Alaska Wilderness Communications

Discussion in 'Blogs' started by BTPost, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    This will be for those folks, heading North, to make their Home in the Alaskan Bush, or to just visit. The basic information presented here, is mostly universal, and can be used throughout the USA, and may even be available, in some form, to folks in other countries, except where The Alaskan Specifics are noted.

    I will break this topic into Close Neighborhood, (close = 10 Sq Miles) Neighborhood, (100 Sq Miles) State, National, and Worldwide Comms. We will also talk about non-Licensed, and Licensed Comms, as well as breaking the Comm types up by Frequency Bands, and Tx power levels. Some of these systems you may have heard of, and some are Alaska Specific.

    We can start out by setting a few Definitions, so that everyone is on the same Page.

    Above we have setup the first Five, which are for "Area of Operations" (AoO)
    1. Close Neighborhood = 10 Sq Miles around your site
    2. Neighborhood = 100 Sq. Miles around your site
    3. State = State of Alaska (which is a Darn BIG PLACE, and up to 3000 miles from one point to another)
    4. Nation = USA (that is "Us", as opposed to, "Them")
    5. World = All the rest of those other folks, "Them"

    Now lets set some definitions of Radio Services that can be used to fill comm's needs
    1 . Unlicensed Services These are covered under FCC Blanket Licenses for ALL Us citizens, and no Station License, or Operators License, is needed or required.
    a. Part 15 Devices = "cheapo" 49 Mhz TwoWay Devices, Fm Broadcast Band devices, and Am Broadcast Band devices, etc.
    b. CBRS = Citizens Band Radio Service 27 Mhz
    c. FRS = Family Radio Service 460 Mhz
    d. MURS = Multi User Radio Service 156 Mhz
    e. iDen/ISM Cellular = ISM 900 Mhz (there is now a new Blog concerning these type devices published on
    f Marine = Maritime Mobile Radio Service (Unlicensed only for non-commercial Vessels, and Aircraft) 156 Mhz

    2. Licensed Radio Services Each of these Radio Services REQUIRES an FCC Station License to be applied for, and granted, before you can operate your system, and in some cases an OPERATORS PERMIT is also REQUIRED to Operate the Radio Station. If you can figure out how to fill out the Application Forms, and use all the right Buzz words, in all the right places, these Licenses are not to hard to get. It only takes TIME and MONEY.
    a. GMRS = General Mobile Radio Service 460 Mhz
    b. BRS = Business Radio Service 47 - 50 Mhz, 150 - 174 Mhz, 450 - 470 Mhz
    c. Marine = Marine Radio Service (License REQUIRED for a Land based Station) 2 - 30 Mhz, 156 Mhz
    d. APF = Alaska Private Fixed Radio Service 2-10 Mhz
    e. Ham = Amateur Radio Service DC to Light Mhz

    3. Cellular type Services Licensing for these is dome for you by the Carrier Service Provider, so nothing on your end is REQUIRED, Except MONEY for the Service.
    a. Cellular = Cellular Radio Service 800 Mhz
    b. PCS = Personal Communications Radio Service 1800-2000 Mhz
    Basically you can tell which of Radio Services can be used, in each of the five AoO's, by the Frequency they operate on, as distance will be in the most part dependent on Frequency and Tx Power.

    You ask, "Why are Comms so important in the Alaskan bush?" The answer is: When you live this far out, and the nearest Medical facility is 2 Hours away IF, they left exactly when you needed them, and your out alone, cutting firewood, and your chainsaw slips, and it went through you chaps, now your IN TROUBLE. This senerio, or a similar senerio, happens all the time, and without Comms, back to the cabin, and from there, Comms back to the world, you are on your own, and this Country can, and will, KILL YOU, if you let it get the upper hand. 911 doesn't work if you do not have a phone, and the SAR folks that are here, if local, need usually about an hour, MINIMUM, to just get going, or the USCG, if they cover your Area need to establish where you are, and you would need to talk to the Flight Surgeon, On Call, and he decides if you are going to DIE, if they don't launch, and authorizes the mission. The same is true if it is the ANG (Alaska National Guard) that is supplying SAR for your area. The State Troopers do SAR for lost folks, but not for Medical, so they usually are not coming unless there is a Law Enforcement issue. We will be covering Comms for all five AoO's, here, and some of these will overlap, and that is intended.

