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GMRS / FRS - Discussions related to GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) and FRS (Family Radio Service) communications

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Old 01-06-2017, 12:06 AM
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Smile GMRS exit strategy: Going to 900MHz DTRs and DLRs

I have been using some 900MHz DLR1060 handhelds over the past year and they have working great. I recently picked up some Motorola DTR650 handhelds to add to my collection. I've been bitten by the 900MHz digital bug because they have worked so well.

These radios have worked EXCELLENT and well enough that they are replacing my use of GMRS/FRS for local on-site communications. I still have GMRS in my UHF Part 90/95 commercial handhelds but GMRS is no longer my default mode for local on-site non-HAM personal communications.

DTR series:
DTR On-Site Digital Two-Way Radios - Motorola Solutions USA - Motorola Solutions
I've known about the DTRs since they first came out around 2006. I was interested in them but couldn't justify them at the time. I also thought the DTR series radios sort of faded away over the years as the 900MHz commercial market fizzled but no, the DTRs appear to still be alive and well from Motorola. Some DTR accessories are NLA but the DTRs still are current product from Motorola and on their 3rd generation.

The DTR650 handhelds I recently picked up are factory brand new Gen3 units. I decided to go with new units to have all of the updates and a warranty instead of taking my chances with old used and beat up units on EBay. They are planned to be long term keepers.

DTR models:
DTR410: DTR410 Digital Two-way Radio - Motorola Solutions
DTR550: DTR550 Digital Two-way Radio - Motorola Solutions
DTR650: DTR650 Portable Two-Way Radio - Motorola Solutions
I had thought the DTR650 had been discontinued but found it's on the wrong page somewhere on Moto's website.

DLR series:
DLR Series Digital Portable Radios - Motorola Solutions
DLR1060 - Motorola Solutions

DTR/DLR compatibility and programming:
The DTRs work with the new DLR series out of the box using their factory default programming. The DTRs and DLRs can also be customized via CPS to set up private groups and 1 to 1 contacts and to tweak some feature settings. The Business Radio CPS is available as a free download from Motorola and programs all of their current business radio models. Programming cables are a separate purchase (about $40 each) and are readily available.

Note that the CPS is not needed to use DTRs and DLRs right out of the box with their factory default programming. Just charge the batteries up and then turn 'em on and go!

GMRS exit strategy:
The DTRs and DLRs are part of my exit strategy from GMRS since we know GMRS will likely get de-licensed someday and become a bubble pack only service. Experience with the DLRs and DTRs got me thinking about how I've used GMRS over the years and maybe there's something better that I could use instead and regardless of whether or not GMRS remains a licensed service. I've been GMRS licensed since 1992, long before the creation of FRS in 1996 and the ensuing bubble pack invasion which followed. When it comes right down to it, more than 99% of my use of GMRS over the years with good Part 90/95 commercial gear has always been for local simplex use. I have owned and maintained a few GMRS repeaters over the years but overall they haven't had a lot of use. The vast majority of my use of GMRS has always been for local simplex use with family and friends. After using my DLR1060 radios for the past year, I'm totally hooked on the DLRs and now the DTRs because they have actually been working equal or BETTER compared to GMRS simplex with 4W Part 90/95 commercial handhelds. I recently picked up some DTR650 radios after using the DLRs and getting bit by the 900MHz digital bug. I intend to stay GMRS licensed but now that I've "graduated" to the DTRs and DLRs I really could care less about GMRS and whether GMRS remains a licensed service. I will still have GMRS capability but 900MHz FHSS digital with the DTRs and DLRs are quickly taking over as my default mode for local on-site non-HAM personal communications.

I recommend checking out the DTRs and DLRs if you are interested in the technology and looking for an alternative to GMRS/FRS for local on-site type use. IMHO the DTRs are sort of an orphan child from Motorola and the technology seems to be under-utilized and under-appreciated. Motorola has gem of a product for their intended use. The more I use them the more I like them and don't mind getting away from GMRS and using the DTRs and DLRs full time for my local on-site simplex use.

Have fun!
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Old 01-06-2017, 10:57 AM
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I use the old trisquare eXRS radios still. 900 mhz fhss. Analog but no interference. GMRS has a better range; but in large tourist areas, 900 is our mode of choice.

