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Need reliable radio on our farm


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#1 Guest_Kevin_*

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Posted 11 October 2020 - 04:26 PM

I have zero radio background. We have a wooded and rolling hills cattle farm. Low valley area and ridge tops. FRS radio is just not reliable and looking for a dependable and effective radio solution to ensure good communications from anywhere on the property. The house is in the middle of the 700 acres. Distance is about 1.5 miles from one side to the other in all directions as the property mostly square. Stumbled on GMRS. Can someone help me determine if a simple small scale solution with a repeater at the house and handheld radios will work please? Was excited to see GRMS exists and the license is very reasonably priced. I think I saw $70 for 5 years for the entire family. If GMRS is not really an option, I plan on attempting the HAM solution that I know nothing about either.

 

Thanks in advance for any assistance the GMRS community may be able to provide.

 

Kevin 



#2 WRAK968

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Posted 11 October 2020 - 06:51 PM

Ham radio would not work for you. First Ham radio is not permitted for commercial use, and second you would have to get everyone licensed to use the ham bands, and then on top of all of that, anyone can use your ham repeater since the ham frequencies are open to all licensed operators. GMRS could work, its now $65 for 10 years if I recall, and yes with GMRS you can run a repeater, however you may run into some of the same issues above.

What I would try first is MURS on the VHF side. VHF signals seem to travel across terrain much easier than UHF. We use VHF where I work and I can easily talk across the 2 mile stretch of beach and boardwalk with few black out areas.

If your ok with some interference, GMRS could work, otherwise you may need to look into a commercial radio license. GMRS would allow family to talk through a repeater, the commercial license would allow friends and family as well as any employees you may have for the farm. The commercial license is a bit more expensive though.



#3 AdmiralCochrane

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Posted 11 October 2020 - 08:13 PM

CB may work too.



#4 Radioguy7268

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Posted 11 October 2020 - 10:41 PM

Guy comes to myGMRS.com - asks about a GMRS solution, and the first 2 answers he gets suggest MURS & CB?

 

C'mon folks. This is why people get frustrated with asking for advice online.

 

YES! GMRS is a good solution for what  you're looking to do. You might be able to get 1 mile or so out of UHF handheld portables - but a simple GMRS repeater at roof level will probably get you between 2 and 5 miles without even trying.

 

Now - you're going to need to do some reading and educate yourself to a certain level if you want to do this on your own. Otherwise, open up your wallet & call the local two-way radio shop, and purchase their parts & experience.

 

https://forums.mygmr...r-own-repeater/


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#5 WPXM352

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Posted 12 October 2020 - 12:12 AM

Are the workers on the farm all family? If so GMRS is fine. If you have non family members as employees, they will need own GMRS license to communicate on your repeater. Otherwise a business license is required.



#6 GuySagi

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Posted 12 October 2020 - 06:28 AM

Well, I'm pretty new to GMRS, but perhaps my limited experience can help. Before you invest, I'd suggest you conduct something of a test. Bear in mind I just talked through my first GMRS repeater Friday night (awesome as heck to punch a solid signal a good distance across state lines, by the way), so everyone else's advice here should carry more weight than mine. 

 

Is your house (where you mentioned putting the repeater) on a hill or high enough in elevation to see most of your property? GMRS is almost exclusively line of sight. If you can see all of your property from where you're putting the repeater antenna it's a great, low-cost solution (in theory). So it becomes a question of whether you can get the repeater antenna high enough to "see." Even then will likely experience blind spots on the house-side of deep valleys or behind ridges. If there's a big hill behind your home/repeater location, odds are very good you won't hear anyone directly behind it, regardless of power. 

 

Trees compromise the signal, but not as much as I expected in my flatland full of crazy-high pine forests. I doubt very much they'll be a huge problem in the distances you described, but I'll defer to the more experienced folks here on that topic. 

