Are Wouxoun Radios Illegal?

IC-2ATOn our ham radio club’s mailing list, a new Tech innocently asked what kind of HT he should buy. Since he mentioned that he was going to an upcoming hamfest, he asked about used equipment, and several folks suggested that he look for an ICOM IC-2AT (see right), noting that they were ruggedly built and that many were still in service. They didn’t really not that tuning them involved flipping thumbwheel switches and that to get PL tones you have to purchase a $40 board that you have to mickey-mouse into the radio, but hey, they are built like the proverbial brick outhouse.

Wouxun KG-UVD1Some guys suggested buying one of the new Chinese HTs (see right) now being sold here. They noted that for just a little more than $100, you not only get a dual-band radio, but a boatload of accessories as well.

At this point, Jeff, W8SGZ, our self-proclaimed club curmudgeon wrote:

I’ve been doing a little research.

The US “dealer” is Ed Griffin W4KMA, owner of KMA Antennas in N. Carolina (www.wouxon.us). So at least there is a US presence. The only thing that  concerns me is one little specification : spurious emission is listed as <30dB.

Part 97 says ” For a transmitter having a mean power of 25 W or less, the mean power of any spurious emission supplied to the antenna transmission line must not exceed 25 uW and must be at least 40 dB below the mean power of the fundamental emission, but need not be reduced below the power of 10 uW.” The question is, is their 30dB enough to get down to 10 uW? With only 5 W to start with, maybe it is.

The particular model in question, KG-UVD1P, is FCC “certificated” (I love that word, it’s so nonsensical) under Part 90, so it should be at least of a certain quality level. And at half the price of anything comparable from the Big 3 (or 4 if you count Alinco), it doesn’t sound bad.

Now, according to my calculations, -30 dB, only gets you down to 5 mW. To get down to 10 uW, spurious emissions would have to be -57 dB. When I replied with that information, Jeff said:

This little radio is causing me a lot more work than I like, but once I get my teeth into an investigation, I can’t seem to let it go.

Although the sales literature (what there is of it) states 30dB for spurious emissions, the User Manual states 60 dB. From what I can make out from the test reports submitted to the FCC, the actual attenuation is in the mid 20s (depending on frequency).

And most bizarre of all is this except from a letter from Wouxon to the FCC:

We would like to have the 136-174 MHz frequency range appear on the face of the FCC Grant of Certification for our Part 90 Certification. This frequency range contains frequencies regarded as usual & customary by the United States Federal Government and its various departments, user organizations and the military.

  1. The applicant plans to ensure that USA users, other than those specifically identified in this letter, not operate within bands which are not allowed by the Part 90, as controlled by the users’ FCC station license.
  2. This devise will not be marketed to USA users, other than those identified in the letter, namely the US Government and its various departments & military, for operation in frequency range out of Part 90.
  3. The applicant acknowledges that it is a violation of FCC rules if the device operates on unauthorized frequencies

Is it just me, or does all this sound like W4KMA is in violation of FCC regulations by selling these to US hams? And are US hams who buy and use them in violation as well?

There has to be a loophole somewhere that I am missing. I mean hams are continually retuning commercial (ie Part 90) equipment to use on amateur frequencies. Why would this be any different? The applicant acknowledges that it is a violation of FCC rules if the device operates on unauthorized frequencies.

So, what do you think? It sounds to me as though the Wouxoun radios don’t meet spec and should not be allowed to be sold in the U.S.

Comments

  1. What I think is that I want one.
    I haven’t been a ham for decades so I may have a different view than some but if they are for sale in the US, and the FCC knows about it, and hasn’t taken action to have them removed from “ham” markets, I can’t see them coming after me. I have not heard any complaints from users about the emission being sloppy. I don’t plan to transmit in a way contrary to the ham rules so where would the problem be? Who would be harmed? Leave the legal nit picking to the lawyers.
    m2c
    73

  2. Hi Dan,

    I own 2 of these HTs. On the Wouxon yahoo group that I belong to there has been much discussion on the list about making the radios transmit out of band. I have asked many times if the hacked software that is freely available I might add, has been used to make the radios transmit outside the ham frequencies. I have not been able to get the hacked/modified software to do anything except mess up the radio enough to require a reload of the original settings to return the radio to a useable state. This radio may be internally modified to transmit out of band but many HTs and other radios can be modified to transmit out of band if you want to work at it.

    Are Wouxon Radios Illegal?
    Could be… But I use mine only to transmit on the amateur frequencies. I also use it as a scanner to monitor ambulance communication with the local hospitals and other public service communications. As a cheap scanner it works well but as you know most of the police/fire has gone to digital trunked systems.

    73
    Jim K8ELR

  3. These kind of arguments always amaze me. America likes to regard itself as the land of the free. Yet whenever I see a thread or posting like this it always seems to me that it is really the land of the over-regulated. Here in Europe it is perfectly OK to sell and use Wouxun radios and the world has not ended. Yet many Americans regard Europe as a place with “big government” of a type they despise.

    I guess I will never make sense of a country which upholds an individual’s right to carry a gun but restricts the same individual’s choice of radio.