    So let look at "Close Neighborhood" first as this is likely where you need to start from anyway. This is what you may be using just around your place. It needs to be small, light and effective in the 10 Sq Mile Area around your place. Now 10 Sq Miles sounds like a BIG Area, but think of it as a BOX with 3.3 miles on each side with your cabin, or place, in the center. So, any place inside the box is never more than 2 miles from the cabin. See, when you look at it in that light, it is not really that Big. Part 15 Devices are not really what one would consider a "quality" Comms System, but you may just want to use them in a Squad Comms Tactical situation, as they are cheap. Fm and AM Boardcast is a way to provide Oneway Comms to Outposts, that you wouldn't necessarily need twoway comms to, but that could keep hidden folks, up to date on any situations, while keeping them Tx Silent and hidden. CBRS is what I would class a Starter System, although it is now out of favor, as unreliable. You are just as likely to be able to talk to a Trucker in Texas, as you Mobile, or Base 4 miles away, when the band is OPEN for skip. FRS is what is most usual, for most CN Area comms. These are small, light, FM, twoway radios that have good coverage in the CN AoO. They are a subSet of the GMRS system and can communicate with any, and all, GMRS Radios. MURS is the VHF (156 Mhz) equivalent of FRS, (UHF) and could be used in the CN AoO, but has a few limitations, like only a few channels, and a bit heavier, and more expensive radios. MURS has a much better effective Range than FRS, due to the Frequency Band it uses. Last of these is iDen/ISM. This is a Digital Cellular type Service that works directly between handheld units, and does NOT require any Cellular Service inside your AoO. It is a Spread Spectrum radio that uses digital Encoding and is the most secure comms available to regular folks. Any of these, (FRS, MURS, CBRS, iDen/ISM) will provide solid comm's in the CN AoO, from you, back to the Home Place. Just one more thought, here. You understand, that there has to be someone on the other end of the comm link to answer you..... RIGHT???

    Now let us look at the Neighborhood AoO. We said this was 100 Sq Miles around your site. Again here that seems like a lot of ground, but when you look at it like we did for the CN AoO, it is a BOX 10 Miles on a side, with the cabin in the Center, and usually less than 6 miles to the farthest edge. Here again many of the CN Units can be used, HOWEVER the FRS units will likely NOT cover the whole AoO, and Iden/ISM also has this same limitation in range, only a bit more so. CBRS will work for this AoO, but again it is old technology and the same limits apply. MURS will certainly work but has it's same limits on number of channels available. But we can now add some of the Licensed Radio Services, to the mix which CAN cover the AoO, and more. GMRS is one of these and does REQUIRE that you file and have Granted by the FCC, a Station License to operate your comms system, as noted above. GMRS has the advantage in that it is a SuperSet of FRS, and all the FRS Radios, which do NOT need licenses, can communicate with the GMRS Radios. So, you could setup a system where FRS was used around the CN AoO, and GMRS is used around the larger N AoO, only on different channels. GMRS also has the advantage of High Site Repeater operations, which can extend coverage area, well past the N AoO. GMRS also has significantly more Tx Power authorized, and bigger, better, Antenna systems available, which greatly enhances its range. There are enough channels available, to support a fair sized Community Based system, for Groups of like-minded Folks, to cover each others back, on a coordinated. local basis. ALL GMRS/FRS Radios can communicate with any, and ALL, other FRS/GMRS Radios of any other licensee. BRS is the SuperSet of the MURS radios, and again a License needs to be applied for, and granted, to operate a system. BRS has many advantages in that not only are Repeaters allowed, but BRS has three Frequency Bands, (Low Vhf = 48-50 Mhz, High Vhf = 150-174 Mhz, and Uhf = 450-470 Mhz) and is authorized up to 500 Watts Tx Power, from which to design, and build a system, with. This allows for a much wider range, than the AoO we are talking about here, but Alaska is such a BIG PLACE, and sometimes a bigger system is required. If your place is on Navigable Waters, (you can float a boat on it) the the Marine Radio Band can provide many of of the same facilities and coverages of the BRS, with less Licensing hassles. Marine radios are authorized for up to 50 Watts Tx Power for Land Stations, and 25 Watts for Vessels, and 10 Watts for Aircraft. There is one small "gotcha" for the Marine radios. They can NOT be used for Land to Land Communications, PERIOD. You can talk Vessel to Vessel, Vessel to Land, Land to Vessel, but not Land to Land. Aircraft are considered vessels. This is NOT a USA only thing, it is an INTERNATIONAL Rule, agreed to by ALL Nations. There are other Radio Services for Land to Land operations. Because "WE" live on Salt water, here, we use Marine to talk to USCG, for SAR and such, and to provide Comms to the USCG Choppers, that come bail us out, when we are dying or in grave danger.

