Interested in GMRS and Need Advise

Which type?

  • GMRS is what you want.

    Votes: 5 55.6%
  • HAM is what you want.

    Votes: 2 22.2%
  • Other.

    Votes: 2 22.2%

  • Total voters
    9
  • Poll closed .

sophist2

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Joined
Feb 6, 2020
Messages
7
Hi everyone. I'm looking into getting a GMRS license for my household with the main purpose of using 5W GMRS handhelds for communications around town (<10mi) to my home. I'm not interested setting up a base station or repeater. My goal is to use two 5W GMRS handhelds and a GMRS repeater service for backup comms. I've been looking at https://nggmrs.org as they seem pretty close to my location (Decatur area, 30317). Would theirs or a similar network suit my purposes, or are 5W handhelds not going to cut it given the distance to the repeaters? Does anyone know of closer repeaters for GMRS in the Decatur area?

Also, is GMRS even what I'm looking for? I don't want to socialize with other licensees but simply want to communicate with my family. It seems 99.9% of the voice traffic is idle socializing talk. Would GMRS be appropriate for comms to my wife about Home Depot stuff and groceries?

Thanks in advance.
 

sophist2

Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2020
Messages
7
I'm by Decatur, and these are the closest NGGMRS repeaters to me. The southern one in Forest Park is located about 9 mi from my house.


82810
 

mmckenna

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GMRS is a great solution for family communications. That one of several applications it was designed for.

Many years ago, before I could get others in my family to get their amateur licenses, we used GMRS for all our family use. Worked very well. However, having the right equipment will be required. We had mobile radios in our vehicles, base radios at home, and access to a repeater system. We did have some hand held radios, but they are not as useful in long distance communications. While a repeater will help, your radio has to be able to reach the repeater. Since UHF tends to work by "line of sight", your antenna has to have a pretty clear shot at the repeater to work. Might be fine if you are outside a lot, but if you plan on using these inside a car, inside a house, or inside other buildings, you are going to have issues if hand held radios are your only radios.

As for if you can reach the repeater from your location, that's very difficult to say. Local terrain will play into it. One thing you could try is to talk to those that use or own the repeater and see what their own experience is. They should have a pretty good idea what the coverage is.

As for equipment….
If you really want to use this heavily, you'll want a base radio at your house with an antenna mounted outside. If you are planning on using this in vehicles, you'll really want some mobile radios properly installed in the vehicle, powered off the battery, and having a mounted UHF antenna on the roof. Hand held radios don't work well inside a steel/tinted glass box.

Amateur radio -could- be a good option. That's what we use, however each and every user will need to have a valid FCC amateur radio license, no exceptions.
GMRS has the benefit of one license covering everyone in your family.
 

MTS2000des

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Cobb County, GA Stadium Crime Zone
The one caveat with a system like this is that is closed, subscription based, but still shared. No one has exclusive use, and I think your family may grow quickly tired of the "idle chatter" and "ham radio style" ragchewing that goes on there. Coverage wise, the system is really designed for mobile radios with external antennas. Portable radio performance can very greatly in the terrain of north Georgia. To put it in perspective, I maintain a public safety trunking system for a living with 15 RF subsites and around 8,000 and growing radios. The system was designed for residential in-building coverage with 8db performance using a 5/8 wave whip antenna body worn. Wood frame structure at that. For one large county. While the system does extend further, it's primary coverage area requirements dictated the large number of sites.

This combined with tower top amplifiers, powerful base stations, and high dollar digital radios, there are still places with no coverage. Not trashing their system in anyway, as they have considerable investment in their network, and costs to operate quality repeaters of any kind have tremendous capital costs and ongoing costs that never stop. That being said, no one system can give optimum coverage with low cost subscribers. So set your coverage expectations low if all you're relying on are portable radios. Outdoor coverage is generally better than what one can expect indoors, but you'll never know until you try it.

mmckenna covered it. GMRS is designed for family and personal communications, including business provided all users are licensed or family members of licensees. It has it's place but before plunking down any investment on subscribers, you may want to see if you can get in touch with the organization and have someone assist you with coverage verification before proceeding further in procurement of radios.

As far as your poll, ham radio is a great hobby, and if one's interest is in RF and all things radio, it's the right place. Remember though, that ham repeaters while generally open, are private property of others whether they be clubs, non-profits, individuals and thus, one must be mindful. The old adage about guests and fish out of water apply. And of course, all members of the family must be duly licensed to operate. If your family isn't entertained by the net style traffic and ragchews on NOGMRS, they might not be that pleased with ham radio either.
 
