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Looked into GMRS but was disappointed


Guest Jeff
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Guest Jeff

I remember when FRS and GMRS first came about more or less. Lately since I retired I looked into it a little further. I've listened to Ham stuff, 2 Meter etc...since I was a teen long ago. Never cared for Ham stuff as it was always too formal and expensive for my liking. I've had an SDR for a few months and was surprised that listening to GMRS seems to be not much different than Ham Radio is. Pretty much the same as Ham radio with it formality, repeaters, clubs, nets etc...So are Hams running most of the GMRS stuff as well? Repeaters etc... I thought GMRS was certainly going to be a step above what CB was in it's heyday, but not the same as Ham radio is. Why have GMRS when there doesn't seem to be much difference from say a guy who is a Ham on 2 Meters. So what am I missing here? Must be something besides the license is easier to obtain. Thanks

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35 minutes ago, Guest Jeff said:

So are Hams running most of the GMRS stuff as well? Repeaters etc..

No.. 

Although many hams do slum on GMRS in many areas, the main use for GMRS is utilitarian communication - ie; when off-roading and in a group, hiking, traveling with multiple vehicles, etc.

Sadly, it sounds like in your area many of the rag-chewers have taken over.. But once you get out of reach of their basements, like out adventuring in the desert or mountains, all their noise goes away.

I run a repeater, partially run another repeater which is one of the largest/most used in Southern California, and run a group - not only am i not a ham, most in the group are not hams either.

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10 hours ago, Guest Jeff said:

 So what am I missing here? Must be something besides the license is easier to obtain. Thanks

GMRS is aimed for the non technical user. The idea is to just pickup the radio, pick a channel and press the button to talk. That's why the limited selection of channels and limited features available verses Ham radio that uses a "band" where one selects a frequency to use, different operating modes etc. The GMRS service is structured to facilitate communications between family members and to conduct family business. The idea wasn't for making random contacts or experimenting with equipment, however some do this.

Yes you'll find a significant number of Hams using GMRS too. Not necessarily a bad thing. One just has to keep in mind the differences between the services. What would be an acceptable topic on the Ham band maybe of little to no interest to a GMRS user.

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I remember when FRS and GMRS first came about more or less. Lately since I retired I looked into it a little further. I've listened to Ham stuff, 2 Meter etc...since I was a teen long ago. Never cared for Ham stuff as it was always too formal and expensive for my liking. I've had an SDR for a few months and was surprised that listening to GMRS seems to be not much different than Ham Radio is. Pretty much the same as Ham radio with it formality, repeaters, clubs, nets etc...So are Hams running most of the GMRS stuff as well? Repeaters etc... I thought GMRS was certainly going to be a step above what CB was in it's heyday, but not the same as Ham radio is. Why have GMRS when there doesn't seem to be much difference from say a guy who is a Ham on 2 Meters. So what am I missing here? Must be something besides the license is easier to obtain. Thanks
While our might disappoint right now it's worth having for when you need it. At least it pays to be legal.

Sent from my SM-T860 using Tapatalk

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Guest Jeff

Thanks for the replies. Maybe it was just the one channel I stumbled across on Sunday night. They were doing the "Net" and everyone checking in just like Hams do. If I hadn't looked at the frequency I'd have thought it was 2 meters I was listening too. I'm in a very large metro are in the Midwest U.S so maybe that had something to do with it.

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I am a Ham, but had my GMRS license long before my amateur radio license, going back to 1988.  It was an individual license back then and gear was primitive at best, but that is part of what made it easy.

Me and my Ham friends (whom actually do appreciate GMRS) very rarely use VHF/UHF ham frequencies anymore and are almost completely GMRS.  Many of us got sick of the club politics.  We just use GMRS to chat while we are heading to meet up, stay in touch on the road, and in touch while offroad.  Be it in 4X4's, on foot, small boats, etc.

Anyway, I wouldn't let it discourage you.  While some clubs have linked GMRS repeaters and have Nets, there are way more causal users and families with handhelds, mobiles, as well as base stations or repeaters in their garage so they can talk to family and friends.

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Nets are good for checking your radios, that's about it. I like to use them to check my equipment from time to time when it comes to operating through a repeater to make sure its still working seeing as how I talk very little on radio these days. I like to keep things in check just to make sure its still working should I need it in an emergency. 

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I mostly hear net check-ins Sunday afternoons and evenings. That is a lower-traffic time, anyway, I think. If they're going to do their check-ins and verify their equipment and skills are up to date, I see no reason to discourage that use. It is neither an improper use, nor something I have any reason to be annoyed about.

 

Net check-ins are certainly less annoying than the after-school blister-pack kiddies filling up a channel with screeches, feedback, and relentless roger beeps. Can't do anything about them either, and again, it's not my place to issue edicts from atop my high horse. It would be great if the blister-pack kiddies could stick to 500mw channels, but there's no restriction or governing authority guidance that says they must do so.

