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Updated FCC Rules (2021) Pending - GMRS Location Data and FM on CB


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I am just learning that the FCC has given serious consideration to allowing location positioning information to be included in GMRS communications on all channels, and allowing FM modulation on existing CB channels.

 

Here is a fresh-off-the-press YouTube video that provides an overview:

 

741 Channel -

 

And here is the FCC rules amendment that that covers the proposed changes:

 

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-374114A1.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3GQrL1LL_zjxMRzjiNi4Kxf8VqgojRP4bKAKCsrOxSskyFMxfceV-umjE

 

Looks like Motorola is is behind the petition for location positioning capability and Cobra is behind the petition for FM on CB frequencies.

 

The FCC document should be a good read. I have not read the whole thing yet. I hope to find something in there too that officially legalizes part 90 radios for GMRS.

 

 

Michael

WRHS965

KE8PLM

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So now if FM is allowed on 11M some agreement would be needed to keep those users from interfering with AM and SSB users. That could be informal or put into the rules by the FCC. There is sort of one now where SSB is primarily used on the upper channels.

I’m also wondering how much of the push to allow FM on 11M is a marketing thing by COBRA to protect their market share since Midland is pushing GMRS and the advantage of FM over AM in the overland community. By allowing FM that takes one of the advantages away Midland says they have by switching to GMRS.

I don’t see the FCC allowing automatic TX of GPS data on GMRS/FRS. There aren’t that many channels to begin with to let them get cluttered up with periodic automatic data transmissions. For people that scan the channels it would be very annoying to have the radio stop every few minutes on random channels due to short burp of GPS data. Further the radio would need a mandatory BCL, busy channel lockout, to stop any interference when a channel is in use.

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Very interesting.  I'll be watching to see if and how they implement the GPS bit.  Hopefully the price barrier would keep me from "hearing" where hundreds of kids in my area are while chatting on their Pokemon radios from Wallyworld.  On the FM for CB, I'm very for it and it might be useful enough to make get a new CB that was capable of doing both.  Could they do like interstitial channels on FM to deconflict or something?

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My biggest concern here is a bunch of proprietary location protocols.  As seen with CTCSS codes, GMRS/FRS manufactures seem very interested in creating lock-in; forcing consumers to stick with one brand.  At least with CTCSS codes, there are translation tables between the different vendors.  There's no such rule for location data formats.

Ironically, there already exists a protocol for location data over radio: APRS.  Though as far as I know, none of the current GMRS radios with manual location broadcast support it.  

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The only issue I had with this is that they declined to enforce a Busy Channel Lockout for automatic data/location bursts. You could set up your radio to transmit every 30 seconds, for example, and it'll beacon regardless of whether the channel is busy with voice traffic. Add in multiple radios in the same range, and I fear the GMRS channels will start to sound like APRS with data bursts all over the place.

I had proposed the busy channel lockout feature but they specifically rejected it, claiming it was up to the licensee to ensure their radio is not causing interference. But once you enable an automatic location report, the licensee is relinquishing control to the radio for some period of time. It only seems like common sense for the radio to hold off the transmission until the channel is clear again. I'd also think the manufacturers would voluntarily add this feature as it would increase the reliability of their messages in the presence of co-channel interference.

As far as FM on CB, I think it's great. It throws a lifeline to the CB radio manufacturers who can now introduce new FM-capable radios and revitalize the service a little bit. Seems GMRS has been taking over for quite a while, which is why some companies like Midland have all but given up on CB and moved onto making mobile GMRS products. For me, the interesting thing is that the reasons the FCC rejected digital voice on GMRS are the same reasons they initially denied Cobra's request to allow FM on CB. It fundamentally changes the nature of the service, it creates a compatibility issue between existing users and FM users, etc. They chose to mandate that AM is required on any FM-capable radios to ensure backwards compatibility. Using the same workaround, we could petition for digital voice on GMRS as long as digital radios are backwards compatible with analog on these channels so you can always talk to the analog people and hear the traffic on the channel. So for that, I'm very excited for the next round of interest in digital voice on GMRS. Seems a no-brainer now, we just need to file a well-organized petition for it with support from users and manufacturers.

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2 hours ago, JLeikhim said:

Isnt this a done deal? I don't see any reply comment period.

Sent from my SM-T350 using Tapatalk
 

The changes have to be published in the Federal Register first. They will then be effective 30 calendar days later. It can take more than 2 months for the publishing.

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45 minutes ago, WRMH343 said:

 

Ironically, there already exists a protocol for location data over radio: APRS.  Though as far as I know, none of the current GMRS radios with manual location broadcast support it.  