 

Try an experiment with the FRS radios you mentioned, but bear in mind those blister-pack radios are terrible. Have one person stay at your house with one of the units on, roughly where you think a repeater antenna would be best, and take a second radio to different areas on your ranch. Try to make solid contact as you drive/hike around. FRS and GMRS frequencies are close, so it'll provide a baseline from which to decide. 

 

A high repeater antenna will improve things exponentially on GMRS. The person holding your "base" radio on the front porch, at mouth level.....well, it doesn't reflect what they'd receive if they were perched on the roof, obviously. Plus, you can use more power on GMRS.

 

Just a thought, and I think CB's problematic for a working ranch. The noise is fatiguing for most people—generated by the atmosphere periodically pushing distant signals in, jerks joyriding their microphones as they drive by and other interference. You can squelch most of it away, but doing so can clip important calls.

 

MURS is nice and I use it, but good luck finding certified radios to survive the rigors of your line of work. And without repeater capability (which I think are banned on MURS), it probably isn't the solution. After a decade of search & rescue work I'm accustomed to standing on boulders and truck tailgates to punch a signal thru on frequencies close to MURS, but my family can't stand the gymnastics sometimes required for relatively low-powered VHF (very high frequency) handheld work at distance.   


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#7 berkinet

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Posted 12 October 2020 - 07:20 AM

...Is your house (where you mentioned putting the repeater) on a hill or high enough in elevation to see most of your property?... ...Even then will likely experience blind spots on the house-side of deep valleys or behind ridges. If there's a big hill behind your home/repeater location, odds are very good you won't hear anyone directly behind it, regardless of power. ...

 

...Try an experiment... ... Have one person stay at your house with one of the units on, roughly where you think a repeater antenna would be best...

 

Some good ideas there. A few minor comments.   If the hill is higher than the house and you can see all of your property from the hill, that might be the best place to locate the repeater.  Keep in mind, the only extra element needed for a repeater, other than the radios, antenna and duplexer, is power. There is no need for any other local equipment, phone line, microphone, etc.  So, if you have power available in an otherwise good location, that would work fine.  But, even if you do not have power, solar and/or wind generation plus a good sized battery, will suffice.  Of course, on a hill you would need some type of shelter for the equipment. But that could just be a good sized weatherproof utility box.

 

While UHF is essentially line of site, there is a slight bending that can take place. I think I noted the fresnel effect on another post here recently. So, depending on the depth of a valley and the angle from a radio to the top of the hill, you may still get a usable signal.  Also, if you will be installing radios in vehicles, they will have more power and better antennas and may work better in bad locations.  

 

As for the testing. If it is safe to be on your roof (I.e. safe for a person and the roof) have your tester stand on the roof to give you a better idea of the range.

 

As others have already noted. UHF/GMRS is probably as good a bet as any for your needs. While VHF may give slightly better theoretical coverage, the basic VHF antennas are longer and many people will use antennas that are shorter and work electrically, but result in poorer performance.  So, if you are looking at handhelds, it might be a wash between UHF and VHF. 

 

And lastly, just to amplify what has already been noted about licensing. A GMRS license allows immediate family members to operate radios using your call sign (station identifier).  According to the FCC...

Immediate family members are the licensee's spouse, children, grandchildren, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and in-laws.

However, as also noted, non-family members, employees, friends, neighbors, etc. would be required to have their own license. They must apply for their licenses on their own. However, you can repay them for the licensing fee.  And, of course, if a group of other users all fall into an immediate family, they can share their license just as you would.


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#8 Jones

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Posted 12 October 2020 - 09:36 AM

I would suggest first getting your GMRS license, and buy some 15-25 Watt mobile radios with quarter-wave antennas, and install them in your pickups, and put up one as a base station at your house, with an Ed Fong or similar J-pole antenna on your roof.  See how well you do with simplex on good radios before spending money on a repeater that you likely won't need. Even the Midland Micro-Mobile series would be a good start for you.  You'll be amazed at how much further you can get from a mobile radio than from a handheld.

