Having a low price budget, your search for your first handheld ham radio to buy will lead you towards Baofeng. A quick Google search on baofeng shows a lot of results that say that certain model baofeng handhelds are illegal in the US.
They are legal to use, but only on amateur bands. (Of course, you’ll need to get a license first).There was a lot of debate on whether they were legal, but the FCC finally stated that they were.Since they are not type-accepted, they are not legal to use on other bands such as FRS, GMRS, etc.
Is Baofeng Legal To Use On Amateur Bands?
Amateur equipment is not type-certified the operator is responsible for compliance with their equipment. With a fairly reliable source showing 92.5% of Baofeng HTs in the wild failing to meet the standards of Part 97, anyone without access to a calibrated spectral analyzer can assume that a given Baofeng is not legal to use on amateur bands.
One aspect of amateur radio is “homebrew” … anything that transmits “suitable signal” in amateur bands operated by the licensed amateur radio operator, is legal.
The key part of “suitable signal” is power level and spurious signal levels, and has permitted modulations in a portion of the band where the transmission occurs. The FCC advisory seems aimed squarely at radios, such as Baofeng UV-5R and other inexpensive Chinese radios.
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The FCC starts to shut down companies selling these radios.
It seems that the manufacturers could sidestep all this legal turmoil by simply producing service-specific models that are programmed to transmit only on those frequencies of that particular service. The hardware needn’t change, just the software.
The problem is when you start to modify the radios and put antennas on them which were not sold with them. They did it as they were pressured into it by the Japanese and US manufacturers. The FCC should require retailers to collect call signs before they sell.
This is clear, stop selling the radios to non-licensed individuals. 75% of active hams have the Japan model VHF/UHF radios modified to TX out of the band. Nothing new, the Baofeng can go beyond 470mhz
Do Baofengs Have FCC Certification
Not all Baofengs have FCC Type Acceptance certification attached, depending on the model and depending on the importer. And, if you were actually looking at the type acceptance that the radio has – it is Part 90 Business Band.
The current definitive word – what’s written in DA 18-980, which states very clearly, including in the Amateur Radio Service Exception, devices that are capable of transmitting outside the Amateur Radio frequencies for the bands, it is intended to use be on, are illegal for use in the US for the Amateur Radio Service.
It is the current ruling by FCC and until the DA 18-980 gets rescinded or rewritten with clear meaning to the HAM exception, it is currently illegal for anyone to use the radio that can transmit outside the HAM bands as HAM radio.
The fix – to get with your section managers and petition the FCC through whatever HAM organization you belong to, to clarify and simplify Amateur Radio Service Exception for use of the radios. And the implication goes far beyond cheap Chinese radios, who here owns a software-defined radio?
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What Does The FCC Intend To Do?
The essence, what the law (FCC) intends – protect the spectrum. Use the frequencies, do no harm! If any harm is done then repercussions are expected!
To be clear, it may be illegal to import, sell, market or advertise such a device discussed in the Public Notice, it is not illegal for an end-user to purchase such a device, and someone who does have such a device should not be operating it illegally, if they are licensed amateur radio operator and operating on licensed amateur bands assuming the device does not violate some other part 97 rule, is that correct?
Part 90 certification is Business Band. The Amateur Service has no certification needs or type acceptance so that HAM’s have the opportunity to “Homebrew” equipment if they choose to do so.
The problem and reason you won’t see cross-service certifications for public service radios (CB radio, FRS, GMRS, MURS radio, etc) are that each service has it’s own hardware restrictions, that a single device can not meet across all service options. It is the reason, the FCC split FRS and GMRS into separate services as the combination radios would transmit on shared frequencies at highest output power available and most of the people using those radios never had a license.
The explicit statement in DA 18-980 is any device used for the Amateur Radio Service must ONLY be able to transmit on the HAM frequencies within the band(s) it is designed for. Your Wouxun, the Baofengs, and many other handhelds and mobile radios have the ability to transmit outside HAM frequencies. By strict rule of the advisory, it is illegal to use those radios for HAM operation in the US.
As General Counsel for FCC said in their statement, as a reply to the request for clarification, with as many of these radios in use this is a Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell situation. The FCC will not seek out users of these radios and you have nothing to be concerned about unless you are violating some other FCC rule.