    Ok we now have the Neighborhood, covered, but that is basically all local comms, and we need to talk about Comms that connect us back to the world. These will cover the State, Nation, and World, AoOs, as they do provide connections to all of those. The most used in Alaska, will be the Cellular type Services, and I will cover those, including the technology that makes them work, so that you have an understanding of the options, and limitations, of the systems. Cellular has been in Alaska for a decade and is a very young technology. I want to, first, just touch on the APF Radio Service, here, because it is the Legacy Radio system that has largely been replace by the Cellular Systems here in Alaska. Alaska Private Fixed Stations were, and still are, used when there is no other comms system into a remote Alaska location. It is an HF (High Frequency 2-10 Mhz) SSB (Single SideBand) Radio system that requires a much Bigger and different antenna system that even a CBRS Radio. APF Stations can communicate with each other, and with Ham Radio Stations on the Alaska Emergency Calling Channel of 5167.5 Mhz. There are channels in the 2 Mhz, 3 Mhz, 5 Mhz, 8 Mhz, and 10 Mhz Bands, and these can be used to communicate with ANY Station inside the territory of the State of Alaska, on water, land, and in the air, for the purposes of communicating, both business, and non-business communications. APF Stations can, and do, provide Telco Interconnections for the really far out bush locations, and for us OLD Alaskan RadioMen, it was how it was done, back in the day. There are very few APF Stations left here these days, but I know of two, of the Telco Interconnect Stations, one outside of Anchorage, and one up by Fairbanks, that are still in operation, and providing that service to the remote bush. Many of the Bush Pilots run APF Stations to talk to their aircraft, and far flung customer sites.

