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CHOTA 2023

Recently I ran across an intriguing notice on the RSGB website. It was a notice to “prepare for CHOTA” back in 2021. CHOTA is Churches and Chapels on the Air, a product of the World Association of Christian Radio Amateurs and Listeners ( That organization began in 1957 in England by the Huddersfield South Methodist Radio Club. It’s been ecumenical since 1978. Intriguing! Another institutional space for using amateur radio as outreach to the public. If you are a church member, it reaches out to the public who may be unaware of your existence.

I wrote to John G3XYF (jhwresdell (at), asking him about the prospects of my assembling a team to activate my own church in order to get the US involved in this long standing event. He quickly replied and encouraged me to do so. John only asks for activators to merely drop him a line with the call sign being used and the location of the church or chapel (or other religious institution) being activated. John will be using the call GB0LOW from his local church in the East Riding of Yorkshire. If you’re in England, contact John ahead of time for an SES callsign. And don’t forget to obtain your church leaders’ permission!

This year CHOTA is on Saturday, September 9, 2023. After contacting John G3XYF, who manages CHOTA, I learned that there has been no participation from the States in this unique event. With the dramatic rise in Parks OTA participation, getting churches on the air in a similar “non-contest” style would be enjoyable.

From the WACRAL website: There is an award available for working any CHOTA stations on the Saturday of the event – . Let’s hope the conditions are good! Those claiming the award must contact eight (8) or more CHOTA stations. Copies of the logs must include date, time, frequency, call sign of station and operators name and call sign. To claim your award, send this information to Alistair McGoff (2E0TGF) amcgoff4 @

This year CHOTA is on Saturday, September 9, 2023.

It’s not a contest but more of a POTA-style event.

Consider putting your church (or any church) on the air in September from here in the US. Not every one will be blessed with the space that my church has (see below) but we hams are creative in fitting our operations into the space that is available. Don’t forget to drop John G3XYF (jhwresdell (at) a note letting him know of your activation.

My moderate-sized church, Highlands Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland MS, sits on a 16 acre campus. In the Southwest corner, there is a small meadow with full oak and pine trees on a small ridge. It is directly across from the Township at Colony Park retail and residential complex. After doing a walk around, my church administrator and I saw it as a very useful space, both for CHOTA as well as future outdoor youth and young adult social events (think concerts, movies, and so forth). An aerial photograph illustrates the layout.

Campus of Highlands Presbyterian Church, Ridgeland MS USA

But would RF noise make it impossible on HF? I took my Icom IC-705 and a 40-10M EFHW antenna with me and threw the far end of the antenna up in a tree. There was almost no RFI detected on 20, 17 or 10 meters. That doesn’t mean that none might not suddenly appear but it’s a good omen, nonetheless. Here’s a snippet of the low noise floor I heard on 20 meters. It was very similar on 17 and 10 meters.

20 Meters

If we stage four tents with stations, that will give us one each for SSB, CW and Digital modes. A fourth would be a Visitor tent for those who stop by. The Jackson ARC has agreed to attend and manage the Visitor tent. The Vicksburg ARC has agreed to have Eddie N5JGK and Chris AF5OQ on hand to work satellites. Eddie is an old hand at working the Sats. He will provide us with anticipated passes in view of the ISS and other birds workable by a handheld with an Arrow dual band antenna so we can advertise the estimated times. Chris AF5OQ is President of VARC who will drive some of their members over to this event. This spot is a great spot for our planned activation with plenty of room for visitors.

My church administrator mentioned having a food truck on hand for the event. The JARC is now working with the Madison County Library System. Their adult and youth services director is dying to talk to the ISS. She can drive library patrons to the event. The options for wire and vertical antennas in the pictures below are readily available (even if we wanted to put up an antenna for 160M). See the pan-around video beneath them for a better view. Can you spot the bonus item we discovered in this video? Some of our young people are making the rounds on the recent disc golf course established on the church campus. One of them designed the course.

