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FCC issues advisory against the import, sale and use of unauthorized UHF/VHF two way radios

FCC Enforcement Advisory Banner

The FCC issued an enforcement advisory today against the import, sale and use of unauthorized VHF/UHF two way radios effective immediately. The advisory reiterated that non-compliant radios can not be imported, sold, advertised or operated by anyone in the United States.

The advisory was issued September 24, 2018 and implies that a crackdown on cheap, imported radios is imminent. The FCC warned that violators will be subject to penalties, including monetary fines up to $19,639 per day during the violation and up to $147,290 for an ongoing violation.

The "crack-down" began in early August when the FCC went after an Amazon seller of a variant of the immensely popular Baofeng UV-5R, or more specifically, the UV-5R V2+. The FCC issued a cease and desist order to this seller, making it clear that they considered the UV-5R V2+ to be non-compliant. We discussed this at length in episode 126 of The Two Way Radio Show podcast.

The latest FCC enforcement advisory points out several examples that would violate the commission's rules, most of which refer to use of these radios on business or Land Mobile frequencies. Specifically:

- The ability to transmit on public safety and/or other unauthorized channels. Some radios have the ability to transmit on a wide range of frequencies, for example 400-512 MHz. Within this range are frequencies that are reserved for government and public safety use and the radio should prohibit transmission on these. It was absent from this advisory, but the cease and desist mentioned above points out that the UV-5R should not allow the programming of frequencies directly from the keypad by an end user.

- The ability to transmit using wideband. Several years ago the FCC mandated that radios operating on land mobile frequencies must support a maximum of 12.5 kHz bandwidth. Devices that support 25 kHz were prohibited.

- Radio devices modified after they are FCC approved. After a radio is approved by the FCC, if changes are made to the radio it generally needs to go through the approval process again.

- Radio products marketed for Ham/Amateur use that are capable of transmitting outside Amateur frequency bands. Radios intended for use by Amateur Radio operators do not require the typical FCC approval process that business radios require. However, these radios must be locked down to only amateur bands. For example, an amateur radio cannot also transmit on business, GMRS or MURS frequencies.

The Enforcement Bureau of the FCC noted a substantial number UHF/VHF radios marketed, sold and used in the United States that are not FCC certified or compliant with the rules. These radios are capable of operation on multiple bands across multiple radio services for which they are not certified, increasing the risk of interference to authorized or licensed entities and operations, such as federal government operations and private licensed users. Devices that do not meet the requirements and are not FCC certified for use on these radio services are in direct violation of the rules and should not be used by anyone, unless the user is an amateur radio operator.

An amateur radio operator, or ham, is the only exception to this requirement, provided the radio is only capable of operating on frequencies reserved for amateur radio operation. However, the operator must have a valid amateur radio license to operate the radio and must only operate it according to the FCC rules.

Our Plan of Action

As we mentioned in our podcast, once the cease and desist was issued to the Baofeng seller, we started taking steps to ensure that all of the radios that we sell are compliant. The advisory issued today is actually helpful to us, as it provides specifics on what would be considered non-compliant.

We currently carry several import radios and market them to Amateur Radio operators. We are now working with the manufacturers of these radios to have all models that we carry locked down to the ham bands only (144-148, 222-225, 420-450 MHz). Some radios will be able to be updated soon with firmware changes, others will be closed out and updated models ordered as they are made available.

What is the Impact?

Because we market these products to amateur radio operators, we are more in touch with how this will impact those users. There are certainly users who love the fact that they can have a single radio programmed for their work frequencies and also their ham repeaters. We've also heard of users programming these radios for use on the GMRS. If the FCC is successful, this will soon no longer be an option, although it technically never should have been one.

Perhaps we'll see many popular radio models re-issued with the same hardware in ham or GMRS only versions. The digital models will likely also have a business radio edition.

We may also see many of these import radios disappear altogether. Some radios are sold on Amazon at very low prices and they are clearly marketed to businesses, but they only support analog operation. Becoming FCC certified isn't going to be an option for these radios, since the FCC is now requiring most radios to essentially support digital operations in order to be granted approval.

Read the complete FCC Enforcement Advisary 2018-03 for details.

 

 

4 thoughts on “FCC issues advisory against the import, sale and use of unauthorized UHF/VHF two way radios”

  • Mike

    How do you lock your radios down to the ham bands only? Can they be unlocked by the user?

    Reply
  • Fred Simon

    Am I correct in what I hear that I cannot purchase or use a Baogeng UV5R v2+ on the Ham bands since it only has an FCC Part 90 certification?

    Reply
    • Rick

      Hi Fred, to clarify, no type acceptance is needed to operate a radio on the ham bands. Therefore, you should be able to use a Baofeng UV-5R or variants such as the V2+ on the amateur bands only. The FCC advisory is warning users against using these radios on other services for which they are not type accepted, such as FRS, GMRS, MURS or marine bands. These radios are not specifically FCC approved for use on those bands, and clearly violate the rules and limitations on a couple of them. The problem is, a lot of folks are using the UV-5R V2+ and other unapproved models on these services in violation of the FCC rules, and it's causing interference and other issues with those who are authorized to use those bands and services.

      As long as you are a licensed ham operator and are using your Baofeng radio only on the ham bands and frequencies for which you are licensed, you should be fine.

      Reply
  • Brandon

    I had a feeling this was coming. I understand why though, you basically cannot trust everyone to not transmit on frequencies for which they are not authorized. However, I must say I never became licensed for amateur radio until these radios became more affordable. I must admit what put me over the top to get back into radio, was the ability to scan, and transmit all within one device. Some of us just cannot afford a scanner and another radio for transmitting as well. Its unfortunate people like myself who have enough sense not to transmit on frequencies for which we are not authorized, are going to be stuck with a device locked to the ham bands. Here is were I have questions though. The FCC left some of what they said up for interpretation. “if a device is capable of operating only on frequencies that the FCC has allocated for use by Amateur Radio Service licensees, it does not require FCC equipment authorization” Okay simple enough if a radio is shipped to the USA, and is locked to the ham bands no need for part 90 certification. The obvious requirement is you be an amateur radio operator, and follow FCC part 97 rules. “If a two-way VHF/UHF radio is capable of operating outside of the amateur frequency bands, it cannot be imported, advertised, sold, or operated within the United States without an FCC equipment certification.” Here is where it gets interesting for me, I own a KG-UV6D that indeed has an FCC ID and is part 90 certified accordingly. As there are several other makes of these radios that are technically part 90 certified as well. So, my question would be is my KG-UV6D legal for use as long as I only operate on the amateur radio band? If I purchase another radio, for example the KG-D901 would it be locked to the ham bands or open since it is part 90 certified for UHF? There is no simple fix for this problem that is going to make everyone happy, but requiring customers to prove their licensed for amateur radio before they are sold a radio could be a start. Although I am sure some would oppose that as well.

    Reply

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