Oh God, no. I have spent the last couple of days trying to get APRS working on my AnyTone D878UV +. I spent time on it last year, and the year before. It still doesn't work.

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8 minutes ago, BoxCar said:

The changes have to be published in the Federal Register first. They will then be effective 30 calendar days later. It can take more than 2 months for the publishing.

Frankly, I can see it stalling. Loud users of other services will undoubtedly see it as, "letting other people play with one of their toys." 

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4 minutes ago, Hasaf said:

Frankly, I can see it stalling. Loud users of other services will undoubtedly see it as, "letting other people play with one of their toys." 

There is very little to stop the change from being published. The rule change has to be vetted by administrative agencies for finance and paperwork impacts and then scheduled for pub by the Government Printing Office on an almost space-available basis. Routine red-tape delays.

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14 minutes ago, Hasaf said:

Oh God, no. I have spent the last couple of days trying to get APRS working on my AnyTone D878UV +. I spent time on it last year, and the year before. It still doesn't work.

I own an 878, so I can commiserate with the complex interface.  First make sure your APRS TX channel matches the APRS analog configuration, then set the APRS channel as the active channel on the radio.  The other thing that tripped me up, the 878 will not transmit APRS unless there's a GPS lock.

That said, AnyTone makes APRS way too complex.  While all the countless options gives lots of flexibility, the interface is daunting.  For GMRS purposes, easily 9/10 of those menus can be removed; greatly streamlining the setup process. 

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On 7/25/2021 at 3:57 PM, WRMH343 said:

I own an 878, so I can commiserate with the complex interface.  First make sure your APRS TX channel matches the APRS analog configuration, then set the APRS channel as the active channel on the radio.  The other thing that tripped me up, the 878 will not transmit APRS unless there's a GPS lock.

That said, AnyTone makes APRS way too complex.  While all the countless options gives lots of flexibility, the interface is daunting.  For GMRS purposes, easily 9/10 of those menus can be removed; greatly streamlining the setup process. 

I think a good part of the issue, at least for me, is that there are no APRS facilities near me. As such, I can only see if I got it working when I go on a long drive.

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I just educated myself a bit on UK and European CB. I learned that since the early 80’s legal CB in the UK has been FM. American AM & SSB and frequencies appear to have been illegal almost this whole time. Between 2013 and 2016 the UK adapted AM and SSB as modes as well as a coordinated set of EU frequencies that are compatible with the US, if I interpret the history correctly. So it seems the manufacturers gain by being able to make hardware that can be easily made legal on both sides of the pond, while operators on each side gain a new mode of operation within the 11m CB band.

On another note, I dread the prospect of having to listen to the data bursts for the location and text messaging purposes. Anyone scanning with carrier squelch could have to contend with that.

As long as the cost of radios with this location capability are priced at the high end of the spectrum I don’t imagine it will be an issue initially. However, as the sales go up and prices come down the neighborhood kids will soon have them. Perhaps this is the FCCs way of getting us used to data in the GMRS spectrum. Once the’re enough packets present we will all be more than willing to switch to all digital since it means we would not have to listen to them any more.

One thing I interpret is that data packets can be sent automatically at the beginning of a transmission and at intervals not to exceed every 30 seconds. I also understand that a radio can be requested to send out its position based on the request from another radio. Presumably this will be more than just a broadcast request from one radio that causes 100 radios within ear-shot to report their location.

Admittedly I have not played with any of the existing legal hardware that does this on FRS so I cannot speak to how objectionable this actually is. Perhaps if the data bursts are disguised through the use of a different modulation it could be tolerable.

On the other hand this whole location feature could be a god-send to fox hunters. If you we could somehow get all those that like to create intentional interference to turn the feature on, the fox hunters could show up and net the fox more rapidly. . Mark my word, in your lifetime, there will be news story to this effect.


Michael
WRHS965
KE8PLM

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2 hours ago, rdunajewski said:

Using the same workaround, we could petition for digital voice on GMRS as long as digital radios are backwards compatible with analog on these channels so you can always talk to the analog people and hear the traffic on the channel. So for that, I'm very excited for the next round of interest in digital voice on GMRS. Seems a no-brainer now, we just need to file a well-organized petition for it with support from users and manufacturers.

I think digital on GMRS is going to happen sooner or later. The real question is what protocol should be used.

It might even pay to ask for a few more channels that are exclusive digital only while leaving the current set for FM to maintain compatibility with existing radios.

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I went through my electronic library of documentation for my Kenwood radios looking to see what data transmission ability they have if any.