Did you spot the electrical meter and service panel left from a previous construction staging site? My church administrator is getting it reactivated. It will not only assist our CHOTA 2023 (and beyond) activation but be critical for other outdoor activities held in this beautiful space. While we operate battery and solar powered on our portable ops, having mains power will just make things easier for the whole event.

Food. Retail shopping across the street. Public officials. Library staff. Entire church invited, especially the young adult and youth groups. Get a successful satellite activation or two with area club members dropping by to participate and this could be an event!

LiOTA: Libraries On The Air

As readers of my blog have likely observed, I’ve been promoting a “served agency” partnership between the ARRL-affiliated clubs and local public libraries. I’m told by my Division Director, David K5UZ, that the Plant the Seed, Sow the Future Initiative was formally adopted by the ARRL Board of Directors in a recent meeting. I’ve had virtual meetings with ARRL HQ staff on advising them regarding technical details of adding maps, databases, and other material to the website pages pertaining to clubs. The entire website was recently revised (again) so this is taking some time. Need I say, LoTW?

Locally, I’ve been working with the Jackson ARC in their recent formal partnership with the Madison County (MS) Public Library System to enhance the emergent “maker spaces” in that library system. Over this year in my role as Delta Division Assistant Director, I’ve been doing club development work with the Vicksburg ARC who is refocusing their activities and initiatives, including some discussions with the Warren County Public Library System, whose slogan is “We’re more than just books!” VARC is interested in partnering with them on creating maker space activities. These meetings and conversations have universally been met with a very strong desire by the library administrators there to welcome amateur radio into their programming. How can this be effected in ways that allow amateur radio to reach the two key demographic audiences of women and youth that visit public libraries at twice the rate that they visit movie theaters?

I’ve created a new but common proposed activity to be just one of several such ways to operationalize this “served agency” relationship: holding periodic “on the air” events at public libraries. LiOTA, short for Libraries On The Air, is outlined in a concept memo I’ve submitted to my Division Director, David K5UZ. I’ve posted it here for transparency. We will see if the ARRL Board of Directors takes advantage of the concept. If not, there may be other groups who wish to implement it.

Below is the spatial distribution of the 9,215 libraries in the current (2021) public library database. Not surprisingly, they follow population settlements which generally reflect the spatial distribution of amateur radio licensee locations. It’s also not a shock to know that they are not dissimilar to the pattern of ARRL-affiliated clubs. In other work for Plant the Seed, I’ve created spreadsheets by club for each Division showing for which public libraries the club is the nearest one to that library. These market areas can be used to easily identify potential nearby LiOTA sites. And, yes, POTA participants, I’ve already created an exhaustive list of public library entity numbers in spreadsheet and map format, ready for the League to use on their website for LiOTA, should they adopt the program.

Because of the targeted-marketing concept driving this prospective program, the logo I created includes a female radio operator at a library. Using control operators, getting women and young people on the air at libraries is the key metric of outreach in this program. Passive options, such as planned programs, displays or kiosks, books donated on amateur radio, club meetings, at public libraries are further means to reach this audience. But getting non-hams on the air will likely be a key. (If not, why do we use GOTA stations at Field Day?)

Targeted marketing starts with defining “who” specifically is a good fit for a product or service and delivering personalized messages directly to that targeted audience.

Dun & Bradstreet

Here is the logo that I’ve created for the LiOTA Program. Hmm. It might look good on a spiffy tee shirt.

Here’s the brief memo that I submitted to David K5UZ. Time will tell as to it’s fate. Contact your ARRL Division Director if you support the program!

Taking things for granted

Before I start this post, I want to dispel any rumors that all W2LJ does at Field Day is take photographs. Here are two of yours truly actually pounding brass and adding points to the NJ2SP Field Day total - courtesy of Mario KD2HPF.

