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FRS vs. MURS Range

KK6HRW

Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2018
Messages
12
Now that FRS radios can transmit (on most channels) at the same power as MURS radios (two watts), how does the range of these ‘license-by-rule’ services compare (assuming equivalent attached antennas)?
Would FRS (UHF) have the edge through buildings or foliage while MURS (VHF) would excel over open surfaces?
 

n1das

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Feb 17, 2003
Messages
1,274
Location
Nashua, NH
I would expect FRS (UHF) to have the edge through buildings compared to MURS on VHF. Buildings are much more "open" at UHF compared to VHF. Building penetration should be better on UHF. I doubt you would be able to tell any difference due to the effects of foliage on trees. Many other factors will limit your range long before any effects of foliage will.

VHF handhelds are challenged by the lack of efficient antennas that are of a reasonable size that you would want on a VHF handheld and want to carry with you. A full quarter wave VHF whip antenna would be around 19 inches. A full quarter wave on a UHF handheld would be around 6 inches and is much easier to deal with. The rest of the radio more completely forms the other half of the antenna on UHF compared to VHF.

My pick is UHF. For simplex type use, I want reliable local coverage rather than try to set range records.
 
Last edited:

KK6HRW

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Sep 29, 2018
Messages
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A MURS Radio might perform well as a mobile unit, with its larger antenna on the outside of the vehicle.
 

NC1

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Feb 8, 2014
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Surry County, North Carolina
Unless you give us the scenario in which you will be using the radios, any direction we can provide could (and probably will) be useless. There are just too many variables that could substantially change the answer. If you are more specific in your question, the better the answer will be.
 

KK6HRW

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Sep 29, 2018
Messages
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Unless you give us the scenario in which you will be using the radios, any direction we can provide could (and probably will) be useless. There are just too many variables that could substantially change the answer. If you are more specific in your question, the better the answer will be.
I am thinking especially of communication between vehicles in a convoy or otherwise maneuvering within a few miles of each other. I have experienced many instances in which users of FRS radios from inside their cars were unable to make contact between the lead and tail end vehicles of a 10 unit convoy. Likewise for communication between nearby vehicles that are separated by gently rolling terrain. I am thinking that, for a “license free” service, MURS radios connected to rooftop antennas (e.g. ‘mag mounts”) might perform in a manner similar to the two meter band five watt radios that those of us with amateur licenses have used in similar circumstances.
 

SteveSimpkin

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Lancaster, CA
I am thinking especially of communication between vehicles in a convoy or otherwise maneuvering within a few miles of each other. I have experienced many instances in which users of FRS radios from inside their cars were unable to make contact between the lead and tail end vehicles of a 10 unit convoy. Likewise for communication between nearby vehicles that are separated by gently rolling terrain. I am thinking that, for a “license free” service, MURS radios connected to rooftop antennas (e.g. ‘mag mounts”) might perform in a manner similar to the two meter band five watt radios that those of us with amateur licenses have used in similar circumstances.
I agree. Getting the antenna out of the car's Faraday cage will make a big difference.
 

mmckenna

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Yeah, getting the antenna OUTSIDE is key. Trying to use a portable radio inside the car is not going to work very well.

Since you cannot install an external antenna on an FRS radio, that leaves you with MURS.
Get a MURS suitable radio, put a 1/4 wave antenna on the roof and you'll very likely get the coverage you need the majority of the time.
 

djewel6

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Joined
Mar 3, 2007
Messages
56
Location
Mesa, AZ
Just want to through this out here.. on a side note.. here in Phoenix Metro theres a reason why Fire/Hazard calls are on VHF and not the trunked systems because of exactly an issue with UHF (which is what 800mhz is in reality) has had issues getting out at times and caused safety issues on scene.. Its a known fact higher FM frequencies propogate less then lower ones its why new trunked systems have had so many issues because agencies used to VHF discovered their old repeated tower locations weren't enough.. If MURS had the output power hell if CB had the legal output power of GMRS youd seen different useage patterns. Decades back old VHF LO systems used in jurisdictions could cover hundreds of square miles with a single tower location up high..
 

