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cb vs ham - wheeling, not nec event

Discussion in '40- & 55-Series Tech' started by Junk, Mar 30, 2003.

  1. Junk

    Junk

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    Not necessarily for an organized event, where specifically a cb is required, but for wheeling in general, where sometimes long distance communication could be a huge help....

    .... and I'm posting this here while there was some recent discussion both on the LCML list and this site's 80&100 tech section.

    Could someone give us, in basic language, what the big benefit is of HAM over cb and if so great, why cb still prevails at wheeling events and parks? ???

    Thanks
     
  2. PHAT MAX

    PHAT MAX

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    i think you need a liscence to operate a HAM radio...not sure tho. but if that was the case, i can see why it is not as popular--some people (me) dont have the ambition.
     
  3. Junk

    Junk

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    McGee - hell, I don't even have the ambition to do all the research [​IMG] :D

    .... but I know there's a few dudes around here that know this stuff.
     
  4. CDN_Cruiser

    CDN_Cruiser

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    Junk - thanks for starting the thread (and yes, your wife could follow your fat ass progress as you climb :p)

    Here is my take on the pros and cons of the different systems:

    Some of the Pros for CB:
    • * Both CB and amateur radio have the same pro of being able to communicate with multiple people at the same time and not tied to towers (like cell phones)
      *CB are generally quite cheap. No big deal if they are broken or stolen
      * CBs don't require a lic (they used to) so anyone can use them
      * CBs have a fairly large 'installed base' so they are hard to displace and lots of people have them
      * CBs are fine for close-in communications (generally a few miles)
      * CBs may be the local/club/region/etc effective protocol - if you are the only amateur radio operator around, you will be bored!
      * CBs are still used by truckers so you (1) get to hear lots of interesting language and (2) you can actually get some OK real-time traffic reports
      * The signals can (but usually don't) 'bounce' and give you longer range coverage (so you can hear the Wolfmaaannnn)

    Some of the Cons for CB:

    • * Legally, even base units are restricted to 4W which limits the useful transmit range. You can add a linear amp 'footwarmer' but they still suck
      * CBs broadcast on AM and are therefore subject to distortion, etc (ie hard to hear people, limited distance, people sound strange, static). Just compare your AM radio coverage to FM - which do you like better?
      * See above, CB is open to anyone, so it is a bit of a free for all with poor radio usage, etc
      * CB is generally 'line of site'. If you are blocked by mountains, trees or buildings, your signal will not get out (and nothing will come in)
      * Is anyone actually building better, high-quality, innovative CBs? The equipment development seems to have stalled in the 1970s
      * I would guess that most people don't install their equipement propely (eg tuning the antenna), which further restricts the quality of receiving and transmitting

    Now for the amateur radio part. I will restrict myself to discussing Very High Freq (VHF) radio (commonly refered to as 2 meter) as this is the stuff that is (generally) most applicable to mobile operation in a Cruiser.

    The pros are:

    • * Can legally transmit up to 50W mobile for much further range (still line of site) - likely ~25 miles
      * Uses FM freq which are far clearer than CB's AM freq. This is the same as the FRS radios, but with way more power = range
      * Much of North America is covered by amateur radio 'repeaters'. The repeater does what its name implies - it repeats the signal, with more power. Picture yourself broken down but 20 miles from a repeater. Unfortunately, your buddy is almost 70 miles from your location. No problem. You use your radio to 'hit' the repeater which in turn transmits the signal from a tower, using more power 50 additional miles - now you can ask your friend for help. In fact, my hand held unit can remotely control a mobile unit in my truck. So, I'm 5 miles from my truck with a small hand held, I can radio the truck, which then connects ot the repeater, etc - cool eh?
      * These repeater systems really are everywhere - in far more places than cell towers. Many repeaters have back-up power systems, so they can still be used when the power is out or in an emergency (there is a reason why amateur radio is THE back-up communications system for government).
      * Many repeaters have an 'autopatch' system that can be used to access the regular phone system. You dial in a code and then use the touch-tone buttons on the radio to dial a phone number ('hello, tow truck company, I need some help...)
      * Amateur radio operators are trained and lic, so it is less of a free for all = actually useful for communication and many amateurs do monitor certain freq (unlike Ch9 on CB)
      * In fact, many repeaters are now joined using Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) which allow you to dial in some codes and link repeaters from across the world. I mentioned on an earlier post that I monitored a transmission between Toronto, Canada and the polar station in Antartica (you could do this on a hand held)
      * There are also satelites that can be used to repeat a signal (again, even with a hand held)
      * Many units have expanded receive coverage which allows them to function as an effective scanner. On my hand held I can receive all the amateur bands (even HF), VHF marine, Air bands, AM/FM/SW/TV signals, emergency services, etc
      * In an emergency, amateur radio does not become 'overloaded' and shut down (like a jammed cell tower)
      * As geeky as it sounds, there are clubs you can join to get help (what radio to buy, how to install, etc)

