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Old 06-29-2017, 4:44 PM
   
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Default What makes a radio commercial grade?

I am relatively new to radio and am having a hard time finding out some information. So at work we are in need of getting some more radios. We use Motorola's which are crazy expensive and are looking for cheaper alternatives. I have at home a Beofeng UV-5R I use as a scanner. I was wondering how you can determine a radio is legal to operate on commercial band frequency's? Is that what Part 90 is?
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Old 06-29-2017, 5:35 PM
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Depends on which country you are located in. We often assume everyone is in the USA, but not always the case. It would help us to give accurate advice if you can tell us where you are.

But, yes, in the USA almost all radios have to have some form of FCC Type Acceptance. This shows that the radio design has been tested to comply with the standards required by the FCC to be used under that section.

Mass produced amateur radios don't have type certification on their transmitters, but often do on the receivers, so they are ONLY legal to use on the amateur radio bands.

Commercial/business use almost always falls under FCC Rules Part 90, so if your employer has an FCC license for their business, the radios are required to be type accepted under the Part 90 rules.
Failing to use properly type accepted radios can result in fines from the FCC.

The Beofeng radios -often- have Part 90 certifications, but it's always a good idea to check to be sure. There are some of these lower end Chinese radios that do not have type certifications to be used anywhere other than the amateur radio bands.

On the rear of the radio there should be a sticker that will have an FCC ID. Use that ID to check here:
https://www.fcc.gov/oet/ea/fccid

lf the radio has Part 90 certification, AND, it meets the requirements of your license (power output, frequency, emission, etc.) then it's legal.


However, be careful with these lower tier radios. While they are inexpensive, they are no where near as durable as the Motorola's. If you talk them into purchasing a bunch of Beofengs and that start failing at a high rate, they may take offense.

Motorola radios ARE ridiculously expensive, that much is true. There are many other options though. Icom, Kenwood and a few others make radios that will work with your Motorla's. They'll be cheaper and if you get the correct model, will be just as durable.
They will cost more than the Chinese models, but they will likely outlast them.

I work professionally in the industry, and I'd never recommend one of these low end Chinese radios for any sort of critical application. In fact, I'd never recommend them at all. They are fine for hobby use, but they are proven to be unreliable and are generally of poor quality. They lack necessary filtering to allow them to work in high RF noise environments. Some have been tested and do not meet the Part 90 certifications at all.

As they say, buyer beware.
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Old 06-29-2017, 6:11 PM
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Commercial radios aren't necessarily "better" they simply meet FCC requirements for that service

Motorola historically has always been the gold standard in two way radios and their specs are usually better than Kenwood, ICOM, and Vertex equipment

I've bid against Motorola for decades with Kenwood, GE, ICOM, Tait, Bendix King, and Vertex and beating their price is easy but beating their specs is another matter

To this day for example the Motorola MSF5000 repeater is still in great demand because its front end specs have no equal

I would NEVER use a Baofeng or any other throw away radio
for any application where communications is important or lives are on the line

They are quite easily desensed and are easily rendered useless by intermod
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Old 06-29-2017, 8:10 PM
   
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmckenna View Post
Depends on which country you are located in. We often assume everyone is in the USA, but not always the case. It would help us to give accurate advice if you can tell us where you are.

But, yes, in the USA almost all radios have to have some form of FCC Type Acceptance. This shows that the radio design has been tested to comply with the standards required by the FCC to be used under that section.

Mass produced amateur radios don't have type certification on their transmitters, but often do on the receivers, so they are ONLY legal to use on the amateur radio bands.

Commercial/business use almost always falls under FCC Rules Part 90, so if your employer has an FCC license for their business, the radios are required to be type accepted under the Part 90 rules.
Failing to use properly type accepted radios can result in fines from the FCC.

The Beofeng radios -often- have Part 90 certifications, but it's always a good idea to check to be sure. There are some of these lower end Chinese radios that do not have type certifications to be used anywhere other than the amateur radio bands.

