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Public Radio Channels Frequently Asked Questions
1 December 2019

Why Use PRS?

PRS Radio's are small, lightweight and powerful

PRS radio's are perfect to keep a group together, whether you're hiking, camping, at the marina, or at the mall perfect for car caravanning, at amusement parks and to keep track of the kids around the neighborhood.

What is PRS?

The Ministry of Commerce (MOC) authorised Personal Radio Service in 1996 as a short distance, unlicensed, two-way voice radio service for general purpose use.

Personal Radio Service is meant to be used for direct, personal voice communications among two or more people. PRS radios are personal two-way (send/receive) radios which conform to the MOC PRS specifications. In brief, they're an inexpensive and easy way to communicate with family and friends.

FM vs. AM. What is the Difference?

UHF CB uses the FM transmission mode

UHF gives clear, crisp local communication without the long-distance interference sometimes heard on 26 MHz. UHF is also less susceptible to power line noise than 26 MHz. Its main disadvantage is that it performs poorly in hilly and forested areas due to its 'line of sight' characteristics. Typical direct (simplex) car-to-car ranges of UHF vary between about 5 ~ 10 kilometres in urban areas to 20 kilometres or more in open countryside. However if located on a hilltop, distances of 50 kilometres are common, even with low-powered handheld equipment.

UHF really comes into its own when repeater stations are used. Repeaters are installed on hilltops and retransmit signals received on one channel onto another channel. They are set up by community groups or commercial organisations but can freely be used by everyone. Distances of 50 to 100 kilometres are commonly achieved via repeaters, even if mobile or handheld transceivers are used. Many urban and rural areas are served by at least one repeater. To listen for the repeaters in your area, search for signals between channels 1 and 8. Those channels are busy most of the time are likely to be repeaters.
They can be used within a neighborhood or while at a shopping mall, ball game, amusement park, etc. PRS radios can be used by groups engaged in activities that take people out of sight or earshot of each other while remaining in the same general area, such as while hiking, hunting, camping, bicycling, or caravanning. PRS radios are small, rugged, and easy to use so they can be used by children as well as adults.

What Equipment is Available?

Both handheld and mobile equipment is available for UHF

All currently available radios cover all 40 channels and can be used with repeaters. Like 26 MHz there are no base station transceivers. Instead use a mobile transceiver connected to a 13.8 volt power supply and a base station antenna mounted outside.

All mobile transceivers put out the full five watt legal limit. Thus there is very little difference in communications range between more expensive and cheaper units. However the better units have extra features that can be useful. Examples include (1) ability to search all channels for activity without manually turning the channel selector (scanning), (2) a signal strength meter, (3) a frequency readout as well as channel number and (4) CTCSS tone squelch to reduce reception of unwanted signals.

Handheld transceivers vary more widely than mobile transceivers in both features and price tag. The cheapest sets, do not come with rechargeable batteries and cannot be connected to external antennas or power. Nevertheless if only short range is required, they work well, are very compact and have good battery life.

Middle and upper range handheld UHF transceivers include most or all of the following:
   (1) 5 watt power output,
   (2) rechargeable battery pack and charger,
   (3) CTCSS subtone,
   (4) voice operated transmit (VOX), and
   (5) ability to connect external antenna and power.
This last feature allows handheld transceivers to be operated from a car. However unless extensive use outside the car is planned, a car-mounted transceiver is easier to use and represents better value for money.

What are the Different Controls found on most UHF CB transceivers?

Channel select: allows you to switch between channels 1-40

This may either be a rotary knob or up/down buttons. 
On/off/volume: self-explanatory
Squelch or mute: Adjust at point where noise stops. This allows silent monitoring of channel. If someone talks the squelch is 'broken' and you will hear their voice. Disable the mute (by adjusting for hiss) if signals are weak. On handheld transceivers this function may be performed by a 'monitor' button, which unmutes the set when it is pressed.
Simplex/Duplex switch: If operating direct (no repeater) leave this switch in simplex position. To operate through a repeater select the appropriate repeater channel (between 1-8) and switch to Duplex.
Scan: Allows the radio to search for activity across all 40 channels. The scanning will stop as soon as a busy channel is found.
Other controls you may find include CTCSS, memory, power output select and VOX. Mastery of these is not required for basic operation. The transceiver's instruction manual will explain how to use these functions.

 UHF CB is the best choice for most given current activity levels and trends.

For whom is CB unsuitable?

The low price of PRS Family Radio (especially compared to other two way radio systems) is attractive, but like everything that's cheap, there are limitations

The following are things that PRS radio will not do:

  • Long-distance outback communications. If you stick to the main roads, a UHF CB is fine. But in very remote areas where long-distance coverage is required, it is next to useless. Instead hire an HF transceiver from the Mountain Radio Service.

  • Reliable coverage over an entire metropolitan area. Five watts is too low to permit simplex city-wide communication. Metropolitan coverage is possible with UHF repeaters, but these can be busy, interfered with or turned off without warning. Rather than use PRS, serious business users should discuss their needs with a specialist two-way radio company, which will be able to supply equipment and provide access to wide-coverage VHF or UHF repeaters.

  • Privacy. CB is a public medium with possible people listening at any one time. Contrary to popular belief, CTCSS does not provide private communications. If private, interruption-free communication is desired, use a Digital Cell Phone instead.


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