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The never-ending Part 90/95 debate, and my discussion with the FCC


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Hello all! I am a couple years late to posting this topic, but mostly because this discussion created such heated arguments on Facebook that I either left or was banned from certain communities. At the time I was working as a state frequency coordinator and LMR engineer, now working with "one of the big LMR brands". As a result, I had and still have access to discuss issues with the FCC Enforcement Bureau and their in-house counsel. This is a rundown of said conversation I had after the last rule changes...

Specifically towards the Part 90/95 issue - I asked why in the new rules it loosely stated that Part 90 equipment was permitted, but then later in the same rules mentioned it was not permitted. The in-house counsel agreed the wording was ambiguous at best, which would result in a hard time in them enforcing the rule on its own. Essentially, the conversation was "If you are caught with a Part 90 radio in the process of us investigating an issue such as malicious interference, it will be an added charge... but we cannot and will not pursue it on its own".

The wording specifically I mentioned was:

95.335 (a) - Which states that non-Part 95 equipment may be operated in the service if they are certified for use in land mobile radio services. 

With that said, the Enforcement Bureau and their legal counsel agreed that the wording was added because of a distinct lack of Part 95 licensed equipment being added to the list, but that the wording wasn't fully clarified to explicitly permit it either. The resolution to the issue is what I quoted above... that they will not be pursuing certification violations by end-users, and the end user will not be caught and fined unless it was within the investigation into other issues which will usually be your worse issue regardless. The biggest hurdle this presented was for manufacturers to comply with certification of devices, and the wording was created to make sure Baofeng and others would not market their radios as GMRS radios without proper certification.

 

So in the end - enjoy your Motorola XTS/APX/XPR radios, your Harris P7100/7200/etc radios, and so-forth. Just be wise and safe!

 

What I hope to accomplish by posting this here is a CIVIL and PRODUCTIVE discussion to petition the FCC for a clarification into the rules where 95.335 can be either refined or referred to elsewhere in the Part 95 rules to be the "one rule to rule them all" and state that if a radio is Part 90 compliant, it will be permitted. The end.

 

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The last rule change by the FCC they just "throw in the towel" in regards to what people were already doing, using those "dual service" FRS/GMRS radios without getting the required license. It was easier for the FCC to make the wide spread illegal practice legal by a rule change. Now they can ignore the issue.

I expect at some point the same will be done with the use of Part 90 radios on GMRS. The FCC can't really say with a straight face they are enforcing the rules when they let the practice of using Part 90 equipment on GMRS go on, except were you pointed out, when its in conjunction with other rule violations.

As discussed on the forum many times your typical name brand LMR/Part 90 radios meet and or exceed the technical specifications for GMRS. The only element missing is the official blessing by the FCC, certification. I personally expect to see the FCC sooner or later to again to "throw in the towel" on the issue. Likely with language along the lines of if it was certified for Part 90 with no front panel programming, and maybe a cut off date, its good to go, with no ambiguities.

I suspect there are a LOT of Part 90 only radios being used everyday with no issues on GMRS. So long as the technical specifications, power - bandwidth - channel frequency - frequency stability - no digital - no encryption/voice scrambling, are met how would would one even know a radio was Part 90 only just from monitoring on the air? If you can't does it even really make any difference?

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95:335(a): (a) Exceptions. Under certain exceptions, non-certified Personal Radio Service transmitters, or transmitters certified for use in the land mobile radio services may be operated. Any such exceptions applicable to stations in a Personal Radio Service are set forth in the subpart governing that specific service. See e.g., §§ 95.735 and 95.1735.

"Under certain exceptions", and 95.735 is related to radio control, and 95.1735 does not exist. Ambiguous wording - is not even close.

Thanks for the effort of contacting them and getting clarification. Often, the practice of the enforcement tramples the letter of the law.

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1 hour ago, axorlov said:

95:335(a): (a) Exceptions. Under certain exceptions, non-certified Personal Radio Service transmitters, or transmitters certified for use in the land mobile radio services may be operated. Any such exceptions applicable to stations in a Personal Radio Service are set forth in the subpart governing that specific service. See e.g., §§ 95.735 and 95.1735.

