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I recently got my GMRS license from the FCC, and I wanted to try out a couple radios for hiking and emergency communication. I have two tenway UV-5R pro radios (these do have an FCC ID) that are set to narrowband, 8 watts and squelch at 5 with a tenway VHF/UHF NA-771 antenna.

I gave one to my wife and I drove approx .5 miles from our home and tried to test them out. All we got was silence or static when one of us tried to key up. We were transmitting on 462.550. When i scanned through the MGRS/FRS channels for a couple hours I didn't get anything either. Note that we live in the suburbs outside of a large city in Ohio. Any advice or constructive criticism?

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to ham.stackexchange.com! $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Dec 3 '19 at 19:46
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First, the legal issue: in the US, it's not legal to transmit on GMRS frequencies on a radio not type-accepted for GMRS. Having an FCC ID doesn't mean that a radio is type-accepted for GMRS; UV-5Rs aren't. Also, 462.55 MHz is slightly below GMRS channel 1, so you were transmitting out of the band.

At 8 W, you should have been able to easily have a conversation when 0.5 miles apart. If you couldn't hear each other, your radios probably weren't set up right. UV-5R radios are notoriously difficult to set up by following the procedure in the manual; most hams use the CHIRP software or the Baofeng software to program channels in their UV-5Rs, which is much easier.

One possibility might be that you may have accidentally programmed the radio to require signals on the channel to have a CTCSS (PL) tone or a CDCSS (DCS) code in order to open the squelch. (Setting a CTCSS tone or CDCSS code from the front panel is difficult on a Baofeng, so it's unlikely in this case, but someone in the future might have this problem so it's worth mentioning.)

Consider earning ham licenses. You'll have more people to talk to, you can use repeaters to greatly expand your range, and you could use your UV-5Rs legally. There is a test, but there are preparation classes and free online practice tests. Your local ham club can help.

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps the receiver front-end was being overloaded by nearby out-of-band commercial UHF signals? But since it's unlawful as you say, that's a moot point. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters Dec 3 '19 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you so much! I am trying to play by the rules so i didn't realize those were still illegal as they were marketed to be perfectly legal (seller promoted the fcc ID as sufficient. As to the ham license, I'm starting to study and connect with the local amateur radio club. Thank you again for the help! $\endgroup$ – user16052 Dec 3 '19 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ You're welcome! $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Dec 3 '19 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ This is a good answer, only fails to mention one specific and somewhat common complication: what the OP describes could also happen if the receiver is set to require a tone/code before opening squelch. Either manually monitor the channel or review the settings. This can be tested at home with the radios a safe distance apart. $\endgroup$ – natevw - AF7TB Dec 5 '19 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @natevw-AF7TB, I edited the answer. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Dec 5 '19 at 22:10
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You've already been apprised of the legal issues, so let me ask you a few questions...

  • How did you program the radios?
  • Were the antennas screwed all the way in?
  • What was the terrain like where you were testing these things? Trees, houses?
  • How did you decide on squelch level 5?
  • Did you modify the CTCSS settings on either of the radios? This seems like the most likely issue.

For future reference, though, an FCC ID is just a confirmation that the FCC knows what the device is (not really, but that's a different issue). It's NECESSARY for a device to have an FCC ID to be type-accepted for a service like GMRS, but not sufficient.

For your Ham license, check out hamstudy.org. Don't overblow the studying part. The technician test is so fall-off-a-log easy that eight year-olds routinely pass it, and the general test is still pretty much child's play to anyone with even a modicum of electrical knowledge.

Some of the old guys will tell you "You've got to learn the material!," and while that's true in principle,* you can only understand so much of the actual physics and engineering stuff before you get deep into serious electrical-engineering territory. It's the kind of stuff that you just can't understand without either a long time of tinkering and experimenting and fooling around, or dedicated academic study, or both. So just focus on learning the rules and safety procedures, and just drill-and-kill the rest of it. You'll learn it later as you go.

As a matter of fact, these are the four most important rules in electrical engineering:

E = IR
P = IE
For capacitive circuits, the current leads the voltage.
For inductive circuits, the voltage leads the current.

In the words of Hillel the Elder, that's the whole Torah, the rest is the explanation; go and learn.


* No disrespect intended to the Old Guys; they're the keepers of The Ancient Knowledge, but a lot of them are, by training and profession, hyper-experts in extremely abstruse and arcane fields like RF propagation physics or microwave circuit engineering, so "learning the material" by their standards is an extremely high bar by almost anyone else's.

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