Field Day, or perhaps better said, the end of Field Day often causes me to wax nostalgic. That definitely happened this year, and a large part of it was seen in that video which I posted yesterday. Watching Marv K2VHW working ZL4TT in New Zealand brought back me back, in an instant, to something that happened to me, as a  newly licensed Amateur Radio operator so many years ago. 

A little context - Bill W2AOF, our Club President, spent a month with friends in New Zealand earlier this year. When he got back, he filled us in on the details of the trip. He had a great time, got to see a lot of wonderful sights, got to eat good food and spend quality time with good people. Yet, there was a price to pay, and I'm not referring to the monetary expense. Sure, there was that, but there was also an expenditure of time. 

With all the technological advancements we've witnessed over the last century, getting to New Zealand from New Jersey is comparatively easy compared to 100 years ago. Back then, the ocean voyage took weeks. Flying by air is a snap compared to that, but even that takes time. You don't often think about it, but even flying on a commercial aircraft, going at speeds never dreamt of by the seafaring ships of the old days, it still takes the better part of a day (around 18 hours) to get from New Jersey to New Zealand.  And in the middle of the overnight, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, with 5 Watts of power to a hunk of wire hanging in the air, we made that trip and back in seconds, the whole conversation taking a few minutes!

I was struck by that, once again. I wish Bill had been there. He had left a few hours earlier to make sure the A/C was working properly in his home as well as to get some much needed rest. Had he been there. Bill is the kind of guy who would have been taken aback and would have experienced that "Wow factor" of what had just been accomplished. We communicate with all parts of the world. There is really no place too far that our radio waves can't reach. But how often do we let that soak in? How often do we get annoyed when that DX contact isn't made. How often do we take our radios and our hobby and all the physics involved for granted?

I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, as I had a similar experience happen to me back in 1979, and I'm sure it's been related somewhere earlier in this blog. But I like to think about it, it's an enjoyable memory and I'll re-tell it again.

I passed my Novice exam sometime back in October/November of 1978. The actual paper "ticket" came in the mail the last week of the year. I didn't even get on the air until the end of January of 1979, as I was busy putting my station together, and building my Heathkit Novice receiver kit that I had gotten as a Christmas gift. I upgraded to General in July and I worked my first DX contact with a Ham in Germany shortly thereafter.

Later that year in October of 1979, my best friend and I decided to take a trip up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to do some photography. We were two young budding photographers who were working together at a local camera shop and we both needed a road trip. We got our much needed time off and eventually made it all the way to Maine, specifically Bar Harbor. From there we decided that we would follow the coast as we made our way back to New Jersey. 

That meant a side trip to Cape Cod, and on the way out to Provincetown for some authentic New England clam chowder we came across a sign indicating that we were approaching the site of Marconi's Wellfleet Station.  I had to stop. We were in my car and I was the driver, so what I say goes .....goes. Right? What newly minted Amateur Radio operator would not want to visit a Marconi site? 

Not my image, but this is what you see when you visit. ^ This site is part of the National Park's Cape Cod National Seashore entity, so it is well maintained and there is a plethora of history to read about. This is what it looked like back in the day:

A few of the cement pylons that anchored the legs of the antenna towers were still there when I visited. Most had washed away into the sea as a result of beach erosion.

But it was the sea that struck me the most, which is a strange thing to say as I was born, bred and continue to live in New Jersey. I've seen the Atlantic Ocean and it bays hundreds, if not close to a thousand times in my time here on earth. But that time was different. 

I had not yet traveled to Switzerland, and would not experience air travel to Europe for another nine years, but standing there, for a VERY long time, where history had been made, just staring at the ocean, looking out upon all that water as far as my eye could see, was an experience unlike any other I had ever had. All I could think of was the radio waves from my Drake 2-NT and my MorGain multiband dipole, flying over all that water to another Ham in Germany. And her radio waves (she was an XYL) travelling back to my Heathkit HR-1680 receiver in a matter of seconds.

