Hi! My name is Chip, and I am licensed by the FCC as WRTY997 in the GMRS service. I am also an amateur radio operator licensed as N3FUD.
I became interested in Amateur Radio in 1980, but couldn’t master the 5wpm morse code requirement needed for a Novice class license until 1984 when the PA Air National Guard sent me to specialized training just for morse code (kind of a do or die situation). I became KA3NDC and held my Novice license for only a short time before I moved up to Technician, and became N3FUD. When the FCC did away with the code requirement, I moved up to the Tech+ level. I mainly inhabited the 2m and 70cm bands but lost interested in the late 1990s due to several family and health issues. I obtained my General License on May 11, 2006, at the York Ham Foundation test.
I had heard of GMRS back in the 1990’s, but at that time, it seems very limited as it seemed to be business related or family groups. Besides, I had amateur radio; that was enough communications for me.
Fast forward to 2022. A coworker mentions GMRS as another tool in the emergency communications tool box. I looked into it again and found out that the FCC had basically returned the 10 year license fee to $35. I found GMRS repeaters and groups had flourished, and there was a decent amount of repeaters in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area. A little more research showed the amount of repeaters in southeast and southwest Pennsylvania had significantly increased.
Additionally, it appeared that repeaters could be linked together to expand coverage across the Commonwealth. However, there seems to be two interpretations of Part 95. One hypothesis is that the only reason repeaters should be linked to anything is for repeater control. The other hypothesis is that as long as the repeaters are not links by wireline (hardline), they can be linked together. The FCC is currently revising Part 95, so many repeater owners are waiting for the latest version. (You will note that the comments are turned off for this topic. I have seen too many arguments over which hypothesis is correct.)
In my research, I found that there are many systems available to link repeaters and simplex nodes together. Many states and areas have created their own systems. One common part of these systems is the linking software; most systems are using AllStarLink, which was developed for Amateur Radio repeater linking. It’s an easy system to set up and use.
There seems to be three major organizations promoting and linking GMRS repeaters. GMRS Live has several area networks linked together. myGMRS has a few area systems linked together and provides regional hubs to connect to. USGMRS is more of a supporting organization, but they may have a system to link repeaters together; they also have a annual membership fee which is a bit high unless you’re an organization that can afford it.
After all of my research, it appears GMRS Live is the better system provider with more nodes and fast response times. They have a system of administrators and moderators that control the system. myGMRS took about six weeks to answer my request for a node number. GMRS Live issued me five node numbers in less than 48 hours.
I am attempting to set up a Pennsylvania GMRS linking system while I eagerly await the FCC’s upgrade to Part 95. The system will use GMRS Live as the basic system,