Can anyone tell me the advantages of using Motorola commercial equipment for use as an HT or mobile unit for ham? I see radios on E-bay all the time that claim they will work the ham bands. My question is why do people spend more on this type of equipment when there are radios made for ham that will cover twice as many channels and bands for less price? If anyone can enlighten me please do. I have been looking at a few motos and besides the construction quality and cosmetics I don't think I can justify spending over $200 for an 2 meter HT that will only do 20 channels.
Not only do the commercial equipment not have as many frequencies, you do have to have the programming hardware and software to change frequencies or else pay a two-way shop every time that you need to change things around. Back in the 1960s and even into the 1980s, you really had to go to a commercial portable to get anything that was worth having. Even for a mobile unit it really was necessary for commercial equipment. Today, the commercial equipment is still better constructed, has tighter technical specifications, etc. But, for casual amateur operation it is a "pain".
However, for those amateurs who are members of volunteer fire departments, etc., who have a need for communications with those agencies, then purchasing of a good commercial (i.e. Motorola) rig at a good price is really the only legal way to go. It is perfectly legal to program in whatever land mobile frequencies that you need and then to use the rest of the frequencies for amateur. This way the equipment (either portable or mobile) is type-accepted and keeps the FCC happy whereas modifying a piece of amateur equipment for use on land-mobile is a definite "No No" and the FCC has been coming down on those people who have been caught using non-type-accepted equipment on commercial frequencies!
Uniden makes some 36 channel equipment that is very good for this (Uniden was a "spin off" from Motorola back around 1981 - was originally Force Communications). In fact, I use a Uniden highband (2 meter) mobile that is trunk mount and runs a solid 60 watts output in one of my vehicles. However, for trips, I also have a Kenwood TR-7850 with a TE-32 Communications Specialties CTCSS assembly. This gives me full coverage of 2 meters plus all of the normal CTCSS tones. The 50 watt output versus the 60 watt output of the Uniden doesn't make a "hill of beans difference" in how I get out.
I owned the Motorola reconditioned equipment center for the south-central US from early 1970 until Motorola went out of that end of the business in late 1979. I did have the "latest and greatest" FM equipment that I used on 2 meters and the 440 MHz band. But, today, even if I was still in that part of the business, I would not use commercial equipment for casual operation. When I owned several community repeaters I did program those repeater frequencies into a commercial 450 MHz radio. Then, the remainder of the frequencies were programmed for amateur repeaters. Perfectly legal and it did what I needed to do.
So, if you have a need to operate on land mobile frequencies (or on GMRS on the 460 MHz band), then buying one of the commercial radios makes good sense. For "normal" amateur operation, then it really doesn't. However, one thing in favor of the commercial radios is that receiver intermod is usually much reduced from what you get with the average amateur equipment.
There are no advantages unless you also work in another field that uses commercial radio equipment, like the fire department, police, gas company, etc... #In that case, you could use your Motorola "legally" on those commercial bands, while also sharing it with the ham bands.
You can not do the reverse, which is buying a ham radio and transmitting on the commercial bands where a type accepted radio is required.
That topic is now active on at least one other thread here on QRZ. #Also, most commercial radios do not have the channel capacity that amateur radios have. #The normal Motorola HT has 16 or 32 scanning channels, whereas amateur HT's have 99 or more. # Some commercial mobiles are still 4 to 6 channel. #Commercial radios are not normally "user" programmable, and must be done by a factory service center. #Amateur radios you program yourself.
Your basic commercial radio, be it an HT or Mobile will have an On/Off and Squelch control, with maybe a scan/monitor button and priority button. #No mic gain, RF power control, or other bells and whistles.
There is even a down side - I have heard using a Narrow Band Radio - The audio may sound weak on a wideband Radio (STH, you have work with commercial gear before, right - have you ever heard this?)
As for me I own a Yaesu / Vertex Standard VX-300 HT (NTIA Narrowband Compliant), I only own that as my primary radio because I need it for Civil Air Patrol use. (Plus my VX-300 is my highest power radio,my other radio is a VX-1R [1 watt max] [For ham use only])
All of the commercial equipment manufactured for the low, high, and 450 MHz in the US since 1957 has been "narrow band", that is +/- 5 KHz deviation. However, for use on terciary splits, deviation of +/- 3.3 KHz and for use on the 900 MHz band +/- 2.5 KHz deviation is the norm.