 

The nets are a welcome bit of sanity. I don't mind listening in and trying to figure out where they're transmitting from.

 

 

 

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If you are trying to hear everything on the GMRS frequencies then dont be surprised when you DO hear everything on the GMRS frequencies.

 

IMHO the beauty of GMRS is the you and your group can set up your own CHANNEL by picking a frequency, adding a PL filter and greatly decreasing the chance of hearing others while meeting your comm needs.  There is NO privacy ("they" can still hear you) but you can miss the other stuff most of the time.

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3 minutes ago, kirk5056 said:

IMHO the beauty of GMRS is the you and your group can set up your own CHANNEL by picking a frequency, adding a PL filter and greatly decreasing the chance of hearing others while meeting your comm needs.  There is NO privacy ("they" can still hear you) but you can miss the other stuff most of the time.

And if you don't check (Monitor) the frequency before starting a conversation with your group you could be busting into any conversation those others are having. FM capture effect means a receiver will lock onto the strongest signal it sees (even if they have a CTCSS tone set, your strong signal will block out the signals they are expecting.)

In the old days, most GMRS traffic was between units of the same call sign (moderate family farm, for example, with a base/repeater in the house, and family members in the fields with hand-helds, maybe a mobile on a tractor). Call sign to call sign was rarer except maybe for the nationwide emergency channel (.675 -- don't think FCC mandates that anymore) which likely had REACT members monitoring in addition to CB channel 9. If you had the common 2 channel "business" radios a recommendation when getting licensed was to specify the .675 pair as one of the channels you were allowed. The Maxon GMRS 210+3 opened things up a bit (by FCC rule, you could use .675 FOR EMERGENCIES even if your license did not include it). The Maxon's first 8 channels were the low-power interstitial frequencies AND .675 as #8. Channels 9 and 10 were programmable "by the dealer or service center" for the frequencies on one's license. {Of course, the radio shipped with the programming manual 🧐 meaning any gorilla-fisted person could remove the back cover, press the specified button, and dial in the specific frequency [from the 8 primaries, though who would add .675 a second time], repeat for #10 [of course, if .675 was one of your licensed channels, you'd leave #10 empty)

 

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Some of what you are warning about is true but rare.  FM capture requires proximity and over-talking current other-PL traffic is very rare requiring both proximity AND simultaneous TXing.  MOST of the time you will hear no non-group traffic and not bother any other groups, if they also are using PL filters.

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8 minutes ago, kirk5056 said:

Some of what you are warning about is true but rare.  FM capture requires proximity and over-talking current other-PL traffic is very rare requiring both proximity AND simultaneous TXing.  MOST of the time you will hear no non-group traffic and not bother any other groups, if they also are using PL filters.

 

 

Actually, this happens in my area all the time on the repeaters.  Not so much on simplex, though.

 

There is a 650 repeater I use all the time on Bull Run Mountain and another 650 repeater in Ellicott City (52 miles away).  On the near daily basis, even with different tones, we end up having massive issues.  My buddy may bring up the BRM repeater with the proper tone, but even though he is closer to the repeater than the other station, the other station using the Ellicott City repeater will either come over the top of him of they both end up wiping each other out.  Not a good time.

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On 6/22/2022 at 8:07 AM, gortex2 said:

Yup one my biggest complaints with linking is this. Hams come to GMRS and think everything should be linked and have nets....Not me. But thats just my opinion.

While i don't mind net's for 'technical' and discussions that are SPECIFICALLY GMRS related, the ham add on's frankly make me turn it off QUICK. 

I fired up the radio a few weeks ago and heard a net starting.  The minute they ask for 'emergency or priority traffic" on a linked system that NOT for emergency communications, I pushed the power button.  I hear that on the local ham repeater every week.  It's not a traffic net, it's NOT ARES (ham EMCOMM) and I honestly don't what to hear it. 

My PERSONAL thoughts are that if you want to use GMRS for SAR / EMCOMM/ whatever for YOUR group, then put up a repeater for YOUR GROUP and do whatever you want. 

But then again, WHY would anyone with emergency traffic of ANY kind wait for a net to start to pass that traffic or request assistance. 

So I am stuck on a mountain side, flat tire, broke down.  Should I wait until the net starts to ask someone to make a telephone call to send me some assistance. If that's the case, I probably need to pack more crap because if it's Monday and the net is on Sunday night I am gonna be here for a week waiting on the net to start right???? Of course at that point I will have been eaten by a bear. 

 

These are MY PERSONAL opinions on the matter, you are free to agree or disagree.  But I will not be joining ANY net on GMRS that starts off like a hammie ARES net. 