    What most folks understand "Cellular" to mean, is really two similar but also different, technologies that have merged into what is now the Generic term CELLULAR. The original Cellular system was designed by Motorola, and first field tested in Chicago. It was an Analog FM Radio System, that used one of the original, unused UHF Tv channels in the Chicago area. The Cellular system is made up of Cells, where each cell is covered by one Cellsite, in its center, and uses a single set of channels called a channel Bank. All the surrounding Cells use different Channel Banks, so that no two adjacent Cells use the same Channel Bank. The Cells can be of varying sizes but usually only 2-5 miles in diameter. This allows for the limited number of Channel Banks, to reused over and over again, as the system is extended in size. The Cellsite Tx uses a Maximum power of 40 Watts, and the Subscriber Units, (Cellphones) have from .1 Watt to a maximum of 3 Watts of Tx Power, which is controlled by the Cellsite, to limit the Tx power of the Subscriber Unit to the minimum required, to meet a Designed SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) at the Cellsite receiver. As one Subscriber Unit moves from one Cell to and other, it's Transmit Signal, is received by the new Cellsite, and when it reaches the designed SNR, the System Control Computer tells the Subscriber Unit to switch to a new Frequency in the new Cellsites Channel Bank, which then causes the previous Cellsite, to free up, the old Frequency, for a new Call in its coverage area. All the CellSites in a System, are controlled by one central System Control Computer, which can talk to All the other System Control Computers, in the surrounding Systems, and coordinate Handoffs from one system to the next system, just like they do for Cellsite to Cellsite handoffs. All the System Controller Computers also talk to the Master Network Computer, that authorizes each Subscriber Unit for entrance onto the Network, when the first turn on, and it collects all the Billing Information for the whole network, and keeps track of which units are ON, and which Cellsite they are currently talking to. If your cellphone is ON, the Master Network Computer knows who, and where you are, down to the Cellsite, Sector, and SNR. This is how they find lost folks, who call 911, but do not know where they are. There are two Networks available for licensing in each area, in the 800 Mhz Cellular scheme, here in the USA. Here in Alaska, these two networks are the AT&T Network, and the ACS Network. Now you say, "But I have a Verizon, or a Sprint, or a Joe Schmo, Cellphone and it works in alaska." Well that could be, but if it is an 800 Mhz Band Cellphone, then it is piggy backing one one of these two Carrier's Network. There is another possibility as well. Once the Digital Cellular technology was deployed, the FCC carved out another section of UHF Bandwidth in the 1800-2000 Mhz range for what is called PCS. (Personal Communications Service) These networks use the same basic technology as the Cellular systems, but work on the newer Frequencies, and have many more Channels Banks, and Network space for many more Carriers to grab, and use. Most if not ALL of the modern Cellphone have ALL three of the "Cellular" Frequency Bands built in and they can switch between them, on command, just like switching from Cell to Cell. Most of the Carriers, today have Interconnection Agreements in place with their competitors, so that they can use each others Networks to provide their customers, service, without actually maintaining their own Network in that specific area. This is what is called "Roaming", and roaming cost you extra, because your Carrier has to pay the other guy, something to use his Network. In the last few years, as the old Analog Cellular systems were upgraded to digital, Digital Services were added to the Networks. Now Internet, Text Messages, Pictures, and other digital service, piggyback on the RF signals from your from most of the FlatLand Cellular systems. In Alaska, CellSites in the BIG Cities and towns are the same as everywhere else, but once you leave the Population Centers, Cellsites get MUCH bigger. A typical bush Cellsite is 50-60 miles in diameter, and the Cellsite itself in on a high Mountain Top, so that the signal carries out to the Cell edges. They are spaced farther apart and in many places there are Dead zones between Cells. My CellSite that I use, is 15 Miles away, on top of Hoonah Mtn, at 3500 Ft. If I take my Cellphone out of the cabin, and walk around, I can find "Hotspots" where I have one or two Bars. If I get to a place where I can SEE, Hoonah Mtn, then I will have 5 Bars, but high brush, and trees, especially wet trees, cut the signal to the point of No Service, for a handheld Cellphone, around here. So, we use External Directional Antennas to boost our Cellphones ability to access the Network. For my location that is all that is required, but for some of my neighbors, they require not only External Directional Antennas, but Bidirectional Amplifiers as well, to boost their .5 watt TX powered Subscriber Units to the maximum allowed Tx power of 3 watts. I suspect many of you have never heard, or seen a Cellphone with an External Antenna Jack, for connecting these extra devices up to your cellphones. That is simply because you live mostly where the Cells are relatively small, and there is no need for these things, and most of the OEMs design and build for that BIGGER Market. So, we up here, do not get to use iPhones, or Blackberries, or any fancy units that do NOT have an External Antenna Jack. My Cellphone is a 5 year old Motorola, that has been obsolete for 4 years, BUT it WORKS, and works WELL, here. So, if you are building your Alaskan Dream place, you need to find out where your local CellSite is, (talk to a local, they may know) and then go to the nearest Town, and check with the SMARTEST Sales Droid in the place, as to what is required to get Cellular service at, or near you place. If the Sales Droids eyes glaze over, when you ask, then you haven't found the SMARTEST ONE in the place. This is mostly, trial and error, type business. You try, the Sales Droid, errors, and you try something else. You either will make it work, or it just isn't possible, until they expand the system closer, to your place. There are a few EXPENSIVE technologies that can make it so places work, where all of the above has failed, and if you get to that place, PM "Me" and we can talk about it. If you read my "About Me" blog, you know that I have extensive knowledge concerning Alaska Bush Communications.