That water looked like it would never end. I knew that it did. I knew that on the other side of that vastness was Europe and the rest of the world. To contemplate my radio signals covering all that distance made me feel so tiny, but also filled me with awe at the immensity of Creation at the same time. 

We get so busy on Field Day and the rest of the year with making contacts, conducting ragchews, running nets, competing in contests, speaking into microphones, banging away on keys, typing away on keyboards that we forget to notice what is really happening. It's the magical part of Amateur Radio that never grows old for me and I hope I never take it for granted.

Long winded, I know, but thanks for staying with me!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Announcing the 2023 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt

The long anticipated announcement for the 2023 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt - the 12th Annual, if you can believe that!

For all the details - please go to or go to the Skeeter Hunt page of this blog (the next to last tab on the right - located under the KX3 photo up at the top).

A few points to remember:

1) Due to a personal commitment, the Hunt has been moved to the 4th weekend of August - the 27th, for this year only. 

2) New Bonus Point Challenge for 2023:

Eighteen Skeeters have graciously consented to act as Bonus Skeeters. They have been issued numbers that are palindromes (numbers that are the same forward and backward) - Skeeters 11, 22, 33, 44 ...... right through 151.   When you work one, that QSO is worth 100 points - and you can work as many as you can up to 1,000 bonus points. The Bonus Skeeters are highlighted on the roster. A clarification - you can only claim the Bonus Skeeter once - so if you work W2LJ (#181) on 40, 20 and 15 Meters, you can only claim 100 Bonus point (not 300).

3) Skeeter numbers for the rest of you will be issued in the same way as they have since the beginning of this event. Send an e-mail with your name, your call sign and the state you will be operating from to either [email protected], or [email protected] NO SOONER THAN 12:01 AM EDT June 21st, the First Day of Summer. You will receive an e-mail back with your sequential number, or you can check the roster, by clicking here.  Please do not apply for a number via the Facebook page, as I may very well miss your request - and we wouldn't want that to happen, would we? Numbers will be issued right up until the Midnight before the day of the event.

I hope you'll have fun and enjoy the Hunt this year - good luck and happy QRP'ing!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Announcing the 2023 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt

The long anticipated announcement for the 2023 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt - the 12th Annual, if you can believe that!

For all the details - please go to or go to the Skeeter Hunt page of this blog (the next to last tab on the right - located under the KX3 photo up at the top).

A few points to remember:

1) Due to a personal commitment, the Hunt has been moved to the 4th weekend of August - the 27th, for this year only. 

2) New Bonus Point Challenge for 2023:

Eighteen Skeeters have graciously consented to act as Bonus Skeeters. They have been issued numbers that are palindromes (numbers that are the same forward and backward) - Skeeters 11, 22, 33, 44 ...... right through 151.   When you work one, that QSO is worth 100 points - and you can work as many as you can up to 1,000 bonus points. The Bonus Skeeters are highlighted on the roster. A clarification - you can only claim the Bonus Skeeter once - so if you work W2LJ (#181) on 40, 20 and 15 Meters, you can only claim 100 Bonus point (not 300).

3) Skeeter numbers for the rest of you will be issued in the same way as they have since the beginning of this event. Send an e-mail with your name, your call sign and the state you will be operating from to either [email protected], or [email protected] NO SOONER THAN 12:01 AM EDT June 21st, the First Day of Summer. You will receive an e-mail back with your sequential number, or you can check the roster, by clicking here.  Please do not apply for a number via the Facebook page, as I may very well miss your request - and we wouldn't want that to happen, would we? Numbers will be issued right up until the Midnight before the day of the event.

I hope you'll have fun and enjoy the Hunt this year - good luck and happy QRP'ing!

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

A recommended strategy for planting the seed…

My two blog articles here from 2020 about the role that the Public Library System can play in reaching young people and women—two demographics that the ARRL says it wants to reach—have not fallen on deaf ears in Newington, CT. It has moved forward it seems. I’m told that the ARRL Board of Directors has embraced the concepts and directed the staff at HQ to implement it very soon.

