6 min readSep 27, 2018


Did the FCC just make Baofengs illegal?

Letter of Inquiry

To whom it may concern at the FCC:

Recently you released a Public Notice, DA 18–980 regarding the importing, advertising or offering for sale two-way VHF/UHF radios that do not comply with the Commission’s rules. In this notice it was strongly implied that the operation of these non-compliant radios was not allowed under the Commission’s rules.

Specifically the notice makes the following claims:

These radios must be authorized by the FCC prior to being imported, advertised, sold, or operated in the United States. (emphasis added)…

unless the devices operate on frequencies reserved for amateur licensees

Amateur Radio Exception. There is one exception to this certification requirement: if a device is capable of operatingon frequencies that the FCC has allocated for use by Amateur Radio Service licensees, it does not require FCC equipment authorization,8 and an amateur licensee may use his or her license to operate such radios.

If a two-way VHF/UHF radio is of operating outside of the amateur frequency bands, imported, advertised, sold, within the United States without an FCC equipment certification.()

The Bureau will take very seriously any reports of failures of two-way radio operators to comply with all relevant rules and requirements ()

Prior to purchase or operation, individuals should ensure that a device is either labeled as FCC-compliant or operates within amateur frequencies.()

Your notice strongly implies that if a radio is simply capable of operating outside the amateur radio service that a license amateur radio operator may not operate such a device on the amateur radio bands, regardless of the fact that there is no equipment certification for amateur radio or the fact that the radio is not being operated by the operator outside of the amateur radio service bands.

The purpose of this inquiry is to clarify the intention of the meaning of the words used in your letter. It is commonly known that a radio that does not have an equipment certification for the band it is operating on can not be operated within that band, for example the radios referenced in footnote 9 of your notice are capable of operating within the GMRS and MURS bands, as those radios are not Part 95 certificated they can not be used on those part 95 bands. However there is no rule that I could find that would prohibit someone who already owns one of these radios from operating on the amateur radio service with these radios, unless the radio does not comply with some other part 97 rule (such as 97.101, 97.121 or 97.307), assuming the radio complies with part 97 rules, regardless of the fact that it is CAPABLE of operating outside the amateur radio service and thus does not comply with part 95 and other Commission rules, can it be operated on the amateur radio service?

Thank you,


Laura Smith’s initial response.


Thanks for taking the time to email me back, I did try reaching out to you (and left a voicemail), but I suspect you’re probably on east coast time and may have left already for the day. I have some very simple questions outlined in my email below. Scot Stone had previously corresponded with another amateur radio operator with:

Those devices do not have Part 95 equipment certification, so they are not authorized for use in FRS or GMRS, i.e. they are not “capable of operating under his subpart.” [sic] They can be used by amateurs, but only on amateur frequencies.

That amateur operator, Noji Ratzlaff (KN0JI), then followed up when Public Notice DA 18–980 was released asking if that notice changed anything about this previous email.

Scot responded:

No. The UV-5R and UV-82 are both certified under part 90. They can be used with a Part 90 license. In addition, they can be used on amateur frequencies, for which no certification is required. They cannot legally be used on Part 95 frequencies.

— -

The above from Scot is my interpretation as well, with maybe the addition that the UV-5R and UV-82, if capable of operating outside their part 90 certification would be illegal to sell, market, advertise or operate (*outside of amateur radio bands by a licensed amateur*).

To be clear, while it may be illegal to import, sell, market or advertise such a device discussed in the Public Notice, it is not illegal for an end user to purchase or possess such a device, and someone who does possess such a device would not be operating it illegally if they are a licensed amateur radio operator and operating on licensed amateur bands assuming the device does not violate some other part 97 rule, is that correct?

Thank you,


Laura Smith’s response