    So, now either you have Cellular coverage, or you don't, and for this discussion we will assume that you do. It does take some energy to keep the Cellphone online 24/7. Most of my neighbors have well enough established Power Systems, that they just leave them on, but some just do NOT want to have the hassle of a telltale, so they just let everybody know that they are available for calls between say 6 and 8 Pm local. That works for a low energy lifestyle. Now you have all your AoOs covered for basic Comms, so where do you go next? If you have the talkative type, maybe Ham Radio is in your future. This form of Comms can cover ALL the AoOs, by using the many and varied Ham Radio Bands. Yep, from comms, across the road, to around the world, and anywhere in between. There are just two little "gotchas" with Ham Radio. First, It is a NON-Commercial Radio Service. You can't call up and order a PIZZA, using Ham Radio, or for any other commercial application. You CAN ask your wife, or significant Other, as the case maybe, If they are also a Ham Radio Operator, to pick up a Pizza for Dinner, while they are in town on a Town Trip, But NO Direct Commercial Operations. You are allowed to communicate with ANY and ALL Ham Radio Operators in the USA, and in MOST other countries. You can communicate with ANY Licensed Alaska Radio Station on the Alaska Emergency Frequency of 5167.5 Khz. You can bounce signals off the Moon, but you can NOT use it for commercial Purposes, PERIOD, and there are enough Ham Operators listening, that if you do, you will find yourself speaking with my Good Friends from the Anchorage FCC Monitoring site, and the FCC Resident Field Agents for Alaska. Of course, we all understand that when the SHTF, and the "Revolution" comes, all these rules will be GONE, and only the radios will be left. ..... But if you get License, or are a Ham, feel Free to give "Me" a shout, anytime, it is ALWAYS on....

    Well now, Internet is the Rage these days, and I have been connected for decades, clear back to the ARRPAnet beginnings. In the modern world it is getting to be required, just so one can be on sites like this.(SurvivalMonkey) In Alaska, your Connection, and Connection Bandwidth, really depends on just how far out you live, from a connected Town, or how much you want to spend to be connected. If you have Cellular to your place, then Internet is just another Service that you can buy, along with you Voice Service. Bandwidths and speeds will depend on, first how many BARS, you have on your Cellphone, and or an ISP Service Providers RF Modem, Thingy. Yea, they usually provide a separate USB Thingy, that plugs into a USB Port on your computer, or Laptop, Notebook, or IP Device, that talks to your local Cellsite, and gives you your IP Connection. Here again, you will have to use the Trial and Error method of getting it to work. External Directional Antennas, External BiDirectional Amplifiers, and other things may be needed to make it work, just like the Cellular Phone thing you just did above. I would suggest that you NOT confuse the Sales Droid at your local Cellular Emporium, with BOTH Voice and Data connection requests, at the same time. His/Her Head may just explode, due to Overload... If you are so far out, that you do NOT have reliable Cellular at your cabin site, you still have options, and some are relatively cheap, and some are BIG FRN burners. One thing that can be done, is to see if there is a hill near by that does have a Good Cellular signal. ( Lots of Bars) If it is not to far, or like a close neighbors place, you could setup a small remote site, there and bring both Cellular and Data back to your place over copper. Power is the concern in this type of deal as it will take about 3 Amps at 12 Vdc and that is 36 Watts. If your neighbor has the extra power, and you could cook the deal, great. These Copper tied Remote systems could be built inside a Milk Create sized package, and be remoted up to 12000 wire feet, from your place using standard Ethernet Wire, that costs about $80US/1000'. I have a few of these copper links in my MicroISP that delivers Internet to my Close Neighbors, that use this method, and we get .5 Mbs Bandwidths on those links, using DSL technology. If your links happen to be "in the clear", (No trees, or over water) then WiFi can be used to make these connections to the Remote site. WiFi doe NOT do well thru Trees, especially wet Trees, and that is why I went to copper for some of my links. I have a few 3 - 5 miles WiFi Links, in my network, using off the shelf WiFi Routers with External Antennas. some of these links can carry upwards of 100 Mbs bandwidths.
    Speaking of Bandwidths, lets define just what that means, and I am talking REAL World bandwidths, here NOT Sales Droid Bandwidths, that they spout and promise, but you NEVER see. A Voice channel takes about .01 Mbs (Mbs = Megabits/Second, as opposed to, MBS which is MegaBytes/Second which roughly is 10 time more) You typical wireline modem is capable of a maximum of .056 Mbs, and DSL Technology can bring wireline bandwidths up to .5 Mbs, on a good clean line, or 10X analog Modem technology. Cellular Technology usually presents .3-.6 Mbs.
    Now if you still farther out, and have NO Cellular connection, possible even with remote site, then you basically have ONE Option, with three Providers, and that is SAT based IP Technology. The providers in the USA are HughesNet, Starband, and WildBlue. I have dealt with the first two, but WildBlue doesn't do well in Alaska due to it being a KA Band service, where as the other two are Ku Band Services. The difference is in the frequency bands they use to talk to the SAT, and how much atmosphere those signals have to pass thru to get from the SAT (23000 miles above the equator) to your place. The farther north you are the BIGGER, and more expensive, the Dish Antenna needs to be. I also have used, and now use, commercial SAT based IP Services provided by other folks,, but these three are the "Biggies" in consumer Based SAT IP Providers. HughesNet costs a bit less per month, but has some serious drawbacks, in Total Bandwidth allowed per day, week, and month, as well as TOS issues. (TOS = Terms of Service) Starband is about the best I have seen in the consumer type services for the regular folks, and I understand that this Spring they will be offering a "ObamaBucks Special subsidized Deal" for new customers, under some Rural Electrification Grant from the Feds, for a, No Upfront Equipment Costs, No Installations Costs, system for $50US/month for the first Year, and $60/Month for the second Year. We pay $99US/Month for each SAT Link from them, and that buys us "up to" 10Mbs Bandwidth, and 5 GB/week Data, on a Daily Rotating Basis. The "Up to" is Sales Droid speak, for "on their best day, in the middle of the night, when everyone else is sleeping" but to be fair, i usually see in the neighborhood of 800-900 Mbs, except on Monday days, and Friday afternoons, (East Coast Time) when lots of users are online. One interesting note here, if your really far out, with NO Cellular Comms, and have a solid Starband link, you can do "Voice over IP" with Skype, and it works fairly well. Momma and I actually do VideoChats, with the Grandkids, using Skype Connections. It was really cool to do that Christmas Morning, as we got to watch all our Grandkids, do their "Present Openings" because they each live in a different Time Zone from us, using Skype. If you have an Internet connection that will do at least .5 Mbs, and want to see how that works, load on up, Skype, for your OS, and PM "Me" for a Chat Time, and User Id, and Ill fire up the Skype system on my server and we can have a video-chat.