 

Also, use channels 15-21. Those are the higher powered channels on most mobile GMRS radios. Channels 1-7 are lower powered, and 8-14 are peanut-whistle powered channels, or just not even available on mobile radios.  If your current FRS radios only go to channel 14, it is time to upgrade them.  If your current radios go all the way to 21, they will work with your GMRS radios just fine.



#9 WRAK968

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Posted 12 October 2020 - 01:07 PM

Guy comes to myGMRS.com - asks about a GMRS solution, and the first 2 answers he gets suggest MURS & CB?

 

C'mon folks. This is why people get frustrated with asking for advice online.

 

YES! GMRS is a good solution for what  you're looking to do. You might be able to get 1 mile or so out of UHF handheld portables - but a simple GMRS repeater at roof level will probably get you between 2 and 5 miles without even trying.

 

Now - you're going to need to do some reading and educate yourself to a certain level if you want to do this on your own. Otherwise, open up your wallet & call the local two-way radio shop, and purchase their parts & experience.

 

https://forums.mygmr...r-own-repeater/

I try to be honest with people. This gentleman has come to us saying he has no radio background and so I gave him an honest answer that would work for his business, as well as some of the pros and cons of using GMRS for business operations. If you read my comment over you will see that I say "If your ok with some interference, GMRS could work,...GMRS would allow family to talk through a repeater" I'm sorry if it frustrates people (Including you) to tell them the truth of things which could save them a headache in the long run.


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#10 Lscott

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Posted 12 October 2020 - 01:21 PM

I try to be honest with people. This gentleman has come to us saying he has no radio background and so I gave him an honest answer that would work for his business, as well as some of the pros and cons of using GMRS for business operations. If you read my comment over you will see that I say "If your ok with some interference, GMRS could work,...GMRS would allow family to talk through a repeater" I'm sorry if it frustrates people (Including you) to tell them the truth of things which could save them a headache in the long run.

I agree. Just because this is a GMRS forum doesn't mean it is the best solution for his requirements. This should be a healthy environment where other options can be suggested.



#11 GuySagi

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Posted 12 October 2020 - 02:36 PM

WRAK968 I don't think anyone was indicting your comment. I sure apologize if mine came across that way....I just thought if he had a raggedly set of FRS handhelds he might as well get a snapshot of how a GMRS repeater might work out on a bad day. 

 

Lscott and you are right, there's enough wrong info on the web and we don't need to pile on. Honesty, up front, saves a ton of headache down the line, especially with a straightforward and sincere request for experienced opinion, Like I said, I claim to expertise at this point.

 

Hope everyone has a glorious day, dang it. 



#12 Radioguy7268

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Posted 12 October 2020 - 05:31 PM

I try to be honest with people. This gentleman has come to us saying he has no radio background and so I gave him an honest answer that would work for his business, as well as some of the pros and cons of using GMRS for business operations. If you read my comment over you will see that I say "If your ok with some interference, GMRS could work,...GMRS would allow family to talk through a repeater" I'm sorry if it frustrates people (Including you) to tell them the truth of things which could save them a headache in the long run.

 

No problems here - your answer did include some helpful information. It's just that anyone reading through the responses would wonder why a GMRS forum wasn't leading with a GMRS solution to a GMRS question! I'd also say that 4-5 watts UHF GMRS portables would be the equal or better compared to 2 watts MURS in most real world scenarios requiring signal penetration in and out of buildings and vehicles. Plus, if you start with some decent UHF GMRS portables, you've got the option to program them to a repeater. There's simply no option for MURS bubble pack radios to work on a VHF repeater.



#13 berkinet

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Posted 13 October 2020 - 02:37 AM

...It's just that anyone reading through the responses would wonder why a GMRS forum wasn't leading with a GMRS solution to a GMRS question!...

