplish this. Which isn't really simple as buy this and plug it in. It's close but can be rough depending on the route you go.

 

Added: CONGRATS ON THE CONTACTS!!!! :lol: 

Edited by kidphc
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Regarding the IC7300, I've owned one for the past two years. Recently I bought a Xeigu G90 and much to my astonishment it actually sounds better than the IC7300!

 

Granted, it is only a 20 watt radio, but on the same antenna as the IC7300 I've made contacts and switched between 20 watts and 100 watts. Everyone I contacted could not tell the difference between the two radios. :huh:

 

$498 versus ~$1000... sheesh!

 

That's not to say the IC7300 is a dog, as it certainly is not.

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  • 3 weeks later...

This reply is in response to the OP question ... Here’s another perspective  ... I tested and passed my Tech license in Nov 2017. Prior to that, I went to a local Ham club meetings in hopes of meeting and interacting with other Hams. After an introduction to the group, there was little interaction and discussion, I felt invisible.  I attended meetings for three months and finally just stopped going.  I had a BaoFung radio which was a pain to figure out but I finally got it working.  The local repeater was silent ... I’d sign on as monitoring and listen to the repeater call sign.  Crickets.  I got the big C, retired, and put the radio in a box for two years because I had other priorities.  It was like starting over but I did a lot of reading and decided to give it a try again.  I ditched the BF and got a Yaesu FT-70 and found a much more useable handheld.  I was in Arizona now and again attempted to get things going. Current situation did not allow face to face meetings, and I did get logged into a club net meeting ... much better response, actually had my first conversation with another Ham while I switchEd antennas and checked the response.  After that, crickets on the local repeater, so I scanned the spectrum and listened to the local aircraft traffic pattern and other freqs with activity.  I blundered on to the the local GMRS repeater by accident.  I found an active group of users and just listened ... after a month or so of listening, I decided to get my GMRS license and do what I wanted to do on the radio in the first place - communicate with people and family in my area.  I didn’t have an interest in building or tweeking or exploring technical opportunities ... I wanted to turn it on and talk.  I wanted to communicate and my experience was limited or no communication on the amateur bands.  GMRS did that for me.  Ham was just a no show ... my face to face interactions with my first Ham club didn’t help.  So, this is another perspective on Amateur vs. GMRS ... BTW, I’m still an ARRL member but not sure why at this point.

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This reply is in response to the OP question ... Here’s another perspective ... I tested and passed my Tech license in Nov 2017. Prior to that, I went to a local Ham club meetings in hopes of meeting and interacting with other Hams. After an introduction to the group, there was little interaction and discussion, I felt invisible. I attended meetings for three months and finally just stopped going. I had a BaoFung radio which was a pain to figure out but I finally got it working. The local repeater was silent ... I’d sign on as monitoring and listen to the repeater call sign. Crickets. I got the big C, retired, and put the radio in a box for two years because I had other priorities. It was like starting over but I did a lot of reading and decided to give it a try again. I ditched the BF and got a Yaesu FT-70 and found a much more useable handheld. I was in Arizona now and again attempted to get things going. Current situation did not allow face to face meetings, and I did get logged into a club net meeting ... much better response, actually had my first conversation with another Ham while I switchEd antennas and checked the response. After that, crickets on the local repeater, so I scanned the spectrum and listened to the local aircraft traffic pattern and other freqs with activity. I blundered on to the the local GMRS repeater by accident. I found an active group of users and just listened ... after a month or so of listening, I decided to get my GMRS license and do what I wanted to do on the radio in the first place - communicate with people and family in my area. I didn’t have an interest in building or tweeking or exploring technical opportunities ... I wanted to turn it on and talk. I wanted to communicate and my experience was limited or no communication on the amateur bands. GMRS did that for me. Ham was just a no show ... my face to face interactions with my first Ham club didn’t help. So, this is another perspective on Amateur vs. GMRS ... BTW, I’m still an ARRL member but not sure why at this point.

