MURS - A new alternative to Ham Radio?

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    The Evolution Continues, by Ed Brooks

    First part quoted, in part, from Ham Radio Newsline:



    With little fanfare, the FCC created the Multi Use Radio Service on July
    12th. Its birth went just about un-noticed everyone except those in the
    telecommunications industry who fought long and hard to see it become a
    Lots more in full article...


    MURS is really a new kind of license free Citizens Radio Service, but one not
    subject to the vagaries of high frequency propagation. This is because Murs
    operates in the 151 MHz spectrum -- not far above the two meter ham radio
    band. But unlike 2 meters, the Murs service is expected to be filled by
    everyone from hobbyists to commercial users all vying for local
    communications that is virtually regulation free.

    Unlike its predecessor the micro-power Family Radio Service in the 460 MHz
    band, MURS permits users to run up to 2 watts of effective radiated power.
    There is no restriction on connecting external antennas to a MURS radio as
    long as the 2 watt effective radiated power restriction is observed. Also
    permitted will be phone patching, paging, telemetry and remote control
    operation. In addition to voice, the FCC is permitting Murs users to transmit
    packet, data and imaging.

    Does MURS sound like a clone of the VHF and UHF Amateur Radio service? Well
    it takes a step beyond because there is no restriction on the content of
    communications in the Multi Use Radio Service. Also, repeaters will be
    permitted, extending the range of communications across an entire region.

    But there are a couple of negatives. First there are only five MURS
    channels. They are at 151.82, 151.88, 151.94, 154.57 and 154.60 MHz. The
    first three are listed as having an 11.25 Kilohertz bandwidth while the last
    two permit a 12 point 5 kilohertz wide signal. Also, continuous
    transmissions are permitted on four of the five Murs channels which is bound
    to cause havoc with those attempting to share with voice and other modes.

    So what will the impact of MURS be on ham radio? First, it will interest
    kids who want to connect their computers to the internet so that they can
    constantly be on-line. It will probably also siphon off those adults who
    have been considering becoming radio amateurs but do not want to take the
    time to learn the theory, rules and regulations. This is almost a parallel
    to those who fought to create a codefree amateur license because they did not
    want to learn the Morse. And as we saw from ham radio's experience with
    no-code licensing, those numbers can be staggering.

    From Miami, I'm Bill Burnett, KT4SB, reporting for Newsline.


    Government is short of memory, and destined to repeat its mistakes. We have proof of that once
    again, in the creation of MURS. An FCC that was so naive it believed Americans would, if
    given free access to the 11 meter band, respect the rules and operate accordingly, created a
    monster of international proportions, one that very quickly outdistanced all efforts at control.
    Eventually, the FCC threw up its hands in disgust and surrender, following only the very worst of
    CB offenses, and ignoring the millions. Finally the rules were rewritten.

    Now there is MURS. Surely no one in the FCC really believes this will be different. In fact, it
    has the potential to be far worse, with far-ranging and critical consequences. While we realize
    that most CB ops prefer to work "skip," there will be an attraction to the VHF range based upon
    the easily availability of useful equipment. That equipment will definitely include "opened"
    ham transceivers, from HTs to 50 watt mobiles and 100 watt amplifiers. CBers have been quick
    to adopt opened ham gear, allowing them access now from 24 to 29 MHZ, and they are using it.
    While there are few below 25.9 MHZ, they are there, and the only reason this doesn't proliferate,
    hasn't already proliferated, is it takes time for others to acquire rigs capable of getting there, and
    to find out these frequencies are available.

    Now, though, the "new" CB band will be very close to the Public Safety frequencies. Already
    there are cases frequently of non-hams, and sometimes, hams, using HTs and other units to
    disrupt both police and aviation communications. All band all mode rigs that can be easily
    opened can also operate AM in the aviation band, and can key PS repeaters with subaudible
    tones. The potential for harm is immense.

    From a ham radio viewpoint, this is a furthering of the blending of services by the creation of
    another, competing, hobby radio. This service, in fact, allows more than just the AM and SSB of
    Class D CB, and approaches, even under the rules, ham radio for real, but license-free. While
    unit to unit coverage may be limited under the 2 watt ERP requirement, no one can seriously
    believe the service will operate under that requirement for long, if at all. A quick check of most
    any late-model ham transceiver will show its capabilities of operating FM with VFO and split
    frequency control, in the 150 MHZ region, with a very simple modification. Equipment
    manufacturers and importers will not hesitate to promote this service, and to provide radios that
    can be put into this service.

    As we recall the 10/11 meter Radio Shack equipment, sold as "ham gear," but capable of
    operating at 25 watts, VFO control, on the CB 11 meter band, we must realize the next step with
    MURS. A "ham transceiver" that can operate at up to 100 watts on 146 MHZ, VFO, FM and
    perhaps SSB, but that has a switch that allegedly cuts it to 2 watts and puts it into a frequency
    controlled mode on the MURS frequencies;, a "dual band" radio of sorts, will be on the market
    very soon. It will gain type acceptance because, as sold, it operates legally on MURS channels,
    and can operate legally on perhaps 146 and 440 MHz as well. But the removal of a single diode
    will put it full power, VFO control, on the 151 MHz range. Which means the CBer who bought
    it, will also be on the 146 and 440 MHz range.