 

...I'd also say that 4-5 watts UHF GMRS portables would be the equal or better compared to 2 watts MURS in most real world scenarios requiring signal penetration in and out of buildings and vehicles.

 

Two comments:

 

As a GMRS group, it is, or should be, expected that we would also advise where GMRS was not the best solution. Expertise on a topic should not imply promotion of that same topic.  It is far better to mention the alternatives now, early in @Guest_Kevin_'s project than to have him discover that GMRS was not the best solution after pouring money and time into it.

 

+1 on the UHF handhelds. The standard VHF rubber ducky antenna will have somewhere around a -2dB to -4dB loss. So, the 2 watt MURS transmitter output will likely be down around 1 watt ERP (Effective Radiated Power).


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#14 berkinet

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Posted 13 October 2020 - 02:49 AM

I would suggest first getting your GMRS license, and buy some 15-25 Watt mobile radios with quarter-wave antennas, and install them in your pickups,...

 

Given the limited amount of information available about the project requirements, it may be too early to be suggesting, rather than simply describing, the alternatives.  For all we know, @Guest_Kevin_ may be on horseback or on foot, and might wish to extend the system to allow interaction with neighboring properties, into town, etc..

 

Relating specifically to a system based on multiple radios on simplex (I.e. no repeater). Given the description of the terrain there is a reasonable possibility that if there were multiple radios out on the property at the same time, they might not all be able to hear each other.  One common goal of systems like this is situational awareness, where it is important to know what is going on around you, even if you are not immediately involved. A well placed repeater is more likely to meet that goal that a simplex based system.  Also, a repeater will lower the power requirements for the individual radios, allowing for the mix of equipment to be matched to the needs.

 

But, the main point I am trying to make is that such posts as this are best served by a good discussion designed to educate the poster, and other readers, on the technology and possible implementation strategies - including non-GMRS options.


Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

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#15 gman1971

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Posted 13 October 2020 - 05:11 AM

First I would get the GMRS license, send the FCC a check, you get the license. No exams...

 

Here is what I would do:

 

A couple of UHF Motorola Maxtracs, a repeater controller cable, a mobile UHF duplexer, mated to a 1/4 wave UHF antenna placed @ 30 foot AGL via some Heliax FSJ4-50B feedline. Set to 25W... Done.

 

With that kind of base you won't need much of a portable, as you'll have range to spare....  in fact, the base will be so good that even 8 dollar Baofeng BF-888S will feel like a mlllion bucks...  

 

G.


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#16 berkinet

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Posted 13 October 2020 - 05:35 AM

...A couple of UHF Motorola Maxtracs, a repeater controller cable, ...

With that kind of base you won't need much of a portable, as you'll have range to spare.... ...

 

That is a good point in favor of locating a repeater at the house, local access to use it as a base station in addition to its repeater function for other radios in the field.

 

BTW, rather than dealing with Heliax, why not just use some good quality coax, like RG214, and, if even needed, just crank up the power a bit.


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#17 gman1971

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Posted 13 October 2020 - 06:46 PM

Sure, but I would like to point out that there is just too much loss for any decent long run of RG-214 at UHF... IMO its just not worth it, not when you consider that I got a 25 feet Heliax FSJ4-50B, factory made cable, with tags and sweep print, trimetal N-male connectors on both ends, for about 30 bucks off eBay.

 

Also, worth mentioning that the FSJ4-50B is not the same as the LDF4-50A "Mighty Anaconda" Heliax cable. The FJS4 is still corrugated copper, heliax, but about the thickness of LMR400, which makes it much more manageable than the LDF4-50A Anaconda cable, and superior to the low performing LMR400, it has a considerably lower PIM, with trimetal N male ends which will last a lifetime...  IMO doesn't get any better than that for UHF.

 

G.

 

That is a good point in favor of locating a repeater at the house, local access to use it as a base station in addition to its repeater function for other radios in the field.

