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Extra Long Range GRMS Radios
When it comes to range of GMRS radios there are some pretty outrageous claims out there. Some manufacturers are actually claiming up to a 36 mile range. While this is technically possible it is not likely the range you will experience in the real world. Only by using a repeater can you get extra long range from GMRS two way radios.
GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service and refers to a group of frequencies in the 462 to 467 Megahertz range of the UHF end of the radio spectrum. Seven of the GMRS channels are shared with the non licensed FRS or Family Radio Service. GMRS radios require a license to operate but this is frequently ignored by users. Channels 15-22 require that you purchase an $80.00 FCC license to use. No license is required to use GMRS in Canada. GMRS is for personal, non business use. You can apply for a license at www.fcc.gov/uls.
There are 8 GMRS only channels for simplex use and 7 channels that are shared with FRS. There are additional channels reserved for use with repeaters, which give GMRS radios long range. The repeater channels are found only on more expensive radios, not those sold in discount stores.
Most 2-Way radios sold to consumers are the so called hybrid models which include 7 FRS only channels, 7 shared FRS-GMRS channels and 8 GMRS only channels. Only on the 8 GMRS channels radios are you allowed a transmit power of up to fifty watts by law. However, most handheld GMRS radios typically use 5 watts or less due to battery size. This limits the practical range of most consumer models to around 5 miles or less due to terrain and obstacles.
Long Range GMRS, Understanding How It Works
On 7 of the GMRS only channels on your two way radio you can talk up to five miles under normal conditions (outside with no obstacles) and up to 30 miles from a mountaintop to another mountaintop or to a unit at a lower location with clear sight of the mountain, provided of course that conditions are ideal. To get more range you should get away from all objects, hold the radio perfectly vertical and step up on to something elevated, such as the bumper of a pickup truck. Height of the antenna helps range of GMRS radios dramatically. Make sure the radios are fully charged and set to high power for maximum GMRS range.
Most GMRS - FRS hybrid radios sold in stores have only 22 channels. There are some professional models that offer more but these cost several hundred dollars. Garmin is the only consumer oriented manufacturer of GMRS radios that does include the extra 8 repeater frequencies needed to for extra range when a repeater is available.
Using Repeaters For Long Range GMRS Radio
What is a repeater? A repeater is a fixed station, usually located on top of a building, tower or mountaintop, that includes an antenna, receiver and transmitter. A signal is picked up from a GMRS radio on one frequency (which is why you need a radio with the extra 8 channels) and transmitted on the normal simplex listening channel to another radio up to several miles away. Repeaters increase range because they are located at a higher altitude and use more sensitive equipment than a handheld radio and can relay a weaker radio signal at full power, up to 50 watts, compared to the 5 watts your radio uses.
You would hear the output of a repeater on any of the 8 regular GMRS channels and you would never use the 8 repeater input channels for any other purpose. There are many GMRS repeaters around the country that allow for very long range GMRS radio use. You can find a list here: GMRS Repeaters
These repeaters are owned by a variety of clubs, private individuals, Ham operators and even businesses that have legacy licenses allowing them to use GMRS. Some GMRS repeaters require permission to use. You may be chided for using the system without permission though it is difficult to legally keep users off of them. Others are "open systems" which allow anyone to use them. Often you will have to use a tone to activate the repeater. Radios such as the Garmin Rino 130 offer this capability though the repeater capable feature it is often omitted from the product description on sites like Amazon to avoid confusing some consumers.
You can find GMRS repeaters in almost all fifty states. For those lucky enough to live near an open repeater you can expect ranges of up to forty miles or more. For an example, if you could "get into" a or have a strong enough signal to activate the repeater at a distance of twenty miles away you could conceivably talk to another user at the same distance away from the repeater in the opposite direction. More typical ranges are from ten to thirty miles using GMRS repeaters. Some repeaters are crowded however since most FRS-GMRS radios sold at Wal Mart and Academy don't have the 8 added repeater frequencies this keeps a lot of people off of the system
For Extra Long Range GMRS Radio Use Consider A Model With The 8 Extra Repeater Channels
If you are serious about range the best choice is a GMRS radio that offers the 8 additional repeater frequencies. The Garmin Rino 130 is the preferred choice of many repeater users. These radios typically cost at least twice as much as the basic 2 way radios sold in discount stores and are designed with professional features. The Motorola MR356r is repeater capable.
If you don't expect to use a repeater and just want a good value GMRS radio, Motorola offers many fine models with simplex (non repeater) 22 channel capability. If there is no repeater in your area you will not be able to use the repeater feature. GMRS repeaters can be found in most states and offer up to a 40 mile range.
Remember that most repeater users are licensed and many use their license number as required. Listen to the repeater for a while before using to know how parties share the channel. If the repeater is listed as "permission required" contact the owner and request permission. State a good reason you need long range GMRS radio use and remember that the service is for individuals only, not businesses. Don't hog the repeater with long conversations. Always refrain from using the system when someone has an emergency call in progress and don't interrupt anyone unless absolutely necessary.
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