-->

Is Unlocking Legal?

Stryder106

Explorer
Hi All,

Some of you may recall I'm a relatively new ham and the radio I purchased and installed in my vehicle is a Yaesu FTM-400XDR with a Diamond 55 antenna mounted on my roof rack. With that said, we were on a recent trip very remote. The group we were with was using 157.XXX. My radio would receive them fine, but I could not transmit on that frequency. Unfortunately, we had a serious event in the group and while I could hear others, I could not transmit some critical information in this situation.
//
I've heard of unlocking a device, but I have no idea if that is legal or possible with this transceiver. All I know is that there was a serious need to communicate within the group and I couldn't do it when it mattered most. Any help or advice is appreciated.
 

pugslyyy

Expedition Vehicle Engineer Guy
Hi All,

Some of you may recall I'm a relatively new ham and the radio I purchased and installed in my vehicle is a Yaesu FTM-400XDR with a Diamond 55 antenna mounted on my roof rack. With that said, we were on a recent trip very remote. The group we were with was using 157.XXX. My radio would receive them fine, but I could not transmit on that frequency. Unfortunately, we had a serious event in the group and while I could hear others, I could not transmit some critical information in this situation.
//
I've heard of unlocking a device, but I have no idea if that is legal or possible with this transceiver. All I know is that there was a serious need to communicate within the group and I couldn't do it when it mattered most. Any help or advice is appreciated.
Those frequencies are probably from the industrial/business pool and so not covered by a ham license. That doesn't mean that people don't do it all the time, but no, not legal.
 
Unlocking the radio is legal, but not useful except for edge cases. The problem with your group isn't one that should be solved by unlocking the radio. You group needed to use a legal frequency between 144.1Mhz-148Mhz. Using an out of band frequency means you might have other legitimate users key to on top of you.

I know being the new guy can be tough, but try to get the other guys in the group to be legal.

There is talk online about using radio without a liscense or out of band "in an emergency". Transmitting out of band is illegal unless someone's life is in immediate danger. That being said, even if you had unlocked your radio, a standard ham antenna won't transmit well outside the ham bands. Did you bring a business band antenna designed for 157Mhz? The other guys in your group were likely overheating their radios due to high SWR as their antennas are also not designed for that frequency. Having a radio fail in an emergency isn't going to help.

What you really want for a "call a helicopter" emergency is a PLB. It was designed for that purpose.

EDIT: I just checked and 157MHz is part of the marine band.
 
Last edited:

gary in ohio

Explorer
I doubt anyone in your group was licensed for 157 mhz and were most likely using the frequency illegally. Even if they were licensed your radio is not legal on the freq. You ham radio is for ham radio use.
 

Stryder106

Explorer
Thanks for the info. They all had handheld Baofeng radios. I was the only with an installed radio (and ham license to my knowledge). I do carry a Delorme InReach SE and I used that to send an SOS and details to get EMS, SAR, etc to the scene.
 

pugslyyy

Expedition Vehicle Engineer Guy
Thanks for the info. They all had handheld Baofeng radios. I was the only with an installed radio (and ham license to my knowledge). I do carry a Delorme InReach SE and I used that to send an SOS and details to get EMS, SAR, etc to the scene.
Those little Baofengs all seem wide open, at least the ones I've seen. I've been able to tune mine to the FRS/GMRS frrequencies, which is handy.
 

gary in ohio

Explorer
Those little Baofengs all seem wide open, at least the ones I've seen. I've been able to tune mine to the FRS/GMRS frrequencies, which is handy.
BEing able to tune vs legally operating are two separate items. Receving FRS/GMRS would be legal, transmitting would not on most of the Baofengs . There are some part 90 devices that would be legal on GMRS, but MURS/FRS are suppose to be purpose built radios so most of the wideband CHineese radio would not be legal.
 

4Roamer

Member
It is possible they were using marine band radios. As others have said, it is not illegal to have a radio that can transmit, or listen, on frequencies outside your ham licence. It is not even illegal to own a ham radio without a ham licence. It is illegal to operate on frequencies outside your licence. I'm not real sure about the regulations on marine band use. Possibly the radios are a licence tied to the boat. Well, not being on a boat would be an issue for that. However, I have read several FCC statements over the years. In case of emergency, no one is going to make a fuss. That said, get your buddies into a ham licence and proper radios.
 
As far as using marine band radios on land... I could link to the FCC regs, but these guys got it right and it's easier to read:
http://www.mcminnarc.com/marine.html

In short, marine radios are "liscense by rule", which means the equipment must have a liscense and you have to follow the rules to use the service. You don't need to pass a test or pay the FCC money, but the radio's manufacturer needs to get the radio approved and you must follow the rules or your transmission breaks communication laws. Any non life-or-death use of marine radios or marine band on land is specifically against the rules with the exception of a "Private coast station" which requires a special FCC liscense (a ham radio liscense isn't good for this). Typically, you need to have a really good reason to need a coast station liscense or they won't give you one.

