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How Far can these Radios Transmit?
 
These estimates are based on a 5W handheld
transceiver with a handheld antenna.
 
Ham and GMRS
Type of
Operation
Environmental
Surroundings
Approx
Maximum
Distance
Brief
Explanation
Inside Car /
   Inside Car
Average < 1/2 mile
< 1 km
Your car is a metal shield
 Radio/Radio Metro Area 1-3 mi
2-5 km
Based on obstruction and buildings
 Radio/Radio Suburbs 3-6 mi
5-10 km
Based on the amount of leaves on trees
 Radio/Radio Flat Desert or
Over Water
6-12 mi
10-20 km
Based on line of sight to the horizon
 Radio/Radio Mountain to
Valley
15-20 mi
25-30 km
Based on height of mountains and terrain below.
 Radio/Radio Mountain to
Mountain
30-35 mi
48-55 km
Based on height of mountains. Possible, but definitely not typical.
Radio via
   Repeater
Average 30-75 mi
50-120 km
Example: 15 miles to a repeater, plus 20 miles to the other radio would = 35 mi
 
Ham Only 
Radio via
   Repeater
Connected to an Internet Wide Area Network No Limit Distance determined by the internet connection
Radio/Radio
 via Satellite
Clear path to satellite > > > Distance determined by altitude of the satellite.
Radio to ISS Clear path to International Space Station > > > Distance determined by altitude of the ISS.
       
Elevation and obstruction are the two key factors in determining expected distance. A better antenna will also increase the range of your radio, but remember, there is no 'Magic Antenna'.
 
 
 


Your elevation and lack of obstructions will determine the overall distance you can achieve.  Trees and buildings are not your friends when trying to reach great distances.
 
 

click on graphic
 
This is where the repeater comes into play. A repeater is a two-way radio system that listens to one frequency an rebroadcasts what it hears on another frequency simultaneously. Where the terrain prevents direct communications, a repeater greatly extends the overall coverage of your contact.
 
 
 
 
Now, let's take it one step farther.  Let's connect the repeater to an internet gateway. Now, using two similar systems connected via a gateway, these systems can communicate any where the internet can go.
 
 
 
 
Are you ready for this? There are systems that allow licensed hams to connect via the internet to these gateways using PCs, laptops and Smart Phones. These systems require proof of proper licensing as the conversation will be broadcast over the ham frequencies.
 
 
 
 
 
 
And let us not forget Satellite Communications. A whole different aspect of the hobby. The distance achieved is determined by the altitude of the satellite.
 
 
 

 
The sky is the limit. The International Space Station.
The altitude varies between 330 km (205 mi) and 435 km (270 mi).
Direct contact with astronauts aboard and a VHF/UHF repeater.
 
 
All this with a 5W handheld.
 
 
BTW: When you see little 'Blister Pack' radios in the department store advertised as 18/35 miles between two radios, they are talking Mountain to Mountain or through a Repeater. There are No magic radios out there. Refer to the chart above.
 
 
 
Enjoy your new toys.

John 'Miklor'

 

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