My Division Director, David K5UZ, his Vice Director, Ed WB4RHQ, and Mike Walters W8ZY, Field Services Manager at ARRL, organized a video call with me last week to discuss steps to move forward with the Plant the Seed, Sow the Future program. I’ve been involved with program design and implementation for several decades via the US Department of Agriculture and state or local government. It’s a good sign that the BoD has issued a directive to the CEO in favor of this program. With all that’s been going on at the Board, I’m delighted that targeted actions like this are moving toward being implemented.

Mike W8ZY and I agreed that a map display would be a good tool to add to the ARRL-affiliated club search page. (They are re-thinking that page, too.) I’ll supply their IT staff with a file of public libraries in the U.S. and some attributes that are useful. Contact info for the Director, number of programs for youth and young adults, and so forth would allow clubs to target libraries that already have active programming in place and are near their location. But there’s more than just setting the table to ensure a meal that is well-enjoyed by all in attendance. Getting guests to the dinner table in the first place is one step! Engaging local clubs is that first step but they have to have access to the tools to make it efficient and effective for a longer term pay-off.

I prepared a memo some time ago to my Division Director, for whom I serve as an Assistant Director for the Delta Division. This memo recommends specific steps and stages for engaging affiliated clubs in this initiative. The Vice Director, Ed WB4RHQ, told us on the Zoom call how successful the Plant the Seed initiative has been in Tennessee already. Library Directors asked local ham club representatives if they would give programs at the library BEFORE hams could even bring it up! That’s a good sign.

It’s because programming for the public is the “new cheese” for library directors. I learned this while at the Board of Regents Office in Atlanta. The Public Library System reports to the college board in Georgia. I was tasked to work with the PLS and learned quite a bit about how local public libraries view their mission and operations. Programs are the key “cheese” that will move public library directors today.

Here are the steps I outlined in my member to my Director for implementing the ARRL program:

This is a recommended game plan to engage public libraries in the United States as a portal for education and outreach regarding amateur radio. Here are my bullet-point steps:

  • ARRL Board declare public libraries as new “served agencies” like Red Cross, not for emergency communication but for education and outreach. This makes it an official program with a League commitment. It also means it will not simply go away when some ARRL staffer decides s/he doesn’t want to deal with it anymore. Note to the skeptic: did you realize that for years the annual affiliated clubs forms that many club officers (including me) completed and submitted to HQ simply went into a file cabinet? And that the staffer who was leaving that position intended to put them in the trash dumpster out back when he retired, saying that “nobody cares about clubs anymore”? I didn’t think you did. It appears that the HQ Field Services Staff does care about clubs now. Board action can have that effect.
  • Re-introduce the $200 ARRL Library Book Set to the ARRL website. It was removed by Bob Interbitzen NQ1R, ARRL Product Development Manager, a couple of years ago as being irrelevant, right after my blog post was being circulated. It has yet to be returned as a product. Perhaps the CEO David Minster NA2AA can change that. He wants members to write him with ideas such as this so fire away: [email protected].
  • ARRL make presentation at American Library Association conference in the Public Libraries Division ( to point out how the League can provide a national network of STEM-related activities to local public libraries via ARRL-affiliated clubs. The ARRL should also have an Exhibitor Booth. The League’s national network of local groups and proven outreach can greatly assist libraries in the provision of STEM-related programming and activities to children and adults.
  • ARRL negotiate an MOU with ALA-Public Library Division that parallels the one with Red Cross (and others) regarding emergency communications. This brokers an official organizational relationship between the League and its parallel organization for libraries in the United States. It also means that the Leagues means business in this educational outreach enterprise.
  • Roll-out the Plant the Seed, Sow the Future program through Divisions (BoD members) and Sections (Section Managers) but with Field Services Staff providing technical assistance. This should be a one-year targeted effort to prevent a languishing promise to the ALA. A spreadsheet identifying area public libraries nearest each affiliated club with name, address, contact information, and so forth will be provided through the existing ARRL Field Services communication channels.
  • Specific Objectives: each affiliated club create a standing written relationship with at least ONE public library in their area, negotiated through the Director of that library. This relationship must include: (1) donation of the set of ARRL books to the library that must be placed in their official holdings; (2) delivery of at least a quarterly program on some STEM-related subject at the local library by one or more club members; and (3) a display or kiosk in the library illustrating some aspect of amateur radio. This display should be changed out twice yearly.
  • To maintain Special Service Club status, a club must meet these goals within two reporting years.
  • Clubs that meet these goals within one reporting year will receive some reward from ARRL, to be determined. This will enhance the incentive for local affiliated clubs to engage with their local public libraries.

