FRS/GMRS/MURS/CB: The Personal Radio Services

Anyone can use one of several types of two-way radios, most of which do not require a license. From something the kids can play with to serious business uses there are a bunch of different types of varying quality and usefulness. These are called CB, FRS, MURS and GMRS. Only GMRS requires a license, the others do not. Each of the four services have different intended functions.

  • FRS: Family Radio Service (low power, short range, intended for families and individuals)
  • GMRS: General Mobile Radio Service (high power, longer range, intended for families)
  • MURS: Multiple Use Radio Service (mid-power, medium range, intended for business)
  • CB: Citizen’s Band Radio Service (low power mobile)

You ever go into Wal-Mart or Best Buy and see those cheap little two-way radios encased in one of the most devious inventions of man-kind (Bubble Packs)? They boast wild range figures (“35 mile Range!”) and are made by many different companies like Motorola, Midland and Cobra. These are called “FRS Radios” (Family Radio Service). FRS radios are restricted to ½ watt, non-removable antennas and are intended for short-range person-to-person communications. While titled as the Family Radio Service they are commonly used by businesses and government organizations. In my neighborhood I hear construction crews, hunters, the local school and the golf course maintainers on FRS channels. Just about everything but families… There are few restrictions on what you can use it for so business and personal communications are allowed.

FRS is actually pretty interesting to listen to in many cases. While a lot of the traffic is inane nonsense, like kids wearing out the noisemaking alert beep button, occasionally there is some interesting stuff to listen to. I live in a fairly isolated area 20 miles from the nearest town. There is construction going on and the crews use several FRS channels to coordinate activities. There is a school in the area that uses FRS radios too. The golf course guys use FRS when performing maintenance or to corral loose duffers. Local landscapers use FRS as well.

Listening to FRS channels at the mall or around amusement parks etc. can also be fun. The stores and shops often use FRS radios for clerks and stockers, customers use them to keep in touch with their family.

A lot of the FRS channels are shared with GMRS, so listening to one set of frequencies you may hear both services.

GMRS is a little different than FRS. Since a license is required and power levels are higher they tend to be used in a more formal matter. FRS also allows repeaters so you may hear traffic from all over the area. GMRS is often used by REACT and other volunteers as well as family businesses and often for just idle chit-chat and radio clubs. Sometimes it sounds a lot like ham radio.

MURS can be very interesting. It is on VHF and allows higher power than FRS but in many other aspects it is very similar. Like FRS there are few restrictions on what you can use it for. Since the radios tend to be a little more expensive MURS channels tend to be more business oriented.

CB these days is mostly a wasteland of unintelligible noise. It is still popular with the highway crowd but between high-power illegal amplifiers, over-driven power echo-mics and other noisemakers it is no longer a viable communications tool. It can be interesting to listen to however!

If you put these frequencies in your scanner you may find some interesting communications. You might also be bored silly but you won’t know until you try it.

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)

  • Freq (MHz)              Remarks                  
  • 462.5500                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.5500)
  • 462.5750                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.5750)
  • 462.6000                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.6000)
  • 462.6250                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.6250)
  • 462.6500                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.6500)
  • 462.6750                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.6750)
  • 462.7000                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.7000)
  • 462.7250                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.7250)
  • 462.5625                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.5875                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.6125                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.6375                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.6625                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.6875                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.7125                 Simplex (5 watts)

Family Radio Service (FRS)

  • Freq (MHz)              Ch #         
  • 462.5625                 1
  • 462.5875                 2
  • 462.6125                 3
  • 462.6375                 4
  • 462.6625                 5
  • 462.6875                 6
  • 462.7125                 7
  • 467.5625                 8
  • 467.5875                 9
  • 467.6125                 10
  • 467.6375                 11
  • 467.6625                 12
  • 467.6875                 13
  • 467.7125                 14
  • 462.5500                 15 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.5750                 16 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.6000                 17 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.6250                 18 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.6500                 19 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.6750                 20 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.7000                 21 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.7250                 22 (Shared with GMRS)

Multiple Use Radio Service (MURS)

  • Freq (MHz)                                                 
  • 151.8200
  • 151.8800
  • 151.9400
  • 154.5700
  • 154.6000

Citizens Band (CB)           

