last updated 23 Nov 2004

UK General

Do you need just a little bit more performance from your radios, perhaps you'd find VHF more suitable? Or would you find a full 5W would do the job? Tired of too many kids messing about on 446? Perhaps you'd like to have a proper mobile setup with an antenna mounted on the car? Maybe the UK General service is what you're after.

The UK General Licence provides a type of Private Mobile Radio service that "allows customers to use hand-portable or mobile radio equipment anywhere within the UK without the need to inform RA" relatively cheaply, with a choice of 15 channels from 77 MHz VHF to 449 MHz UHF. See the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) information sheet RA 412 at http://www.radio.gov.uk/publication/ra_info/ra412.htm for more details.

"the use of base stations is not permitted unless prior authorisation has been obtained from RA. There is no limitation on the number of sites where a licensee can use radios covered by the UK General licence, or on the duration of use at any location."

"The licence fee for this product is 60 every three years, irrespective of the number of mobiles in use."

If clubs can be licensed, and there's no limit on the number of users, could it be that UK radio enthusiasts, still mourning the loss of the 934MHz CB band and wishing we had VHF or UHF CB (finding 27MHz generally useless), have finally found a loophole that would give us something useful? Only the price of equipment seems to be a stumbling block, although it has been pointed out that the prices aren't any worse than those of 934MHz CB equipment back in the 1980s.

Here are some recent Usenet postings that explain it all.

(uk.rec.radio.cb postings)


Diphthong Subject: Re: VHF-CB Date: 2003-01-17 Note that the recent UK General licence allows mobile and handset use of 86.3375MHz 164.0500MHz 86.3500MHz 164.0625MHz 86.3625MHz 86.3750MHz 77.6875MHz 169.0875MHz 449.3125MHz 169.3125MHz 449.4000MHz 173.0625MHz 449.4750MHz 173.0875MHz 173.0500MHz at 5W, for 20 quid a year (but payable as 60 for 3 years). No base stations. Simplex only. CTCSS and DCS allowed. It is not clear whether this is for business use only, or whether private individuals may use this. However it says the fee is "irrespective of the number of mobiles in use" which would suggest company use. Telephone The Library and Information Service at the Radiocommunications Agency 020 7211 0502/0505 for details (and let us know!) UPDATE : "It is important to note that licences are issued primarily for business use and PMR is not intended to be used for personal communications or in connection with hobby or leisure activities. Some "fringe bodies" (e.g. Scouts), may be issued with PMR licences. Any enquiries concerning the validity of an applicant, may be referred to the PBS Local Licensing Co-ordination Unit." - Licensing Procedures Manual for Private Business Systems : http://www.radio.gov.uk/topics/pbr/document/pbslicenmanual/pbs-manu.htm and "PMR licences can only be issued to a legal entity; namely an individual, partnership, limited company or incorporated association." : http://www.radio.gov.uk/publication/ra_info/ra324.htm


