Saturday, 7 June 2014

Industry Canada Shelves MURS Introduction - GMRS Remains

Industry Canada Shelves MURS Introduction - GMRS Remains

by Phillip J. Boucher

Industry Canada has announced on their website that the introduction of MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service) to the Canadian marketplace, due to be implemented on June 1, 2014, has now been deferred. This leaves GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) as the only licence and fee-free short range two-way radio service available to Canadian consumers and businesses.

A public consultation held in 2005 invited comments regarding the introduction of this service and in 2009 a decision was made to implement MURS after a five year transition period to allow users on the proposed MURS frequencies to find new ones at their own expense. The proposed operating frequencies were 151.8200 MHz, 151.8800 MHz, 151.9400 MHz, 154.5700 MHz and 154.600 MHz. 

However, many  negative responses to the consultation were received regarding the proposal, with public service users voicing their concern over the cost of transitioning to other frequencies, the impact on being able to provide emergency services to the public, and the potential interference to adjacent operating frequencies that they currently used. Industry Canada also had concerns over the lack of desire of an actual need for the service from MURS stakeholders and advocates. GMRS, however, continues to grow in use by consumers and business.

GMRS, a licence and fee free two-way radio service, uses twenty-two UHF channels in the 462 MHz and 467 MHz bands to provide a maximum two watt output signal from a handheld unit (walkie-talkie). Inexpensive GMRS handheld radios are compatible in features and performance to more expensive two watt UHF business band, or business exclusive, radios, with the only difference being the use of licenced business frequencies. Other than the frequencies, GMRS radios perform the same as compatible business band radios for a lot less money, including the absence of radio and frequency licencing and yearly renewal costs. The only cost to operate GMRS radios is the cost of the radio. 

MURS would have added the same type of radio equipment and service, but on the VHF band rather than the UHF band. Again, two watt MURS radios would have had the same features and performance as compatible two-watt VHF business band radios, just at an extremely lower cost. GMRS is, and MURS would have been, a viable cheaper alternative two-way radio service to more expensive business band handheld two-way radios.

Many Canadian businesses, such as retailers, construction, warehousing, transportation, food and entertainment industries, and many more, have incorporated GMRS radios into their daily activities to provide inter-office or inter-building communications, safety and security, productivity, and customer service communications, to name only a few applications, with more Canadian business users coming on board every day. GMRS is good for use in a urban area due to the UHF signals being able to penetrate obstacles such as trees, walls, and other structures.

MURS would have added an alternative communications mode for those Canadian businesses who need short-range two-way radio communicators out of doors. Though GMRS currently fulfills this need, MURS, being on VHF, would have provided an advantage of slightly greater distance to outdoor users, resulting in more reliable outside communications. In simple terms, GMRS on UHF is more suited to indoor communications or communications in a crowded environment, whereas MURS on VHF would have been more suited to outdoor or more open environments. Non-business users would have found MURS to be better for communications related to outdoor activities such as hiking and camping.

Industry Canada's decision not to implement MURS at this time means that Canadian consumers and businesses are limited to GMRS as a low cost alternative to expensive UHF radios. For the introduction of MURS to be considered by Industry Canada, Canadians, both consumers and business, need to let them know that the option of having both UHF and VHF inexpensive two-way radios available for daily activities is not only desirable, but necessary for safety, security, and the bottom line. 

Short range UHF and VHF radio communications should not be the exclusive domain of two-way radio providers with expensive prices and costs. All Canadians should have access to low cost radio communications on both UHF and VHF. MURS has its place and should be implemented in a timely manner. I thoroughly agree with the comments that were received from the consultation. However, the five year implementation period was more than enough time for users to transition to other VHF frequencies. Hopefully more Canadian consumers and businesses will let Industry Canada know that MURS is desired, MURS is needed, and MURS has its place in Canada's two-way radio spectrum.

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.

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