The FCC has recently recently issued public notice #18-980, and I’m sure you’ve seen it too. At first glance it seems that it only affects import and sale of said radios, however you’d be wrong, as it effects amateurs too. The notice states that it is illegal for hams to even use radios that are capable of operation outside of the amateur radio service (ARS) that do not have FCC approval. A full text of the notice can be found here.
What does this mean and what can I do?
I was recently able to talk to FCC field agent Laura Smith, who cleared everything up very nicely, she said that essentially, any stock radio that comes from the factory that has a transmit range outside of the ARS without FCC approval is not legal to transmit on. To remedy this, you can use CHIRP to put a restriction on what frequencies are available for use. This would classify the radio as a “homebrew” radio at that point, thus making it compliant and legal under Part 97.
Laura also stated that
“There’s probably over four hundred thousand of these non-compliant radios out there in the US. The chances of me coming and knocking on your door is slim to none, but the fact remains that they’re still not legal. The only reason for me to pay a visit would be if you were violating FCC rules, and if we found any radios that were non-compliant, it would be an added fine. It’s mostly an ‘I’m not asking, and you’re not telling’ me deal.”
Note: This does not excuse illegal operation of non-compliant baofengs.
Now I can hear the questions rolling in, I’ll start by answering a few anticipated questions below:
“I have a Baofeng that has the FCC approval, but it can transmit out of band, what do I do?”
Nothing! Your radio is already compliant. Just be sure not to transmit on any frequencies you are not authorized to transmit on.
“How do I know if my radio is FCC approved?”
Take a look on the back of the radio, under that battery. There should be an FCC logo and/or an FCCID. To verify the authenticity of the certification, you can use the FCC ID search located here. You may have to dig a bit to find your specific radio and acceptance letter, but if it’s certified. it’ll be in there.
The FCC logo looks like this:
“How about my Yaesu/Icom/Kenwood that has a MARS/CAP modification?”
Those are considered “homebrew”, and they are also marketed solely as amateur transceivers
FCC Public notice DA 18-980
Laura Smith, FCC Field Agent (via telephone)