  4. This isn’t some political requirement–it’s a technical requirement. The engineers at the FCC have determined that here in the U.S. spurious emissions need to be -40 dB. The other radio manufacturers meet this specification, and so should the Chinese radios. I don’t think that it would be a desirable situation if all of the radio manufacturers decided that they were going to make crummy radios with lots of spurious emissions, and the regulatory bodies let them get away with it. What’s not to understand about that?

  5. Gentlemen:

    Note that the Wouxun US distributor can be found at:

    http://www.wouxun.us

    I’m very surprised that rather than blustering back and forth about rules, regulations, big government, and political & technical requirements… someone out there simply hasn’t hooked one of these “Chinese toys” up to a modern service monitor and/or spectrum analyzer, and measured the actual spurious radiation of the “toy” in question… it’s not that difficult a procedure to obtain a reasonably accurate measurement.

    Am I missing something here? Last time I looked, licensed Amateur Radio Operators are permitted by their license to freely “experiment” and even operate just about any old or new piece of electronic junk or apparatus that they might procure from a flea market or the internet with only a few exceptions such as spark gap transmitters.

    We are able to operate and experiment without overly stringent government regulation, and we are permitted all on our own to measure (certify) specifications and performance characteristics. If we maintain only the most minimal of standards and parameters (again which we ourselves can determine if they are met), we can put just about anything we desire “on-the-air” within the appropriate sub-bands of our amateur radio frequencies.

    For $107.00 plus $13.50 shipping I’m tempted to buy one to play with on my test bench, but I already have a drawer full of HT’s (12 at last count) and it would simply become another dust magnet with a dead battery, and I would much rather spend that time opening up, trouble shooting, and getting back on-the-air a very old TX dead TR-2500 which I was given recently.

    Mike W2MJZ

  6. This exposes our collective lack of knowledge of how the FCC actually regulates equipment (myself included). I won’t speak to whether Wouxun or W4KMA is violating some law. It actually sounds to me like the FCC was sloppy in evaluating the Wouxun information as a Part 90 device…but that is only a hunch.

    Is it illegal to use this radio on the amateur bands in the US? I say NO. We have the option of building our own equipment and putting it on the air without any FCC involvement. Yes, we should be meeting “good amateur practice” and any technical requirements from Part 97. In practice, very few amateurs have the ability and the test equipment to pull this off. That is, how do you know the QRP transmitter you built meets all requirements? You don’t. But if it ever caused interference, you’d be responsible for correcting it. (This is more of a practical statement than a legal statement, which is OK because I am an engineer, not a lawyer :-)

    This is why radio amateurs often use equipment from other radio services and tune them up for the ham band. This is completely legal. I think it is very reasonable for a US ham to buy this Part 90 radio and use it on the ham band.

    Me? I bought one in Hong Kong and “imported” it myself. I wonder if I broke any laws? Probably not.

    Julian, G4ILO: We have plenty of laws regulating the manufacture and possession of firearms, so don’t worry we are not underregulated in that area. Far from it.

    Dan, back to the original question of whether this is a good first radio for a new Tech. I am not sure. The price + features are great, but its user interface is quirky. I like the radio but the jury is still out on recommending it to new hams.

    73, Bob K0NR

  7. Amir Findling says:

    Aha Julian! The right to bear arms also makes the difference between subjects and citizens! The right to use a transmitter which perhaps does not comply with government regulation is something completely different and definitely much less fundamental for Americans, yet many want to make sure abide even by the fine print of the rules. Hats off to them, BTW!

    OTOH, I believe the Wouxoun was openly sold in Dayton and thus, it has received the needed FCC certifications.

    • Amir–

      This certification is for Part 90, the Land Mobile Radio Service, not Part 97, the Amateur Radio Service. Apparently, the standards are different for Part 90 than they are for Part 97.

      I’m with David, N8SRE, that knowingly transmitting with a radio that has excessive spurious emissions is poor operating practice.

  8. David N8SRE says:

    I would say caveat emptor. If the FCC decides after the fact that the radio doesn’t meet specs or can be moved out of band too easily, they may retroactively ban it. That doesn’t necessarily make it illegal to use, but it does make it illegal to resell, so you could get stuck with it. This is the case, for example, with some of the Ranger 10m band radios that were a bit too easy to modify for 11m.

    The other thing I’d say is that transmitting with a radio that has excessive spurious emissions is simply not good operating practice. I feel like I’d be a poor “citizen” of the radio spectrum if I knowingly used such a unit.

  9. Actually they list it as -30dbm (30 db below 1 mw) or 1 microwatt spurious emission.

  10. Ronny, KC5EES says:

    I saw a discussion about these super cheap radios on another forum as well. On that site, they were merely debating if the price was worth the risk of buying an unknown quality Chinese rig. For a dualband HT, it sure sounds tempting.

