Whenever my article about Baofeng radio non-compliance is shared, I usually see a number of comments on it, and it usually starts quite an argument! I would like to try to clarify some of the misunderstandings people have.
Update, September 28, 2018: I have added a few additional questions and answers.
I want to be clear about my motives: I want to help people – not antagonize them. I strongly believe that the job of more experienced hams is to teach.
For other FCC services, such as Part 90 (Commercial and Public Safety), or Part 95 (GMRS, CB, etc), the FCC contracts out testing and certification for the radios, and radios may not be used on those services unless they pass certification. This process of certification is called Type Acceptance.
Amateur radio, which is Part 97, does not have type acceptance. This is because, unlike Part 90 and 95, individuals who become licensed ham radio operators are allowed to build transmitters. Think about it: Would you want to have to send every homebrew project you built to an FCC-sanctioned test lab for review? Therefore, because Part 97 does not have type acceptance, there is very little testing that is required for ham radios being sold in the US – only for Part 15.
This is because in amateur radio, we license the operator and not the radio. The operator is expected to be sure that s/he is following all of the rules that they are bound by under Part 97. This includes all of Part 97, including those in 97.307(e):
The mean power of any spurious emission from a station transmitter or external RF power amplifier transmitting on a frequency between 30–225 MHz must be at least 60 dB below the mean power of the fundamental. For a transmitter having a mean power of 25 W or less, the mean power of any spurious emission supplied to the antenna transmission line must not exceed 25 µW and must be at least 40 dB below the mean power of the fundamental emission, but need not be reduced below the power of 10 µW. A transmitter built before April 15, 1977, or first marketed before January 1, 1978, is exempt from this requirement.
“I have not had any problems with mine.”
How do you know that you have not had problems? The only way you can be sure you are complying with 97.307(e) is to test your radio on a spectrum analyzer. If you have not tested your radio, it is impossible to know if you are compliant – full stop.
“Everyone says I sound fine.”
It’s not possible to test RF performance by listening. You need to use real test equipment, see above.
“The antenna blocks the spurious emissions.”
That is true – handheld antennas are basically dummy loads, and they do significantly attenuate the spurious emissions. However, that does not make the radio compliant, because the rules specify the emissions from the transmitter, not from the antenna.
“But the FCC approved it!”
The FCC only approved it under Part 15 rules. Again, see above – there is no certification or approval process for Part 97.
“If you don’t like them, don’t buy one.”
Whether I like them or not is irrelevant. It is in my interest to be concerned about other ham radio operators knowingly violating the rules. Ham radio is a self-policing hobby. If we don’t take the time to ensure our own people are following the rules, what will the FCC think?
“I can’t afford anything better.”
This is a difficult one. I understand most people cannot simply afford to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on radio equipment, and the $30-$50 price tag really makes these quite attractive. Ham radio can be an expensive hobby. That said, if you can only afford $50 for a radio, you should consider purchasing a used radio. If you still choose to buy a Chinese brand, at the very least, perhaps someone at a local club can test your radio to ensure it complies with the rules.
“It’s up to the individual to choose what to spend their money on.”
This is absolutely true. It is also up to the individual to choose whether or not they are willing to violate the FCC rules to save a few dollars. As I said above, it is still in every amateur’s interest to be sure we are all following the rules.
My advice – whatever radio you buy, especially the cheaper kinds, test it. If you don’t have a spectrum analyzer, it is very likely someone in a local club does and would be willing to help.
“They’re good for what they are.”
I suppose this is true – if you end up getting a radio that is compliant with 97.307(e) and all the other rules.
“I used it for police/fire/EMS and it works fine.”
If you are in public safety, you should know better than to trust your life to one of these radios.
Additionally, most of the Chinese radios are illegal to use on public safety frequencies because they are not Part 90 type accepted.
“I have a model that’s Part 90 type accepted.”
That doesn’t get you out of testing your own radio. Just because an FCC-contracted test lab certified sample units for use in land mobile applications does NOT mean that every unit is compliant with the part 97 rules! Even with the part 90 type-accepted UV-5R models that I’ve tested, I have seen a lot of them fail miserably.
“Aren’t most radios made in China?”
I can’t speak to where every model of every radio is manufactured, but the ARRL’s numbers speak for themselves:
“These radios have brought so many new people into the hobby.”
This is a true statement. I am always glad to have new people in the hobby! As I said above, it’s our responsibility as more experienced operators to teach and ensure they understand the limitations of these radios, including the possibility that they could be violating Part 97.
“You only hate these radios because new hams buy them.”
“They haven’t actually caused a single case of interference to anyone.”
This could be true, but I am not sure how anyone would be able to prove it. That said, it doesn’t matter. We are still required to comply with all of Part 97.
These are the most common statements I have heard in response to criticism of these radios. Have you seen anything else that you would like covered in this article? Leave a comment below!