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Old 01-06-2017, 11:34 AM
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I just wish they looked like "real radios" and not a child's toy...
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Old 01-06-2017, 12:11 PM
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The Trisquare eXRS garbage seems to always come up in discussions about the DTRs and DLRs. There is absolutely no comparison between the Trisquare eXRS (analog w/FHSS) and DTRs / DLRs (FHSS digital). I believe the vocoder used in the DTRs and DLRs is VSELP. IMHO, the technology in the DTRs is largely under-appreciated.

I did some range testing with a friend down in FL last year with a pair of DLR1060 radios. I was standing on the beach in Cocoa Beach FL and he was standing on the steps to Hightower Beach in Satellite Beach FL. We were 11 miles apart. Some of the Cocoa Beach coastline to the south gets in the way so it wasn't entirely line of sight between us. We both had to find a hot spot to talk with the DLRs and when we did it worked and worked perfectly.

We later did the same experiment with a pair of 4W UHF Part 90 handhelds on GMRS. We were able to communicate on GMRS but we both had to find a hot spot in order to hear each other at all. Once each of us found a hot spot, GMRS was noisy but usable provided we didn't move from our hot spots.

Overall the DLRs worked a bit better and were always 100% noise free due to them being all digital. I expect the DTRs to do a bit better than the DLRs for range due to the DTRs having a much better antenna. The DLR has a built-in stubby non-removable antenna whereas the DTRs have a removable antenna. The stock antenna supplied with the DTRs is a 3" long 900MHz 1/4 wave duck used on Moto's MTX series handhelds. I also bought the 7" long Motorola 1/2 wave duck to use on the DTRs.

The DTRs and DLRs both transmit at 1W. I expect the DTRs to have about 20% better range than the DLRs due to the DTRs having a much better antenna.

Have fun!
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Old 01-06-2017, 12:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N4GIX View Post
I just wish they looked like "real radios" and not a child's toy...
LOL. Looks can be deceiving.

The DTRs remind me of the NEXTEL i355 phones my wife and I had years ago. Not only in looks but functionality and their accessories. The same battery and charger are used. I think they share a common design. The i355's off-network DirectTalk feature used the same system as the DTRs except it was purposely coded differently so they are not compatible. Probably was a marketing thing. The speaker mic and headset accessories used with Motorola's other business radios (RDX series, etc.) all work with the DTRs and DLRs.

I wouldn't exactly call these a child's toy.
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Old 01-06-2017, 12:48 PM
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I have always wondered if I could take a couple of 15 or 30W 900 MHz Spectra's, gut all the boards except the PA and graft in these DTR DLR radios and a couple voltage regulators. Strictly for educational purposes!
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Old 01-06-2017, 12:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RFI-EMI-GUY View Post
I have always wondered if I could take a couple of 15 or 30W 900 MHz Spectra's, gut all the boards except the PA and graft in these DTR DLR radios and a couple voltage regulators. Strictly for educational purposes!
That could be interesting!
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Old 01-06-2017, 4:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RFI-EMI-GUY View Post
I have always wondered if I could take a couple of 15 or 30W 900 MHz Spectra's, gut all the boards except the PA and graft in these DTR DLR radios and a couple voltage regulators. Strictly for educational purposes!
One of my club members showed me his AN/PRC-6 RT-196 radio at our monthly club meeting several months ago.

I don't recall what specific model Icom 2m HT he used, but...

...he had gutted the radio and hidden the Icom 2m HT inside, then wired it up to the PTT and volume controls, as well as a female BNC antenna jack. He even has a "rubber duck" antenna for it. It's a soft plastic rubber duck toy covering the stubby "rubber duck" antenna.

He said he gets a lot of attention as he wanders around at ham fests talking on it! I wish I'd had my camera with me at the time, but for those that don't know, this is an AN/PRC-6 "Banana" radio

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Old 01-06-2017, 9:03 PM
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I made my exit about a year ago and began migrating to P25 on VHF and now some on 800 MHz (oh the joys of having a company to license it under).


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Old 01-06-2017, 11:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by W5PKY View Post
I made my exit about a year ago and began migrating to P25 on VHF and now some on 800 MHz (oh the joys of having a company to license it under).


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Congrats!

I don't have a company to license my stuff under so that's not an option. I was looking for an alternative to GMRS/FRS for local on-site simplex use. The DTRs and DLRs are working excellent. I'm selling off my pair of DLRs now that I have some DTRs.
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Old 01-06-2017, 11:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KD8DVR View Post
I use the old trisquare eXRS radios still. 900 mhz fhss. Analog but no interference. GMRS has a better range; but in large tourist areas, 900 is our mode of choice.

