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Communications for your Astronomy Event
"Introduction"

by
John Huggins


Once upon a time, communication via radio was something only government entities, commercial establishments and certain private folks could do. Ham radio operators made up much of the private citizen talent.

Today, things are very different. With the continuing progress of services like General Radio Mobile Service (GMRS) and the recent arrival of Family Radio Service (FRS), it has never been easier to do radio communications for your event all by yourself.

Communications for star parties shares the same issues with things like: What follows is an explanation of the current state of affairs, why you don't need Ham Radio operators for your event, and why you might.

First let's see some details on the five primary services available to the common citizen:

Service Available Bands
or Channels
Notes Advantages Dis-advantages Licensing
Required
Equipment
Costs
ARS - Amateur Radio (HAM) Service 8 Broad range of radio bands to utilize. Impressive selection of bands available. VHF repeaters offer superb coverage over much of the country. Handheld VHF and UHF equipment have exceptional range with repeaters. Radio communications over hundreds of miles easy for hams. Hams can collaborate. Requires licensed operators. Mindset of some hams, while noble, frequently makes for inefficient action. yes $100 - $10,000
CB - Original Citizen's Band Service 40 Noisy with short range, but useful for highway travel. Lots of radios available at good prices. Lots of folks listening on channels 17 and 19. Watch out for bad language from grumpy and sometimes exhausted drivers. Range limited. Antennas large. Static and other noises are real range killers. Handheld CBs have been displaced by VHF and UHF services. no $30 - $300
MURS - Multi-Use Radio Service 5 Simple VHF service for business and personal use. 2 watt radios are relatively powerful compared with some services. VHF band a good one for longer ranges. Most of the benefits of VHF Business band without need of license. Less popular than other services might mean equipment less available. no $100 - $300
GMRS - General Mobile Radio Service 23 Good UHF service. Licensing required. Higher power and possible antenna options offer good range. Bubble pack radios available everywhere. Range pretty limited. Expensive license required. Family use only except for grandfathered old GMRS licensees. yes $20 - $900
FRS - Family Radio Service 14 Good for simple UHF two way comms Cheap equipment. No license. Standardize channel system makes various brands of radio work together. Very limited range. No external antenna allowed. no $10 - $200

Now let's have a look at each...

[Beginning] - [Next Page - CB Radio]



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