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A CBer and commercial radio host's take on GMRS

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FPR1981

Active Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2021
Messages
597
In the interest of full disclosure, and without shame, I'd like to get this out there right now. Let the chicken bander jokes fly, because yours truly is a CBer πŸ˜…πŸ˜…πŸ˜…πŸ˜…

Yes, I have an education. Yes, I have a career, but something about the CB has always fascinated me, and I can't tell you why. I am also a former broadcaster. I worked in AM and FM commercial radio on the programming and air staff side for 7 years, but also assisted our engineers on the tech side when requested.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, here's why I'm here. I first acquired a Radio Shack FRS walkie talkie in 1999. I was pleasantly surprised at the range, as prior to seeing this, little was available to the consumer that was affordable and decent.

I had a set of Midland and Cobra FRS/GMRS walkie talkies later, but did very little with them.

In any event, having seen that Midland came out with mobile units, and that the Jeep people were really getting into them, I gave them a second look. I bought a Tram dual band magnet Mount and stuck it on the car.

And yes, I did something I probably shouldn't have. I removed the antenna out of my Cobra Microtalk walkie talkie and installed an SMA jack. However, the vast majority of my interest at this point has been monitoring and not actually using this half-watt Monster.

The first day I heard kids goofing off on multiple channels. Then each day on channel 8 I hear a business running vehicle descriptions all day non stop. Not sure what they're doing, but if you politely ask them for a radio check, they promptly run from you, giving code and switching to another channel.

I caught a convo on an FRS channel, waited for a break in their conversation and then politely asked if my radio was working. I was told, "Get the f--- off my channel."

Well, okay then...

I've listened a lot, and find that the band is overrun with people on low-quality walkie talkies with low vocal quality/low modulation. Most of the time it sounds lkle the users are talking with the radio a foot away from their mouths.

If there's static in there with their transmission then forget it. They might as well be whispering.

Is this lack of audio quality in modulation a product of the band, or a product of the crappy walkie talkies in use? On the other end, I don't like the CBer with the over modulated power mic either, but it's always nice to be able to clearly hear what the other other party is saying.

Thoughts?
 

03msc

RF is RF
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 3, 2011
Messages
4,024
Location
The Natural State
You're talking about hearing FRS most likely (shared with some GMRS frequencies, as you know).

And what you're talking about is exactly what FRS exists for - low-cost radios to chat within a confined area (business property, family property, a mall while out shopping with the family, etc.).

I saw your posts in the other thread and this here - it sounds like you're thinking FRS is a more sophisticated radio service than it is. It's not. Nor was it designed to be. What you're hearing is exactly what the service was created for.

It's not for rag chewing or radio checks - it's for a group of users to communicate with each other, not random other users.

Now, GMRS may be that in some areas - I've heard of some repeaters being up where local GMRS users use it similar to CB: "Hey Jim, how's it going?" "Oh I'm good, heading over to the store to pick up some meat for tonight." or whatever is sometimes the case in a few areas with local users on GMRS repeaters. But even GMRS is often confined to a family unit communicating with each other and not really just random contacts. It's not CB just like FRS really isn't, either.

So...I've been somewhat confused by what seems to be...complaints?...from you that the service isn't being used how you think it should...but, from what you describe, it's being used exactly how it was designed.

You asked for thoughts so there are mine. Am I misunderstanding your post?
 

FPR1981

Active Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2021
Messages
597
Nope. That's a fair answer.

I'm just now getting a feel for what that band actually is, and I'm asking other more experienced minds if what I'm seeing is the way it is abroad and where my expectations should lie.
 

FPR1981

Active Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2021
Messages
597
But, there seems to be a movement to make the service better, and in some cases more like CB. With the release of higher quality mobile units, better antennas, base station conversions and use by the Jeep folks, there seems to be a second direction for the band, and that would be my interest in it.
 

TailGator911

Silent Key/KF4ANC
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
2,687
Location
Fairborn, OH
People will run down CBs because of all the jerks using profanity and their lack of radio etiquette, which is well-deserved. I drove a big truck for 17 years and it was a very useful tool in my career. Now retired, I belong to our local Neighborhood Watch group and the CB is again a very useful form of communications simply because you need no license. I use a Galaxy DX-2547 base station and a Solarcon Antron A-99 vertical antenna on a mast 25ft up. When we do radio checks I am always told I have the best signal with full quieting and I have motivated a few others to upgrade to my specifications. As a result, our comms are now much more efficient between neighbors, all within a 2-mile square area, but growing. We now have 14 members and I am usually net control. CB radio is very much alive and in use in my neck of the woods.
 

