29 June 2020

PMR446 - What is Legal?



PMR446 - What's Legal?

Sounds like a straight-forward question to answer doesn't it?

If you want to operate legally on the PMR446 band you require a type-approved radio which conforms to all of the relevant requirements and the easiest way of ensuring that you are legal is to buy a PMR446 radio from Argos, Curry's etc.

The main requirements for legal PMR446 radios are a maximum output power of 500mw ERP and a fixed antenna.... Or at least that's the way it started out!

OFCOM appear to have muddied the water a little in recent years and not for the first time there have been heated discussions online about what it and what isn't allowed. 

The main point of contention is the 'Fixed Antenna' requirement. Do radios still need to have a fixed (non-removable) antenna in order for them to remain legal? Some people say YES and some people say NO.

The reason behind the disagreement is that there appears to be conflicting information on the OFCOM website.

PMR446 comes under 'license-exempt' rules and regulations. For equipment to be legal it is required to adhere to strict specifications in order that it operates in the way it is intended to do for it's purpose and does not cause any undue interference to other services or users. 


In the UK devices such as PMR446 are listed as 'license-exempt' in the OFCOM document IR 2030 – UK Interface Requirements 2030 - Licence Exempt Short Range Devices, dated MAY 2020, which states:

"PMR446 equipment is hand portable (no base station or repeater use) and uses integral antennas only in order to maximise sharing and minimise interference. PMR 446 equipment operates in short range peer-to-peer mode and shall be used neither as a part of infrastructure network nor as a repeater" 

LINK TO DOCUMENT: CLICK HERE

So, it's clear that PMR446 radios must have INTEGRAL antennas, in other words, the antenna must be fixed to the radio.....

Well, maybe not, as many people have pointed to another document from the OFCOM website is the "Analogue and Digital PMR446 Information Sheet", dated Feb 2018, which under a sub-heading of 'Converted Radio Equipment' states:

"PMR446 users are reminded that their radios are only licence-exempt if they are built and operated within the conditions of the exemption regulations. If modifications are made to the equipment, such as adding an antenna connector, the overall maximum ERP or other technical parameters must not exceed the permitted levels set out in the Interface Requirement"

LINK TO DOCUMENT: CLICK HERE

So this is where the confusion arises. The second document appears to suggest that you may be able to use non-standard equipment or modify equipment as long as the operating characteristics of the radios remain within the relevant specifications, the most important being that the radio output power does not exceed 500mw ERP. Of course you would need to be able to demonstrate that any modified equipment met these standards to ensure you remain legal, something which would likely require some rather expensive test equipment.


It should be noted that the sub-title of this document says 'Business Radio' which further muddies the water as is it not clear as to whether the document only applies to business users or users in general!

Further investigation need.....

PMR446 also falls under EU legislation and OFCOM are responsible for implementing EU decisions here in the UK, which in the case of PMR446, they have done.

The very latest EU regulations are dated 8th August 2017 and refers to PMR446 following the decision to expand the band from 8 to 16 analogue channels, which was to be implemented across Europe from January 2018:

    (Click to enlarge)

LINK TO DOCUMENT: CLICK HERE
 

Note that there is a Footnote applied to PMR446 - Number 21, which states:

"PMR446 equipment is hand portable (no base station or repeater use) and uses integral antennas only in order to maximise sharing and minimise interference. PMR 446 equipment operates in short range peer-to-peer mode and shall be used neither as a part of infrastructure network nor as a repeater" 

I have a feeling we've seen that somewhere before and we appear to be going round in circles!


So, PMR446 What's Legal?

Not an easy question to answer, I have therefore emailed OFCOM to see if they can clarify the situation.

Specifically I have asked...

"Are people required to use ‘type-approved’, in other words, STANDARD radios as bought from Argos etc, or can they use non-standard radios such as Baofeng etc?"

and

"Can people modify STANDARD radios in a way which allows detachable antennas, or must the antenna remain FIXED to the radio?"



We await the reply in eager anticipation... 

2 comments:

  1. Nice investigation here, Delboy. Indeed, the reply will be interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yep, there's been a bit of a 'discussion' on Facebook for a while now. Must be honest I believe that you do require fixed antennas but we shall see if/when they get back to me.

    ReplyDelete