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Monthly Archives: July 2011

  • Getting Started with Marine Radios

    One of the most important things to have with you when you are out on the water (besides something to keep you afloat) is a means of two way communication, such as a radio. If you are a boater, you probably already know how important it is to have a radio on board.

    Marine VHF radios are commonly used on seafaring vessels both large and small to communicate ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore for everything from routine contact with ports and marinas to emergency distress calls. These radios operate using VHF frequencies from 156 to 174 MHz.

    Marine radios operate very much like your typical land-based two way radio, but with some differences in channels, wattage, range and features. VHF marine channels are different than those used for land based radios and are specifically for use in marine environments. They are allowed to operate between 1 and 25 watts. Because transmissions primarily occur over open water, their range will generally be much greater than land-based radios.

    Marine radios also offer many additional features not found on most land-based radios, such as emergency weather alerts and weather-proofing. It is not uncommon for marine radios, particularly handheld units, to be submersible in water and even float.

    One important feature often found in a VHF marine radio is Digital Selective Calling, or DSC. DSC is part of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS). A Class-D (DSC) Digital Selective Calling-capable VHF radio has a second receiver to monitor Channel 70 (DSC channel) activity at all times while receiving another channel. DSC allows the user to send a distress signal at the push of a button without using a microphone to exchange position information with other boats or stations. As of March 25, 2011 marine radios are now required by the FCC to be Class-D DSC complaint.

    The FCC has set specific requirements for users of marine radios operating within US jurisdiction. The FCC states: Depending on the size, purpose, or destination of a ship, its radio station must meet certain requirements established by law or treaty.

    On October 25, 1996, the FCC released a Report and Order in WT Docket No. 96-82, 11 FCC Rcd 14849, FCC 96-421 (pdf), eliminating the individual licensing requirement for voluntary ships operating domestically which are not required by law to carry a radio. Voluntary ships are those that are not required to have a radio. WIth a few exceptions, most recreational vessels are considered voluntary.

    According to the FCC, domestic vessels are those that do not travel to foreign ports. If your vessel travels to ports in other countries, you will need to have a license. The FCC rules require certain vessels to be equipped with radio equipment for safety purposes. These rules are set in accordance with international agreements.

    Marine radios typically have 88 channels, however not all of those channels are allowed to be used by everyone. Certain channels are reserved for specific types of communications or for specific groups, such as commercial ships and the Coast Guard. For instance, Simplex channels, 3, 21, 23, 61, 64, 81, 82 and 83 CANNOT be legally used in U.S. waters by the general public. Channel 16 and Channel 9 are emergency channels and are reserved specifically for emergency communications. Channel 16 (for voice) and channel 70 (for digital DSC) being monitored 24 hours a day by the US Coast Guard.

    In addition to the other requirements, there is one other very important rule to note: Marine radios are specifically intended for marine use. It is illegal to operate a marine radio on land.

    There are two basic types of VHS Marine Radios, fixed mount and handheld. Fixed mount radios are installed or mounted in your vessel. Handheld radios are carried with you like any other handheld two way radio or walkie-talkie.

    Examples of fixed mount VHF marine radios are the Icom IC-M412 (available in black or white) and the Cobra Marine MR-F80B-D Class-D Fixed Mount Submersible VHF Radio. Examples of handheld marine radios are the Midland Nautico 3VP, and the Icom IC-M36 VHF Marine Radio. Cobra, Icom, Midland and Uniden are all popular brands of marine radios.

    When shopping for a marine radio, it is important to note that while antennas are typically included with handheld radios, an antenna is not included with fixed mount marine radios and are purchased separately. This is because the antenna will be mounted somewhere externally on the vessel itself. Marine radio antennas vary in size, length and type and your choice of an antenna may vary depending on where and how it will be mounted on your vessel.

    For more information about the basics of choosing and using a marine radio, listen to The Two Way Radio Show Episode 16 - An Introduction to Marine Radios.

  • Charging Two Way Radios in a Vehicle

    Charging a handheld two way radio is, for the most part, a universal concept. It requires a radio equipped for charging, a charger, and rechargeable batteries. Charging is generally accomplished using one of three methods: plug the charger into the radio, drop the radio into the charger, or drop the batteries into the charger to charge the batteries directly.

    While charging methods may vary according the make and model of radio you are using and the type of battery or charger used, they all have one thing in common - the charger cable or station typically plugs into a wall outlet and recharges the battery from a stationary source of AC power.

    But what if there is no AC outlet available? What if you are away from your home or office, in a remote location, or on the road? What then? How do you keep your radios powered up and your batteries charged when you are on the go? These are questions frequently asked by customers in our blog, forum and on The Two Way Radio Show.