FPR1981

Active Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2021
Messages
597
People will run down CBs because of all the jerks using profanity and their lack of radio etiquette, which is well-deserved. I drove a big truck for 17 years and it was a very useful tool in my career. Now retired, I belong to our local Neighborhood Watch group and the CB is again a very useful form of communications simply because you need no license. I use a Galaxy DX-2547 base station and a Solarcon Antron A-99 vertical antenna on a mast 25ft up. When we do radio checks I am always told I have the best signal with full quieting and I have motivated a few others to upgrade to my specifications. As a result, our comms are now much more efficient between neighbors, all within a 2-mile square area, but growing. We now have 14 members and I am usually net control. CB radio is very much alive and in use in my neck of the woods.

I left CB for 21 years. It was a sewer. But since returning, it's much calmer, the base stations in use are few and far between, but they are decent people. It's actually enjoyable again.
 

FPR1981

Active Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2021
Messages
597
Regarding FRS and GMRS, I always knew there was more capability to that band than what was marketed to most consumers. Midland is trying to up the ante with a 40-watt mobile GMRS rig.

I've seen mobile to mobile communications be crystal clear at 30 miles. With a ground plane high in the air, I'm sure base station to base station communications could be easily double that with that kind of output power.

Midland and the Jeepers are clearly pushing it that way. I see Midland released a power supply/external speaker base station hub, and they clearly explain in their literature how to use a regulated power supply to turn their mobiles into base stations.

I will be interested to see the future of GMRS.
 

p1879

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Messages
366
Those constant "vehicle descriptions" are very likely highway construction flag-persons, often describing the last, or first vehicle before traffic is stopped, started, or switched.
 

chief21

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Mar 2, 2004
Messages
1,817
Location
Summer - Western NC; Winter - Tampa Bay FL
While GMRS might be used much the same as CB in certain areas, in my experience it is typically much more limited to use by (and within) discrete user groups... children, families, neighbors, jeep clubs, etc.., as opposed to random individuals looking for contacts. FRS users are even more diverse since no license is required and business use is common.

Before the creation of FRS, the licensed GMRS frequencies were a haven of sorts for serious personal users. Then came FRS - initially limited to the 14 so-called interstitial frequencies. Then came the FRS/GMRS radios - a clever marketing idea combining both licensed and unlicensed channels in the same radio. Sure, I know... unlicensed FRS users were expected to not use the eight licensed GMRS channels. What could go wrong?

Now, after the most recent rule changes, all 22 FRS and GMRS simplex channels are fair game for FRS users and the only safe haven for serious GMRS users are the GMRS repeater pairs and selective squelch. Progress?
 

prcguy

Member
Joined
Jun 30, 2006
Messages
15,583
Location
So Cal - Richardson, TX - Tewksbury, MA
I started using GMRS around 1978 with a tube type GE Progress line radio in my car and my boss had a couple of radios including a Motorola HT-220. We used it for both business and hobby and rented a repeater on an 11,500ft mountain. Later in the 80s I owned a fleet of GMRS repeaters and all my friends had radios, it was like our personal telephone system.

Today I still have GMRS radios and repeaters but don't really use them as most of my friends have amateur licenses and we use my amateur repeaters. In fact just yesterday I was checking the programming on a big pile of old Bendix King 50 watt mobiles that were our favorite for GMRS. GMRS is still a good service and with commercial quality radios there is no reason your comms cant be as good as and sound as nice as your local police department radios.

FRS is for kids, get a good quality commercial radio on GMRS and enjoy the range and voice quality. With good base and mobile antennas the range without a repeater can be very far depending on terrain but a repeater can really make it nice. GMRS is what you make it, go cheap with kid toy radios and that will be your experience. Get a nice setup with all your friends and you can have a good reliable means of communications.

But, there seems to be a movement to make the service better, and in some cases more like CB. With the release of higher quality mobile units, better antennas, base station conversions and use by the Jeep folks, there seems to be a second direction for the band, and that would be my interest in it.
 

03msc

RF is RF
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 3, 2011
Messages
4,024
Location
The Natural State
Locally, there is a nightly CB 'net' much like ham radio nets. Now, initially I thought it was weird and silly, to be completely honest, but my dad (also a ham) pulled how an old CB and threw up and antenna and now checks in nightly. They actually kind of serve a purpose in that it maintains regular contact and would be somewhere to listen if there was some sort of big emergency or disaster. But, it's still CB and occasionally someone tries to 'step on' them or interrupt their comms. Do I think it's official, like ham? No. Can it serve a purpose? Sure. All about area and the users involved.

GMRS and FRS are not the same, of course. They do share some of the same freqs but aren't the same.

GMRS is certainly more robust with higher power mobiles/base stations, etc. Definitely better quality communications (i.e. modulation, radios) there than the FRS bubble pack radios.