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First and foremost,  it's not just Hams that do that.  GMRS based CERT and REACT team's (who are often not Hams) handle nets and emergencies the same way ARES/RACES does.  The reason for this is because emergency communications has been standardized in the US and anyone who want to help is going to do it the formal way.

 

Secondly, I think you are misunderstanding the concept of calling for emergency or priority traffic. If it was EmComm traffic, operators move from local, up to regional/national nets, and then back down to a local net. In a traditional communications blackout, that is how emergency and priority messages get handled. So, that is how they practice. 

 

The whole procedure is not for the guy stuck on the side of a mountain... though if no one has been returning your call for help and you know a net is on a specific frequency and day,, you can bet your bottom dollar you will be thrilled they're on the air and they will take your emergency call. 

 

Also, it's a good habit to get into in case there is a real emergency. Especially before a net or a bunch of long-winded people getting ready to ha e a BS session. It's a good idea to remind everyone that regardless of what they are talking about, all conversation should stop if someone with an emergency gets in the air.

 

If you don't want to listen to or participate in a net, no big deal. Just turn the radio off..  Don't trash people for caring enough to make sure there is no real emergency and practicing for the day one happens.

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1 hour ago, WRKC935 said:

But then again, WHY would anyone with emergency traffic of ANY kind wait for a net to start to pass that traffic or request assistance. 

They don't. The periodic announcements by net-control for "priority or emergency" is to ensure that general net-chat is not interfering with someone seeking assistance for an emergency. It provides a pause in chat during which an person in need can get their call into the stream. In all cases, emergency traffic takes priority. Depending upon the environment, someone calling for assistance may not be heard until a number "net members" have come on line (especially simplex operations -- where the emergency may only be heard by someone on the fringe of the "net" coverage area and may need to be relayed to an operator with suitable access [land line phone, maybe]).

Quote

§ 95.1731 Permissible GMRS uses.

The operator of a GMRS station may use that station for two-way plain language voice communications with other GMRS stations and with FRS units concerning personal or business activities.

(a) Emergency communications. Any GMRS channel may be used for emergency communications or for traveler assistance. Operators of GMRS stations must, at all times and on all channels, give priority to emergency communications.

That clause basically applies to ALL the service classes: part 90 land-mobile, part 95 (GMRS, MURS, CB, FRS, and a freight of unknowns, though might be hard to apply to the radio-control service), part 97 (Amateur), and part 80 (maritime).

 

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One important aspect of GMRS is the ease of licensing and reduced message content restrictions.   For example, while the comm leaders for CERT-like organizations, community fire-watch groups, etc. are often hams, most quickly find that only 10% to 30% of the members will take the ham exam.  They just need to communicate.  Many groups then try and equip these individuals with FRS radios - which fails miserably every time.  GMRS is the perfect solution to this in most cases, and its a small ask to pay $35 for a ten-year family-wide license.   The Chinese have begun to strongly address the GMRS market (unlike the US and Japanese companies) with more entry- and mid -level radios so this also helps.  And of course, most long-time GMRS users operate commercial Part 90 radios (yes, yes, I know... for another discussion).

You can conduct (small) or family business communications on GMRS too, so the repeaters can be put to better use when not used for emergency related comms.   In general, they better promote community-oriented communications, and most GMRS licensees have less of an exclusionary "private club" mentality common in amateur radio. 

I am also seeing a trend in GMRS towards newer repeater equipment and who maintains it.  Increasingly GMRS repeaters consist of purpose-build models (not two mobiles in a box or 30-year old repeaters) installed and maintained by people with two-way radio experience (many are technicians, some hams).  Or they buy new.  Is it me, or are the ham systems aging, kludged-together devices that are growing less reliable and lack experienced hams left to fix them?  Many sound like trash, IMHO.  In other words, many GMRS systems are simply more reliable and work better.

Here in California, there is always at least one vegetation fire or "mostly-peaceful" riot occurring somewhere - and at least half of all traffic in the surrounding suburban and rural areas is related to CERT and/or firewatch comms.  Most of their "nets" are used to familiarize new users on how to communicate - not on theory of how a radio works.  The California State Militia and some Sheriff Posse groups also use it for security-related comms when such things threaten residents or private businesses.

On a related note, GMRS radio congestion is a growing problem here in the San Francisco bay and capitol regions given our mountains and high-elevation repeaters.  In some cases, moving emergency and security comms to business or public safety frequencies may be more appropriate if there are too many repeaters in an area and the group is large.  Business and public safety licensing is even more practical as the organization can hold one license for all of its users (group licensing in GMRS was discontinued after business comms started monopolizing the channels to the exclusion of personal users).  These services also allow for more efficient digital communications (DMR, NXDN, P25, etc.), including smaller radios with better battery life (feature of DMR-only radios), voice encryption and no (at least enforced) message content restrictions.  

 

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