Great Falls, MT

MRT magazine: My steady guidepost for the past two decades. Always full of “good” technical stuff and plenty of participation by authors who knew the “nuts and bolts” of communications.

But … what's this? MRT has gotten thinner! The articles are changing, too! No longer are there meaty technical subjects to help while away those spare moments between engineering projects! The “gearhead” authors have disappeared, taking the path of communication “dinosaurs” in a management-style “ice-age” streamlining of a publication. This kind of reminds me of the evolution of another similar publication I once knew and loved back in the 1970s… What was its name?… Oh, yes… Communic… Oh! I had better not say it here!

Suffice it to say, MRT quickly saved the day when it appeared, picking up where that other magazine left off when it decided to target communications-related business topics instead of “techie” stuff. It seemed to have fallen prey to the newfound era of the “suits.”

Throughout my [more than] 30-year career, I have managed to weave a rather intricate path through many electronic engineering disciplines. Having started at the “ripe” old age of 15 in broadcast television and AM radio, I finally started earning my additional stripes in land mobile radio work when I was 18.

Over the course of the following years, I diverged from direct communications work but indirectly pursued other work in the form of RF design and related issues. Now, while preparing for retirement in the upcoming years, I decided to “relax” a bit and dive back into communications, er… “wireless,” this time in a official engineering capacity.

I love to read. And there is nothing better than when one finds a publication that caters to the more technical subjects. But those publications are becoming hard to find. It seems that many of them are headed up by people who find it easier to generalize on not-too-technical subjects that are easy to crank out for their not-too-technical audiences.

But we must remember that, for every manager out there in the world, there are numerous support people keeping that manager's job viable. And those people need a publication targeted at them just as much as that manager does. Possibly even more!

Yes, I have been a manager in past times. But I understood every intricacy of the work my people performed.

Thus, I loved to read MRT, much to the chagrin of my peers. But MRT now seems to have lost its technical luster. And I doubt if it is going to return.

Now … I wonder if there is another new old-style MRT publication out there where all of the technical authors have gone to?
Gregory Muir
Communications specialist
Falls Communications Inc.

McCarthy replies:

I'm guessing that with 30-plus years in the technical engineering field, you have seen many changes. You have probably seen many markets — whole industries, in fact — as well as magazines fall by the wayside.

You mention that the magazine is getting thinner. This is in no small way why MRT must change. The number of pages we print depends on the amount of advertising support the magazine has. No one can put out a magazine unless he has the money to pay the printer and post office at a minimum. Even Henry Luce wore a suit, so I'm not sure that the era of the “suits” is new found.

The poor economy has played a huge role in the slimming down of almost every tech magazine out there. Many have not survived.

At the same time, the industries that MRT covers are in a state of flux. The letters that follow yours about the decline of family radio businesses and disappearance of small dealers of all kinds show how fundamentally the economic landscape has changed. Perhaps for the worse. But that is the terrain on which we are currently deployed.

The technology is also changing, as are the roles of the regulators, for better or worse. The politics are changing too, especially as the country fights the “War on Terrorism” and enhances homeland security and public safety.

We are in a strange position at MRT. We want this magazine, the Web site and IWCE tradeshow to be more responsive to your specific needs and the overall general needs of the communities we serve than ever before.

Let's face it, this is a matter of survival for us, but we are one of the few organizations hanging in there with the resources to make this work in print, in person and on the Internet.

We would like nothing more than to have readers who sing our praises. In fact, we would all love customers who sing nothing but: Happy, happy, joy, joy. But about the only magazine that might have that sort of audience is High Times.

When you say the “nuts and bolts” of communications, my assumption is that you are talking about gear. We are wide open to the gearhead authors. We are actively seeking them, and we've asked some who left MRT to come back. We welcome suggestions from readers as to whom we should seek out.

We do not want to abandon any of our readers; we want to serve them better.

But we also realize that we have a dynamic market with a changing audience, and technologies and products that need to be sorted and understood.

And we have to figure out how to pay for printing and postage, too.

FCC killing small business

Tempe, AZ

I am a Mom and Pa radio dealer/service shop. I used to be heavily into two-way radio and service, but now I mostly sell and service our company-owned paging system.

What has caused business to want to use FRS (Family Radio Service) radios is driven by the following factors:

  1. Most of the business radio spectrum is flat gone. It is now called Enhanced SMR (NEXTEL). VHF/UHF radio is still available, if you can get through the interference of every other business on it trying to use the same channel.

  2. The cost of “dispatch business communication” went from about $10 to $20 per month per unit to having to now use a cellular phone or Nextel Direct Connect at $40 to $100 per month per unit ach.

This is only going to get worse because of the economy. Small businesses can't afford to use cellular or Nextel as its primary means of dispatch communications. No matter what the FCC or Congress thinks.

This shift from affordable communications to high-priced communications has caused small business to cut back in the actual amount of communications that they normally require to run their businesses, it has affected other areas, such as the number of employees, the purchase of capital equipment to improve their business, extra monies that they would normally use to promote or advertise their business.