  • Freq         Ch #          Freq         Ch #         
  • 26.965    1                27.215    21
  • 26.975    2                27.225    22
  • 26.985    3                27.255    23
  • 27.005    4                27.235    24
  • 27.015    5                27.245    25
  • 27.025    6                27.265    26
  • 27.035    7                27.275    27
  • 27.055    8                27.285    28
  • 27.065    9                27.295    29
  • 27.075    10             27.305    30
  • 27.085    11             27.315    31
  • 27.105    12             27.325    32
  • 27.115    13             27.335    33
  • 27.125    14             27.345    34
  • 27.135    15             27.355    35
  • 27.155    16             27.365    36
  • 27.165    17             27.375    37
  • 27.175    18             27.385    38
  • 27.185    19             27.395    39
  • 27.205    20             27.405    40
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WiFi on BCD536HP. How does it work?  What you can and can’t do with it.

The Uniden Bearcat BCD536HP is the only scanner that has the capability of being directly controlled by WiFi. By using the included WiFi dongle one can connect a smart phone or tablet to the scanner and listen to and control the scanner with the device. There are some other uses for the WiFi dongle as well.

Uniden has provided free “Siren” software (available for free via the Apple iTunes store or Google Play Store) to allow you to use your smart device as a scanner controller. You can even use this as a remote head for the scanner if mounted in a vehicle or to listen to your scanner from the patio or another room of the house for a scanner installed in the home. Some third party software allows you to use the WiFi feature to connect the canner to the computer without the need to plug in a cable.

There are a few things that the WiFi dongle will not work for, this includes database and firmware updates and other programming.

The Wifi dongle is designed specifically to work with your home or office WiFi network. While we have read of people using it for remote access this requires such networking tools as VPN, if you know how that works you probably can figure it out. Sorry, we cannot help with notworking issues like this!

To use the WiFi feature you need to understand the two modes involved; Infrastructure and Access Point.

Infrastructure Mode allows your scanner to connect to your home or office WiFi. This then allows you to connect to the scanner via third-party software like ProScan or RadioFeed or to the Siren application.

To get to Infrastructure Mode use the following steps:

Press Menu then select WiFi Setup>Select WiFI Mode>Infrastructure Mode

The radio will look for local access points and list them. When it displays the list select your router’s SSID name.

Then enter your password for the WiFi access point. This is the same password you would use for setting up any other WiFi device on your network. To enter the password you scroll thru the letters and use the 4 and 6 buttons to move the curser.

Access Point Mode allows you to connect you scanner to a smart phone or tablet (iOS or Android) using the free Siren software. You would use this when you are not in range of your WiFi system, such as when the radio is mounted in a vehicle. This allows you to use a phone or tablet as sort of a remote control head for the scanner.

In Access Point Mode the 536 acts as an Access Point and provides an SSID which you can change or leave at the default. You then connect your phone or tablet to that WiFi SSID and enter in the IP address in the Settings of the device. The IP address can be found in the WiFi settings on the scanner.

Siren is the free app available at the Apple iTunes Store for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch’s. It is also available for Android devices at the Google Play Store.

Siren is a neat way to use your 536 scanner but there are limits to it. It will only work with the 536, and it has limited abilities for control. It can set the range, select Quick Keys, set the squelch and start and reply the recording features but that is pretty much all she wrote. There is also a 2-3 second delay in hearing the audio compared to the radio itself.

The WiFi feature on the 546 is unique and useful as long as you know its limits.

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VLog – Scanner Master DIY – Updating Database for the Uniden Home Patrol I & II

In this Scanner Master V-Log we will show you how to update the Uniden HomePatrol I & II database.

Links
Download the HomePatrol Sentinel Software – http://www.scannermasterblog.com/downloads/

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VLog – Unication G-Series P25 Receivers

In this Scanner Master Vlog learn more about the Unication Pager-Receivers. A rugged mini-handheld receiver that solves the problem of APCO P25 digital simulcast distortion. Monitor conventional channels as well as digital trunking.

Links
Unication Software –
http://www.unicationusa.com/downloads-new
Get a Unication Receivers – http://www.scannermaster.com/Unication_Pagers_s/779.htm

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VLog – Scanner Master DIY – Reformatting SD Card for the Uniden HomePatrol

In this Scanner Master VLog we show you how to fix a corrupted SD Card for your HomePatrol-1/2.

