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Radio Rentals for Events

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iceman977th

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I'd like to apologize in advance if this is in the wrong section...if this fits another section better, mods feel free to move it

So I'm looking at purchasing some portable radios for my live production company (and ones I work with) but I'm also thinking about getting some and getting into renting radios for events locally. Right now one of my friends that I work with picked up a cheap set of Motorola RDU2020's which, considering how cheap they are, sound terrible, and of course are completely inaudible during a live performance. What I'd like to get is some radios that can be used on MURS channels for the moment, but later down the road, register a couple frequencies for them to rent out and use the full 5 watts, and possibly one day use a repeater with them for large shows. I know analog isn't exactly the best in a high noise environment, which is why I've been looking at DMR radios (MotoTRBO specifically) and have talked to a dealer that can get me some killer deals on some radios. So my main questions are...

1. What would be a reasonable price for radio rentals, if I did go down that route?
2. What steps would I need to take to register a frequency for rentals, or even possibly rent out a repeater with it?
3. Would DMR work great in high noise environments (utilizing remote mics/surveillance mics of course) or would there be another (cheap) digital mode that would work better?

I plan on ordering a couple of MotoTRBO radios in the coming weeks to test it out..I'll post back with the results, as the radio I will be getting is a cheaper version of the Motorola XPR's (more designed for amateur radio use, and are actually highly endorsed by amateur radio users) but if I do get into rental I will more than likely get the XPR's instead.
 
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tfhphoto

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Hello,

In one of my volunteer gigs, I'm in charge of communications for large one-day outdoor music festival. In years past, we've rented radios/accessories from BearCom Two-Way Radios | Motorola Walkie-Talkies | 2-Way Radio System - BearCom.com and were very pleased with them.

With BearCom, we've rented used both VHF and UHF analog radios and have had no problems with analog. Of course, all security-related radios were used with surveillance mics as were all radios used on stage and immediate front of house.

For workers further from stage, regular speaker mics were fine.

We now rent from a local Motorola dealer and for the past two years have been using UHF Mototrbo radios. Same setup as far as surveillance and speaker mics. I've received no feedback from end users (good or bad) as to whether one type of modulation was better than the other.

All communications are simplex and the festival grounds cover about 4 city blocks. Terrain is slightly hilly with the stage in somewhat of a bowl.

For what it is worth, we rent a total of 75 radios with an assortment of microphones, drop-in chargers and spare batteries. We run five channels which are set up by the rental company on their frequencies.

Rental from BearCom was for two days - excluding shipping time - and (as I recall) cost about $1,500.
 

mmckenna

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We run some rental radios at work.
Analog vs. digital shouldn't be much of a concern. A properly set up radio should be able to handle some background noise.
What I'd suggest you look at, more than the modulation type, is the durability of the radio. Rental radio users are notoriously hard on radios. Dropping them, abusing them, using the antenna as a handle, etc. will all be bigger concerns in the long run.
What you should be looking at is overall durability, serviceability and cost. Don't forget to consider the costs of any accessories. Batteries and chargers are going to be of concern. Renting out a radio with a crappy battery will get you a bad reputation, so figure on replacing your batteries every year to year and a half.
Things like speaker mics and other audio accessories are almost considered expendables in some cases. A speaker mic will take a lot of abuse and will likely be the first part to show wear.
Antennas take a beating too, so consider either having to replace antennas, or repair antenna connectors on the radios.

There are some good deals out there on analog only radios. Saving some money on the radios right now might allow you to invest in more/better accessories.

Really consider the costs that will be presented by the constant level of abuse the radios will receive. It can add up pretty quick.
 

KA1NTG

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I've volunteered at a huge (100,000+) music festival for the last few years in a public safety function. They went to TRBO to stop stop scanners from grabbing security traffic. We rent almost a thousand XPR 6550, filled to the brim with 32 talkgroups. Public Safety, Emergency Response and Dispatch functions are on a temporary repeater. They've always worked well and can take a beating!

For just your use, some of the other DMR radios should work just fine. For the beating and irresponsibility of rental, I'd go XPR no questions asked.
 

mmckenna

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Oh, and gang chargers. Gang chargers save us a bunch of money. Using individual chargers is a pain in the butt, not only for those renting the radios, but for yourself. Having to manage all the cords, wall warts and charging cups can be an issue. Finding places to plug all those in can be an issue. We saved a lot of hassle and headaches when we switched to 6 slot gang chargers.

Also, consider packaging. We use to put the rental radios in a cardboard box with the chargers and accessories. It usually turned into a rats nest of cable, and our customers would complain about it. When we switched to our new system, I invested in some large Pelican cases that held 6 radios, a gang charger and the accessories. It was on wheels, so it made it easier for the customers to handle. Having dedicated space for each radio and accessory reduced lost/misplaced items.



Don't get too hung up on the technology side of it, your customers won't care. All they want is a radio that works.
 

wa1nic

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A lot of it depends on where you live.

If you expect to get a fairly exclusive VHF channel assignment and you live in New York City, well, good luck with that. If you want a repeater pair... double-good luck with that.

You may have more better luck on UHF. However, if you start with VHF radios in MURS band, they wont do UHF.

