We Will Begin With BASIC CQ Information
By Bill Miller
Let’s first talk about the small hand-held warlike-talkies. These are available at almost every retail store; WalMart, Home Depot, CVS Pharmacies, garage sales, junk stores, gas stations, truck stops, etc. Many of these FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios are inexpensive radios in use today by many people.
Let me quote Wikipedia.org on a brief explanation of these radios:
The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a licensed land-mobile FM UHF radio service in the United States available for short-distance two-way communication. It is intended for use by an adult individual who possesses a valid GMRS license, as well as his or her immediate family members. Immediate relatives of the GMRS system licensee are entitled to communicate among themselves for personal or business purposes, but employees of the licensee, who are not family members, are not covered by the same license.
GMRS radios are typically handheld portable devices much like Family Radio Service (FRS) radios, and share some frequencies with FRS. Mobile and base station-style radios are available as well, but these are normally commercial UHF radios as often used in the public service and commercial land mobile bands. These are legal for use in this service as long as they are GMRS type-approved. They are more expensive than the walkie talkies typically found in discount electronics stores, and are generally considered higher quality
Another quote from frsradio.com:
The Family Radio Service (FRS) is a radio system that uses walkie talkies. As the name implies, it is specifically for families or small groups to use because of its short range capability. Communication is easier on this service than on other frequencies, such as citizens’ band (CB) or cordless phones that do not have an ultra-high frequency (UHF) band like the FRS does.
FRS was proposed in 1994, but many people were against it. It was approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1996. There are seven other Citizens Band Radio Services besides FRS that operate on UHF. The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is at 460 MHz and is one of these. All are part of the Personal Radio Services according to the FCC. Family Radio Service (FRS) channels range from 462.5625 to 467.7125. These numbers represent MHz. One of the great things about the UHF band is that it does not have interference that citizens’ band radio at 27 MHz or 49 MHz that is used by baby monitors, cordless phones, and other radio-operated devices.
A permanent antenna must be attached to the walkie talkie or radio, although base stations that sit on a desk or table are available. These have whip antennas that can pick up many channels. A license is not required unless a user is representing a foreign government, but the FCC can take away a person’s right to use the FRS. The federal Communications Act allows citizens to use the service, and Family Radio Service users are obliged to adhere to the rules for operators.
Businesses may also use Family Radio Service, and some small businesses do use it for interoffice communication purposes. Their ability to use the FRS is controversial, however. Some believe that businesses should use only channels that are reserved for their particular communication rather than those assigned to the FRS.
Certain communications are prohibited over the FRS such as broadcasting music over the radio. It must be used only to communicate with another person or to provide traveler assistance, send a message in an emergency, or for brief tests.
Channels on FRS are shared with others, much like old-fashioned party lines that were used in the U.S. 50 years ago. When you turn the walkie talkie on, you need to first listen to see if another user is currently on. If so, you are obligated to get off the line until the current user is finished. If a person is on the walkie talkie and an emergency message comes over the line, emergencies always take priority.
In addition, Family Radio Service may be operated only from certain areas that the FCC has assigned. You should never operate an FRS walkie talkie on an airplane because it could interfere with communication necessary for the pilot with ground control stations.
FRS radios are fairly inexpensive and range from $10 to $100 in most places. Manufacturers often claim that their radios have wider ranges than are possible to get when there are trees and building in the way. If you happen to live in a clear area or on the top of a hill, it is possible to communicate with someone up to 40 miles away. This is the exception, and most people can expect to have a range of one-third of a mile to one mile.
Both the GMRS and FRS radios are readily available for affordable prices. However, the range of these small hand held radios is not up to 32 miles as several brands advertise. At best, it has been my experience that they work well out in open areas for up to 3-4 miles, maybe up to 10 miles.
Now let’s talk about CB radios. During the early 1970’s nearly everyone had a CB radio. They were the high tech way to communicate with others travelling down the highways. Then it led to people having “Base Stations” set up in their homes with big bulky beam antennas which are directional and can aim your signal in a specific direction. Then along came the use of illegal amplifiers to boost the legal output power from 5 watts to up over 1,000 watts. People thought then and still think today that running an illegal CB radio with a 1,000 watt amplifier will allow them to “work the skip” and talk to people nationwide and around the world. That is possible, but not only as the result of the high power and fancy antennas on tops of tall towers.