Meg Hertz Subject: VHF CB idea Date: 2003-01-18 I believe that some clubs and associations are able to use PMR systems, so perhaps all it would take, would be to form a national mobile radio club, get one licence for the lot of us, and away we go!
John Knights Subject: UK General Licence Date: 2003-02-03 After somebody else posted an idea about starting a radio club and buying a UK general Licence 60 for 3 years giving us 15 VHF/UHF channels, I rang them. They said there is no problem with a club holding the licence - as long as they have a named individual as point of contact, and any member can have there own equipment. So there you have it, VHF CB is here if we want it, at less cost than a CB licence! ... The local PMR suppliers I was quizzing said as long as the radios kept at the licence address meet the current specs in case of a visit everyone else could probably run whatever gear they could pick up cheap as there was a minimal chance of them ever being "inspected" there is definately room for some fun here ;-)
Diphthong Subject: UK General Club Date: 2003-02-03 Nice one John, thanks for the research. So, what would be everyone's favourite choice of band? 86MHz (3 channels) ? 164/169/173 (7 channels) all possible on 1 antenna centred on 169?! ? 449MHz (3 channels) ? If mobile use was predominant, I think low VHF would be better, but mid VHF might be a better compromise for antenna size v urban performance perhaps. 449 (or the single 77MHz channel) might have an advantage of not interfering with numbers of existing users? (164 and 449 would tempt people into using expanded ham radios, I'm sure) Do you think they'd change the rules if suddenly there were 100 club members all chatting on these channels?! 1000?! How much is the equipment.. I assume it would have to be approved to a certain standard and would be several hundreds per radio?! Anyone know of more reasonable legal PMR kit? So... we just form a UK General Radio Club (for the purpose of enjoying mobile radio communications free from 27MHz interference and amateur radio rules), grant free membership * and allocate membership numbers (which could form a callsign if needed) and away we go? * if I was running it I'd gladly fund 20 quid a year myself Does anyone think this is actually feasible? Even if it started as small groups of local enthusiasts, with some tropo DX fun for an additional bonus? How long would it last before the RA clamped down on it, I wonder! Still, it would demonstrate the demand for VHF/UHF CB, and they might be forced to take the USA approach and deregulate it, like 150MHz MURS!
Diphthong Subject: Re: UK General Club Date: 2003-02-04 I suspect that having no base stations allowed will limit the popularity of this idea, even if you can use a hand portable in the house. Then again, with only the single licence holder being known directly by the RA, anything could happen! Would they be able to tell if an antenna in the loft was used rather than the handheld on its own? Or if it was mains PSU powered..? This could be just the thing for 4WD off roader clubs though, if they were fed up with CB and 446, and didn't mind the initial expense. Otherwise, unless we can find a source of kit that compares favourably with CB in terms of price, I can't see it happening in a big way, if at all.
John Knights Subject: Re: UK General Club Date: 2003-02-05 The local radio dealer I was talking to asked the RA about base stations, As a customer of his had several h/h but were co-ordinated via a base "control". The RA solution was -buy a Motorola mobile unit with built in back up battery, glue the battery in place, and fix to a rubber duck antenna, as long as the mains are disconnected when in use it is a "portable" radio! I would be tempted to start a club as being into 4x4's I could double up the useage of the system, the down side is I would have to buy a pair of licencable radios to show the nice people from the RA when they come round to inspect :-( The best bet freq wise would be VHF hi band 169ish as there is tons of cheap kit available.
Diphthong Subject: Re: UK General Club Date: 2003-02-05 > the down side is I would have to buy a pair of > licencable radios to show the nice people from the RA when they come round > to inspect :-( I wouldn't want to encourage 5kHz deviation kit on UKG though. So, is there anything in particular one has to do, to form a club? Or can you just set out your own rules and sit back and wait for people to join? I wonder if the 88.5Hz CTCSS tone used on 446 will be used on UKG for general stuff and DXing, LOL
Diphthong Subject: UK Gen., V/UHF CB demand, loss of 27/81 Date: 2003-02-05 > I agree, no base stations will make it a non-starter IMHO. > > Ah well, back to the drawing board :-( Well I guess that just about wraps up all hope of proving a demand for a better CB band, when an idea like this gets such poor response. But still, if you want mobile/handheld comms for a club, the gear can be bought for around the 200 quid area, see http://www.candlinternational.uk.com/UVHF%20Radio%20-%20Maxon.html (prices at http://www.candlinternational.uk.com/UVHF%20Radio.html ) although the 400 to 500 quid region seems to be the favourite way to price these things, especially for the nicer rigs. For some reason many sites think giving prices is too vulgar, but here are some sites that are brave enough.. http://www.maximonsolutions.com http://www.relcom.co.uk/acatalog/index.html http://www.mwc.co.uk/acatalog/_MWC_Online_Shop_Mobile_Radios_7.html I'm not sure about costs of programming the channels, and of course battery packs and antennas will cost even more, but it is all on a par with the costs of 934MHz CB in its day. I see that some PMR kit covers 144-146MHz, so any purchase that ended up as a waste of money could still at least be used for 2m. I suppose you could use a legal PMR rig for both 164-173MHz UKG and 2m in the one installation (given a suitable antenna!) which would be convenient, and I suspect the performance on 2m RX would p*** all over the average intermod-prone 2m mobile. But anyway, I would imagine any decent CBer who wanted to chat 'seriously', i.e. the sort willing to spend good money (like 934ers), would by now have moved to Foundation Licence ham radio. Callsigns and logbooks aren't the end of the world, it's so easy to get the M3 callsign and you've got tons of channels to play with - and HF into the bargain. All other types of CBers are more likely to put up with 27MHz and never ask for anything better, IMHO.
