Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Digital GMRS Radios on Their Way?

Digital GMRS Radios on Their Way?

by Phillip J. Boucher

In my constant research about GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) in Canada, I was shocked when I stumbled upon a small comment on an obscure section of a website (which I will not divulge) that seems to suggest that the next evolution in GMRS radios will be the switch from analogue to digital. From a radio user's point of view, this is a good thing. The use of digital communications in commercial, public service, and Amateur Radio is seeing an increase. Digital can be a more effective mode of communications and is usually less susceptible to atmospheric interference. Much more data can be crammed into a digital signal than an analogue one. 

But playing the devil's advocate, GMRS digital communications presents a few issues. First is the price. You can now get a pair of full two-watt out GMRS radios for under fifty dollars, and sometimes quite under that price. Digital circuitry is expensive and GMRS digital radios will cost more. The major issue that I have with GMRS digital signals is compatibility. Digital-only radios will not be compatible with the current analogue radios. This presents extreme safety issues if GMRS is being used in an emergency. Unless these radios are switchable between analogue and digital, we would effectively have two sub-versions of the General Mobile Radio Service here in Canada.

The whole aspect of radio communications is compatibility and effectiveness. Even public service users of digital-only radio equipment have the ability to either switch over to analogue communications or have a separate analogue radio system. Is someone who buys a pair of GMRS digital radios also going to purchase a pair of analogue GMRS radios simply as a back-up? I highly doubt it. Hopefully the introduction of digital GMRS radios is done with public safety in mind. It's important to note that in a emergency situation, using a two-way radio to get help is only as effective as the stations that can actually hear the signal.


Phillip J. Boucher is the author of the ebook, The Complete Guide to Canada's General Mobile Radio Service, availbe from Amazon for $14.95. https://www.amazon.ca/Complete-Canadas-General-Mobile-Service-ebook/dp/B00DF8Y848

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