Have you looked at digital via hotspots or echolink which you can run on your phone or pc. Sure they aren't Rf but they may tickle the reason you got your amateur or dwevle in to hf. Not every ham is a dick. It socks your local enclave are so elitist.

 

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I apologize if I left the impression every Ham is a d***.  It really was about a lack of interest in engaging with a new guy to the club.  I suspected there was a lack of interest in addressing all those new guy questions and I didn’t do myself a favor by getting a BF with scanty documentation.  Also, I couldn’t buy a contact on our local repeater for some reason. That being said, I found an alternative in GMRS that gets you on the air with minimal technical impacts and I found other operators who use their equipment.  Additionally, my wife can use GMRS and as I discovered, in short order, she was never going to get a HAM license.  So, it was more about the communication, rather than technical ... I have had plenty of technical experience being a former EW, so I understand the concepts and terms.  Perhaps, there will be a time when the digital capabilities will be of interest but not now.  Again, I meant no offense to Hams in general, I was just providing my perspective on why GMRS works for me and the 140/440 range didn’t.

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You have my empathy Doc...I've had somewhat similar experiences in more than one interest area, not sure if elitism or apathy.

 

Trying to get ham licensed currently. Local amateur radio club has cancelled all test sessions til late in the year, so I was looking at another group further out. There's still a session on calendar, and I've tried reaching out to see if it's still on before I make a 3 hour round trip drive, but I've gotten zero response either on their forum or by emailing the VE contact.

 

Similarly, I was looking into joining a classic car club some years ago, but many of their activities, maybe 5% of the club showed. One run was only 3 cars including mine, and the club president just popped in to see who showed, then ducked out to go troll the junkyard instead. Kind of felt like what's the point.

 

Kind of discouraging, I know.

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This reply is in response to the OP question ... Here’s another perspective  ... I tested and passed my Tech license in Nov 2017. Prior to that, I went to a local Ham club meetings in hopes of meeting and interacting with other Hams. After an introduction to the group, there was little interaction and discussion, I felt invisible.  I attended meetings for three months and finally just stopped going.  I had a BaoFung radio which was a pain to figure out but I finally got it working.  The local repeater was silent ... I’d sign on as monitoring and listen to the repeater call sign.  Crickets.  I got the big C, retired, and put the radio in a box for two years because I had other priorities.  It was like starting over but I did a lot of reading and decided to give it a try again.  I ditched the BF and got a Yaesu FT-70 and found a much more useable handheld.  I was in Arizona now and again attempted to get things going. Current situation did not allow face to face meetings, and I did get logged into a club net meeting ... much better response, actually had my first conversation with another Ham while I switchEd antennas and checked the response.  After that, crickets on the local repeater, so I scanned the spectrum and listened to the local aircraft traffic pattern and other freqs with activity.  I blundered on to the the local GMRS repeater by accident.  I found an active group of users and just listened ... after a month or so of listening, I decided to get my GMRS license and do what I wanted to do on the radio in the first place - communicate with people and family in my area.  I didn’t have an interest in building or tweeking or exploring technical opportunities ... I wanted to turn it on and talk.  I wanted to communicate and my experience was limited or no communication on the amateur bands.  GMRS did that for me.  Ham was just a no show ... my face to face interactions with my first Ham club didn’t help.  So, this is another perspective on Amateur vs. GMRS ... BTW, I’m still an ARRL member but not sure why at this point.

Yeah, I can see your point. Many of the older Hams hangout on HF. They might have a VHF/UHF radio but likely don’t use it much except on the morning or evening commute. The other times the portable radio gets used at the Ham Radio flea markets then goes home to sit around until the next one. Alas there are those few Hams that just have an elitist attitude and won’t talk to people with a Tech Class license. Sometimes you can tell by the call sign format the license class. Certain formats are reserved for higher license classes.

 

I’ve kept my original Tech call sign just to surprise those that look me up on the FCC database or on QRZ. 

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