 

BTW, rather than dealing with Heliax, why not just use some good quality coax, like RG214, and, if even needed, just crank up the power a bit.



#18 berkinet

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Posted 14 October 2020 - 03:31 AM

Sure, but I would like to point out that there is just too much loss for any decent long run of RG-214 at UHF...

 

Well, it is always possible the OP might erect a 100ft tower. But, if he was planning to put the antenna on his roof, then there would be a fairly short coax run. Likely well under 50 feet, depending on the antenna mast height and where in the house the equipment was located. In that case, coax loss would be < ~2.5db with commonly available coax. 

 

And, if he installed a solar/wind powered repeater on a hill-top, the coax run would be measured in inches.

 

Just saying, it is important to keep the solution in line with the problem.  Perfection is the Enemy of Good.


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#19 Lscott

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Posted 14 October 2020 - 07:56 AM

One other point that hasn't been mentioned before in this thread is the following.

 

Since the original post requested recommendations for radios, and the usage will be in a farm setting, the physical construction and reliability will be very important. The radio(s) will likely get exposed to rain, fine dirt/dust in the air and likely dropped on soft and hard surfaces too. Many of the cheaper radios will fail. Just about all of the old LMR/commercial radios are designed for just this kind of environment.

 

For example, I just got a used Kenwood TK-3170-K radio off of eBay, the seller took my offer of $15 when contacted by eBay's messaging system, with free shipping. The photos showed a nearly completely destroyed antenna on a radio with painted on ID and covered with dried up fine dirt/dust from being used outdoors most likely. When I got it I spent over an hour with a brush, q-tips, old tooth brush, safety pin, counter cleaner and alcohol cleaning it while using the safety pin to dig out the caked up dirt stuck in narrow cracks around the edge of the case.

 

Once clean it looked OK with minor scuffs and a few scratches but programed fine. On air testing showed the radio was fully functional with a good battery pack and a new after market antenna. I very seriously doubt most of the cheap handheld GMRS radios being sold would have survived what this radio went through.

 

eBay item number: 114446054336

 

While the RF performance of the radio is very important it still has to survive. A radio with great spec's is worthless if it breaks.


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#20 gman1971

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Posted 14 October 2020 - 03:07 PM

Not sure what to make about connecting radios to solar power, wind, nuclear fusion, or other things...

 

My suggestion, and thus possible solution, was clear: A couple of Motorola Maxtracs, a ~100 dollar notchplexer, and a 30 feet FSJ4-50B heliax feedline mated to a 1/4 wave UHF antenna, I stated that length of cable b/c I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, this was going to be a rooftop installation on the farm. FSJ4-50B can be had for dirt cheap off eBay... and when heliax is so inexpensive, I cannot think of any good reason to use any other kind of cable for a repeater. If you go down the path of bad habits, correcting them once you've amassed a large quantity of equipment becomes very expensive. RG-214 is great for short patch cables, I use that and RG400 exclusively on all my setups... but not for feedline.

 

The suggestion of heliax had nothing to do with perfection, but It has to do with doing things right from the beginning. Sure, you can patch things together with a couple of 8 dollar 888S Baofengs, a 24 dollar Baofeng repeater controller, using x2 large 100 feet runs of RG-58, each one soldered to a a coat hangers cut to sort of UHF length, zip tied to a nail at each end of the farm's rooftop, ... and that will sort of "work" too... but it doesn't mean it was done right.

 

G.

 

 

 

 

Well, it is always possible the OP might erect a 100ft tower. But, if he was planning to put the antenna on his roof, then there would be a fairly short coax run. Likely well under 50 feet, depending on the antenna mast height and where in the house the equipment was located. In that case, coax loss would be < ~2.5db with commonly available coax. 

 

And, if he installed a solar/wind powered repeater on a hill-top, the coax run would be measured in inches.

 

Just saying, it is important to keep the solution in line with the problem.  Perfection is the Enemy of Good.





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