Bad Baby Monitors on 50.125 FM
Hello fellow RFI Hunters.
I wanted to bring you up to speed on a possible new 6 meter baby monitor threat on 50.125 FM.
Let me 1st say that it is hoped that this particular brand of Baby Monitors and the actual Make/Model is simply a single defective unit, however, it appears that the transmitter and the two receivers are pre-programmed by the Chinese Factory on 50.125 MHz FM.
The unit in question actually operates on about a 15 kz wide carrier from 50.115 to 50.130 in my area and became verynoticeable just last month.
Tracking this signal down took a couple weeks and with the help of a couple mobiles and one other fixed stations help, I was able to narrow it down the house and homeowner in question. The house was almost 1.5 miles away from my QTH, so this baby monitor is not just your low powered under 100mw 49 MHz unit we have been seeing sold on yesterday's market. As a matter of fact, most reputable Baby Monitor brands have moved their operating frequencies up to 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz for all of their units.
In this particular case, I knew I was dealing with either a very defective hi-powered baby monitor or simply one that was purposely made to operate high power and on licensed Amateur Frequencies.
When I finally met with the homeowner outside his home in the open garage at the QTH of the offending transmitter, I let him listen to the continuous audio that was coming from inside his house over my portable radio, he was embarrassed as he told me "yep, that's my wife talking and that's my son's TV playing in the background".
The homeowner went down and unhooked the whole set up and brought them (the base transmitter and two receivers) up to the garage where we were sitting. The homeowner even tried to help me look at the baby monitor transmitter to find a make or model.
Neither the home owner or myself could find a FCC ID or the make/ model listed. What was prominent and stamped into plastic was the MADE IN CHINA insignia and that it was Distributed by a company in Illinois. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my magnifying glass, or we could have got more info off the units cases, while the homeowner was still being cooperative.
Upon closer inspection, the system is made up a white shelled, rounded, large 6" Base unit, with two battery powered belt clip receivers, similar to the Safety 1st brand, but of a make and brand quite different than my research of thousand baby monitor pictures would reveal. The units also had goody white or yellow colored 6" rubber duck antennas attached to each device.
The homeowners nice demeanor and cooperative attitude changed somewhat when the homeowner's wife came out into the garage and started yelling about 'GD Government and how they are always listening into private peoples homes" and also exclaimed "that the units were not returnable as she doesn't have any type of a receipt." I thought that statement was particularly funny when I told her that their private conversations were being heard for miles around by anyone on the air. One would think they'd want to take the defective Baby Monitor off the air for good.
My suggestion for you Hams are confronting a homeowner is to make sure you don't let them think you are anything to do with the FCC or local Government, and that you are just bringing the problem to their attention. I also believe there is nothing wrong with telling them that there will be an official FCC complaint filed against them if they do not heed your warning to get the offending device replaced or repaired as soon as possible. There is nothing wrong with identifying yourself as a FCC Licensed Amateur Operator and telling them your FCC Callsign. In my case, being a retired Deputy Sheriff, working in our Telecommunications Division and working through many RFI Complaints with our Public Safety systems, I knew what I could legally say and what I couldn't say.
Telling them the ramifications of not turning the defective unit off and buying a new system in the 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz range, might be met with shock or result in a total shutdown, however, in my case, the Homeowner was horrified to hear his 'family on the air' and agreed we me by the actual 'on the air' demonstration, that it was a critical problem and certainly did not want to broadcast their entire house conversation to the public for miles around for all to hear.
Also make sure (as I did in this case) to educate the homeowner.
On my business card, I left instruction on what frequencies make for good baby monitors and what brands have no interference problems that I know of.
I even offered to go shopping with them to help them pick out a better unit and to even come by and check the new unit out, to make sure it's not being heard on licensed Ham or Emergency frequencies.
I still let them know without any trepidation, that they have been warned now to not use the device again, until it is exchanged, replaced or repaired, or I would file a formal FCC Complaint
Also make sure (as I did in this case) to educate the homeowner.
Complaint Filed: Not 8 hours later, did the unit get turned back on and is still going on over a month later 24/7. I filled out a 1st report and comprehensive FCC Complaint, and took the copy with a letter asking the homeowner to reconsider, giving them 72 hours to take the offending transmitter off the air.
They chose not to heed the advice or see this as a problem. For me and a few other local 6 meter buffs, it interfered with our 6 Meter Calling operations and of course the wonderful E-Skip season which ran clear into August of this year.
It's been awhile since I went through the complaint process, but the FCC has a rule in place to allow the ARRL EMC Lab to handle 1st complaints.