The old "wide band" (+/- 15 KHz deviation) equipment has been virtually extinct even in amateur circles since the late 1960s. The amateur FM equipment is supposed to be set at +/- 5 KHz deviation. Now, if someone were to use some of the equipment that has had the deviation cut back for the terciary and quadaciery commercial splits, then it would have weak sounding audio when used in systems with the "normal" +/- 5 KHz deviation. Then, if someone were to try to use modified amateur equipment running +/- 5 KHz deviation on a system that is designed for lower deviation, then they would tend to "chop out" if they could be received at all. That is another argument for not modifying amateur equipment besides the legality situation.
How "loud" an FM signal sounds is NOT dependent on the signal strength like AM (SSB is an AM mode) but on the deviation (how far the signal "swings" to either side of the carrier frequency). Now, the bandwidth of the receiver versus the bandwidth of the incomming signal will determine how loud a particular signal sounds in a particular receiver. Most "narrow band" receivers have filters that limit the bandwidth to approximately +/- 7.5 KHz (15 KHz bandwidth). This allows for some off frequency of the transmitted signal. However, when the deviation goes beyond the bandwidth, the signal "chops out". This means that a good percentage of the signal is not demodulated because it exceeds the bandwidth of the receiver.
In systems that are set up for +/- 3.3 KHz or +/- 2.5 KHz (or even narrower deviation), the receive filters are narrower and the frequency tolerances allowed by the FCC are much tighter. Thus, a system designed for 3.3 KHz deviation may well have receiver filters that are a total of 7.5 KHz wide instead of the "normal" 15 KHz wide. Those designed for +/- 2.5 KHz can well have filters that are narrower than 6 KHz. Thus, any signals that have wider deviation will not be able to be demodulated because they are too "wide" for the system.
The tendency for commercial equipment is for narrower and narrower deviation which allows for more channels per Megahertz. This narrower deviation can be made up for in the receiver with what is called "audio recovery" which is nothing more than more amplification of the audio after demodulation.
Thus, it is possible to get ahold of some commercial equipment that will have lower audio "volume" when used with normal amateur FM equipment. Also, it is possible for that same equipment to have the narrower receive filters and thus not be able to work properly with the normal amateur +/- 5 KHz deviation transmitters.
Its very simple... quality. If Moto, GE, etc equipment is "professional" grade, then amateur class Icom, Kenwood, etc are "consumer" grade.
In the case of mobiles, you get 110 watts out, minimum, as opposed to your --maybe-- 50 watts. You get improved frequency stability, dust tight, water tight, very nice radios. No bells and whistles... just program it, pick it up and talk.
In the case of HTs, you get slightly higher power, sturdier construction, again tighter frequency stability, and no bells and whistles, just pick it up and talk. There is a story in the HT220 preservation site where a cop beat a pitbull to death with his handi-talkie, and it still worked.
Programming, though not simple, can be performed by yourself, most moto radios need a RIB (radio interface box) and software. Alot of other radios are programmable by the keypad or button combinations (with secret codes). The older radios were crystal controlled.
Most serious repeaters are running Motorola or GE commercial gear, either dedicated repeater/base radios, mobiles converted to full duplex service or a pair of mobiles connected with a repeater controller.
And yes... if you are a volunteer firefighter, aux police, work for an oil delivery service, then you can also use these radios on your business frequency.
running Moto Syntors on 10m 6m, 2m, 440, HT 220s on 2 and 440, Micors on 2m and 220 and PAC-RTs on 2 and 440 and more than a few Moxys on 440MHz.
Actually, Motorola has in their Schamburg, Illinois, main offices a "museum" (at least they used to!) of radios that had survived all sorts of things.