    With additional equipment (a GPS) and the right radio, you can make use of the tracking features (far better than the Rino radios as much bigger distance and the ability to send email between stations). As I posted in the CB thread, you can go to Internet sites to track the specific location of your truck/hand held.

    With the right lic and radio, you can also operate High Freq (HF), which allows you to communicate anywhere in the world

    Amateur radio cons:

    • * You have to write a 35 question multiple choice test to get your basic lic
      * The equipment can be more expensive (~$150 for a starter mobile unit), but it is also more advanced and full-featured
      * Lower installed base - you need to convince your friends to get their lic as well
      * There are some crotchity old men that may not like you
      * (personally I see this as a pro) You are required to use the radio properly - ie use the correct freq, use your FCC-issued call sign, etc and there is some policing of this (by other amateur operators and the FCC)

    My belief is that amateur radio has not taken off as people were scared off by the testing (used to require morse code) and the requirement to learn some basic theory in addition to proper usage. Amateur radio probably also suffers from the association with long range communications (ie 'I want to talk to the guy two miles away, not the guy in Africa!') It's worth the effort (and I have to write a 100 question exam)

    As with most people, I have CB, cellular and now amateur radio. If you want clear communications, amateur radio is the way to go - in an emergency, far away, it's the only way to go!

    I look forward to other peoples thoughts and comments. I hope this was helpful.

    Cheers, Hugh
     
  5. Gumby

    Gumby Supamod Staff Member s-Moderator

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    Don't forget you are also eligible for a spanky license plate with your call sign on it. :D
    We have an electronics teacher at school who is really big into long range ham. His domonstrations bore the hell out of me. it's like the internet, only the people you get to talk to are completely random. They don't have a common intrest.
    Short range might be cool, though.
     
  6. pfry

    pfry

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    I'm a Ham and have a solution for you non-radio guys.

    There's GMRS. It's on the 460mhz band.
    Radios are $150 to $200.
    Antennas are short, only a foot or so for a mobile 1/4 wave.

    You have to get a license but it's for a group/family.
    No test. I think it's $50 and you can run 10 mobiles and even a repeater if you want.

    GMRS is where taxicabs/tow truck and the like have operated for years.

    It talks reliably for several miles(depending on terrain.) It's pretty much line-of-sight but is much, much better than CB as far as privacy goes.

    Ham licenses are easy to get. A few hours of study and a test at the local ham club.
    Radio gear is cheap and last for years.
    I wouldn't leave home without a ham rig in my vehicle.

    Paul
    W7PCF
    Evanston,WY
     
  7. CDN_Cruiser

    CDN_Cruiser

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    Paul:

    I agree that GMRS can be a useful alternative, although also limited to getting your friends on board.

    How do GMRS repeaters work? Are they public access (similar to HAM), or do they belong to companies and therefore cannot be used? I would also imagine that the GMRS network of repeaters is much smaller (and urban based) than the HAM network?

    Cheers, Hugh (VA3???)
     