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You should try using some DTRs if you get a chance. You will quickly find that the DTRs totally blow the Trisquare eXRS junk away. I'm finding the usable range equals that of simplex operation with 4W Part 90 UHF handhelds on GMRS. My range testing so far has been done with DLR1060 handhelds with their build-in stubby antenna. The DTR550 and 650 should do better given they have a much better antenna than the DLRs. The stubby and non-stubby antennas available for the DTRs from Motorola are the exact same antennas used on Moto's MTX9000 series handhelds (i.e., MTX9250).

Building penetration also seems to be better due to a building being more "open" at 900MHz compared to 462MHz. Shadowing behind hills and buildings is going to be more of a problem at 900MHz compared to 462MHz but local on-site coverage should be better. And DTR / DLR operation is 100% noise free due to it being an all digital end to end solution.

The digital audio quality is very good and the volume can be cranked up LOUD if you want them loud. No trouble hearing them in noisy places. I think the vocoder used is VSELP, which was short lived in early Motorola P25 systems before the IMBE vocoder became the standard for P25 Phase 1.

I have the DTR650 model. The DTR650 has some features including Manager Mode which the 550 and 410 don't have.
Quote:
Originally Posted by From the DTR brochure....
The DTR650 is ideal for managers, as it provides the ability to monitor, manage and program a group’s DTR550 radios. Its added features include:
• High-capacity battery for up to 19 hours of operation per charge
(up to 14.5 hours for DTR550) (rating based on a 5/5/90 ratio)
• One-hour charger (three-hour charger for DTR550)
• Up to 50 public groups (up to 20 for DTR550)
• Up to 20 private groups (10 for DTR550)
• Capability for up to 25 preprogrammed messages
(15 available and 5 preprogrammed on DTR550;
25 available and 10 preprogrammed on DTR650)
• Remote monitor and disable origination
• Over-the-air time and date update origination
The DTRs rock!

Have fun!
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Old 01-07-2017, 4:52 AM
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I'm also a huge fan of the DTRs - I also think these are absolutely ideal for cruises. I switched to these after I found my 2 watt commercial radios on GMRS not making it across the ship. Also worked OK from shore to cabin with a better antenna and at least LOS to the ship from miles away.

Also avoids the congestion on FRS/GRMS at any major event/skiing/etc.and gives some degree of privacy since there's nothing else readily available that will monitor them.
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Old 01-07-2017, 6:51 AM
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The cost of the dtr radios isn't justified. I'm sure they have awesome performance. I brought up the eXRS radios because they both use 900 mhz and share similar properties.

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Old 01-07-2017, 8:34 AM
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I am glad you like the performance of the DTR series radios. My experience has been different. I didn't find the range to be all that good. My intended area of use is rolling, low hills covered with trees. This seems like an easy area to cover, but I have problems on UHF and even worse on 900 MHz. The DTR radios start dropping out very close to home and there are places where I can get a clear line of sight but can't communicate at less than 2 miles line of sight. From a hill top, no less. But, my main gripe is that you have to wait for the talk permit tone to talk. That just bothers me and my wife just can't seem to get it. She pushes the button and starts talking. Then, she doesn't understand why I didn't get all of what she said. I know that has nothing to do with how the radios actually perform, but it is a factor in how useful the radios are to me. It seems to me that the DTRs are a little pricey. I did manage to find a couple of 410's on eBay for cheap. The higher priced models may work better, but I have even tried 3 watt 900 MHz analog portables in the same places and they fared somewhat better, but not that much better. To be fair, I also have problems in that area with 4 watt GMRS portables. Over the years, I have found that 900 MHz works sometimes in places where you think it won't. But, I have had more instances where it didn't work where you think it should.
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Old 01-07-2017, 9:06 AM
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Default GMRS Exit Strategy: Going To 900MHz DTRs And DLRs

I have a pair of Motorola DTR550s. I bought them used. I really don't use them a lot, but my family and I will be going on a cruise in a couple of months and I will probably bring this along. I also have some old Nextels with Direct Talk and clearly the DTR550s have better range than the Nextels on Direct Talk. I do have the keyboard that attaches to the DTRs. I haven't changed any of the pre-programmed text messages, but I think that the keyboard will allow me to do that.
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Old 01-07-2017, 12:29 PM
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DTR650 audio test uploaded to YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaNdMWPmVZI

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Old 01-07-2017, 12:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WPXS472 View Post
I am glad you like the performance of the DTR series radios. My experience has been different. I didn't find the range to be all that good. My intended area of use is rolling, low hills covered with trees. This seems like an easy area to cover, but I have problems on UHF and even worse on 900 MHz. The DTR radios start dropping out very close to home and there are places where I can get a clear line of sight but can't communicate at less than 2 miles line of sight. From a hill top, no less. But, my main gripe is that you have to wait for the talk permit tone to talk. That just bothers me and my wife just can't seem to get it. She pushes the button and starts talking. Then, she doesn't understand why I didn't get all of what she said. I know that has nothing to do with how the radios actually perform, but it is a factor in how useful the radios are to me. It seems to me that the DTRs are a little pricey. I did manage to find a couple of 410's on eBay for cheap. The higher priced models may work better, but I have even tried 3 watt 900 MHz analog portables in the same places and they fared somewhat better, but not that much better. To be fair, I also have problems in that area with 4 watt GMRS portables. Over the years, I have found that 900 MHz works sometimes in places where you think it won't. But, I have had more instances where it didn't work where you think it should.
It sounds like 900MHz isn't the best choice for your particular use case and it's not any fault of the DTRs. Can't cheat physics. You might do better on VHF.

Everybody seems to always want to get the most amount of range out of their radios and some expectations might be a bit unrealistic. I didn't get the DTRs for any type of wide area coverage. I still have GMRS with a repeater and also have a 440 DMR ham repeater so I have other options for wide area coverage. I got the DTRs specifically for reliable local on-site type of simplex coverage where I tend to use GMRS the most. If I were a clueless bubble pack user, a bubble pack might work for me too. With the DTRs I get to use a nice digital protocol on 900MHz instead of plain old analog.

I have no issue with the PTT chirp Talk Permit Tone (TPT) in the DTRs other than I would like to be able to customize it if I could. The TPT volume relative to the normal speaker volume can be customized using the CPS. Not a big deal. My wife and I and friends are already well trained regarding the TPT from our use of NEXTEL DirectConnect years ago. I also have a TPT programmed in my Part 90 radios to make people wait for PL / DPL to be decoded by receiving radios before they start talking.

Good luck.
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Old 01-07-2017, 1:09 PM
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Originally Posted by scottbailey View Post
I'm also a huge fan of the DTRs - I also think these are absolutely ideal for cruises. I switched to these after I found my 2 watt commercial radios on GMRS not making it across the ship. Also worked OK from shore to cabin with a better antenna and at least LOS to the ship from miles away.

Also avoids the congestion on FRS/GRMS at any major event/skiing/etc.and gives some degree of privacy since there's nothing else readily available that will monitor them.
Your experience with Part 90/95 commercial radios on GMRS exactly matches my experience on a cruise a couple of years ago. One thing I found that helped was to go to the nearest elevator lobby where the ship is open to all decks. The elevator shafts are probably where the ship's own radio system antennas are located. The crew aboard the Carnival Cruise ship I was on were using Motorola MOTOTRBO DMR handhelds and a DMR repeater on UHF.

When we go on another cruise someday we will definitely be using the DTRs. Just like with buildings, the ship is much more "open" at 900MHz than at 462MHz so penetration should be better. I wouldn't bother trying to use VHF MURS on the ship.

Have fun!
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Old 01-07-2017, 2:24 PM
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Originally Posted by JASII View Post
I have a pair of Motorola DTR550s. I bought them used. I really don't use them a lot, but my family and I will be going on a cruise in a couple of months and I will probably bring this along. I also have some old Nextels with Direct Talk and clearly the DTR550s have better range than the Nextels on Direct Talk. I do have the keyboard that attaches to the DTRs. I haven't changed any of the pre-programmed text messages, but I think that the keyboard will allow me to do that.
Hold onto the keyboard accessory for the DTRs because it has been discontinued and NLA. You can customize all of the factory pre-programmed text messages plus add your own messages to the list. You can do the same thing without the keyboard using the CPS.

I am purposely leaving all of the talkgroup programming at the factory default so I can listen for other DTR and DLR users. With everything at the factory default, everybody hears everybody on the public talkgroups in the DTRs. On the DLRs this is with the Profile set to 0000 (default). With the DTRs and DLRs at their factory default programming, public TGs in the DTRs map directly to channels in the DLRs. I will eventually set up one or more private TGs for my DTRs. The DLRs can also be customized via CPS to work with the DTRs as members of a private TG in the DTRs.