Again, though they overlap, they are two different services. In our state they are working on getting a linked GMRS repeater system up. Other areas have good ones in place already. Is it CB? Absolutely not. Is it ham? Nope. FRS? Not at all. It's GMRS.
 
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kirk5056

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Nov 21, 2004
Messages
77
Location
East Lansing Michigan
Did I read this right? If you dont like how someone else is using a channel you think you can break into their conversation and demand a radio check? Cant you just change channels or PL codes?
 

K4EET

Chaplain
Joined
Feb 18, 2015
Messages
2,227
Location
Severn, Maryland, USA
Around my immediate location, I hardly hear any activity on FRS/GMRS/MURS frequencies which I have programmed into the scanner. I don't know if that is indicative of the activity in the Baltimore-Annapolis corridor or not. From the conversations that I have heard, I'd say it runs about 50/50 on being rated G and R. :ROFLMAO:
 

GlobalNorth

Active Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 2, 2020
Messages
2,143
Location
Fort Misery
The last CB radio I had was the factory installed "premium" radio on my 1999 Harley and it was usable for about a 1/4 of a mile on the Interstate. After my first road trip, I never turned it on again.
 

FPR1981

Active Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2021
Messages
597
Did I read this right? If you dont like how someone else is using a channel you think you can break into their conversation and demand a radio check? Cant you just change channels or PL codes?

Apparently telling me to get the eff off their channel was easier
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Messages
6,992
In the interest of full disclosure, and without shame, I'd like to get this out there right now. Let the chicken bander jokes fly, because yours truly is a CBer πŸ˜…πŸ˜…πŸ˜…πŸ˜…

Yes, I have an education. Yes, I have a career, but something about the CB has always fascinated me, and I can't tell you why. I am also a former broadcaster. I worked in AM and FM commercial radio on the programming and air staff side for 7 years, but also assisted our engineers on the tech side when requested.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, here's why I'm here. I first acquired a Radio Shack FRS walkie talkie in 1999. I was pleasantly surprised at the range, as prior to seeing this, little was available to the consumer that was affordable and decent.

I had a set of Midland and Cobra FRS/GMRS walkie talkies later, but did very little with them.

In any event, having seen that Midland came out with mobile units, and that the Jeep people were really getting into them, I gave them a second look. I bought a Tram dual band magnet Mount and stuck it on the car.

And yes, I did something I probably shouldn't have. I removed the antenna out of my Cobra Microtalk walkie talkie and installed an SMA jack. However, the vast majority of my interest at this point has been monitoring and not actually using this half-watt Monster.

The first day I heard kids goofing off on multiple channels. Then each day on channel 8 I hear a business running vehicle descriptions all day non stop. Not sure what they're doing, but if you politely ask them for a radio check, they promptly run from you, giving code and switching to another channel.

I caught a convo on an FRS channel, waited for a break in their conversation and then politely asked if my radio was working. I was told, "Get the f--- off my channel."

Well, okay then...

I've listened a lot, and find that the band is overrun with people on low-quality walkie talkies with low vocal quality/low modulation. Most of the time it sounds lkle the users are talking with the radio a foot away from their mouths.

If there's static in there with their transmission then forget it. They might as well be whispering.

Is this lack of audio quality in modulation a product of the band, or a product of the crappy walkie talkies in use? On the other end, I don't like the CBer with the over modulated power mic either, but it's always nice to be able to clearly hear what the other other party is saying.

Thoughts?

The FRS radios and many of the consumer GMRS radios employ "narrow band" modulation that is less than half the authorized deviation for GMRS radio. So fidelity sucks. To properly enjoy all the performance of GMRS requires a commercial grade radio with "wide band" deviation 16K0F3E or 20K0F3E. Check the FCC ID on the radio and look at the FCC grant. Buy a radio that works properly. You can buy a lot of used commercial grade radios for very little money. Ham radios and BaoFengs wont work well on GMRS. The receiver performance is actually more important than the transmitter.

I am a ham, soon upgrading to General , Also a GROL. My new focus for mobile ops will include 27 MHz SSB/AM CB, VHF Low band ham and LB Part 90 as well as GMRS. Add to that Uniden BCD536HP scanner. 27 MHz CB has a lot of value on the open road. You are more likely to hail a passing trucker than a ham operator.

I want capabilities on as many personal services as possible when mobile. I am not a "rag chewer", but want the ability to hear what is going on around me at all times. I think in these uncertain times the chances of being without commercial cellular and other utilities is a given.
 

bill4long

Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2012
Messages
1,501
Location
Indianapolis
I will be interested to see the future of GMRS.

Here's one such future:


And another here. You can listen to the networks live. Lots of activity at various hours. And a national net on sundays. I'm listening to the Midwest network as I write this.

 
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