Links
Software download – http://info.uniden.com/twiki/bin/view/HomePatrol/HomePatrolSentinel

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Basic Scanner Types

There are basically 3 different types of scanners, “Basic” “Digital” and “ZIP Code”. Which one is best for you depends on the systems used in your area. There are 2 basic formats of scanners, handheld and desktop/mobile.

What we call “Basic” scanners are those inexpensive scanners that usually have analog reception only and do not handle any type of trunking systems. Current “Basic” scanners include the Uniden BC75XLT, BC125AT and BC365CRS as well as the Whistler WS1010 and WS1025. These scanners are fine in areas that do not use digital or trunking systems, they also work well for aircraft, marine and railroad monitoring.

Digital” scanners have the ability to monitor digital and analog trunking systems (EDACS, Motorola, LTR, P25). Some of these scanners also include “Phase 2” systems, which is a newer form of P25. Some radios also will allow you to monitor ProVoice, DMR or NXDN digital systems.

“ZIP Code” or “Database” type scanners are digital trunking scanners that allow one to select a specific area and import channels from an on-board memory card. These memory cards can be updated when needed. These will work almost anywhere in the country and are ideal for those who travel often.

What scanner is best for you? Call us and we can help you decide. We have access to the world’s largest database of scanner frequencies and can quickly look up your area and let you know which radios would work best for you.

When you do call us we will ask a couple questions, including the location you wish to monitor and what format radio you want. With this information we can make a couple suggestions of scanners that will work in your area.

Most of the time we can suggest a couple different scanners with different feature levels. Conversely if you have your heart set on a specific radio we can tell you whether or not it should work in your area.

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The BearTracker 885: Is it a scanner or not?

BearTracker885
Uniden recently released its new BearTracker 885 CB-Scanner combination. Here are a few things to know about it:

1) It has a LIMITED FUNCTION scanner.

The 885 has a specially designed scanner built in that will receive local police, fire, EMS and Highway Department channels based on your location. The radio will tell you whether the channel is Police, Fire etc. but it does not indicate the agency or channel name. You can hear the traffic, the display will tell you that it is police or whatever, but it won’t tell you whether it is Mayberry or the Highway Patrol.

2) You can UPDATE but not program the scanner part.

The 885 has a free software program that simply updates the database the radio uses to hear local traffic. You cannot add/delete or modify channels. To update the radio is fairly simple, take out the full-size SD card, insert it into an SD-Card reader attached to your computer and run the updater program. (The radio does not come with an SD-Card reader, if your computer doesn’t have one you can get them for a few dollars.) The updater software pulls the latest data from the RadioReference database and loads it onto the SD-Card. The database is updated weekly but you only need to bother updating the database once or twice a year.

3) How does the 885 know where I am?

The 885 comes with a GPS receiver. The small receiver is connected to the GPS by an included cable, just put the little box in view of the sky (on the dashboard etc.) and plug it in. If this won’t work for you then you can manually enter in the location from the front panel controls of the radio. When using the GPS the radio’s location is updated regularly and the scanner part will reload itself with the local channels.

4) What about the CB?

The 885 is a basic 40 channel CB. It does not do SSB but it has the typical CB features needed to communicate or listen to other vehicles so equipped. It can also be used as a PA (PA Speaker not included) or as a weather receiver.

5) Is it legal?

We are not lawyers and do not offer legal advice. That said, CB’s are legal for use in the USA and Canada without a license. As far as the scanner goes check with your state and local authorities about whether a scanner is allowed in a vehicle. Laws may vary for commercial vehicles. Since this device has no radar detector it is not prohibited from commercial vehicles for that reason.

If you are interested in scanning specific agencies or want a scanner that allows you more choice then perhaps the 885 is not the radio for you. If you are looking for a CB and like the idea of hearing local emergency scanner traffic then this radio could be ideal.

Download Uniden BearTracker 885 Flyer

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DMR, ProVoice and Ultimate Self Updating

Most people who want the various paid updates for Uniden scanners (DMR, ProVoice or Ultimate Updates) have our staff add the updates to the radios when they buy it. It is simpler and worth the little bit of added expense for a lot of these folks.