The wonderfully written ARRL letter to the homeowner was met with severe hostility, including the Homeowner calling the local Sheriffs Department to state the ARRL and Myself were simply "harrassing them". Since I had only met with the homeowner one time and the ARRL had only sent one letter, there is no harassment per the SO.
The point I'm trying to make, is even when you do your best to try and help people understand the problem and give them clear solutions, they may still recoil and attack you, rather than take responsibility for their defective equipment they are buying off-line.
I might have thought about buying the Homeowner a better monitoring system at my expense, but since this has escalated to local authorities, the homeowner cut off that chance of assistance in this case. In fact, many other Amateurs strongly believe that buying, replacing your neighbors consumer devices is a bad idea, as the consumer is not taking responsibility for their own equipment and actions once warned about the offending device. The FCC Rules are clear on the matter, it's up to the Consumer to make sure they are not intentionally radiating from a consumer device. Luckily, as Hams, we are also consumers as well and I can state with a certainty that I'm very glad I don't live next to a Ham Operator with all their sensitive receivers/antennas, because I am a tech geek and I can count over a dozen devices in my own home that wreak havoc with my own station.
So, if you have stuck through reading about my local situation, possibly you have your own results to share.
Also, I'd be interested in hearing about any other 'Baby Monitor RFI onto Ham Freqs' situations or complaints you have experienced or heard about. I'd also be interested in how you would handle this situation.
In closing, I hope this is an isolated instance and we in fact, do not have a batch of bad Baby Monitors made in China that are coming set on licensed Amateur frequencies.
Just make the frequency it is on your new net frequency. After a week or two of hearing hams talking about antennas through the baby monitor, they'll get the message.
Problem with that is this is the U.S. 6m SSB calling frequency.
While it's not illegal to use FM there (for us anyway), it's not necessarily the best idea ever.
The Es season is more or less over now so it does lessen the possible interference issues, but doesn't eliminate them.
Depending on various factors, it could work though.
If there is an FCC type number (there probably isn't), you can look up the frequency it is supposed to operate on. Most of these are in the 49 MHz, band. It is possible (??) that something happened to allow the frequency to move.
Alan Applegate, KØBG
It is very possible, but no FCC ID that I could see and I looked just for that.
But there was a really small raised print section that neither the homeowner or I could make out. We both tried hard.
The homeowner was really cool about everything, it was (and still is) his wife that won't let us take a closer look now.
The problem with the idea that the transmitter has drifted up from 49 MHZ is that both the receivers are hearing it clearly as well, and thus all units are programmed or Xtalled up onto the same freq of 50.125.
I've seen cheap 49 MHZ stuff drift, but the receivers didn't seperately follow.
I hope we are wrong and this is a defective unit where they were tuned at the factory wrongly.
By the way, it seems like the units are Xtal controlled or pll based upon the signals stability. There is virtually no drift on their signal. Best 6 mtr beacon in the entire area!
Originally Posted by K0BG
I'm sure if a bunch of us local 6'ers got together and did a field day at the park near their place, operating FM, they'd get annoyed at the hetradyne and squeels coming across their receivers, however, we'd never do that.
Yep, we had a great late E-Season this year, clear into early August, some of the best E-skip I made was just a few weeks ago, some of us just couldn't use 50.115, 50.120, 50.125, 50.130, 50.135 and a little of 50.140, as it is literally about 20 over 9 here and I'm 1.5 miles away.
I appreciate all you guys adding to the thread.
Originally Posted by K0SPN
Wouldn't that be something if a low-power 50.125 FM transmitter, with a long-life battery playing some kind of awful noise, just happened to fall into their bushes? ;-)
I can tell that you wouldn't do that, and I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone would. (At this point, anyone would be crazy to do that.) But I couldn't resist saying it. :-)
Seriously, do the local hams chatting on that frequency interfere with their baby monitor?
are you saying that they are STILL using the monitor after you explained the problem?
Originally Posted by W7PM
if so, then your next step is quite clear,...... make ANOTHER QRM complaint with the FCC.
I didn't read the whole blurb, but the problem is obviously that it only monitors bad babies.
TOM K8ERV Montrose Colo
The FCC does have a district office in Portland. I would telephone that office and talk with a field engineer. Offer to record transmissions if they request it. Since the transmissions are taking place in an amateur radio band I don't think that the privacy in communications provision applies. However, I would not volunteer that you had already made recordings.
I would also let the engineer hear the transmissions even if all there happens to be at the time is a dead carrier.
Most of the time, local offices will handle complaints without going to Washington.
Now the wife may get upset if an official from the FCC shows up on the doorstep. But, I also believe that she would be a lot more cordial to him/her than she was to you!