    Well that cover all the Major issues with Alaskan Comms, and I will have a Comms Do-Dads blog going directly....
    TheEconomist, Bug, vonslob and 5 others like this.
  2. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    jollyrodger13 likes this.
  3. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    Thanks for all this info BT. You certainly know your stuff when it comes to communications. I feel like a real small person on a really big iceberg. Communications is a huge subject.
  4. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    @Motomom34 You are entirely Welcome.... If you have ANY questions feel free to ask away... There are NO Dumb Questions, except those unAsked.....
    KAS and Motomom34 like this.
  5. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    Okay you asked for questions.... you wrote this "iDen/ISM. This is a Digital Cellular type Service that works directly between handheld units, and does NOT require any Cellular Service inside your AoO.
    Where we live is a dead zone. Cellular doesn't work. Depending on the wind, we can pick up other peoples portable phone calls and our baby monitor used to pick up all sorts of people. We currently have normal internet, phone, plus have purchased a solar/crank radio- am, fm & weather band. We are looking at communications outside of walkie-talkies. To be covered in case SHTF, I have heard HAM radios were the way to go but that may be over kill. If something happened that stopped our normal everyday communications- phone, internet... what would be the best option for a novice?
    When you answer think... Communications for Dummies images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSq7QAFFTq81XRlLRYxUh4PUg_Avu9fkC9-G7aR1jZVGJX32UvH
  6. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    OK, Mom... One of the cheapest local AoO Comm Units, for SHTF Senerios is the NexTel iDen/ISM Phones. Monkeys have been able to buy them off of eBay for $15-$25US per Unit, and that INCLUDES Batteries, and usually a charger. These are reTIRED Cellphones who's Network does NOT still exist in most places. They have two DirecTalk Modes, Squad Comm, and Private. In Squad Comm Mode, any of the Units programmed for that channel (Ch1-Ch10) and Code (Code 1-Code 15) can hear any conversation, from ANY Unit within range. Just like ANY WalkieTalkie, EXCEPT these are Digital Encrypted Transmissions. Which Means only units of this specific TYPE, and on these Specific Channel/Code Setups, can deCrypt the transmissions. They can NOT be Scanned, by ANYONE, or Direction Finder'ed by ANYONE, without a Van full of VERY expensive Equipment. They are as SECURE, as a civilian can expect, in the way of Comm Gear. They have a REAL World Range of 1-4 Miles, depending on terrain and obstacles in-between Units. In Private Mode, you program each unit with an Individual 10 Digit Private Number, and then use that NUMBER when calling that SPECIFIC Unit. The Private Number is used as the Spreading Code, when in this Mode, so ONLY that Unit can deCrypt the transmission, because only that Unit has that SPECIFIC Private Number. When you finish a conversation, in Private Mode, the unit reverts to Squad Comm Mode, after about 10seconds has elapsed. I have used both the Motorola i355, and i560 units around here, and many Monkeys have used these Units for local AoO Comms. Melbo and I have NEVER met, but last fall I arranged to have a chat with him using these units, while I was driving by, his location, on the Freeway, while he was on his way to work, that morning. We both setup on the MonkeyNet Channel/Code, (Ch5/Code5) and I was very pleased with the observed Range, and Comms quality, during that conversation. No License is REQUIRED for these units, as they fall Under FCC Regs CFR47Part15. They look like Cellphones, because that is what they were, but are basically Obsolete, now days, and that is why they are so CHEAP on eBay. They are about as rugged as one can find for a cellphone. I have a bunch of Simm Cards for these, should Monkeys find that purchased Units, lack them, when bought off of eBay. A Simm Card IS NEEDED, to SETUP each unit, HOWEVER once they are setup correctly, the Simm Card can be removed, and the Unit will work in Squad Comms Mode, without it. A Simm Card IS REQUIRED for Private Mode, because that is where the Private Number is stored.

