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FRS external antenna

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digitaltinker

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Hi,
I was hoping that someone might be able to offer advice. My family has been using inexpensive FRS radios (Midalnd, Motorola) casually for many years skiing, on cruise ships, etc. We have a 7 year old that walks to school (about 1/4 mile) and we have been sending him with a radio, but we are having trouble as he gets close to school. There are a lot of stone/ledge obstructions between our home and his school. Is there a way that I could connect an external antenna to the radio (or even buy a radio with an antenna)? Cold I wire it myself (I'm reasonably handy with a soldering gun)?
I'm certain with a higher/larger antenna that I could solve my problem, just haven't been able to find a solution.
Thanks in advance!
 
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jackj

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As Anthony says an external antenna isn't legal. A radio used in the Family Radio Service must meet certain specs having to do with RF transmitting power. Is it possible to install one, yes but it would take more than a soldering gun.

Are you sure your radios are working right? You should be able to reach 1/4 mile without any problems.
 

KB0VWG

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Lyford, Texas
Try Gmrs

You might want to get a Gmrs License and the portable can go up to 5 watts. The base units can transmit up to 50 watts and use an external antenna. Its about $85 for 5 years for a gmrs license or get a ham radio license. Either one of these would be cheaper than a monthly cell phone plan.
kb0vwg
wqoi882
 

jaspence

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FRS antenna

The MURS radio also has the advantage of legal higher power, although they tend to cost more than FRS.
 
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Are you sure your radios are working right? You should be able to reach 1/4 mile without any problems.
The OP said there is a lot of stone and rock obstructions, depending on his terrain, it is very possible FRS won't work 1/4 mile. I have had them not work to the end of a normal city block. That was before I moved to (anything) about 1/2w TX pwr LOL
 

jackj

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You may be right, productionguy, but 1/4 mile is only about 1300 feet or a little over 4 football fields. If they have anything near a decent receiver sensitivity and the transmitter is making 250 mw, then they should work that far easly.
 
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You may be right, productionguy, but 1/4 mile is only about 1300 feet or a little over 4 football fields. If they have anything near a decent receiver sensitivity and the transmitter is making 250 mw, then they should work that far easly.
My Midland GXT-760 can get 1.25 miles maxium in an urban enviroment.If I am outside I can get 3 miles away.
 

tech020

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FRS antennas

While an attachable or modified antenna is not permitted on the FRS, no rules forbid passive antenna enhancements. If a suitable antenna were located in a better radio location, a low loss coaxial cable that was terminated in a several turns of insulated wire around the FRS units antenna might result in improved range. This is a simplified version of the distributed antenna systems used for public safety systems. Trial and errror, your mileage may vary, etc.
 

retiredinsemo

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I second the MURS radios. The only people I've seen/heard using FRS are children and some small Mom & Pop stores. Motorola MURS radios are used in many of large chain stores and appear quite effective and reliable. Our local Walmart and Sams Club uses MURS. They're not cheap but you get what you pay for in most cases.
 

ChetsJug

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I read lately that public utilities like UHF for going thru buildings and underground, while VHF is better for distance. VHF seems to bounce a little better and is not absorbed into say, rock and stone ledges?

Already said, MURS is 2watts and license free. But also having a screw on antenna leaves for an upgrade to a Longer, more efficient ducky.

But wait,there's more! You also get Part 95! Which means you can use a 60' tower ..... muahhahahaha

Or a 5' pole mounted on the peek of your roof. That would get you. A 20' high vantage on a single story dwelling.

Dakota Alert has a base unit with a BNC for coxial to external antennas. Not to mention a motion detector unit that's like a beam across your property. It sends a verbal alert to your units. You can use up to 4 of these critters to protect your perimeter. No I'm not a pitch man, but Dakota Alert has taken advantage of the whole system including the data use on the service.

With a roof antenna you could track your lil tyke for 2 miles. You might start a trend. All the moms calling all kids. It's lunch time! LOL
 

SCPD

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There is a reason the antennas on FRS radios are molded into the plastic and not removable so external antennas cannot be added by modifying them. Either get a GMRS license or do MURS. I think having a GMRS license is the better since there are more options for signal coverage. The cost of the license averages out to $16 per year ($80) for the 5 years and covers your family. Used radios are very reasonable now since the ones that could not be narrowbanded had to be replaced and usually sold on the bay.

GMRS is a good backup way to communicate when cell phones don't cut it.
 

digitaltinker

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Thank you and Follow Up

Thank you for all of the above replies and suggestions. I think that one of the solutions that allows more power (and requires and FCC license) is probably the best solution to our problem. That begs another question though: If I get a more powerful radio (and a license), can my 7 year old use it on the other radio? or Does the license only apply to me?
 

wa1nic

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You don't want to give your kid an expensive radio (you probably already know this).

What we do at my house is use an ICOM F21-GM as a base station. It runs 5 watts on GMRS/Shared FRS channels and you can connect an external antenna to it. We have a 9 dbi antenna on the roof for it. It also takes an external microphone which is nice for base use.

You can continue to use your FRS radios for the portable units.

The external antenna makes all the difference (both on transmit and also receive).

We use relatively cheap portable Motorola talkabouts (low power, probably like what your FRS radio is) and the base to portable range is about a mile.

You will legally need a GMRS license to do this of course.

There is, in theory, a minor incompatibility between FRS and GMRS radios dealing with the deviation requirements for the two services but in most cases it isn't a significant issue in practice.

Rick
 

digitaltinker

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Thanks for the suggestion. The ICOM F21-GM seems like it would be great but is no longer being manufactured. Is there a reasonably priced ($50-$200) quality alternative (happy to buy used) that could be used the same way? I'm thinking that it might be nice to wire up a base station in our kitchen and leave it for my wife to use. I can wire it to an external antenna I could mount on my roof. Thanks!
 

wtp

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Port Charlotte FL
quick and cheap

are both of you holding the antenna in a vertical position?
i used to get 2 miles on the hills (highway high points) here in florida, car to car.
horizontal makes you directional.
its cheap because you already have the radio, just modify the use.
just a thought..
 

digitaltinker

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Holding the radio vertical is something I didn't think to tell my 7 year old. Interestingly, sometimes I can hear him and sometimes I can't and I couldn't figure out why. I'll teach him to hold it vertical and report back. That is an excellent suggestion! Thanks!
 

wa1nic

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There are a few F21-GM's for sale on ebay right now... There is in fact one with a buy it now price of $100.

If you want to spend a bit more money, and want something way better, the ICOM F6021 will do a great job. It does require a12 volt power source. I use the F5021's (VHF rather than UHF) on my farm. My base station is a F5021 running off a 12 volt deep cycle batter that is on a float charger, meaning it will run for a few days even if I loose power.

The only drawback for you would be that it the F5021 is not front panel programmable. You would need the programming software and cable as well. By the time you added an antenna, you would be in the $600 range new. There are some used ones on ebay right now as well for mid-200's

There are probably other real GMRS HT's worth looking at. By "REAL", I mean 5 watts and an external antenna option.

There is the BaoFeng UV-5R (available from many sources). If you have the time to figure it out, it can be front panel programmed. There is free software (CHIRP) available that will make it a lot easier to program. You would need to programming cable (not expensive). The Baofengs work well and are amazingly cheap. I would recommend an external microphone for "Base" use. Radio, charger, programing cable and microphone would run WELL under $100 total (60-70 maybe). just add an antenna and an antenna adapter and you would be good to go. It puts out 5 watts. You would need the antenna adapter because it uses a goofy connector on it. BNC adapters are readily available.

Rick
 
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