On the rear of the radio there should be a sticker that will have an FCC ID. Use that ID to check here:
https://www.fcc.gov/oet/ea/fccid

lf the radio has Part 90 certification, AND, it meets the requirements of your license (power output, frequency, emission, etc.) then it's legal.


However, be careful with these lower tier radios. While they are inexpensive, they are no where near as durable as the Motorola's. If you talk them into purchasing a bunch of Beofengs and that start failing at a high rate, they may take offense.

Motorola radios ARE ridiculously expensive, that much is true. There are many other options though. Icom, Kenwood and a few others make radios that will work with your Motorla's. They'll be cheaper and if you get the correct model, will be just as durable.
They will cost more than the Chinese models, but they will likely outlast them.

I work professionally in the industry, and I'd never recommend one of these low end Chinese radios for any sort of critical application. In fact, I'd never recommend them at all. They are fine for hobby use, but they are proven to be unreliable and are generally of poor quality. They lack necessary filtering to allow them to work in high RF noise environments. Some have been tested and do not meet the Part 90 certifications at all.

As they say, buyer beware.
Thanks for the very informative information.
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Old 06-29-2017, 9:27 PM
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To this day for example the Motorola MSF5000 repeater is still in great demand because its front end specs have no equal
Seriously? Ours wandered like a drunk dog looking for a hydrant to pee on. Every 6 months they had to be tuned.

True, when they worked they worked well, but the constant maintenance made me hate those things.

"MSF = Might Stay on Frequency".
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Old 06-29-2017, 10:41 PM
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I'll add that radio manufacturers tend to look at it as "markets" or "verticals".

"business use" - Retail, light industrial, hospitality. Usually minimal features, basic user interface, light duty, low or no water resistance ratings, often "pre-programmed" or pre-programmed channels you choose from. Usually designed to be "idiot proof", as in minimal controls that an inexperienced user can mess up, primarily will have on/off-volume control, push to talk button. Maybe a channel selector and an option button or two. Single pin or two pin audio connectors, if any. Slightly above the consumer grade radios (FRS/GMRS, etc.). Built in battery (maybe), 1/2 - 2 watts.

"light industrial" - Construction, warehouse, hospital, educational, security. A few more features, more user accessible controls, more channels. Maybe trunking capable. Generally a slightly more durable radio, a bit of drop resistance, maybe some splash/rain proof ratings, interchangeable batteries for extended run time, 2 - 5 watts.

"Industrial" - Heavy construction, facility maintenance, education, hospitals, security, transportation, petro-chemical etc. More features, more robust design, maybe display and more option buttons. Usually have higher water resistance, dust ratings. Single/dual pin audio, or multi-pin audio connectors. Might have IS/ATEX ratings for explosive atmosphere, might have basic encryption/scrambling. Trunking, etc.

"Heavy industrial/Public safety" - Heavy industrial use, manufacturing, police, fire, EMS, etc. These radios usually have a higher level of dust/water intrusion ratings. Often really designed to get beat up, every day/shift use. Higher tier encryption, AES/DES, etc. Sometimes submersible rating (1 meter/30 minutes), IS/ATEX, high duration batteries, multi-pin accessory connectors, option ports,over the air programming, trunking/P25, display, full keypad, encryption, etc. Large selection of options, GPS integration, GPS speaker mics, headsets, heavy duty cases. These are often the types of radios you can use a wheel chocks, batons, self defense, perpetrator subduing, etc. Going to be expensive, but designed for years/decade of constant use. Police officer proof, etc.

"Higher end public safety/military" - Fire fighting use. While law enforcement likes to think they are the most demanding radio users, it's usually fire agencies that have higher requirements. Often IS/ATEX is a requirement, as in they can be used in an explosive atmosphere. Long run time batteries, over the air programming, over the air rekeying, blue tooth, microSD, voice announce, fully submersible, hundreds of features, display, full keypad, encryption AES/DES or higher, trunking, P25, lots of channel capacity for interoperability, over the air rekeying of encryption, huge range of accessories, often cost thousands of dollars to ten thousand each. "AKA - Taxpayer funded radios", as in "money is no object".