    Motorola i355 | eBay

    Motorola i560 | eBay

    Ham Radios are another option for SHTF and Family Comms. It is possible to spend as little, or as much, on Ham Radios as one can afford. Ham Radios also offer Comms from local AoO, clear out to World Wide Comms, depending on License Held, and Money Spent, on radios. The basic License is a TECH Class License. This gives one ALL Ham Privileges above 30 Mhz, and some Ham Voice Privileges on the 10 Meter Band. which is very close to the 11 Meter Citizens Band. It also allows one to use up to 1000 Watts of Tx Power, where legal. The General Class License, allows for HF Comms on Ham Frequencies from 1.7 Mhz thru 30 Mhz, with up to 1000 Watts of Tx Power. This is World Wide Comms. There is NO Morse Code REQUIREMENT, any more, and ALL the Tests are Multiple Guess, with ALL Questions, Published, along with the Correct Answers. Many 10 year Olds have passed the General Class Exam, so if you have children, you can make this a Family Deal, and they can participate, along with Mom and Dad, in the Learning Cycle. Should keep Mom and Dad on their Toes, about who can receive a License, FIRST. There is a Prep'er Ham Radio Site (Prepared Ham) that can HELP anyone, who shows up, with the Learning Cycle, and encouragement. Both ghrit and I are members of this site, and I recommend them, to you, should you want to go the HAM Radio route.

    Prepared Ham

    If anything is not clear, "as Mud", ask away.... as this is how I chose to "Give Back" to the community, for all the things that have been given to "Me" during my life...
    Beano likes this.
  7. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    There are five basics that folks intent on surviving really need to pay attention to. Food/water/shelter/first aid/ and communication. Arms/ammo go w/o having to mention them. Either or any of these missing makes you very vulnerable to failure at surviving---that means dead or worse.
    Motomom34 and BTPost like this.
  8. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Hey @-06, did you get some of these Units? If so better bring one or two with you this summer.... Will make getting together a lot easier.... on MonkeyNet Setup... If not I can send you one....
  9. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    The light went on! I know Nextel. We had these at an old job of mine. They were cell phone/walkie talkie and we used to get the really tough ones. okay, what you are saying is making much more sense. Thank you for the ebay suggestion. The yellow one is a military strong phone. Those are the ones we gave the guys.