The fault for this all lies on the back of the FCC. They are the ones who allowed the demise of the 800 dispatch business band, turned their back on “the public's interest” to install the fairy tale of a new cellular phone, and the greed of millions for the treasury.

Now if you are a small business, you have no hope of getting radio spectrum that is not encumbered by hundreds of other licensees, trying to communicate all at the same time, unless you either “pay through the nose” for cellular or use FRS/GMRS or something else illegally.

It is time for all those that have been put into this fiasco, the Radio Manufacturers, ITA, PCIA, the two-way radio dealers, the utilities, the railroads, the taxicab companies and the small business end users to make their voices heard that additional spectrum needs to be added to the current VHF/UHF Part 90 allotment for “business dispatch only.” Not auctioned, but site licensed like the current Part 90.

This would be in the public interest and good for the economy. Or you can watch the FRS, GMRS, VHF/UHF bands go the way of the CB band.
Wayne Markis
interstate wireless inc.

Only the licensed should use GMRS

Pasadena, MD

I enjoyed the article “Family Radio more than a name” in the November [2002] edition, and agree with Don [Bishop]on his points.

Here is my input: I have been complaining for about a year about FRS radios and GMRS radios being used by businesses that are in my mind too cheap and, or lazy to buy business band radios, and file for the licenses.

I was working at Radio Shack for a while earlier this year, and ended up having a heated discussion with the communications buyer for R/S in Texas. Radio Shack sells a five-watt radio that has both GMRS and FRS channels. The buyer's explanation was that “they are one in the same.”

I told him, no they are not, and that the FCC rules state that a person or entity who is “licensed” for GMRS, can use FRS with up to, (correct me if I am wrong), two watts.

Also, the R/S radio has a detachable BNC antenna, making it easy to connect to an amplifier. FRS radios are not to have the ability to attach an external antenna or device to the antenna (IE: amplifier).

One of the reasons I left R/S was that I refused to sell the radio unless the person had at least a GMRS license, and could show me a copy of it!

I also own and run a small radio dealership called DAT2 Communications.

It is only a small side business and I do not make any real money from it, but it is fun. (I am a dealer for TEKK.) I worked at R/S after I was laid off from my full time job of 21 years for a major defense Contractor in the central Maryland area. I am very strict about who I sell to, and what I sell.

In addition, I own and run a GMRS repeater, and do not cherish the idea of a bunch of kids, or businesses, causing adjacent channel interference to the repeater input from an improperly used FRS/GMRS radio.
Kurt Fritsch
DAT2 Communications

Dumb story

Baldwin Park, CA

Are you kidding? This article about FRS radio is dumb.

Where did you get these guys to interview? Who cares about UPS, FEDX, or the other companies who are crying about FRS?

The FRS Radio channels should have never been. It took me out of the two-way business along with many good radiomen. As we speak, cell phones are taking out the paging business.

Anyway, we've created a monster as the public only knows of three types of communications, FRS, Cellular/PCS, or Nextel (if they want long range). You'll never get the FCC to do anything with this band, so stop crying.

Even if they were to say no business can use these channels, what do you think? Is that going to make any difference? Not a chance. The FCC does not have the manpower to police the FRS channels.

So what do we do?

That is the same question they asked about CB. The answer is, NOTHING! The damage is done and there's way too much easy money for all who make and sell these radios.

So let's move on to the things that really matter, like the problems the real radios face in the digital world. Let's fix what can be fixed.
Michael D. Schelin

ITA stuffs the genie back in the bottle

Gainesville, FL

The ITA must have a lot of attorneys with nothing to do but file unrealistic requests with the FCC!!!

Seriously, does the ITA think the FCC can post-regulate the FRS any more than it can regulate the current 27 mhz CB band? Once the FCC creates a radio service based on the CB no-license rules, they have let the Genie out of the bottle. Trying to regulate FRS is like trying to stuff the Genie smoke back in the bottle!!

The only leverage the FCC has over FRS or any CB radio service is through the manufacturers and the type acceptance process. The FCC has virtually no control over the millions of users as witnessed by the daily abuses on any CB channel.

If fact, if the FCC abolished the FRS today, users would care less and continue to use the FRS radios because they know the FCC is a paper tiger without the resources to enforce the ban.
David Light
Wireless Consulting

Where's Harold?

Gainesville, FL

I have been a continuous reader of Mobile Radio Technology for the past 18 years. The recent change in the format of MRT has not gone unnoticed. The new format appears to reflect less emphasis on technical issues. I particularly miss the series under the heading “TECHNICALLY SPEAKING” authored by Harold Kinley.

It is my fond hope that this is a temporary lapse, which will be corrected in future issues, so that I can again continue to look forward to receiving issues of MRT magazine.
William J. Kessler, P.E.
Kessler & Gehman Associates Inc.

McCarthy resplies:

I was disappointed when I arrived and learned that Harold Kinley no longer wrote the column. We asked him if he would consider returning, but he has other plans.

Though it will be difficult to replace Kinley, we do hope to find the right writers to bring you that type of information in the future.

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