    As the services blend, and they continue to do so, this is another step in that direction. We have
    been witness to the arrival of the husband-wife team with the "Honey, pick up the kids at the
    sitter's on the way home" type of amateur radio communication. Which it isn't. It is Family
    Radio, and it is actually what Class D radio was supposed to provide back in 1958. That kind of
    utility communication does absolutely nothing to further ham radio, and in fact, combined with
    the lowering of pecuniary interest standards in our hobby, (calling on the repeater to order a
    pizza, or to check car parts at the parts store) moves us closer to a single service, a sort of "one
    size fits all" hobby/business/family radio.

    Will MURS pull hams and would-be hams away from ham radio? Perhaps initially, but I doubt
    that will be the case for long. Coupled with my guess that CB and ham ingenuity will find ways
    to combine the two services, albeit illegally, I suspect we will find more people doing
    participating in of these services.

    We have established a firm history in recent ham radio of would-be hams wanting the license
    without the test. That has, in fact, been true for many years, but wanting it, and getting it, were,
    until recently, very different things. That is why many of the people who wanted to be hams but
    did not want to study for a license, moved to Class D. The lowering of entrance requirements to
    ham radio has brought some of those same people, as well as many thousands of new ones, to
    amateur radio.

    Where this is headed is fairly easy to guess. The FCC, having virtually washed its hands of the
    Class D affair, now creates a new one, not only with a greater danger to Public Safety, but a
    closer duplication of VHF/UHF amateur radio; in fact, a "real" amateur radio without Morse
    code. Meanwhile it has diluted ham radio sufficiently that much of it, primarily in the
    VHF/UHF ranges, is a mirror of Family/General radio services.

    The trend continues. Reducing the number of license classes is only one step, a step already
    taken, for it is quite likely all hams will be combined under a single license class in the near
    future. The removal of CW as a licensing requirement, (right or wrong) sure to take place
    within two years, combined with the death by attrition of both boat anchor radios and boat
    anchor radio users, will continue to move the hobby toward a type-accepted, Plug and Play
    service. Future ham tests, if they exist at all, need consist only of a few regulations about such
    things as governing modulation characteristics and avoiding operating out of band.

    Of course, there are those who repeat the same refrain that the "old fogey" hams are just bitter
    about the fact they had to take a stiff electronics test and a code test. That's true, actually.
    Many are bitter. Bitter or not, though, the facts remain constant; it takes less skill to become a
    ham radio operator today than it did 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Maybe that's good, maybe not, but
    it is true, regardless. The skills are often different, such as knowledge today in digital
    techniques. But knowing how to connect a sound card to a microphone input on the radio is not
    "high tech" knowledge. Knowing what happens inside the radio when that occurs would be, but
    that knowledge is not required.

    Until the April 15, 2000, restructuring, we had experienced serious growth in ham radio, a la the
    "no code tech." Nor is this bad, but it is a different kind of ham radio than that prior to the
    creation of that code free license. After the restructuring, though, the growth in the once-upon-
    a-time expert license has mushroomed. The Extra license has been devalued, the Advanced
    basically moved into nonexistence. The Novice is virtually eliminated, and the move by the
    FCC to combine Technician and Technician Plus licenses in its database should be a clear sign
    that they intend to very soon make no differentiation between those two classes. This is in
    preparation for the next word radio conferences, over the next two years, in which the code
    requirement will certainly be removed. There will then be no need for any differentiation
    between Tech and Tech Plus tickets.

    It is undoubtedly hoped by the FCC that the Extra Class will become the standard class of ham
    license, and as Captain Picard says, we will "make it so." Despite being devalued, by the sheer
    nature of making it available as an entry level license, as well as with lowered test standards, a
    much larger percentage of hams pursue this license than ever before. Believing there is still
    some prestige attached to having it, they now work diligently, when in the past they didn't work
    at all, to acquire this once "top of the line" ticket. What they don't see coming is a future
    renaming of this license to "Standard Amateur", or worse yet, "Amateur Radio License." For it
    will be the only license available.

    This is not bitterness. This is a good guess, and a probably accurate one, with some variations, as
    to where ham radio is headed. We had ham radio. Then the FCC relaxed the rules on Class D,
    creating a second hobby class of radio, that was code free. That wasn't enough. We had to have
    a second code free ham radio, and we got it with the no-code Tech. Now we have a third code
    free ham radio (actually we also have Family and General radio service as well) and it will
    duplicate much of what we do on VHF.

    The hand continues to write on the wall. Those new to ham radio do not see the water in the
    well lowering, as they came into it with the water already dangerously near the bottom. To
    them, the glass is one-quarter full, and they don't see the water is draining out, not draining in.

    It's just a sign of the times. We have become a "right now" society. We don't want to work for
    it; we just want it.

    So it is prediction time. MURS is another step in the blending of hobby services. Merging ham
    radio into a single operator class of license will also be a step. Narrowing CW allocations to the
    bottom 25 KHZ of HF bands, with the next 25 KHZ being allocated to data, will be forthcoming.
    Expansion of phone operations to take over the nearly-defunct (and soon to BE defunct) Novice
    bands will occur at the same time. There will be no Extra/Advanced subbands, as there will be
    no Extra/Advanced licenses. Ham radio will move more toward ordering pizza on the VHF and
    up bands, and probably running full blown business communications as well, though I suspect
    the later will take a bit longer.

    The evolution continues. Like most of evolution, it is not reversible.

    Ed Brooks,. W5HTW

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