Rapid advances in technology have introduced many interesting and convenient ways of communication with others, the most prominent of which are the cell phones now a days. These devices are the most portable and versatile ones and have become popular in a very short time. Although there are innumerable advantages of cell phones, but the only disadvantages that fades them all is the inability of these devices to deliver the same performance in the hour of emergency due to the absence of signals. This is where the radio communication shines out.
This concept has grown rather old but is undoubtedly the most reliable form of communication (Radio Communication) when there is an emergency that needs to be addressed without any delays. This makes radio communication an interesting subject to master but it needs dedication and some serious effort to do so.
Radio Origin and Start of Radio Communication
The journey of radio communication started with the very basic walkie-talkie devices. These were portable devices used by young and old alike but their specs were not quite attractive for long range communication. The main reasons behind their limited performance was the absence of an antenna, limited output power, limited functions and features and the usage of difficult Morse code as the communicating jargon. Moreover, the clarity of the communication decreased as the distance between the sender and the receiver increased.
Initially, most of the walkie-talkies operated using the AM on the Citizens Band frequency of 27 MHz. Later they moved on to the FM for operating at 49 MHz.The range of communication was extremely limited and it mostly was within the line-of-sight. Later on various new technologies and improvements were introduced in the basic design of the CB radios and the HAM Radios that have evolved over time to give us the exceptional radio communication devices that we all have today.
Power And Frequency
The first and the foremost feature that a keen radio operator will look for in a radio is the range over which it can receive and transmit the signals effectively. So before we can take a look at the radio services that can be availed in different situations, it is highly pivotal to know what this range is all about.
The most important variables to consider in this regard are power and frequency. There is a specific power output that is allowed for each type of radio by the FCC and it is measured in watts. When this output power in increased, the range of the radio is automatically increased. A higher power also ensures that the signal reaches far enough with greater intensity. These power specifications are great if you want the clearest and the smoothest communication all the way through. But if you have handheld devices or devices of lower qualities, then it is pretty possible that the higher power will keep the battery low. Next is the frequency that will determine the range of your radio.The basic frequency ranges that need to be focused in this regard are the VHF and the UHF. VHF ranges from 30 MHz – 300 MHz and UHF range from 300 MHz – 3 GHz. Both these frequency spectrum have their own advantages and limitations that depend on the type of radio you are operating.
Generally on lower frequencies, the signals have the capacity of travelling longer distances because they are longer in their wavelength.They are also able to penetrate through surfaces without much change in their intensity. Such wavelengths can be expected in the VHF spectrum. But if you take the UHF, there are signals with shorter wavelengths that have their own beauty. These signals work best within the building as they can easily bend around the narrow corners and transmit through smoothly.As a general tip, prefer the VHF if you need to get your signals penetrated through the thick walls of concrete. But for indoor communication, go for the UHF.
Let’s see which frequencies you can actually access and operate your radio on.
Family Radio Service
In 1996, we got introduced to the personal radios that made the radio communication much easier. These radios had the capacity to facilitate the users with the Family radio service (FRS) through which the general public was able to communicate conveniently but the range of these radios was rather limited and did not serve the purpose of long range communications.
There are 14 UHF frequencies specified for the FRS, each of which is 12 kHz apart from the next frequency.General public can access these frequencies without a license but for the representatives of any foreign government, formal approvals are required. Here are those 14 frequencies:
According to the regulations of the FCC, all the FRS radios can operate at 0.5 watts of output power, have a non-detachable antenna and have a limited range that lies within a mile. Then there is horizon limitation that affects the FRS radio’s performance. While transmitting, when the signals from the FRS radio approach horizon or any possible curvature, they are likely to travel onwards in a straight manner. The FRS radios are also used by businesses that do not want an extensive communication network. They use longer and elevated antennas to gain longer ranges for these systems.
Another feature that the FRS radios will provide is the option of setting the privacy codes for your system. Many technical terms are involved here that need deeper understanding. The codes we are talking about are also known by the names of CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System) codes or the PL tones (Motorola trademark). These analog codes range from 1-38. These codes are also available in the digital form in a separate block called the DPL (Digital Private Line – Motorola trademark) and or more generally speaking, CDCSS (Continuous Digital Coded Squelch System) codes. These codes have their numbers from 39-121.
These codes work to give you freedom from the interference particularly when all the 14 FRS frequencies are under use. By setting these codes, you can eliminate the interference and make your conversations as clear as possible and will mute the conversations on the channels you have set the privacy on. But an alarming thing is that if anyone else in your area has placed the same code on the same channel, then your privacy can be at risk.
General Mobile Radio Service
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) has been in use since the time when the FCC introduced a new service for those people who were not eligible to hold a license for land mobiles under specified conditions. This category encompassed the private businesses and individuals but the service was specified for the private citizens only by 1988.