Last edited:

scanmanmi

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Sep 25, 2011
Messages
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Location
Central Michigan
We're kind of in the same boat. I am rural with no handheld repeater access. A handheld "around town" will get you just that maybe. GMRS licenses are expensive and that repeater group you listed is $35/year/radio I believe. There are problably more ham repeaters that are accessible around you. For any distance you'll have to get a mobile. At least a mobile external antenna. Get your ham licenses and you'll have access to lots of products and frequencies. I can reach my HH about 8 miles with my 12db gain antenna at 40' and LMR400 coax. Sorry I don't live around there and can't be more of a help but I think you're going to be disappointed.
 

sophist2

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Joined
Feb 6, 2020
Messages
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We're kind of in the same boat. I am rural with no handheld repeater access. A handheld "around town" will get you just that maybe. GMRS licenses are expensive and that repeater group you listed is $35/year/radio I believe. There are problably more ham repeaters that are accessible around you. For any distance you'll have to get a mobile. At least a mobile external antenna. Get your ham licenses and you'll have access to lots of products and frequencies. I can reach my HH about 8 miles with my 12db gain antenna at 40' and LMR400 coax. Sorry I don't live around there and can't be more of a help but I think you're going to be disappointed.
For me, the issue with HAM is the barrier to entry. I don't have the time to mess around with classes and take a test in order to operate a radio. GMRS is more attractive because there's no test and covers your whole family. My wife is not going to waste time getting a HAM license either unless I really beg her, so GMRS is a much more attractive option for all those red tape reasons. The only issue with GMRS other than the higher licensing fees is the distinct lack of repeaters in my area as compared to HAM.
 

MTS2000des

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Jul 12, 2008
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Location
Cobb County, GA Stadium Crime Zone
The only issue with GMRS other than the higher licensing fees is the distinct lack of repeaters in my area as compared to HAM.
Repeaters (good ones) are costly, whether they be ham, GMRS, commercial or public safety. The equipment itself can cost thousands to tens of thousands alone, the site is what makes the magic. Good sites that provide good coverage cost good money, and these recurring costs have to be paid by someone. This is why an organization like NOGMRS had to go to a "user fee" structure to simply attempt to break even to cover the costs of things like electricity, network connectivity, maintenance of the sites itself, etc.

The lack of available infrastructure on GMRS is relative to the high cost of entry. Someone has to fund it. Ham repeaters generally have been around longer and many exist because they have a support network of dedicated people paying the bills and investing their own time and money to keep them going. GMRS being a largely personal use service doesn't make this practical. NOGMRS was able to make it work but they had to revert to a subscription model of charging user fees as relying on donations and the good will of their users alone wasn't enough to pay the costs of such a system.

For me, the issue with HAM is the barrier to entry. I don't have the time to mess around with classes and take a test in order to operate a radio.
Honestly then it doesn't sound like ham radio is for you or your family. Ham radio is a hobby for those with a non-pecuniary interest in advancing the art of radio communication and having conversations with others. While it is perfectly lawful and okay to use it for personal (non-business) communications among family members who are also licensed, it's really a radio service for radio enthusiasts and as I said before, if the "radio geek" chatter seems to get in the way of your desire to keep up with the wife and family only, it probably isn't going to work for you.
 

w4amp

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Jan 3, 2013
Messages
337
Location
Dallas, Georgia
Hi everyone. I'm looking into getting a GMRS license for my household with the main purpose of using 5W GMRS handhelds for communications around town (<10mi) to my home. I'm not interested setting up a base station or repeater. My goal is to use two 5W GMRS handhelds and a GMRS repeater service for backup comms. I've been looking at https://nggmrs.org as they seem pretty close to my location (Decatur area, 30317). Would theirs or a similar network suit my purposes, or are 5W handhelds not going to cut it given the distance to the repeaters? Does anyone know of closer repeaters for GMRS in the Decatur area?

Also, is GMRS even what I'm looking for? I don't want to socialize with other licensees but simply want to communicate with my family. It seems 99.9% of the voice traffic is idle socializing talk. Would GMRS be appropriate for comms to my wife about Home Depot stuff and groceries?

Thanks in advance.

Might just look into adding push to talk to your cell plan. You have privacy there. Anything over GMRS and amateur radio will be in the clear.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Messages
3,768
I would listen to the closest repeaters to see how family freindly they are. then talk to the owners about coming on board. If the repeater uses a community repeater tone panel, you might be able to get a privacy tone that will block out the chit chat. Just be sure to disable it and monitor the channel before barging in. Absent that option, DTMF signalling can be used to unmute each other's radio before a conversation. However that could be annoying to others unless they might entertain that capability. It requires a radio to have DTMF encode and decode capability. The repeater owner will set the rules.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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Dec 22, 2013
Messages
3,768
Georgia seems to have a lot of GMRS activity so it is a good comm method to consider.
 

sophist2

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Joined
Feb 6, 2020
Messages
7
Might just look into adding push to talk to your cell plan. You have privacy there. Anything over GMRS and amateur radio will be in the clear.
Nah, I'd be in the same boat I'm in now. I really don't want to rely on cell service as a backup comm to cell service.
 
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