  8. ParadiseCruiser

    ParadiseCruiser

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    It is difficult to add to Hugh's post - he has hit all of the high points fairly well, though one exception...

    Amplifiers are illegal on CB. Not that this is enforced all that well, but without the knowledge of to use them properly (tuning, matching, etc.), it's amazing that more of these guys don't go home at night glowin' in the dark...

    Ham radio, on the other hand permits up to 1500 watts legally, depending upon your class of license (in the U.S. - keep in mind Hugh quotes Canadian regs, and they are different).

    Numerous of the 80s guys I've encountered who are hams also carry CB for the reasons stated: installed base on the trail. But, as pointed out, the possibilities are endless and with a HF/VHF combination radio (quite common), you can pick and choose the band you want to work, and the communication distance you desire (line of sight, or multiple skip all the way to Sudan if you like - tho not many hams in the Sudan...).

    Anyone who wants to do some reading should start at the web site for the national association for ham radio, the ARRL
    http://www.arrl.org.

    Paul: Greetings! You on HF?

    Cheers !

    Ron - K6RG
     
  9. Guest

    Guest Guest

    CB(Citizen Band)
    HF(High Frequency) 2-30Mhz
    VHF(Very High Frequency)27Mhz, Maximum 5W/40 channel and no License required.
    VHF Marine 27Mhz, Maximum 5W/23 channel and no License required.
    UHF(Ultra High Frequency) 477Mhz, Maximum 5W/40 channel and no License required.

    I have a 23 channel VHF in my BJ40 and Dad has a 40 channel VHF in his FZJ80R, But it is very rare to hear anyone using it.

    I am going to join the Toyota Landcruiser Club of Australia(Victoria) so I will have to get a UHF.

    With a UHF radio the terrain in which you use it will determine what #db Antenna you require.
    (As I will only be using mine in very flat areas I will get a 2.1Meter 9db.)
    Remember that 'Ground Plane' makes a huge difference to the output of the Antenna.
     
  10. cruiserdan

    cruiserdan SupportingVendor Emeritus Supporting Vendor Moderator

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    Hugh,

    How does marine VHF compare. I hold a marine VHF license and use one in my boat. It is definitely clear. 25 watts avg. I assume it is similar to HAM?
     
  11. Junk

    Junk

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    Seems like the big problem though is just the lack of other ham operators. No sense in having the ham if you're the only one on the trail that had one. Now, if everyone moved from cb to ham, then it would be great, but don't think that's gonna happen. :dunno:
     
  12. CDN_Cruiser

    CDN_Cruiser

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    Dan: Yes, I have a lot of experience with Marine VHF and VHF marine operation/functionality is very similar. Similar line of site usage, clear transmission, etc. Marine VHF is ~156MHz - 157MHz while the 2M band is ~144MHz - 148MHz, only with mobile 2M you are running closer to 50W (or less).

    One difference is that VHF Marine is 'channelized' (is this a word?) - ie the radios are set to use Ch16 or my old favorite 22A. For 2M you select a specific freq (eg for a repeater, satelite communication) based on the guidelines set out in a 'band plan' (how the band is split among different uses - beyond the scope of this). Although most amateur radios have the ability to save freq in memory locations and add an alfa name (eg I use 'CN Tower' for one of the repeaters close to me)

    One thing to remember with VHF marine is that you often have very clear lines of site, so you get quite good distances. In addition, you often have good antenna height, especially on the mast of a sailboat. I used to routinely use VHF marine for 40 - 60 nautical miles of coverage and greater distances for marine to air communications (I used to do marine and air search and rescue).

    As you know, not cool to use a VHF Marine radio in a cruiser :p

    Cheers, Hugh (who hopes to have completed my lic by the end of this month)
     
  13. CDN_Cruiser

    CDN_Cruiser

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    Junk, I tend to agree with you. However, it seems to me that a Cruiser club may be an interesting group to get trained in amateur radio operations. All of the HAM clubs are struggling with attracting new members, the aging member population, etc. I attended a recent event at a club here and I was warmly received (initially by a guy in his late 70s) - they LIKE to see some fresh blood.