This service can also be availed by the people who have the license for it. Although the manufacturers are frequently producing such radios with the consent of the FCC that can let the users avail the GMRS as well as the FRS service, but still a license in required for the accessing the GMRS frequencies. In such operations, the users need to be more vigilant about the frequencies they are allowed to access. This can be problematic when you use the dual-service radios as there are some channels operating at high power that requires license to be operated on. Users need to be aware of these minor details so that they don’t violate any rules of the FCC unknowingly.
There rises a confusion about the intension of the FCC behind allowing the manufacturers to produce such radios that offer some simple ways to violate the rules. Some experts make the point that the FCC wants the users to be responsible on their own but this is debatable as there are more counterpoints rising against this point.
Down here are the 23 UHF (Ultra High Frequency) for the GMRS channels that are separated by the interval of 25 kHz.
Among these frequencies, there are 7 such frequencies that are shared with the FRS. But when these frequencies are operated through the GMRS, the output power increases to about 5 watts that is higher than the one provided on the FRS. Moreover, the rest of frequencies on GMRS can operate on 50 watts output power.
GMRS requires you to have a license for the operations but the process of licensing is pretty simple. A person of 18 years or older and not a representative of foreign government can hold a license that is valid up to 5 years. If you have the license, then all the people from your friends and family can access GMRS frequencies if you allow them to do it. You can get your license within 10 minutes at about $90.
In 2010 GMRS licensing was claimed to be removed but that proposal went ignored. For getting your GMRS license, you need to register yourself first on the FCC Universal License System official website and then apply there for a new license through your account. Then select the category ZA – GMRS where you can get the guidelines to complete the procedure.
Multi User Radio Service
Multi User Radio Service or the MURS came to the scene by 2002, when the FCC gave new service rules regarding the 5 VHF frequencies. The eligibility of using these frequencies is the same as that required for the other types of frequencies but this service can be availed without any license. With this service, you can operate these 5 frequencies from the VHF spectrum at about 2 watts of output power that is far greater than the power delivered by the FRS radios.
Citizens Band or the CB is one of the most popular frequency bands available for the public communication. It was set up by the FCC during the 1940s. By 1983, the license requirement was removed for accessing this service and now anyone can access these frequencies easily.
Single Side Band
SSB is a refined version of the AM mode that enables the users to talk the most out of their bandwidth and the transmitter power. SSB mode ranges from Channel 36 to Channel 40. Out of this, channel 36 is used for channel calling on an unofficial basis and the channels 37-40 are used for uninterrupted conversations. Those operating on AM need to avoid the SSB channels while the operators working on SSB need to avoid the AM channels. This practice ensures that both the groups of users have a communication that is totally interference-free.
The topmost choice for radio communication is the Amateur radio or the Ham radio.Why we call it Ham has a long history behind it that bring it forward as the traditional title of this radio and its operators that was given to them due to their unique characteristics. All the frequencies allowed for these radios are available for all sorts of non-commercial usage. You can transmit voice and video messages along with data transmissions using these radios. These radios are used for long range communications, either within the local spectrum or with someone residing across the border. You can even connect with the Hams in the space shuttles through the satellites monitoring this network’s activity. Ham radios cannot be used for commercial purposes anyway. You can use it for helping others have a safe journey by updating them about the traffic conditions of any area or weather updates to help them prepare in advance.
For operating an amateur radio legally, you need to have a license from the FCC.There are three classes of license. The eligibility for each varies on the basis of different factors. They can be obtained after formal testing but all these tests are free from the Morse code requirement. But for being an effective amateur radio operator, it is good to master this code language sooner or later. All the newbies that enter into the world of Amateur radios basically do so after getting their Technician Class licensethat is awarded to the candidates who pass a 35-question test with a passing score of 26 correct questions. If the operator needs to upgrade his usage level, he needs to obtain the General Class or Extra Class License.
How to Be a Ham
If you want to get into this hobby, you need to get hands onto the Technician Class Operator License first of all. For that, you first need to prepare for the test according to the suggested course material and then find the most accessible point where you can give that test. You can do these tasks in the following ways:
First, find the relevant books or notes pertaining to your test. You can also look for some reference books for extra help and speeding up your preparation.
Now keeping the format of the test in mind, start your preparation without wasting any time. A standard test consists of 35 questions that are pretty simple to answer if you are well-prepared. The passing score for the test is about 74% that is not at all difficult to obtain in this test. The key to effective preparation is practice. Try to practice the questions from the book as much as possible. Then check out the W5YI-VEC website, select the state of examination that is nearest to you and start preparing for the day after getting all the details about your test date and venue.
Selecting best radio communication Source
Now you have the knowledge about all the types of radio frequencies that a common man can have access to. But the critical part is deciding from among these frequencies that which one is suitable for your purpose and which would be far more than required. It is better if you can weigh the pros and cons of each radio service before going for any specific one.
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