    I got water, working steadily on food, shelter but need an alternative semi close location, found a first aid class that starts next month so .... I think my bases are getting covered.
  10. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    BT, do not have one. If you have extras let me know and will send $s for a couple.
  11. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    @-06, Consider a couple on the way... Still on "16 Old" ?
  12. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    "I'm is" Bruce. Mighty nice here today BT. Working on another raised bed after lunch. Moving them toward the drive a bit more to get more sun. Will be putting in potatoes in a week or two and a few other odds and ends. Looking forward to getting up your way "fer ah bit".
  13. Beano

    Beano Monkey

    Beautifully written and I now have the direction I need.....thanks BT.
  14. Hypothetical question: Let's say you live in the bush considerably off the road system and the only way to get in (or at least the most practical) is by bush plane. Supposing you had a need to fetch supplies once or twice a year, what would be the bet way to contact one of the air charter service to come pick you up on a designated day without having to go through a middleman to relay your message to them?

    Also, any opinions on SatPhones (satellite phones)? That would seem like the most direct way for people in the bush to get any kind of practical results in terms of contacting people without having to rely on traditional radio that either requires third parties to relay your messages or which require the other parties you want to contact to be sitting in front of their radio all day long, which seems not likely.
  15. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Most of the Interior Villages have Cellphones, now, so you would have to be 30 miles out from a village, to be out of Cell coverage, which isn't all that hard to do. There are Alaska Pubic Fixed HF Radio Stations, still in operation, in Anchorage and FairBanks, so you could use them, for a PhonePatch. Then there are a number of Alaska Private Fixed HF Radio Stations, in use by many of the Bush Pilots, just for those kinds of customers, and you can talk to them, direct. SatPhones do work, but I am not familiar with the Brands and costs, as I haven't had that need, in all my time traveling in the Alaskan Bush. Most folks do NOT live so far out, that Comms is a problem, by one of the above methods, and some just jump in a Skiff, or SnowMobile, depending on the season, and buzz down the river to the nearest village and secure their supplies. Around my AoO, I have the REAL Phone, a CellPhone, and operate an Alaska Private Fixed HF Station, and well as a Marine Private Coast HF and VHF Station, and do Phone Patches for those few Folks that do not have, or can't make Cellular work, from their Cabins. There is also Ham Radio, that some folks use to setup Bush Plane drops, but that is pushing the envelope, on Legality, of Ham Radio Operations. For Emergencies, you can Buy, and Register, a Spot GPS Transponder. In an emergency, you set it off, and it is picked up by SAR-Sats, and they Notify, the Alaska State Troopers, with the Registration Information, and give them the GPS Coordinates of the Transponder. Then they launch a SAR Operation and come looking for you, with a National Guard, or US Coast Guard Chopper. If you do that, though, you had better be DYING, or Close to it, or you are in serious Trouble, and you MAY have to PAY for the SAR Operation, which can be SERIOUS Bucks.
    VisuTrac likes this.
  16. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Neva poles would give skiers a grip on connectivity (in design)this pairs with your smart phone, for live/ and recorded GPS positions that are share-able. designed for skiers, but would work with hikers of course. As long as you were within cell coverage, they could find you easily by your GPS transponder. Rechargeable with a three day charge.
  17. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

  18. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    Before the age of cell phones , I was into ham radio .
    I lived in the mountains and was a volunteer in search and rescue .Ham radio was more reliable than the sheriffs radios.
    A lot of advantages with ham radios is that one can have a base unit that will work as a repeater or cell site as it were and use a hand held through that repeater to reach the limits of that much stronger rig, via the hand held.
    We favored the 2 meter band because it was widely used in that area and if you had a problem hams were the most willing to give you a hand. Doing phone patches is another great advantage via the Ham radios, and I have done many calls using my hand held through a repeater/phone patch.
    Radios have advanced greatly since I have been in radio 15 years ago or so.
    IMO If I were going any where radio were required ,I'd get familiar with folks in the area and know what they are using.
  1. DKR
  2. William Warren
  3. bumpshadow
  4. hitchcock4
  5. DKR
  6. Garand69
  7. starbright
  8. Bandit99
  9. BTPost
  10. DKR
  11. BenP
  12. Hanzo
  13. Asia-Off-Grid
  14. ecogreenleaves
  15. Asia-Off-Grid
  16. ED GEiN
  17. ED GEiN
  18. BenP
  19. Idahoser
  20. hitchcock4
survivalmonkey SSL seal warrant canary