Also, even where I live, which is sort of the middle of no-where, MURS is starting to sound a tiny bit like the CB band. If you pop a weekend event onto a channel that a local MURS group has sort of laid claim to by eminent domain, expect there to be "problems". I do hold a VHF commercial frequency license. It used to be somewhat "exclusive", but someone managed to license a repeater output on the same frequency and on top of a 1000 foot mountain about 20 miles away. The channel is sometimes fairly active. Fortunately for me, the other user uses it mostly 8AM-5PM M-F and I use it mostly during hours that are outside of that schedule.

On UHF, FRS/GMRS frequencies don't stack up all that well legally for rental use.

If it were me, I would consider licensing first, and radio selection after you get a license. That will lead you down the path of fewest heartbreaks.

A chief factor in radio selection is going to be durability and audio quality. In most outdoor events, you want to be able to crank the audio up quite a bit, and it still has to be understandable.

A thought... I have yet to see one, I don't know when they will be for sale, nor how much they will cost even, but ICOM is supposed to release soon what seems to be a commercial quality WiFi HT. That might be something to look into. You could plop in place a small wireless network in your rental area and away they would go. If they needed bigger coverage, you could just add more WAP's.

Rick
 

iceman977th

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Thanks everyone for the advice. It looks like DMR capable radios will be the way to go. I'm going to try some cheaper ones just to try out, maybe get a set of 4. The companies I will be working with have used VHF radios in the past (one uses some NXDN portables from a church group one of the engineers is a part of) but it would be easier to go VHF versus UHF. Although where I live (Northeast KY) frequencies are pretty wide open, so it's not like NYC or anything. In our area, most everyone is VHF but not many channels are used (3-5 per county for fire, 1-2 for EMS, and 1-4 for law, depending on where it is)...neighboring WV obviously has some of their traffic on SIRN and OH has MARCS. But, the VHF's will allow me for "interop" if I ever need it with either backup radios for our fire channels, or for working with other companies.
 

wa1nic

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VHF radios

I just recalled on other thing you might want to be aware of...

I personally use ICOM F3021 HT's and F5021 mobiles on my farm. I like them. The audio is good, the battery life is good, and they have rolling scrambler modules installed (which I did after my somewhat "exclusive frequency" became quite busy when the other user's repeater went on the air on the same frequency as me).

I haven't experienced it personally yet, but I have heard a rumor that the radios being shipped now wont do WFM out of the box... only NFM. I switched over to these before the effective date of the NFM mandate, so they were still both NFM and WFM capable. This supposedly only affects radios manufactured after the NFM mandate cut-in date.

If what I am hearing is true, and you want to use MURS frequencies, a couple of the MURS frequencies are still WFM. It is perfectly legal to use NFM on those channels, but if you have a mixture of radios in use you will have compatibility issues.

The story I have "heard" continues with an explanation that if you call ICOM and tell them that you are a licensed ham and that you want to put a new "locked" radio on 2 meters they will tell you how to "unlock" the firmware.

If you tell them you want to unlock it to use on MURS rather than on the ham bands, I am not 100% sure if they will help you out. The "type acceptance" of radios on MURS is confusing. I am not sure if ICOM considers the F3021 or F5021 legal on MURS frequencies (due to the power capability of them).

I mention all this not because I am suggesting that you use or don't use the radios that I am using, but rather than you should be aware that some of the newer radios may or may not work well on 2 of the 5 MURS channels because they may not be able to work in WFM mode.

Rick
 

wa1nic

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O ya, one other thing... while I know there is a lot of MURS operation using radios that are not part 95 certified, and yes, it normally is totally un-noticed, if you started renting out radios programmed for MURS frequencies that were not part 95 legal, and a user did get caught, as a business that is profiting from the radio rental the FCC would probably go gunning for you.

Another reason to look for licensing first, or else make sure if you are operating on a frequency that does not require licensing that you are using equipment that is proper for that frequency..
 

iceman977th

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O ya, one other thing... while I know there is a lot of MURS operation using radios that are not part 95 certified, and yes, it normally is totally un-noticed, if you started renting out radios programmed for MURS frequencies that were not part 95 legal, and a user did get caught, as a business that is profiting from the radio rental the FCC would probably go gunning for you.

Another reason to look for licensing first, or else make sure if you are operating on a frequency that does not require licensing that you are using equipment that is proper for that frequency..
I appreciate all your advice wa1nic, I'll definitely look into that before I do radio rentals. But for now, I'm just going to do "local renting" aka to my friends and for shows I work on, not to the general public. I just want to see how well DMR would work for live performances.

Just for kicks, let's say I do go with a more "name brand" radio for rental, what would be the better option (for the price) between the Motorola XPR 6000 series and the Vertex VXD/EVX series? I may also try out the Kenwood NX series (as the one company I work with does use NXDN/NEXEDGE radios)
 

wa1nic

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you will have to do the shopping for yourself to figure out best pricing. I have done most of my business with "The Antenna Farm" myself. Prices seem decent, and I havnt been screwed over yet. Some times stuff might not be in stock on certain items and it will be a couple of week wait, but you can ask him beforehand and know if that will happen or not. I had that happen on ICOM rolling scrambler modules for instance. He had the radios but I had to wait a few days for the scrambler modules to be available.
 
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DaveNF2G

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If money changes hands, there are additional FCC regulations, as well as state and local business and tax laws that will apply. Getting caught without the proper paperwork or payments can be extremely expensive.
 
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