There are times when it is not convenient for one to have us do these updates at the time of purchase. Maybe you bought the radio elsewhere (shame on you!) or didn’t know you needed the update until later. Perhaps the target you want to listen to changed to a new system.

You can send the radio to us using the regular Mail In Programming Order Form and have us do the update for you. We can do the updates with or without the programming services.

If you cannot send the radio to us for the updates you can get them directly from Uniden.com. If you live outside the USA or Canada however then Uniden cannot process your credit card for payment. We can!

The first thing you MUST do is to update the firmware to the latest version. On each radio except the 996 and 325P2 it is done thru Sentinel. For users of the 325 and 996P2 you download it from Uniden’s website and run the updater.

After you update the firmware call us and provide the below information and we will then email you with the one-time code to unlock the feature set on your radio.

Model (HomePatrol 1, Home Patrol 2, BCD436HP, BCD536HP, BCD325P2, BCD996P2)

Electronic Serial Number (Not the one on the label!)

HP1, HP2: Press Menu>Advanced, scroll down then press Version Information

All others: Press Menu>Settings>See Scanner Info> Firmware Version

Sum Code (HP1 and HP2 it is the 3 digits right of the dash after the ESN)

Of course will need your email address to send you the code as well as the proper billing address and credit card information.

Once you get the code from us go to the Update menu on the radio and enter it via the keypad. Once the code is entered it remains on the radio forever, you cannot erase it or transfer it to another radio. On the 325, 996, 436 and 536 scanners you can have either or both of the DMR and ProVoice updates. The HP1 and HP2 only support the Ultimate Update.

If you have questions on these updates you can call our scanner experts at 1-800-SCANNER.

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Force Write full Database (HP1, HP2 BCD436 and BCD536)

When updating a HP series (HomePatrol 1 and 2, BCD436HP and BCD536HP) scanner one of the update is the database that the ZIP Code feature relies on. If the database has old or incorrect data then it can affect whether you will be able to hear your target. If you update the database on a regular basis you can help ensure that you will hear what you want.

When you update the database within Sentinel (the free software provided by Uniden to support these scanners) it doesn’t actually update the database on the scanner itself. You have to “Force-Write” the database to the scanner. This is easy; after you “Update Master HPDB” in the Update menu just click the “Force-Write Full Database” button on the Write to Scanner (or Write to HomePatrol) item in the Scanner (or HomePatrol) menu.

This ensures that the Master HomePatrol database on your scanner is up to date.

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When the best scanner isn’t a scanner (Unication Receivers)

 Unication G5 Dual BandIf you live in an area covered by a Simulcast P-25 radio system you likely have suffered from Simulcast Distortion. This is the interference and missed calls caused by simulcast sites of these radio systems interfering with each other. All scanners have this issue and there are various things one can do to remedy the situation. This includes relocating or reducing the antenna, use of a directional antenna or turning on the attenuator.

Sometimes even this doesn’t help. If you really get in a bind there are other ways to get better reception. For some this means getting a specially programmed two-way radio set up on the system and using it as a monitor. While sometimes these can be programmed for receive only there are problems with this approach. First off is legality. Unless authorized by the system owner it may be illegal to have such a radio set up on the system due to the use of a “System Key”. Some states even This is considered to be intellectual property and restricted to authorized personnel. Even if you got past this hurdle two-way radios for these systems are expensive, sometimes over $5000. Add into that programming software ($300) and cables ($200) and pretty soon you are talking about real money.

The Unication receivers provide a possible solution that is much more reasonably priced, does not require permission or special codes or keys for the system but with reception rivaling that of the expensive radios at a fraction of the cost. The downside is that the Unication is not as flexible as a scanner and does not allow for field programming.

The Unication provides professional quality reception at a hobbyist price. While more expensive than scanners, it receives P25 Simulcast systems as well as the expensive two-way radios do at a much lower price.

ScannerMaster can program the Unication radio for you, be sure to select this option at the time of purchase if you want it. You can also do the programming yourself with a Windows computer, the software is free from Unication. Of course if there are any questions our knowledgeable staff is here to help!

The Unication G4 works in the 700 and 800 MHz. bands. The G5 works in these bands plus another, such as VHF or 2 different UHF bands. Currently they work on Phase 1 systems only but a Phase 2 upgrade will be available soon. This will be a paid update but pricing has not yet been announced.

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