    As for the FCC approval, it was probably just rubber-stamped. As a US Government teacher, I pay particular attention to our bureaucracy. You’ll recall that the Star Energy approval seal was recently awarded to an item with a feather duster taped to it. Some of these federal types don’t do a lot to earn their money. Then again, the Chinese may have just said what they needed to on the form to get it approved. It is not like the FCC is going to check it to verify it before allowing the item to go on sale. Friends of mine have found this to be true of AC inverters that emit so much noise, they can’t be used anywhere near a ham event.

    In the end, if it is for sale cheap, many will buy it. Thanks for posting the story to get us thinking about whether we ‘should’.

    73,
    Ronny, KC5EES
    Austin, Texas

  11. Barry in Atlanta says:

    I purchased the KG-UVD1P from a dealer in Alabama and have enjoyed using it. However, I share some of the same concerns regarding entry level users. This radio comes with programming software and a ($25) programming cable to allow uploading the radio. With this standard software you can put the radio on any frequency in its VHF/UHF operating range well outside the part 97 channels. No hacking is necessary to put the radio on the channel of your choice. My concern is the possibility that a new licensee will inadvertently put activate a transmit channel where they only meant to use the unit as a scanner for some part 90 frequency. It is easy to do and if you don’t pay attention you can be the source of interference without intending to do so.

    I went through the documentation that came with the radio and was unable to find any FCC Type Approval numbers so I requested it from the dealer and have had no reply. Caveat Emptor!

    73,
    Barry

  12. Gentlemen,

    I happened across your discussion and thought I’d add this information. I will correspond privately with anyone but won’t continue with the discussion here.

    The questions you have raised will be answered in the November issue of QST in their product review section. The lab specs of the radio will be given and the question of legality will be addressed by the ARRL’s General Counsel.

    73,
    Ed
    W4KMA

    ps. Spurious signal and harmonic suppression tested >70 dB on both 146 MHz & 440 MHz which meets FCC requirements.

    • Thanks for the reply, Ed. It’s beginning to sound like this is much ado about nothing. It will be interesting to see what QST has to say about this.

      73, Dan KB6NU

  13. David N8SRE says:

    Just saw the QST article, which pretty well answered my concerns. I still don’t know if I want one, but if I had one, I could transmit with it with a clear conscience.

    • Dan KB6NU says:

      Jim, K8ELR, brought his Wouxun down to the museum Saturday. I was going to play around with it for a while, but didn’t get a chance to really put it through its paces. He did demonstrate the voice output feature, though. When it says the numbers in English, it has a Chinese accent. Jim said that one guy he knows now knows how to say all the numbers in Chinese because he’s programmed his to speak to him in Chinese.

  14. john N9SPE says:

    Dual Band TG-UV2 136-174 / 400-470Mhz FM handheld Radio
    you can get this radio which blows the american radios away for under 100 bucks
    nice quality 73’s

  15. Bought two of these KG-UV2Ds. Excellent little radios. The programming cable is a must. Yes, they can be unlocked for TX/RX on ANY frequencies. Should you? Maybe, maybe not. Are you going to transmit on every freq? Probably not, but it sure is nice to have the ability to access any freq you want, whether or not programmed that way by the mfr. Also, I haven’t hooked them up to any analyzer but I also haven’t had any problems with any interference…just thought y’all might be interested.

  16. Huh? The first thing my “elmer” did to my brand new Alinco was snip a wire to extend the bands.
    I can listen, not transmit.
    What is the “big deal”?
    How many people haven’t had a “mod” to extend the bands? I don’t care one way or another.
    However, there was that one time I “cicked” the transmit because two idiots on building security were saying things they should not.

  17. Bob KE7YTF says:

    Well, I have 2 of these Wouxun, pronounced ‘Ohsheng’ that I bought on E-Bay. Now, the ones the sell in Hong Kong and ship to the Colonies are part 90 radios and will transmit out of band. I don’t do that! The radios the sell here in the Colonies (USA)are part 97, and will not. Check out the review the ARRL published in the November 2010 QST for a Tech Review of the KG-UVD1P and you’ll find that they gave it pretty good marks! At last years Dayton Hamvention, there was an outfit selling these radios down by the QRP booths. They didn’t sell many at first untill the word got out and by Sunday noon they had sold them all! I brought mine and that is where the ARRL folks found out about them.

  18. Ron KB3VEW says:

    The USA sold versions of the WOUXUN Radios absolutely can be opened up for full transmit / recive using the FREE Software on the WOUXUN USA website. It has made it the new radio of choice for many, as it gives them a VHF/UHF Radio capable of FRS/ GMRS and 2 Meters for $120. And the big motivator is the John Q Public types are seeing that they have a $110-$120 Radio that does 5 Watts and has a Removable Antenna on FRS-GMRS. And that just may become an issue.

  19. David KM4HR says:

    I asked Chinese students at the university where I work how to pronounce WOUXON. They had no idea.

  20. Ka7niq Here.
    In Tampa, you can see these radios all over the place.
    They are extremely popular at Florida Ham Fests, and the Tampa Tailgates.

  21. CESAR BORGES says:

    ESTE EQUIPAMENTO E MUITO BOM,AQUI NO BRASIL ESTA SENDO MUITO COMERCIALIZADO…O MEU ESTA ABERTO VHF 100/390 E UHF 400/590.

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