Imagine that if only 25 percent of the 2,850 clubs listed in the ARRL Club Search database were to negotiate a continuing relationship with at least one local public library, that would be some 712 libraries offering both books and programs on amateur radio to two key demographic groups: women and young children and adults. The 25 percent figure should actually be a lower bound of what all clubs should attain. But it would be leaps-and-bounds greater potential exposure than what the Teacher Institute can reach in a single year with class sizes in the 25-student range.

In the spirit of radio sport, avid contester David K5UZ asked, “Which Section can get the most libraries served by constituent ARRL Affiliated Clubs donating the League’s 10-book Library Set to libraries near them?” That would be a national contest indeed. One yielding a greater common good than a plaque for a single radio contest.

Now, to be sure, there are alternative versions of these recommended steps that better dove-tail with the League’s operation, the Divisions and Sections themselves. Some will say it’s too fast. But the thrust should be consistent with these ideas.

Not every ham thinks that public libraries would be an effective organization for amateur radio education and outreach. My own Section Manager, Malcolm W5XX, said that “no one” goes to libraries any more. My fellow podcast Presenter on the ICQ Podcast, Dan KB6NU, says he is skeptical. About ten years ago, he asked a staff member at a local public library in Ann Abor, MI where he lives about donating ham radio books. According to Dan, the staff member said something to the effect that if they took book donations from the local ham club, they’d have to take books from organizations that they’d prefer not to have in the library. I guess, think neo-Nazi hate material or something of that nature.

There may be others who disagree with the thrust of this Plant the Seed Initiative. But it may well be that there is a disconnect between the source of information that I’m using and what others are basing their opinion on. I’m using very high quality national data collected by the Gallup survey organization. I’m a professional survey researcher analyzing their raw data. I’ve done this a few times over my career so I think that I’ve got a very good handle on the national picture of reaching targeted audience groups. (Years ago, I designed the evaluations of the Smoky the Bear and the 4-H Programs.)

I love my Section Manager and respect his service greatly but the demographics of the Gallup Organization’s survey show that he himself is in a demographic (80 plus years of age and a man) that truly does not visit public libraries. Mal W5XX also has mobility issues and is retired from the US Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg MS, their hub of management. There are things you do not see if you are not in a position to look.

Now, Dan KB6NU does visit public libraries. In fact, he teaches ham radio licensing classes at one in Ann Arbor. I like and respect Dan as I’ve gotten to know him on the ICQ Podcast team. But there are a couple of things I can point out here about the basis of his stated skepticism.

One is that it’s a single library in Ann Arbor, not a state or the whole country. Moreover, asking a staff member who is not the Director is always more likely to yield a “no” to most questions. A Director is the go-to person in the public library space for any inquiries about donating books or other materials or coming in to give programs. Why? They have the authority to say “yes” without checking with anyone with the possible exception of the Library Board. It’s a relationship that a ham should seek, not just the act of dropping off a set of books.

