Mobile vs Portable, what is the difference?

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by KH6OWL, Oct 12, 2008.

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  1. KH6OWL

    KH6OWL XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    What is the offical answer on the differences between Mobile and Portable operations? Where is the reference in the FCC rules?

  2. K7MH

    K7MH Ham Member QRZ Page

    In Part 97 there is no concern for portable or mobile operating any longer (in the usual sense) so there would not be any definition of those terms.
    The lines of definition would be rather blurred these days.
    KE5TQA likes this.
  3. N5RLR

    N5RLR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'd always understood that "mobile" would denote operation in or on a vehicle [naturally or mechanically powered], and "portable" would mean operation on foot. :cool:
  4. W8ZNX

    W8ZNX Ham Member QRZ Page

    here is how it was

    portable meant just that
    you were not at home
    it was a station you had moved from someplace else
    and would later move back to where it came from

    seting up a Amateur Radio station at the summer cottage for two weeks
    using a dipole in the trees
    that would be portable

    sitting at a camp site in the woods with a qrp lash up
    hooked to a wire antenna or antenna you had to set up
    that would be portable

    a station mounted in a car, boat, airplane, motorcycle
    or carried on your back
    hooked to a mobile antenna that was mounted on the car, boat, airplane
    motorcycle or your backpack
    that can be used while moving
    that would be mobile

    there was a time when these thing realy meant something

    in the 30's
    you could not run mobile
    without special permit from the fcc
    on 160, 75/80, 40, 20,
    you could run mobile on 10, 5, ect on up

    for portable work
    you had to send a letter to the fcc
    telling where when you were going to be

  5. A71AN

    A71AN QRZ Member

    Mobile is not just operating from a moving car, it is more than that.

    Air/Mobile, M.Time/Mobile and so on, while portable is when you are station away from your qth and operating a portable set up, for example all of the A7 group plans regular trips away from the main cities and town and in an open un popilated area and camp their, with portable power sources and equipment, this is difined as portable stations, or some times like expedtions carried out under special occasions.

    All of the best
  6. KL5Z

    KL5Z Ham Member QRZ Page


    Agree that there is not going to be a concrete answer here. As a good rule of thumb, mobile requires an external power source (powered from car battery), portable has a battery built into the equipment.

    In the military we used the following designations (still with many exceptions)

    Fixed or Ground- Designed to be bolted to a rack and left in place
    Transportable- unplugged, boxed up, and moved to new location
    Mobile- Able to be operated while in transit from an external power source
    Portable- Usable with internal battery (manpacks)
  7. AD5MB

    AD5MB Ham Member QRZ Page

    One definition:

    Portable is a station moved to a fixed location and operated while stationary. A station in a big van, like an EMS field command station. Field day. Activating an island. Special event station.

    Mobile is using the radios in your car, boat, plane, et cetera while driving.
  8. K7MH

    K7MH Ham Member QRZ Page

    I had a genuine set of the rules for amateur radio dated 1933 a few months ago.
    It (as I understood it) did not allow for mobile operations at all other than aeronautical mobile. Thought that was pretty weird!
    The rule book was pretty small. Not a whole lot of regulations! Not a whole lot of bands we could use then either!!
    Interesting stuff!
  9. K9STH

    K9STH Ham Member QRZ Page

    During the first half of the 1930s mobile operation was not permitted and to operate portable you had to notify the FCC when you were operating away from your licensed location. In one of the major cities a group of amateur radio operators got together and each operator filed a notification of portable operation from every street intersection in the city. Reportedly each of these notifications involved over 100 type-written pages of documentation. Of course the intention was to use a mobile.

    Within several weeks the FCC changed the regulations to allow mobile operation.

    In years past one had to notify the FCC district office in which the portable operation was to take place as to the location and time frame of the operation before operation could take place. Then the regulations were changed to be if you were going to operate for more than 72 hours from a specific location (these regulations were in effect in 1960 when my family went on a 3-weeks vacation driving from Indiana to California via Arizona). During that time I had to notify the FCC Los Angeles office because we were staying at my aunt's house in Newport Beach for more than 72 hours. But, I did not have to notify anyone for my operation in Tucson, Arizona, because we were there for less than 72 hours.

    Of course these days you do not have to notify the FCC of any portable operation if, for no other reason, there is no longer a permanent station location indicated on your license.

    Glen, K9STH
  10. N0EQ

    N0EQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Just to add to the confusion -

    I operate with an automobile battery,
    not attached to an automobile. The
    battery sits on the sand in the desert
    next to me where I operate from a
    lawn chair and portable, fast erect

    This portable/remote location is on my property,
    on my ranch in Arizona. It is my QTH, and it is
    portable/battery powered/relocated now and then.

    "Backyard remote"

    Craig 'Lumpy' Lemke
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