Band Conditions

22 December 2018

Upgrading From Your Baofeng - Part 15/95 Edition

So you spent the $20 on a Baofeng, and it didn't totally turn you off from radio communications. Now it's time to sell that extra M4orgery and upgrade your personal comms, right?

Wrong. You don't have personal comms. If you have a need for comms, then you have a group, tribe, or family that you need to communicate with. That means you need to select something that not only works at the required distance, but can also be used by everyone.  That even includes your dear Aunt Marge, who is a seamstress and herbalist par extraordinaire, but couldn't get her VCR to stop flashing "12:00" if her life depended on it.  You need effective communications at the Basic Common Tasks Level, which would mean nothing more complicated than a PRC-77.

I've been an Amateur Radio operator for 35 years, and my wife is also one. Yet, 9/10 times when we need to talk around property or down the road, we're grabbing these:

Incidentally, most of the time we're on Channel 3. They are cheap, uncomplicated, and simply work. Good for about a 1/2 mile to a mile under most conditions.  No privacy to speak of whatsoever, but I don't care for most normal applications.  If you want better, then you have to upgrade by an order of (the?) magnitude.

My recommendation for everyone who needs private intra-group communications, and doesn't want to get a ham license or have interoperability with others, is to get Motorola DTR-650s. They have an honest 2 mile range, run frequency hopping spread spectrum with digital voice modulation, and operate on the 902-928 MHz. Part 15/ISM band where they will hide among the SCADAs, AVI systems, and other stuff. Once programmed up with private talk-groups (channels), they are about as close as you can get to having your own SINCGARS. These radios are designed for technically-ignorant end-users, and have two nice features the control freak in you would definitely appreciate: stun and remote activate. If a radio gets stolen you can either remotely disable it or remotely turn it on and listen to what's being said in its vicinity.

Maybe that's a little extreme for you, and you want something better than the Baofeng, but still license-free and with some interoperability. Motorola still has a solution for you.

The RMM2050 is a legal (type-accepted), milspec, MURS radio.  You've probably already been on these frequencies with your Baofeng, so you know what to expect. The Motorola is the top of the line, but there's another model for those of you on a budget that's almost as good.

These are made by the same company that does those "Alert Zone 1" intrusion detectors that are also on MURS.
  • All of these radios are license free. 
  • All of them have a simple user interface that anyone can learn. 
  • All of them are suitably rugged for field use.

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