It looks like there are two speaker microphone models that have a built in GPS receiver, KMC-48GPS and KMC-38GPS.

http://manuals.repeater-builder.com/Kenwood/kmc/KMC-38GPS_B51-8768-00.pdf

http://manuals.repeater-builder.com/Kenwood/kmc/KMC-47-48GPS_B51-8930-00.pdf

These should work with most models of Kenwood’s UHF HTs used on GMRS. The programming software for some of them has provisions for setting the radio up for TX’ing location data. At the moment I’m not sure which models.

The NX-820HG mobile, not currently being used, I have has a built in GPS receiver already.

So, if it gets approved, and finding one of the above allows you to use the soon to be expanded, hopefully, functions one can up grade their radio(s).

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So far the only Kenwood HT's I have that are usable on GMRS that seem to support the GPS speaker microphones are the TK-3170/3173, TK-3180 and TK-3360. The first 3 models seem to be a popular choice for GMRS. I'm sort of surprised the TK-3140 doesn't have any support. The TK-3360 is only a 16 channel radio but it does have the support. The older version of it, TK-3160, doesn't support GPS either.

If the radio supports GPS data then under the "Optional" settings on one of the tabs there is a section for "Com port number". One of the function selections is for GPS. 

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I think people don't understand what APRS is and what it's supposed to be used for, which is going to cause more problems.

 

It's intent was to transmit beacons to alert others of repeaters, breaking news, or even just what frequency the user is on that you can reach them. The data doesn't mean crap to 99% of those without a tablet/computer/map to locate the information for them. Hell, only a few radios have good presentation of the information from the APRS packet (distance, bearing, hops, last hop). If it was part of the audio packet in a digital mode (D-Star, DMR, etc) then it wouldn't interfere, but that's not what's being discussed. 

I still don't see how this will help the average user, hiking families or vehicle convoys. Text messaging maybe, but that's not really beneficial if sending it analog packet. And the battery life that suffers from it. Look at the Kenwood D74, I still think is the best HT available (until it was discontinued), but you have to carry 3 batteries with you.

 

 

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30 minutes ago, tweiss3 said:

 Look at the Kenwood D74, I still think is the best HT available (until it was discontinued), but you have to carry 3 batteries with you.

Or a fanny pack with a good LFP battery pack and adapter to use the PG-31 12 volt charger plugged into it.

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I totally agree on the point that location info is almost useless without the map, however this problem is solved already. Garmin watches render quite workable maps on a watch-sized screen, radios certainly could do so too.

And for the battery, Kenwood D72 was the same, 4 hours max on fresh battery with APRS. But Yaesu FT-1XR will happily do APRS all day. Battery life is what killed D72 for me. I now regret selling it, because of it's awesome packet capabilities, but 90% of what I do  is covered by FT-1XD. The remaining 10% is covered by laptop+FT817.

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1 hour ago, axorlov said:

I totally agree on the point that location info is almost useless without the map, however this problem is solved already. Garmin watches render quite workable maps on a watch-sized screen, radios certainly could do so too.

And for the battery, Kenwood D72 was the same, 4 hours max on fresh battery with APRS. But Yaesu FT-1XR will happily do APRS all day. Battery life is what killed D72 for me. I now regret selling it, because of it's awesome packet capabilities, but 90% of what I do  is covered by FT-1XD. The remaining 10% is covered by laptop+FT817.

I wear a fenix 6X, and while hiking, the map is ok for trail purposes, but wouldn't be acceptable for APRS with 12 people around you. Also, I wouldn't be willing to spend the upcharge to add $700 watch technology to the radio. Heck, the IC-705 is a hard pill to swallow, and it does way beyond what a little screen on a GMRS radio will do.

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I could see the possibility when opened up to a larger market of devices with an integrated screen.  Even if it's just a base unit that can track where the satellite units are at.  That would be ideal for me keeping track of the kids in the neighborhood anyways.  

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22 minutes ago, SkylinesSuck said:

I could see the possibility when opened up to a larger market of devices with an integrated screen.  Even if it's just a base unit that can track where the satellite units are at.  That would be ideal for me keeping track of the kids in the neighborhood anyways.  

You can already do that, buy all Kenwood, use a LTR system and turn on FleetSync, and buy a dispatch console. $$$"

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I could see them coming out with something fairly affordable aimed directly at what I was suggesting. The market has a knack for finding ways to make things affordable enough to market to the masses.  Not so much for us radio nerds, but when they can make a ton off of "normal" people?  I could see it.

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