"Under certain exceptions", and 95.735 is related to radio control, and 95.1735 does not exist. Ambiguous wording - is not even close.

Thanks for the effort of contacting them and getting clarification. Often, the practice of the enforcement tramples the letter of the law.

Nailed it - I spent 90+ minutes on the phone with their in-house counsel regarding how the rules were written and they agreed that enforcement is essentially out of the question because it can be thrown out so easily... unless they find a way to tack it onto another charge which in their own words "you'll be in deeper trouble for the reason we were out there in the first place before we examined any equipment".

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so...one other tidbit i noticed when reading poking around 95e (https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/95.1761) is (c), which seems to imply 95e/90 dual certification is still POSSIBLE, but can't overlap with ham (being a non-certified service).

Quote

(c) No GMRS transmitter will be certified for use in the GMRS if it is equipped with a frequency capability not listed in § 95.1763, unless such transmitter is also certified for use in another radio service for which the frequency is authorized and for which certification is also required. No GMRS transmitter will be certified for use in the GMRS if it is equipped with the capabilities to operate in services that do not require equipment certification, such as the Amateur Radio Service.

 

also found some interesting (good) suggestions on radioreference, for text to go into 95.1735, since that section is currently "reserved".

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"No GMRS transmitter will be certified for use in the GMRS if it is equipped with the capabilities to operate in services that do not require equipment certification, such as the Amateur Radio Service."

That's rather confusing. I have my Part 95A FCC certified TK-3170 programmed with a bunch of Ham simplex and repeater frequencies in addition to GMRS stuff. Depending on how you interpret the above the radio may not be legally used on GMRS? 

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3 hours ago, Lscott said:

"No GMRS transmitter will be certified for use in the GMRS if it is equipped with the capabilities to operate in services that do not require equipment certification, such as the Amateur Radio Service."

That's rather confusing. I have my Part 95A FCC certified TK-3170 programmed with a bunch of Ham simplex and repeater frequencies in addition to GMRS stuff. Depending on how you interpret the above the radio may not be legally used on GMRS? 

The way I understand it, they won't NOW certify it if it can be used on both gmrs & non certified bands. However, the older rules (when gmrs was in 95a), this was allowed, and some manufacturers did so; you have your Kenwood, I have my vertex, and some others have Motorola.

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Ham transceivers are not certified by most definitions - Part 97 doesn't hold a technical certification standard for equipment. The Amateur Radio motto is just "operate as efficiently as possible within these guidelines".

Part 90 (and others like 87 and 80, etc) have specific requirements for emissions standards which can be quantitatively measured and analyzed. Which is why its easy to be said Part 90 is allowed - but not expressly worded within the current rules.

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It would be a pretty indefensible position for the FCC if challenged to prove a licensee's use of a part 90 radio in a non-interfering manner was causing harm.

The FCC would have to prove excessive power or interference directly related to the part 90 usage.

The numbers of FCC NALs issued for GMRS operations is nearly zero. The few exceptions are flagrant business use of the repeater pairs.

The biggest risk on the reputation of the service are the knuckleheads that operate without a license because "they are special".


Sent from my SM-T350 using Tapatalk



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Many HAM's have GMRS too, 
Thats the sad part you need two radios to be GMRS legal, 
Though many China radios gladly work on HAM 70 cm and GMRS, 
Most of them don't put out enough power to be illegal. 
My Anytone, says 25w, but in reality on UHF its about 10w. 
Same for the other TYT, Bajoie, Leixen,  15W at the most. 
QYT makes one thats 75W, UHF, and B-Tech sells it as a 
GMRS legal radio, I'm sure they detuned it. 
Mean while the QYT 890Plus says 50w UHF. 
Where imo if a person is licensed for both, you obviously 
will be versed in how to setup your radio to be in spec 
for GMRS....  
That said I often wondered WTF would the FCC chase down 
a lowly Jeeper etc using GMRS at 10w or so, when there is the 
stations on the CB that you know are bushing 1000w or more. 
Literally talk ground plane for hundreds of miles. They would 
be easy to chase down. 
One thing I will say if you interfere with HAM 2m/70cm they live 
to get out a directional yagi and go looking for you.... 
 