Like with GMRS/FRS bubble packs, most users likely will simply use the DTRs and DLRs right out of the box with the factory default programming. LOL, when I was down in FL on vacation recently, a friend of mine and I freaked out a couple of local hotel employees who were using DTRs. They weren't used to hearing other people on their supposedly "private" channel. We were using my DLR1060 radios at the time with the Profile set to 0000 (default). They tried to chase us off the channel but we ignored them.
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Old 01-07-2017, 6:15 PM
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I have been using some 900MHz DLR1060 handhelds over the past year and they have working great. I recently picked up some Motorola DTR650 handhelds to add to my collection. I've been bitten by the 900MHz digital bug because they have worked so well.

These radios have worked EXCELLENT and well enough that they are replacing my use of GMRS/FRS for local on-site communications. I still have GMRS in my UHF Part 90/95 commercial handhelds but GMRS is no longer my default mode for local on-site non-HAM personal communications.

DTR series:
DTR On-Site Digital Two-Way Radios - Motorola Solutions USA - Motorola Solutions
I've known about the DTRs since they first came out around 2006. I was interested in them but couldn't justify them at the time. I also thought the DTR series radios sort of faded away over the years as the 900MHz commercial market fizzled but no, the DTRs appear to still be alive and well from Motorola. Some DTR accessories are NLA but the DTRs still are current product from Motorola and on their 3rd generation.

The DTR650 handhelds I recently picked up are factory brand new Gen3 units. I decided to go with new units to have all of the updates and a warranty instead of taking my chances with old used and beat up units on EBay. They are planned to be long term keepers.

DTR models:
DTR410: DTR410 Digital Two-way Radio - Motorola Solutions
DTR550: DTR550 Digital Two-way Radio - Motorola Solutions
DTR650: DTR650 Portable Two-Way Radio - Motorola Solutions
I had thought the DTR650 had been discontinued but found it's on the wrong page somewhere on Moto's website.

DLR series:
DLR Series Digital Portable Radios - Motorola Solutions
DLR1060 - Motorola Solutions

DTR/DLR compatibility and programming:
The DTRs work with the new DLR series out of the box using their factory default programming. The DTRs and DLRs can also be customized via CPS to set up private groups and 1 to 1 contacts and to tweak some feature settings. The Business Radio CPS is available as a free download from Motorola and programs all of their current business radio models. Programming cables are a separate purchase (about $40 each) and are readily available.

Note that the CPS is not needed to use DTRs and DLRs right out of the box with their factory default programming. Just charge the batteries up and then turn 'em on and go!

GMRS exit strategy:
The DTRs and DLRs are part of my exit strategy from GMRS since we know GMRS will likely get de-licensed someday and become a bubble pack only service. Experience with the DLRs and DTRs got me thinking about how I've used GMRS over the years and maybe there's something better that I could use instead and regardless of whether or not GMRS remains a licensed service. I've been GMRS licensed since 1992, long before the creation of FRS in 1996 and the ensuing bubble pack invasion which followed. When it comes right down to it, more than 99% of my use of GMRS over the years with good Part 90/95 commercial gear has always been for local simplex use. I have owned and maintained a few GMRS repeaters over the years but overall they haven't had a lot of use. The vast majority of my use of GMRS has always been for local simplex use with family and friends. After using my DLR1060 radios for the past year, I'm totally hooked on the DLRs and now the DTRs because they have actually been working equal or BETTER compared to GMRS simplex with 4W Part 90/95 commercial handhelds. I recently picked up some DTR650 radios after using the DLRs and getting bit by the 900MHz digital bug. I intend to stay GMRS licensed but now that I've "graduated" to the DTRs and DLRs I really could care less about GMRS and whether GMRS remains a licensed service. I will still have GMRS capability but 900MHz FHSS digital with the DTRs and DLRs are quickly taking over as my default mode for local on-site non-HAM personal communications.

I recommend checking out the DTRs and DLRs if you are interested in the technology and looking for an alternative to GMRS/FRS for local on-site type use. IMHO the DTRs are sort of an orphan child from Motorola and the technology seems to be under-utilized and under-appreciated. Motorola has gem of a product for their intended use. The more I use them the more I like them and don't mind getting away from GMRS and using the DTRs and DLRs full time for my local on-site simplex use.

Have fun!
The license deregulation was "asked" about in 2010 not prposed and this is 2017 they reduced the price to $65.00 and people seems to run with certain parts of the NPRM 10-119.I think we would have heard something by now and do not put much faith in deregulating GMRS.
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