GenJohnnyReb

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Joined
Apr 11, 2018
Messages
4
I’m not sure about FRS since the rule changes, but I did testing years ago and a half watt FRS couldn’t touch a MURS radio. It also depends on what you are testing. Revitis now makes a bubble pack MURS radio with fixed antenna. That would probably be a fair comparison to a bubble pack fixes antenna FRS radio with the new 2 watt limit (on shared channels). I still think the MURS with 2 watt would blow away the half watt FRS in most situations. Inside of buildings, FRS may have an edge. Where MURS shines is in mobile and base applications. I used several of the old Radio Shack, 19-1210 mobiles peaked up to exactly 2 watts (they are capable of doing 5 watts on business part 90, but would limit themselves to 1 watt on the MURS frequencies. The blue pot has to be turned to increase it to 2 watts. If you don’t have the right equipment, don’t do it or you may exceed limits). Anyway, you will want to buy a good antenna. For mobile units a good MaxRad or Laird NMO mount style was the way to go. Mag mounts often get pinched and don’t perform as well, a roof mount is usually the best, if your other half won’t kill you for drilling holes in the car. If you buy a retired police car it already has the holes cut sometimes. I actually bought my old squad car from the Fire/Rescue (I was EMS Chief) it was a nice Interceptor....drove it for years. I preferred the 5/8th wave antenna on vehicles as I am mostly in the rural areas and hey seems to go a bit further than 1/4 wave. If you are in a different environment, you may need to experiment. The base station was just a dingo ranger made by cushcraft. It sat at 60 feet on a well grounded tower and mast. I used LMR400 coax cable. Again a Radio Shack 19-1210. I was able to broadcast over most of our rescue squads revised district (other departments kept encroaching, eventually we had nothing). We had a few more dead spots than the 50 watt department radios and definitely less range as we could talk to dispatch even when the repeater was down on the 50 watters. I’d say about 15 miles on the “wimpy” MURS base to mobile. Maybe 5-7 miles mobile to mobile. That is another area where MURS crushes FRS is vehicle to vehicle. That detachable antenna is a real game changer. Also MAKE SURE your SWRs are nice and low, have a good ground and don’t chinch on coax cable. Licensed GMRS with real radios (not bubble packs) blows away MURS, because it also has detachable antennas, up to 50 watts of power AND repeaters! MURS is great and I’ll always be a fan, but I upgraded to GMRS so I could run repeaters and power, but MURS beats FRS hands down.
 

GenJohnnyReb

Newbie
Joined
Apr 11, 2018
Messages
4
I’m not sure about FRS since the rule changes, but I did testing years ago and a half watt FRS couldn’t touch a MURS radio. It also depends on what you are testing. Revitis now makes a bubble pack MURS radio with fixed antenna. That would probably be a fair comparison to a bubble pack fixes antenna FRS radio with the new 2 watt limit (on shared channels). I still think the MURS with 2 watt would blow away the half watt FRS in most situations. Inside of buildings, FRS may have an edge. Where MURS shines is in mobile and base applications. I used several of the old Radio Shack, 19-1210 mobiles peaked up to exactly 2 watts (they are capable of doing 5 watts on business part 90, but would limit themselves to 1 watt on the MURS frequencies. The blue pot has to be turned to increase it to 2 watts. If you don’t have the right equipment, don’t do it or you may exceed limits). Anyway, you will want to buy a good antenna. For mobile units a good MaxRad or Laird NMO mount style was the way to go. Mag mounts often get pinched and don’t perform as well, a roof mount is usually the best, if your other half won’t kill you for drilling holes in the car. If you buy a retired police car it already has the holes cut sometimes. I actually bought my old squad car from the Fire/Rescue (I was EMS Chief) it was a nice Interceptor....drove it for years. I preferred the 5/8th wave antenna on vehicles as I am mostly in the rural areas and hey seems to go a bit further than 1/4 wave. If you are in a different environment, you may need to experiment. The base station was just a dingo ranger made by cushcraft. It sat at 60 feet on a well grounded tower and mast. I used LMR400 coax cable. Again a Radio Shack 19-1210. I was able to broadcast over most of our rescue squads revised district (other departments kept encroaching, eventually we had nothing). We had a few more dead spots than the 50 watt department radios and definitely less range as we could talk to dispatch even when the repeater was down on the 50 watters. I’d say about 15 miles on the “wimpy” MURS base to mobile. Maybe 5-7 miles mobile to mobile. That is another area where MURS crushes FRS is vehicle to vehicle. That detachable antenna is a real game changer. Also MAKE SURE your SWRs are nice and low, have a good ground and don’t chinch on coax cable. Licensed GMRS with real radios (not bubble packs) blows away MURS, because it also has detachable antennas, up to 50 watts of power AND repeaters! MURS is great and I’ll always be a fan, but I upgraded to GMRS so I could run repeaters and power, but MURS beats FRS hands down.
***Ringo Ranger by Cushcraft not Dingo Ranger lol, fat fingers strike again.
 

bill4long

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Aug 6, 2012
Messages
920
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Earth
The BTech MURS is good. I have some.
They also make GMRS and Part 90 radios that are identical (except for required programming to get certified.)
 

spongella

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Feb 21, 2014
Messages
687
Location
W. NJ
OM, one thing you might want to consider is the number of FRS channels vs MURS channels.

Never used MURS but have had considerable experience in my former job with FRS and GMRS radios. Back then FRS radios were lower power; 1/2 watt with no provision for attaching an external antenna. I found that metal buildings attenuate signals severely. Outdoors is a completely different story. I recall that our FRS radios adequately provided comms inside a property of several acres. But, inside a vehicle I cannot say, we never tried that.

You stated you'll be using them mobile and I agree with previous posters on using mobile antennas for more distant communications, so any radio you purchase should have that option. You may want to consider GMRS licensing which will give you more options. Just check the rules regarding GMRS licenses. Years ago businesses could be licensed but that has changed.
 
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