Diphthong Subject: Re: UK General Licence Date: 2003-02-07 Some further thoughts. I'd want it in writing from the RA before proceeding to assume some new national UKG radio club could buy one licence to cover countless members. As for frequencies, bear in mind that VHF will eventually be reorganised and channels may change, not sure if the UHF realignment needs to be completed or not. Maybe it will take until 2010 or later, but 68-87.5 MHz will be realigned with 9.8 MHz splits, and the 77 and 86 MHz channels are within segments that are destined for dual frequency pairings. I don't know why 77.6875 was allocated instead of just 12.5kHz higher in a planned small single frequency segment. Maybe there will be a period of grace but radios will eventually need to be reprogrammed. Similarly, 138-174 MHz will be realigned with 4.6 MHz splits, and the 164, 169 and 173 MHz channels are bound to change. The 449 MHz channels, being new, should be safe as they have been placed within the single frequency segment 440-450 MHz. Just so that we aren't completely taking the mick, I'd suggest that any club membership was limited to private individuals and not businesses, otherwise there'd only need to be one licence for the entire country and the RA would almost certainly change the rules! I know the business community have complained about 446 being overun by kids etc., but they've missed the point there, that it is a European system designed for ANY handheld use. If we start using proper PMR for hobby use they could well have a legitimate complaint but we would only be sticking to the rules. The price of equipment would keep idiots off, and I would hope that we'd all behave ourselves anyway - bearing in mind the rules can change at any moment if abuse is a problem. I would hope that we'd limit operation to particular favoured channels where there are others nearby, to give others a chance, with an agreed ban on trying to make contact with other closed groups of business users. Stick to one CTCSS tone, with another as reserve? Besides, most operating would be outside of general business hours anyway. Hopefully we won't see any use of widebanded amateur radios using twice the bandwidth allowed, but as this would be outside of the rules it would not be connected directly to us anyway - it would have happened regardless. I'd hope that membership of the club specified fully legal equipment must be used, pointing out that any use of anything else would be unlicenced at their own risk. I don't know, it's all a long shot that anyone would be interested, but it's all possible by the sound of it. Judging by the way 446 has been used, it wouldn't surprise me to hear people chatting away on 164 or 449 on amateur rigs - but there is a chance here to do it properly! Any thoughts anyone, or another deafening round of indifference?
Diphthong Subject: Re: UK General Licence Date: 2003-02-18 Would it be possible for a company with a normal PMR system to add the UK General channels (in spare channel positions - PC programmed radios) to give their employees additional channels to use for any purpose amongst themselves - even CB-style out of hours? Does anyone know if a mix of UKG and other PMR channels would be allowed in one radio? Is it generally possible to set different power outputs on different channels, seeing as UKG has a 5W limit? It's still extremely unlikely to happen, I know, but imagine if many firms did this and thousands of workers had a few channels to talk to each other at lunchtimes etc, haha. It's just about the only chance of anything like CB ever happening again. Let it go, Dip, let it go :o)
Sam (on a mailing list) Date: 2004-01-29 And since it's like PMR, since it _is_ PMR, the RA do monitor the frequencies and if they feel that the usage is excessive and not short business messages then they may pay you a visit to remind you of the purpose of your licence. I know they are paying a lot of attention to UK General at the moment, they also are going around inspecting stations because of the "cowboy" firms who install some of the installations. They also have pulled several people up for running MX294's, Amateur kit and amazingly someone was even running a M293 (AM!!) on the frequency. Remember, all kit has to be type approved to a newer spec than many PMR licences so even though the local taxi firm has just upgraded and they sold you some of their old kit cheap, it doesn't mean that it's type approved for UK General. This probably upsets a few people, I know, but it's the truth and it helps for people to know.


(The views expressed above are not necessarily those of this page's author)


I thought it was fascinating how these people thought so creatively! I wouldn't expect any of this to happen, but it's certainly an interesting possibility. Even if a few clubs around the country were interested, I agree the price would discourage them. Radio fanatics surely will have embraced amateur radio by now (or will be abusing 446!). A proper V/UHF CB system would stand more chance and be a lot cheaper.

Still, for business users with the money for doing this, this is a good option if they want more exclusive channels.