Basic idea of how the market is set up.
Down near the lower tier stuff, there are a lot of manufacturers, including many of the low end Chinese. As you move up towards the higher end stuff, there are few manufacturers, mostly US/Canadian/Western Europe.

And before anyone starts an argument, this is just a basic example, not intended to be a complete and exhaustive list. Just trying to give the new guy an idea…..
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Last edited by mmckenna; 06-29-2017 at 10:45 PM..
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Old 06-29-2017, 10:44 PM
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They are in demand by hams because of their receiver
Maybe drifting a couple KCs up or down goes unnoticed ; )

I'd still take a Micor or Master 2 any day over any of the new repeaters

I have Icoms and Kenwoods that run fine at most sites with 6 can duplexers and no preamp but I used to run 4 can duplexers and preamps on the my Master 2s and Micors with no trouble
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Old 06-30-2017, 12:19 AM
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Originally Posted by mmckenna View Post
Seriously? Ours wandered like a drunk dog looking for a hydrant to pee on. Every 6 months they had to be tuned.

True, when they worked they worked well, but the constant maintenance made me hate those things.

"MSF = Might Stay on Frequency".
They're rock solid radios, and I really like 'em, but you have to make your peace with them as they age. Pull the boards and clean the connector contacts. Clean the tin whiskers out of the VCO's. Resolder the omega links in the PA. Clean the multiplier and preselector. Resolder the power set pot back onto the uniboard. Etc.

Once that's done and the radio is realigned, it'll easily run for another 5 years. Of course, when you have a few hundred of them, it can keep you pretty busy. Oh no! That means getting out of the office, and a 4WD trek to a site somewhere to play with radios. Somewhere along the way, you think to yourself "heh heh heh... they PAY me for this!"

No, I really don't mind MSF5Ks one little bit. =)
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Old 06-30-2017, 12:31 AM
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I only had five of them, and since the 6809 controller was taking regular dumps all over the floor, I got rid of the whole damn mess.

As for wandering around in the truck, I've managed to keep that a regular part of my routine. As a manager I just call them "site checks". Some sites get checked more often than others.
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Old 06-30-2017, 12:53 AM
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Compare receiver specifications. Having superior specs like Intermodulation and adjacent channel rejection cost manufacturers time and money during the design, development, pilot run and manufacturing phases. Those cheap radios have crappy receivers. It isn't all about being super sensitive on the test bench, a receiver needs to deal with strong signals in and out of band. A crappy receiver might have wonderful sensitivity on the bench, but in real world it will fail.

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Old 06-30-2017, 9:31 AM
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Quote:
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To this day for example the Motorola MSF5000 repeater is still in great demand because its front end specs have no equal
Perhaps where you are. Here no one wants anything to do with them, especially when Quantars and MTR2000s can be had for reasonable prices. Looking at the actual spec sheet, for the MSF5000, I can find several later model repeaters with better advertised specs when it comes to the front end.
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Old 06-30-2017, 12:09 PM
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Perhaps where you are. Here no one wants anything to do with them, especially when Quantars and MTR2000s can be had for reasonable prices. Looking at the actual spec sheet, for the MSF5000, I can find several later model repeaters with better advertised specs when it comes to the front end.
Do the MSF stations suffer the tin whisker problem? Those VCO and preselector cavities could be a problem.



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Old 06-30-2017, 4:04 PM
   
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Another question so at work we have a Motorola gr500 repeater. I was able dig up a channel list with all the frequency information. Now here's were things get interesting. It lists the transmit frequency and receive frequency as them same for the repeater. I was under the impression repeaters required an offset to operate or are there repeaters or system configurations that do not require one?
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Old 06-30-2017, 5:30 PM
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Another question so at work we have a Motorola gr500 repeater. I was able dig up a channel list with all the frequency information. Now here's were things get interesting. It lists the transmit frequency and receive frequency as them same for the repeater. I was under the impression repeaters required an offset to operate or are there repeaters or system configurations that do not require one?
Someone does not know how write up "frequency list'" The repeater has a different "list". So you may need to look up the License for the correct information. Just a note here, we find a lot of 'customers' who are not on the frequencies they are licensed for....... or not even licensed.
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Old 06-30-2017, 5:32 PM
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Originally Posted by zz0468 View Post
They're rock solid radios, and I really like 'em, but you have to make your peace with them as they age. Pull the boards and clean the connector contacts. Clean the tin whiskers out of the VCO's. Resolder the omega links in the PA. Clean the multiplier and preselector. Resolder the power set pot back onto the uniboard. Etc.