    I think a modest proposition would be to call the local Amateur Radio club in your area and have a serious discussion with them. Would they be willing to come to your next winter club meeting and provide an overview of HAM and a demo? Would they follow-up with a day/weekend course and lic exam at some point for a group of DEDICATAED cruiser members?

    I think the greatest concern that HAM clubs/operators have is that a bunch of people get their lic and then completely abuse the privledges. If you could convince them you are serious, they would likely be happy to have a new group join the ranks.

    You could also prove to be very useful in emergency situtations. You would know how to use the equipment and have trucks - think about ice storms, power outages, floods, and, unfortunately, the crash of the space shuttle - HAMs were/are active for all of these events.

    Based on some comments on other Cruiser lists, it seems that 2M has become a standard in some clubs, so club by club is how this will likely grow in this area.

    Thoughts?
     
  14. CDN_Cruiser

    CDN_Cruiser

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    FJ - Thanks for the info. Just a quick point - these stats are really just for Australia (ie the regulations are different on power, use of channels, and the freq) - point being that anyone that is interested in this should consult with local recuirements (ARRL.com in the USA, RAC.com in Canada, etc)

    Cheers, Hugh
     
  15. pfry

    pfry

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    GMRS repeaters are not shared. They are owned by the licensee.
    Typically, one GMRS license is good for 10 mobile units and a repeater, though you can talk fine car to car without a repeater better than a CB.
    GMRS would be good for a club of cruiserheads.
    If your club is a "real" club and does search and rescue type stuff maybe it could apply for a VHF license.
    Don't forget that Nextel has a decent 2-way solution if you're in their service area.
    Drop by a local 2-way shop(Motorola) and see if you can get any info. He may have a GMRS license that he'll share with the group.
    There are lots of ways to communicate, some take more money than others, but nearly all of the other options are technically better than CB.

    Paul
    W7PCF
    Evanston, WY
     
  16. cruiserdan

    cruiserdan SupportingVendor Emeritus Supporting Vendor Moderator

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    Hugh,

    I did say licensed marine VHF..... 8) I don't key-up unless I'm in the water......... :beer:
     
  17. SquamSquatch

    SquamSquatch

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    The big picture

    VHF can be better than a CB, but we are at a point in the solar cycle were the only system that works well to always get out and communicate with a group in a distant location, or someone that has blasted 30 miles ahead is 80 meter ham band. Now the CB will start working better in the next five years, but still not great compared to something bulletproof like 80 meters. Now 80 meters gets a little technical (lower sideband), but if we have more hams in the club, more people will move into that, and on big trips we do tend to have 2-3 groups seperated by 80-150 miles sometimes. 80 meters will get you back home if needed. If we end up with 12 hams in the group, at least half will move into 80 meters in the next 10 years.

    Just a thought
     
  18. SquamSquatch

    SquamSquatch

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    2m verses Marine

    Not much comparison, they are quite similar. But..

    Ham when running the same power hits a little farther.

    You can run big power on ham

    Marine is actually not legal

    2m has many repeaters, which have the host of benifits listed earlier
     
  19. SquamSquatch

    SquamSquatch

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    GMRS

    If a CB is tuned properly, with a good antenna, it should out perform GMRS by a long shot, except of course the AM/FM thing

    GMRS is a little clearer when it does work because it is FM based



    My guess

    CB 10-20miles
    VHF with power 35-50 watts 10-35 miles (more dependant on line of site)
    GMRS 1-15 miles (Very dependant on line of site)
    80 meters ham, 0-1500miles (Complicated, antenna setup a must, expensive)
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2007
  20. SquamSquatch

    SquamSquatch

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    Cool Stuff

    Some of the more techie people could run a cross repeater, 2m to cb. That way anyone on cb would be re-broadcast on 2m and visa-versa

    Haven't played with that yet, but it's technically not that difficult