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I feel the pain as a Ham ticket who likes GMRS for the family...  At least my 12 yo Grand Daughter has her ticket with me as my study buddy...  So one Ham friend gave her a BaoFeng UV-82 Classic which works great for her... I'm more of a purist Part 95 so can only have a 2/70 meter for TX RX and for GMRS only RX...  So I have two HT in my Jeep.

We do like GMRS in our community and the Ham Club is great bunch of folks who are helpful to 12 yo GD in her track to be in Space Force.

So all those with there ears on, let me know how you deal with this issue.

MacJack

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15 minutes ago, MacJack said:

I feel the pain as a Ham ticket who likes GMRS for the family...  At least my 12 yo Grand Daughter has her ticket with me as my study buddy...  So one Ham friend gave her a BaoFeng UV-82 Classic which works great for her... I'm more of a purist Part 95 so can only have a 2/70 meter for TX RX and for GMRS only RX...  So I have two HT in my Jeep.

We do like GMRS in our community and the Ham Club is great bunch of folks who are helpful to 12 yo GD in her track to be in Space Force.

So all those with there ears on, let me know how you deal with this issue.

MacJack

TK-8150, Part 95 cert, does 70cm ham without issues.

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41 minutes ago, tweiss3 said:

TK-8150, Part 95 cert, does 70cm ham without issues.

Did you ever try to push it as far as you can down into the Ham 70cm band to see where it quits?

I tried that the other day with one of the Kenwood TK-3160 16 channel radios I’ve got just for fun. The radio alarmed out around 433MHz, the PLL wouldn’t lock below that. Not too bad since the official low end is spec’d at 450MHz.

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7 minutes ago, Lscott said:

Did you ever try to push it as far as you can down into the Ham 70cm band to see where it quits?

I tried that the other day with one of the Kenwood TK-3160 16 channel radios I’ve got just for fun. The radio alarmed out around 433MHz, the PLL wouldn’t lock below that. Not too bad since the official low end is spec’d at 450MHz.

I haven't tested it, but KPG-79D will let it go below 380 and above 520. I'm above line A, so I can't use 420-430.

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On 6/27/2021 at 12:00 PM, MacJack said:

Thanks guys with the comments.  Will the TK-8150 or TK-3160 do Repeaters?

MacJack

If you're interested in the Kenwood VHF models many will cover 136 to 174 MHz natively, no out of range warnings from the software. These are great for Ham 2M band, MURS, NOAA weather and the VHF marine channels. Of course the radios only have Part 90 certifications so user beware. They are also somewhat harder to find and seem to command a higher price used.

The newer replacement for the TK-3160 is the TK-3360. It has a few extra features plus 5 watts output on UHF compared to the TK-3160's 4 watts. Both are 16 channel radios, but neither are Part 95 certified, just Part 90, however. If that doesn't matter they make great basic GMRS radios that a kid can use without screwing up the settings when programmed right.

 

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2 hours ago, Lscott said:

If you're interested in the Kenwood VHF models many will cover 136 to 174 MHz natively, no out of range warnings from the software. These are great for Ham 2M band, MURS, NOAA weather and the VHF marine channels. Of course the radios only have Part 90 certifications so user beware. They are also somewhat harder to find and seem to command a higher price used.

The newer replacement for the TK-3160 is the TK-3360. It has a few extra features plus 5 watts output on UHF compared to the TK-3160's 4 watts. Both are 16 channel radios, but neither are Part 95 certified, just Part 90, however. If that doesn't matter they make great basic GMRS radios that a kid can use without screwing up the settings when programmed right.

 

Thanks for the detail... So can I use any for Ham use?