When I was working directly for Motorola my senior year at Georgia Tech, one salesman would even put an HT-200 in front of a police squad car and tell them to drive over it! Another would unlock his mobile from the trunk, take it out, throw it as far as he could (on the grass, he wasn't stupid enough to do it on concrete!), pick it up, put it back in, and check into the office on the local repeater. However, every time he did this, he also stopped by the local service station and got it checked out "just in case"!
When the carving at Stone Mountain, Georgia, (over 500 feet to the top of the mountain) was being finished up, one of the park rangers was leaning over the rail and his HT-200 slipped out of the holster and bounced 3 times on its way to the bottom. At the time I was the manager of the portable and paging repair facility at the regional office in Forest Park (southern suburb of Atlanta - my senior year in college). I had to replace the antenna (it just screwed in) and replaced the knob on the on-off switch because it had been "dinged". Other than a couple a scratches on the case, there was no other damage to the unit! Motorola tried to get that unit for their museum, but the State of Georgia refused, saying that if it survived that kind of fall, that they definitely wanted to keep it. They also bought a large number more!
Kimberly-Clark (the large paper manufacturer) used the old (but new at the time!) Pageboy I pagers. One day one of their employees was leaning over a paper vat (the large vats that they use to mix all the chemicals, wood pulp, etc., in as they are making the paper) and his pager came off of his belt and fell into the vat. For over an hour they kept paging the unit and could barely hear it "beep" down in the vat while they attempted to find it. Finally, it was recovered. They washed it off in a bucket of water and mailed it from the Birmingham, Alabama, area to Atlanta for repair. I replaced the "push to talk" switch, not because it was bad, but because it was of an older type that was known to fail and thus there was a directive that every Pageboy I that came in with either the white or red push to talk switch were to be replaced with the new black colored ones. Otherwise, the unit was fine!
When the Motrac was the latest and greatest, a police squad car was "broadsided" and the radio was actually forced through the body of the car and was hanging on the outside by the connecting cable. The officer used the radio to call for assistance! This radio did end up in the museum. The front panel was cracked, and the case was a shamble, but the radio kept on working!
Then there was the "cameltran". A near eastern sheik decided that he wanted three radios to be used on camels! The radio was on one side of the camel in a saddle bag, the batteries were on the other side in a saddle bage, and the full sized lowband whip was on a platform that went across the camel's hump. The control head was attached to the camel's collar! The Motran was the fully solid-state radio (50 watt maximum output at the time) so it was decided to use it. But, that is not the real thing about these radios. The sheik had to have EVERY metal part gold plated including the printing on the circuit boards, the chassis, the shields under the boards, the component leads, the solder connections, everything! Even the front panel, the mounting bracket, top cover, control head, every pin and every connector, the microphone (they had to go back to the older all metal type instead of the newer, but same shape plastic one), the microphone hang up box, everything! Besides all of this, Motorola had to supply a kit so that if repairs were ever made, that the solder joints could be replated with gold!
I did not see the completed cameltran, but I have held in my hands a number of the "reject" board assemblies. Motorola made well over a dozen of each individual board (there were several in the Motran) and gold plated each one. The best three were put into the radios plus a set of spares were sent to the sheik. The manager of that project at Schamburg had been transferred to Dallas and he had several of the boards on his desk for paperweights!
The funny thing about this is that Motorola has been on the "banned" list for Arab countries for decades because they have a plant in Israel. But, although Motorola radios cannot be "officially" imported, there are thousands of them in use in Arab countries! It is like Coca-Cola. The cases say somthing different, but the bottles always had Coca-Cola on them!
When I owned the Motorola reconditioned equipment center for the south-central US (1970 - 1979 when Motorola went out of that end of the business), ARCO Petroleum's main office was less than a mile down the road (straight west, even the same side of the parkway!). They always bought reconditioned Motorola portables since after a few months they were always "confiscated" by the Arab authorities and then used by their police departments! This was just a game, and the oil company considered it part of their "payment" to the governments. It was good for us, because we got the fee for reconditioning a lot of HT-200 and HT-220 equipment.