All radio communications rely on the effects of the atmosphere. As a radio signal, even a cell phone, leaves the transmitter, and travels to the antenna, it then heads upwards to the atmosphere above the earth. When the signal hits the different layers of the atmosphere, they are bounced back down to earth where they can be picked up and heard on a receiver. As the atmosphere changes, so does the radio signal as it reaches and bounces off it and back to earth. The frequency one uses a radio to communicate with will depend on the range it will have. Normally in the HF (High Frequency) radios, the higher the frequency, the longer range.
The HF frequencies are in the 1.8-29 MZ range. Frequencies above the 30MH range are in the VHF and UHF bands, and then the theory changes and the long distance rule does not apply. In the VHF/UHF bands, the signals do not bounce off the atmosphere like the HF frequencies do. These frequencies are normally limited to line of sight. Think of it this way: Remember the old fashioned TV’s we all had before cable and satellite TV? Remember how we used to have to put up an outside TV antenna in order to get a good TV signal without snow, or fuzzy pictures? Well that is because the range of the TV station’s signal was limited to the line of sight rule. TV stations are broadcast in the VHF and UHF frequency bands. Remember those old channel tuners for channels 2-12? Those were for the VHF frequencies/channels. Then as stations started broadcasting on UHF frequencies, channels 13 and up, we had to put up a different antenna, one for UHF stations.
Now let’s talk about HAM Radios.
HAM Radio operators have been around for many years, since the early 1900’s. HAM’s use all types of communications radios and equipment for HF, UHF and VHF frequencies. I am a licensed HAM and have been since 1954, well over 50 years. I, like many other HAMS, have used my radios and antennas to provide emergency communications in times of disaster many times during the past 50 years. Each year in June, the HAM in the USA we set up our equipment in a drill we call “Field Day”. During this 24 hour period in over a weekend in late June, we set up our transmitters, receivers, antennas and emergency power sources to operate over all the frequencies allocated for HAM’s to use and simulate emergency conditions. We use all types of electrical power to operate our equipment. These sources of power include battery, solar, gasoline or diesel generators, wind powered generators and any other sources which can be thought of. All our equipment operates on 12 volts D.C. power. We use different modes of operating. We use voice, Morse code, teletype, packet/digital and even use the internet. HAM’s are very well versed in quickly setting up transmitters, receivers and antennas in order to establish a communications link between parts of the country.
Range of communications.
No matter what form of communications one uses, there are limitations to range, security and reliability. In the days before electronic communications, people had to rely on what they had. The Indians used Smoke Signals. African tribes used drums. Romans used the sun and mirrors. People even used runners to run across country to deliver messages. Carrier pigeons were also used. How about the “Pony Express”, remember them? I recall as a young boy I used tin cans with a hole punched in the bottom with a piece of string secured inside with a knot and the string stretched across the street to another tin can and as the sting was stretched tight between the cans, you can actually talk to the person at the other end of the string. Now that is a truly secure means of communicating and no one can ‘tap into’ your conversation.
So, with all the different types of equipment mentioned, different methods of communication used, let’s talk about how we can communicate with each other.
First of all we need to determine the range of our communications network. Do we need to talk across the street, across town, cross country, worldwide? Communicating with someone only 3-5 miles from me is very simple. I could use the walkie-talkies or CB radios. If I need to talk with someone 10-50 miles away, then I would need something other than walkie-talkie and CB radios. Depending on the radio, antenna and weather conditions, a CB radio might work up to 50 miles away. This is where we would need the use of a possible repeater network of equipment. Repeaters are used extensively by HAM’s and many other organizations. Cell Phones today actually work off a complex series of repeaters all across the country. That is why you see so many antenna towers all across the country with those funny looking sticks hanging off the tops of those towers, those are Cell Phone antennas which operate as ‘repeaters’ all across the country, which they call “Cells”, therefore the name “Cell Phone”.
This is a beginning point of some basics of communications. There will be more updates to this list over the next few days.