A second thing is that the Ann Arbor library already has a number of amateur radio books and a magazine in their online catalog so they have already passed judgment on the content and sources of these holdings. Here’s a link for a search there for the term “amateur radio.” They have the current issue of CQ Magazine as well as the British magazine, Radio User (now part of Practical Wireless). They have several of Dan’s popular No Nonsense study guides, popular titles by Ward Silver, and the ARRL Operating Manual. Getting the ARRL Book Bundle would give them the latest and more depth to the content they already have in their holdings. So I do not know why the library staff member replied to Dan’s kind offer that way about ten years ago. But I’m not sure that that one experience is strong evidence that public libraries are not viable outlets for outreach and education about technology like amateur radio.

In fact, the Gallup report shows with national data that the library is the single most commonly visited public space to find young people and women. Should we ignore this critical fact? I certainly don’t. This is just an example of why it is critical to approach this “seed planting” as a relationship not a simple donation, just like we do with any other served agency in the EmComm arena of service. For instance, imagine your ARES team NOT having a relationship with the local EOC or other emergency management agency. Then just “show up” with HT in hand saying I’m a ham operator and heard you could use some help in the tornado, flood, fire, recovery effort. You’d be asked to vacate the premises very quickly because they are busy with their demanding work and they do not know you or your group! That’s what just dropping off a set of books might be like for a public library. At least, this is my take on it.

Work with ARRL Field Services and IT staff is scheduled to continue. I’ll see how this progresses and report further on the project. In the mean time, (re)read my two original blog posts on this concept. More than ever, we need to Plant the Seed of amateur radio. And use something more efficient than a screwdriver antenna (apologies to hams who use these antennas as I did some years ago). Keep up the Teacher Institute but expand into where the desired market audience can demonstrably be found. That just makes sense if we are serious about addressing the Baby Boom population exodus with a rational, data-driven plan to do what the ARRL has promised the IRS that they will do in exchange for not paying taxes on donations: education and outreach.

There are almost as many GMRS licenses as Techs…

At a recent local hamfest, my ARRL Section Manager, Malcolm W5XX, held the annual ARRL Forum. As Division Director David Norris K5UZ was giving his update on the recent Board of Directors meeting. W5XX commented that a club in North Georgia had begun reaching out to licensees of the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). Why? There are some 8,000 of them in surrounding counties! Give a statistician a number like that and it’s catnip to a cat.

I had heard of GMRS and the lighter-weight Family Radio Service (FRS) as additional radio frequencies to the famous Citizen’s Band (CB) that I used as a teen. But I didn’t really know much about it. So, I spent parts of a week doing some searching, reading, and, inevitably, database building. I saw the wisdom of the club in question reaching out to this audience. Let’s do a thought experiment to flesh this out.

GMRS licensees use radios up to 50 watts on mobile stations and 15 watts in fixed stations in the mid-400 mhz region. There are limitations on the type of one-way communications (no whistling which would rule out most anyone in amateur radio tuning up an amplifier, lol). But in general, there are parallels to GMRS operators to those holding a Technician license in the Amateur Radio Service with the latter having much greater frequency access, power usage, and other aspects of the radio arts.

The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a licensed radio service that uses channels around 462 MHz and 467 MHz. The most common use of GMRS channels is for short-distance, two-way voice communications using hand-held radios, mobile radios and repeater systems. In 2017, the FCC expanded GMRS to also allow short data messaging applications including text messaging and GPS location information.


After doing some reading, I checked the FCC ULS GMRS license data. There’s an interesting comparison: the ARRL February 2023 numbers show 386,122 Technicians while individual GMRS licenses total 336, 513 after APO addresses and one Canadian are removed. Organizations and some other groups can obtain GMRS licenses. Roughly, there are about as many individual GMRS licensees as there are Technicians, give or take 50,000. Ok, I thought, this is surprising but how do they operate? Are they communicating amongst themselves as ham operators do? How many GMRS repeaters are there? The surprises just kept on coming!