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1 hour ago, MacJack said:

Thanks for the detail... So can I use any for Ham use?

Anything commercial that covers a ham hand can be used for ham. There is 900mhz band that is 100% commercial repurposed equipment, and even some of the commercial VHF low band equipment can be used on 6 and 10m. There is no certificate required on ham, just that you stop operation if and when you find you you are causing some kind of interference.

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12 hours ago, tweiss3 said:

Anything commercial that covers a ham hand can be used for ham. There is 900mhz band that is 100% commercial repurposed equipment, and even some of the commercial VHF low band equipment can be used on 6 and 10m. There is no certificate required on ham, just that you stop operation if and when you find you you are causing some kind of interference.

Thanks, you put all the little pieces I learned making sense.

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14 hours ago, MacJack said:

Thanks for the detail... So can I use any for Ham use?

My favorite Kenwood models, for VHF use, are the TK-2170's followed by the TK-2140's. The UHF versions work fine on the Ham 70cm band and should work down to about 440 MHz which covers most of the simplex section and the repeater section of the band. The radios may function lower. You'll need to test your radio and see what it will function down too.

https://www.icomamerica.com/en/amateur/amateurtools/US-BandPlan-Update-1-2020.pdf

The UHF models come in several band splits, most common is the 450 to 490 MHz or so ones. There are some other radio models that work from 400 to 470 MHz, but seem to be really rare to find.

The 16 channel radios are OK if you want something simple to use. They're good for programming in your local repeaters, keeping in a glove box or handing out to family members. There are 2, 4 and 8 channel radios out there but personally I'm not interested in those due to limited channel capacity. The 16 channel models I would consider as the minimum usable.

The issue with any of the commercial radios is they DO NOT have a VFO like a Ham specific HT would. Some of the radios can be modified for "front panel programming", which requires removing a diode or resistor from a circuit board plus enabling it in the software, but the actual programming must be done to an empty memory channel. The procedure is rather cumbersome and covered in detail in the radio's service manuals. I've never modified any of my radios, easier to use the software.

One work around however is to program a sequence of memory channels using the channel spacing for the band used. On UHF it's typically 25 KHz. So I would start at lets say 440.000 then the next memory channel is 440.025 etc. The channel name would be the frequency like 440-000, 440-025 etc. That gives a decent simulation of a VFO using a fixed step size. The radios have "zones" where you can group channel memories together. For the simulated VFO I stick them all in their own zone labeled "SIMPLEX" for example. The better radio for this is the TK-2140/TK-3140 series since they have a total of 250 memories. The 128 channel radios it gets a little cramped.

https://pdfs.kenwoodproducts.com/9/TK-2170&3170Brochure.pdf

The below is the same as the TK-3170 but has trunking, which you'll never use, and uses the same software. Works very well for GMRS too.

https://pdfs.kenwoodproducts.com/12/TK-3173BrochureRev.pdf

The below radios use the multi pin connector, like some Motorola radios, for the speaker mic's and programming.

http://www.swscomm.com/kenwood/TK-2140_3140.pdf

There are some higher end Kenwood radios that you'll end up paying more for used with extra features you'll likely won't use except for the higher channel capacity.

https://pdfs.kenwoodproducts.com/10/TK-2180&3180Brochure.pdf

The below radio is like the TK-3170 but has a more basic feature set.

https://sieuthimasomavach.vn/upload/tk22123212-brochure.pdf

Whatever you buy DO NOT purchase any Kenwood "Protalk" radios. They are normally only 2 watts and come setup with a list of programmed frequencies to select from, which you can't change. The frequencies are all from the business pool, none are useful for Ham or GMRS use. You'll see these being sold at times with what looks like a good deal, until you discover the limitations, then they end up in the junk draw. Fortunately I did my research before purchasing when looking at an unfamiliar radio model to add to my collection and avoided the mistake. 

If you're interested in Motorola, Icom or Vertex commercial radios there are some experts here on the forum, I'm not one of them.

 

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