    The answers to such questions depend a lot on your choice of radio. Some radios and/or their supplied chargers do not inherently support charging on DC power. Some do. However, even for some that don't, there may be a solution.

    There are many brands and models of consumer two way radios with DC charging options included or built right in. Midland, Motorola and Uniden offer consumer FRS/GMRS radios with DC charging options. Motorola offers several radios with a 12v cable for their drop-in dual chargers. Several TalkAbout radios, such as the MH230R, MJ270R, MR350R and MR355R have a built-in mini-USB port to charge the radios via USB. The MR350R VP also has the mini-USB port and a min-USB car charger is included in the package. Uniden offers an optional 12v charging cable for the GMR2838-2CK, GMR2240-2CK and other Uniden radios (sold separately) so you can charge them by plugging the radios directly into the cigarette lighter in your vehicle.

    Most manufacturers of consumer radios require you to turn the radios off while charging them in your vehicle. This means that you generally will not be able to use the radios to receive and transmit while they are charging. However, Garmin offers an optional Auto Power Adapter and PC Interface Cable with Auto Power Adapter to directly power the Rhino Series radios while in a vehicle. Garmin radios are more expensive than many other FRS/GMRS radios, but if you specifically need to be able to operate a radio while it is plugged into your vehicle for power, this may be the way to go.

    Business radios are a little different. Although Icom does offer a DC adapter for its drop-in chargers, as a general rule most chargers for business radios are AC only.

    However, Impact manufactures a line of universal chargers for business (and some consumer) radios that work using DC power. The Impact DC-1 Universal Single Rapid Vehicle Charger is compatible with a wide range of radios by utilizing an interchangeable cup system. Simply choose the cup that fits your make and model radio, drop it in the charger and it is ready for your radio. The charger also includes a mounting bracket to mount it in your car, truck or van.

    If you have more than one radio to charge, Impact offers the AC/DC Universal Rapid 3 bank and 6 bank chargers. These chargers utilize the same cup system as the DC-1, allowing you to charge multiple radios of different makes and models all at the same time. Not every radio out there is supported, but there are cups available for a lot of them, and they are listed on a Charger Cup Chart. Impact offers 3-bank and 6-bank quick release vehicle mounting brackets for these chargers as well, but they are optional and are purchased separately.

    Charging two way radios while on the go can have its challenges, but with a little planning and research you can find the right solution to charge your radios for full power whenever you need it, where ever you may go.

  • TWRS-17 - Batteries For Radios

    In this episode we discuss the types of batteries used in handheld two way radios. We also review the Impact AC/DC Universal Rapid Multi-Chargers.

    Intro :00
    Billboard 1:15

    Topic Discussion 1:29
    We talk about batteries for two way radios. We learn about the types of batteries available, the differences between them and how the important it is to consider the right battery when choosing the right radio. For more information about the types of batteries available and the differences between them, read Battery Type Differences: NiCd vs. NiMH vs. Li-Ion. For more information on the care and maintenance of batteries for two way radios, listen to Episode TWRS-14 - Care and Maintenance of Two Way Radios. Download our FREE Two Way Radio Care and Maintenance Guide. A durable, laminated version of our Care and Maintenance Guide is also available for purchase.

    Commercial Break 15:31
    buytwowayradios.com 1:00

    Product Review 16:29
    Today we will review the the Impact AC/DC Universal Rapid Multi-Chargers.

    Questions and Answers 22:34
    Questions from readers of our Two Way Radio Blog and members of the Two Way Radio Forum.

    Wrap up and Close 28:06
    Send in your comments and questions for Danny, Anthony and Rick to show(at)buytwowayradios.com. Feedback on this and other topics will be read by the hosts and included in future episodes of the show. Visit us at www.twowayradioshow.com!

    © 2011 Cricket Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.

  • Motorola DTR550 Still Going Strong

    DTR550-5-l.jpgWe have heard from several customers who have been told that the Motorola DTR550 radio was discontinued. This is not true. Just to clarify, the DTR550 is still current and isn't going away anytime soon!

    So, what happened? The truth is, Motorola stopped making this unit available to a large number of their dealers. As an Authorized Radio Reseller for Motorola, we still have the DTR-550 and will continue to have access to them for the foreseeable future.

    So, fear not, digital two way radio fans. the death of the Motorola DTR550 has been greatly exaggerated.

    Update 2019: The DTR550 is now officially discontinued and is no longer available. It was replaced with the Motorola DTR600 Digital Two Way Radio.

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