The popular site,, does list some GMRS repeaters. But the mother ship is the website. One has to have a GMRS license to register but there ‘s enough information available to the public to show just how organized parts of the GMRS community already is. I’ve taken a screenshot of the map display, nicely done with clustering repeaters until a certain zoom level is reached, showing the GMRS repeaters in the U.S. Note those in Puerto Rico: I had recommended that the ARRL assist in getting a permanent repeater on the westernmost mountains near Mayaguez after a devastating hurricane. Perhaps even an HF ALE type station directed at Florida or North Carolina. Looks like the GMRS community has done some work here, too.

The map below illustrates the set of repeater hubs and their links around the U.S. There are national and regional Nets held regularly. An audio stream can be monitored using the website for each hub, not unlike Hoseline for the Brandmeister DMR Network. Hmm. If ham radio were only this organized, so quickly.

Linked Repeaters from the website illustrating hubs and links around the U.S.

After downloading the February 2023 GMRS data from the FCC ULS ftp site, I processed it and filtered out the overseas military licenses. These records were then georeferenced to street addresses, with some that did not have street addresses geocoded to zip codes and a few to city centroids. The map below illustrates this: the GMRS individual license IS a compelling market for amateur radio recruitment.

It’s easy to see that the North Georgia region is part of the Appalachian Mountain range that is covered with GMRS licensees But so is most of the region east of the Mississippi River, the West Coast and the mountainous areas of the Southwest. Here’s another view zoomed in to the ARRL Delta Division where I live. Licensees in GMRS tend to follow population centers but note the areas, like Nashville, where the topography gives more height-above-ground than others. Northwest Arkansas is another such location. Interesting patterns!

We know little to nothing about the age distribution of GMRS licensees as year of birth is not contained in the ULS database released to the public (only 18 or over). But it stands to reason that GMRS licensees are likely to have a broader age range of adoption. From perusing the names on the licenses — license holders can authorize other family members to use additional radios in this Service — there are gendered-naming patterns. More women in GMRS than ham radio? Possibly.

Some interactive maps of these data are now available over at under the Maps tab.

An important note is that an unknown number of those holding GMRS licenses today also hold licenses in the Amateur Radio Service. The FRN is not contained in the GMRS data so it would take “fuzzy matching” with less than perfect results to examine this idea.

Should the GMRS licensees be viewed as another direct marketing opportunity by the ARRL?

Only if they are serious about wanting to grow the ranks of amateur radio…

The ARRL has taken an interest in my proposed initiative to treat public libraries in the U.S. as “new served agencies” for recruitment strategies, according to Division Director David Norris K5UZ. See my two blog posts here and here. Should the GMRS licensees be viewed as another direct marketing opportunity by the ARRL?

I’ve taken the GMRS data and spatially joined the ARRL Division and Section fields to the license record using GIS. These files were then split into separate spreadsheets by Division with the Section as a separate field. I’ve put them on my public folder in Dropbox for all to retrieve should they desire. This would make it easy for a direct-mailing to GMRS licensees. In a cover letter identifying the contact info for their ARRL Section Manager, a brochure should be inserted describing the much greater options available by adding the Technician license through a VE exam. It works for some yield rates for other membership services. (Check today’s mail if you doubt this isn’t used frequently.)

Click HERE for the Dropbox folder.

It would not be inexpensive with USPS rates. But it would be directed at a market that is already known to have some interested in operating radios for communication. Perhaps it should begin with GMRS licensees in areas where there are existing repeater operations. This would be a good test case to see the yield from such a direct mailing.

What won’t work is to simply send the information “down stream,” expecting SMs to do all the heavy lifting. It simply won’t happen. The League already conducts a commercial mailing operation which is where this activity should be situated.

This would be a third recruiting rail for the ARRL, including the Teacher Institute (getting in schools), the pending (I’m told) Plant the Seed initiative for public libraries, and the direct mailing to known radio communication licensees in the GMRS arena. Recruit the Generals, anyone?

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