Once that's done and the radio is realigned, it'll easily run for another 5 years. Of course, when you have a few hundred of them, it can keep you pretty busy. Oh no! That means getting out of the office, and a 4WD trek to a site somewhere to play with radios. Somewhere along the way, you think to yourself "heh heh heh... they PAY me for this!"

No, I really don't mind MSF5Ks one little bit. =)
That IS part of Preventive Maintenance. Something we do.
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Old 06-30-2017, 8:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmckenna View Post
I only had five of them, and since the 6809 controller was taking regular dumps all over the floor, I got rid of the whole damn mess.
Yep. They do that. There was a similar treatment for the controller that would settle them down quite nicely. The treatment is frightening to watch, but very very effective.

Quote:
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As for wandering around in the truck, I've managed to keep that a regular part of my routine. As a manager I just call them "site checks". Some sites get checked more often than others.
You sound like a manager who's kept his priorities straight!
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Old 07-01-2017, 1:50 AM
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Quote:
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Yep. They do that. There was a similar treatment for the controller that would settle them down quite nicely. The treatment is frightening to watch, but very very effective.
Motorola's famous leaky capacitors. Board was etched, surprised it lasted as long as it did. I was happy to shut that system down.



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You sound like a manager who's kept his priorities straight!
Damn skippy. When I moved from tech to management one of my stipulations was that I'd keep my tools and truck. I could never be a manager that just sat in the office staring at a computer all day. Too much good stuff outside. I was taught "MBWA", Management By Walking Around.
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Old 07-01-2017, 1:55 AM
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Yep. They do that. There was a similar treatment for the controller that would settle them down quite nicely. The treatment is frightening to watch, but very very effective.



You sound like a manager who's kept his priorities straight!
Bad 5 Volt power supplies. Awful power conditioning requirements pre UPS era. I saw a system go into failsoft because an aircondioner kicked on. Of course the system was plugged int an extension cord. Those were the days.
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Old 07-01-2017, 5:37 PM
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I'd still take a Micor or Master 2 any day over any of the new repeaters
As a former owner of a GESS in deep Southeast Texas (Corpus Christi), I have always been fond of the MASTR II repeaters, especially the terrific front end.

Unfortunately however, with the closure of International Crystals, I haven't been able to find anyone else capable of supplying re-crystaled ICOMs for them.
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Old 07-01-2017, 6:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zz0468 View Post
They're rock solid radios, and I really like 'em, but you have to make your peace with them as they age. Pull the boards and clean the connector contacts. Clean the tin whiskers out of the VCO's. Resolder the omega links in the PA. Clean the multiplier and preselector. Resolder the power set pot back onto the uniboard. Etc.

Once that's done and the radio is realigned, it'll easily run for another 5 years. Of course, when you have a few hundred of them, it can keep you pretty busy. Oh no! That means getting out of the office, and a 4WD trek to a site somewhere to play with radios. Somewhere along the way, you think to yourself "heh heh heh... they PAY me for this!"

No, I really don't mind MSF5Ks one little bit. =)
I would gladly give you the 72 I had in service until the end of 2015. I've never been so glad to see them go. Every other month the VCO cans had to get a "concrete calibration" to rid the whiskers, drifting TX causes huge problems in simulcast, every month it was reset levels.

The GTR8000 blows the pants of the ancient technology of the MSF line. Great front end and reliable as ever. SWDL makes life easier, never have to visit a site unless a board fails- which has yet to happen.

An agency much larger than me with a 28 channel 11 site system has 1st gen GTRs and have had not a ONE fail in almost 10 years.

You can keep those old crusty crystal filled MSF.
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