I've purchased a couple of BaoFeng BF-888S's for personal use with friends.

I've been told these radios can't be used legally without a licence and given the usage, I doubt I could faithfully even attempt to sort out amateur licences (My friends and I aren't exactly radio enthusiasts).

My Question being is it legal for me to use these radios without a suitable licence? and if not, would it be possible for me to obtain a Simple Business licence within the UK without being a registered company?

  • $\begingroup$ Getting an amateur license really isn't that hard. I mean, the whole licensing was never meant to scare away people, but only to make sure people know what they're doing. And: if you're going for commercial licensing, the things you'll be expected to know will probably be more than that. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 '17 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @MarcusMüller Not so much fearful as not expecting my purpose to suit it. The way I expect these to be used is a lack of callsigns, precedence and procedure. Not only am I very unlikely to get these licensed with such lacking knowledge from myself and friends, but I feel it'd be unfair to those that use radios as a hobby, having to listen. I'd be much more comfortable spending £15 a year for a small business license and operate them as freely as organisations do. $\endgroup$
    – lewis
    Jan 18 '17 at 19:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, since these devices can operate on any channel, including those for which your company doesn't have a license, I doubt there will be a license that will allow you and your friends to operate them. But I don't actually know. Also, would you not be much better off simply buying license-free PMR handsets? $\endgroup$ Jan 18 '17 at 19:30

I agree with @Muller that getting a ham license isn't that hard. But you will need to comply with proper station identification (every 10 minutes).

Those radios can operate on the FRS (US Family Radio Service) frequencies, which do not require a license.

HOWEVER, they put out too much power to be legal on that band.

If you have a company with a license for particular channels that is all well and good, but these radios are field-programmable, so you can't ensure they are always going to be used in compliance with the license. These radios probably aren't even eligible for use in commercial settings due to spurious outputs or some such technical details.

Putting those kinds of radios in the hands of people with questionable intent is dangerous. For instance, if they jammed aircraft frequencies (intentionally or otherwise) the investigation would come back to you having provided them.

The answer to your question: Ask a lawyer. Legal questions are not typically answered directly on this stackexchange, nor would any lawyer want to be on the hook for giving out free advice that leads to you or your friends doing something illegal.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. I'll definitely seek legal advice regarding technicalities. As for them being field programmable, the radios lack the ability to easily edit settings, and need software that'll be unavailable to anybody when in use. I'm certain that the friends I'm providing the radios to for events, have no interest what so ever in performing illegal activities with them. My concern is our lack of interest. None of us have enough knowledge of procedure to operate on an amateur license, therefore I am thinking about a business licence to give us some, loosly regulated, frequencies to use $\endgroup$
    – lewis
    Feb 6 '17 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ There is no FRS in the UK. $\endgroup$ Jun 5 '18 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ @lewis, the 888, as you say, is not meant to be field-programmable. The idea is to allow users to refer to channel numbers instead of frequencies. Here's how to set them up: geekprepper.org/program-a-baofeng-radio-with-chirp On the other topic, I think you have put your finger on the issue: knowledge breeds interest. I've spent more than half a lifetime working with radio, and there still is a ton to be learned. It gets more interesting the more I learn. $\endgroup$
    – SDsolar
    Jun 5 '18 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ One really GOOD thing about the 888 - since it has preprogrammed channels, you can reassure your friends that the channels are carefully selected so there is little chance of causing harmful interference to anybody else. The radios are simple enough to use. Now, what are you going to do with them? That can be the most fun part at all. The best communications system is the one that works so well you don't even notice it. Talking on a common channel is easier than dialing a phone. With the 888 there are a log of accessories available like earphone/microphones, belt clips, and all that. $\endgroup$
    – SDsolar
    Jun 5 '18 at 14:31

TL&DR It seems that your only option is to obtain an Amateur Radio license for all those who need to use the Baoffeng hand sets. The sets do not qualify, or is unlikely to qualify, for any license exempts nor for business radio use.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and although I am quoting legislation, for legal advice please seek advice from a lawyer in your country.

My Question being is it legal for me to use these radios without a suitable licence?

No, is the answer.

Sorry to "bust the bubble" but unless you get an Amateur Radio license you may not use these sets.

You may NOT use them on PMR/446-MHz, as they are not typed approved. Legislation here

        2.  Prescribed apparatus taken into service before 1st May 2000 must also—

            (a)be approved by the Secretary of State under section 84 of the 1984 Act for the purposes of these Regulations; or
            (b)be approved to the standard referred to in Part IV of this Schedule by a national administration following type testing at a test laboratory

The correct answer (already given, and I can only repeat this) is to get an Amateur Radio license for all those who want to participate.

would it be possible for me to obtain a Simple Business licence within the UK without being a registered company?

I believe you can get a Simple Business license, you just need to apply. If you can use the Baoffengs?... that need to be seen, but my best guess here is: No, as the legislation is hinting to being licensed to particular equipment, or equipment with specific specifications (which I am doubtful the Baoffeng would be classified):

Requirements that must be met for the grant of a licence
5.—(1) Licences shall be granted by OFCOM, either—
    (a) in relation to particular equipment; or
    (b) in relation to any equipment falling within the description specified in the licence and expressed by reference to such factors (including factors confined to the manner in which it is established, installed or used), as are described in the licence.

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