Arco also was starting to work on the "north slope" of Alaska at the time. They were buying the large Motorola control consoles that allowed a single control point to work several base stations. However, a large number of the technicians and engineers that were working on the pipeline were also amateur radio operators. Because of this, ARCO had a "single sideband" station included in each console. This just happened to consist of a Collins 75S-3C receiver, Collins 32S-3A transmitter, and the Collins 30L-1 linear (they couldn't go with the 30S-1 since it wouldn't fit in the console). Of course, only the amateur band crystals were ever installed. But, having a "club" station at every office made getting employees easier and also made them much happier! The Motorola sales executive (his only customer was ARCO!) came by my office every two or three days just to make sure that anything that ARCO wanted, they got!
Anyway, commercial equipment is better built, it does have tighter operating specification, and will outperform amateur equipment. But, it is very specialized and it not condusive to average amateur use.
re: using commercial gear on ham frequencies
First I'd like to comment that in the early days of FM and repeater operation, ex-commercial gear was state-of-the-art. My first 2 meter radio was an FMTRU-5V that was older than me (made in 1949).
You will find that there isn't an 'S' meter, or the frequency capacity found in new ham gear. But you will find a tighter front end, (less likely to hear intermod) and a squelch circuit that doesn't chop those really weak signals.
For example, my friend WB7USV bought a GE TPL radio and then a Kenwood TR7400, and ran them side by side in his car. On the bench the Kenwood had better sensitivity, by a fraction of a microvolt, but the GE could clearly hear signals that the Kenwood (properly squelched) missed.
Nowdays the later Syntors from MOT and the GE Delta/Rangr series have modifications available to make them cover the whole band. I believe in the long run the commercial gear is better built, and then again you're a slave to the local 2 way shop for repairs for $100 an hour too.
If you don't want anything more than a handheld, go amateur. For a good reliable working mobile radio I'd definitely go commercial, but only if you're willing to go to the work of properly installing it (permanent antenna, fuseblock, running 12v and control cable, etc.). Just remember your limitations with either.
Gary Hildebrand WA7KKP
St. Joseph, MO
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Actually, Motorola has in their Schamburg, Illinois, main offices a "museum" (at least they used to! ) of radios that had survived all sorts of things.[/QUOTE]<span id='postcolor'>
That is like the old motorola car phones.
I have two that i still use.
They are instaled in two of the cars in case anything happens
and someone needs help.
I have external antennas instaled on both of them.
One is an old motorola "brick" phone that's permanently
instaled in one of the cars.
It's straight analog.
It's case is two thick pieces of cast aluminium.
in a clam shell form.
The other one is a newer motorola TDMA phone.
it is made out of a thick piece of extruded aluminum with
two "sliding" extruded aluminum panels to cover the parts
and two brushed aluminum end plates that hold the sliding
pieces in place.
You would have to have a sledge hammer and a
nice hard piece of concrete to put the phone on
before you would do it any damage.
I don't use a cellular phone for day to day stuff.
I haven't used either phone in the cars in over
But when i need to get help, i know they will work.
I don't have to worry about the batteries running down.
I don't have to worry if i am going to crush the thing by setting on it.
I don't have to worry about being out of range because the
one inch antenna and 100mw can't cut it.
If i can't make contact with full legal power and full size antenna.
Then i probably have the antenna unplugged.
And above all.....
I don't have to worry about them being damaged during a wreck.
And if they are damaged to the point they won't work.
I'm probably not going to be in any condition to be making any
calls in the first place.
When Motorola was first working on the cellular systems back in the late 1970s, the units ran 10 watts output and the only working system was in the Chicago area. Motorola was selling cellular telephones for $3600, $100 per month for 3 years with no interest. However, since they were selling these units in areas where there were not any cellular systems (and wouldn't be for almost a decade!), they were "giving" away RCC and Telco 18 watt highband reconditioned TLD-1100 and TLD-1470 (same unit, different i.f. crystals with the 1100 being for Telco and the 1470 for RCC). That was keeping my technicians busy turning out especially TLD-1470 RCC units that we were modifying from the more common at the time TLD-1100 versions. When they ran out of the TLD units, they then started to supply the newer Pulsar mobiles, again reconditioned.
I don't know of anyone except in the Chicago area that ever got to use their $3600 cellular telephone!