Technically, the way the regs are written also does not allow a distress call from land, but if it was a real emergency it's unlikely the her coast guard would charge you with a crime if you really had no other way to call for help. Unlocking your radio and bringing a marine band length antenna could allow you to do this, but activating a personal locator beacon (PLB) is a significantly faster and more reliable way of going about it.

There is an example of the FCC charging a bunch of folks with violations where they confiscated all their radio gear and fined them $1k for each violation. The coast guard is required to monitor marine band, and they have radio direction finding gear so they can figure out where boats are. It's really easy for them to find people that key up while on land.
 
Last edited:

lugueto

Adventurer
It seems the topic has been covered, but let me chime in a little bit.

My convoy used to operate on marine bands all the time, none of us had licenses at the time and most had boats. So marine handhelds were the logical step.

Some of us started to buy mobile VHF rigs and unlocked them to operate on marine bands, we still didnt really know much about regulations, licenses and what not.

After we got licensed we realized the regulation violations we commited and have all converted to ham and have since stayed within the bands.

So to answer your question:

1) No, its not illegal to unlock your radio. It is possible on all VHF transceivers, instructions can be found online and its a simple process that requires minimal knowledge and tools, it must be done carefully.

It is however illegal to transmit on Marine band on land and on MURS/MARS/CAP without a License. On 157.XXX you were likely on a marine channel, but you were definitely outside your band which is the violation per se.

2) A VHF Antenna will operate just fine on 156-157 MHZ. May not be optimal, but performance is still very good.

3) For better or worse Baofengs are unlocked, as these are not HAM radios. They're commercial radios. The fact that the people on your convoy are unlicensed and are staying outside of ham bands is good, they can't legally operate on either, so the violation is the same in either HAM bands or otherwise. A licensed HAM, however, is in a much worse violation, for transmitting outside of HAM hands.

I'm no HAM police, but it is important to make sure people are clear in what they're doing. I hope this helps.
 
Last edited:

Stumpalump

Expedition Leader
I pulled a jumper out of a General Lee and got a real CB. For 20 years every thread on tweeting, tuning or boosting a CB got slammed by the whiny ham radio crowd. Too bad because if the Jeepers would have all had the balls to install a real radio we would all still have real trail communication. Last ride I went on 20 rigs. Two had a ham and two had a CB. Thank to the XXXX for ruining trail communications. http://www.gijoesradioelectronics.com/scripts/prodList.asp?idCategory=102
 
Last edited by a moderator:

haven

Expedition Leader
Just because you don't appreciate the actions of others is no reason to post with insulting language. Let's keep it civil, please.
 

pugslyyy

Expedition Vehicle Engineer Guy
The ham bands aren't crowded (neither is cb these days), and getting a license increases the headcount of legitimate users - which I think is a good thing. Having a regulatory requirement for different radios when one radio is fully capable of ham/frs/gmrs/marine/etc seems silly and reeks of government overreach (or at least regulations that have not kept up with the times.) Do people use ham radios out of band? That's like asking if people exceed the speed limit, Imho. We know it happens, but probably best to not admit it in a public forum. :)

Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
 

binrat

Observer
The ham bands aren't crowded (neither is cb these days), and getting a license increases the headcount of legitimate users - which I think is a good thing. Having a regulatory requirement for different radios when one radio is fully capable of ham/frs/gmrs/marine/etc seems silly and reeks of government overreach (or at least regulations that have not kept up with the times.) Do people use ham radios out of band? That's like asking if people exceed the speed limit, Imho. We know it happens, but probably best to not admit it in a public forum. :)

Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
Yup, true right there.
In western Canada we have 4 "LADD" frequencies which is VHF just above ham frequencies. Primary use is logging roads which is ripe for the overland crowd. Technically speaking requires a Restricted Operators Certificate but the funny thing is the ROC has gone by the way side with the government. Are there people taking on those frequencies illegally, yup many times a day.
 

tgreening

Expedition Leader
I pulled a jumper out of a General Lee and got a real CB. For 20 years every thread on tweeting, tuning or boosting a CB got slammed by the whiny ham radio crowd. Too bad because if the Jeepers would have all had the balls to install a real radio we would all still have real trail communication. Last ride I went on 20 rigs. Two had a ham and two had a CB. Thank to the XXXX for ruining trail communications. http://www.gijoesradioelectronics.com/scripts/prodList.asp?idCategory=102

You think “whiny” ham operators killed CB? I think CB managed to kill itself just fine. I've got more than one collecting dust in a box because I grew up and no longer found the increasing BS funny, especially with my kids along. Vulgarity, homophobia, fighting, you name it, is way too common.

License requirements keep “most” of that out of the ham bands, and you can be sure that when it does find it's way in, most of that is from unlicensed operators that could care less about rules, regulations, or professionalism.

I'm fine band limited licensing. I think there is some value to segregation, keeping people within each grouping to their intended function. I have no need to operate on the general business bands so feel no need for a radio that does so. Same with the other bands like Marine and so on. Most users of radio just want to grab it, say their piece, and get on. Ham people get into more technical aspects of radio comms, which justifies the testing and licensing requirements.

I think CB is fine, and generally a better choice for trail communication, but that's about where it stops.
 
Top