The end of cheap non-compliant VHF/UHF two-way radios?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who references this thread on regarding the following FCC Enforcement Advisory:

The Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has observed that a growing number of conventional retailers and websites advertise and sell low-cost, two-way VHF/UHF radios that do not comply with the FCC’s rules. Such devices are used primarily for short-distance, two-way voice communications and are frequently imported into the United States. These radios must be authorized by the FCC prior to being imported, advertised, sold, or operated in the United States.

Many of these radios violate one or more FCC technical requirements. For example, some can be modified to transmit on public safety and other land mobile channels for which they are not authorized, while others are capable of prohibited wideband operations.

Such radios are illegal, and many have the potential to negatively affect public safety, aviation, and other operations by Federal, state, and local agencies, as well as private users. Because these devices must be, but have not been, authorized by the FCC, the devices may not be imported into the United States, retailers may not advertise or sell them, and no one may use them. Rather, these devices may only be imported, advertised, sold, or used only if the FCC first has approved them under its equipment authorization process (or unless the devices operate exclusively on frequencies reserved for amateur licensees or they are intended for use exclusively by the federal government). Moreover, with only very limited exceptions, after being authorized, the devices may not be modified. Anyone importing, advertising or selling such noncompliant devices should stop immediately, and anyone owning such devices should not use them. Violators may be subject to substantial monetary penalties.

What Should You Know?

The Bureau has noted an increase in the manufacturing, importation, advertising, and sale of two-way VHF/UHF radios that are not authorized in accordance with the Commission’s rules. Generally, electronic devices that intentionally emit radio waves are required to be certified by the FCC or an authorized third-party certification entity (Telecommunications Certification Body) prior to importation, advertising, sale, or use. Two-way VHF/UHF radios require FCC certification to show compliance with our rules, unless they qualify for a limited exception (see Amateur Radio Exception, below, and Federal government exception at footnote 4).

This certification requirement ensures that equipment complies with technical requirements to avoid causing interference to federal government operations, private licensed operations, and other authorized operations or equipment. Equipment that does not comply with the technical requirements cannot be certified and thus cannot be imported, advertised, sold, or used.

Amateur Radio Exception. There is one exception to this certification requirement: if a device is capable of operating only on 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. However, many two-way radios that purport to operate on amateur frequencies also operate on frequencies that extend beyond the designated amateur frequency bands. If a two-way VHF/UHF radio is capable of operating outside of the amateur frequency bands, it cannot be imported, advertised, sold, or operated within the United States without an FCC equipment certification.

Even if a two-way VHF/UHF radio operates solely within the amateur frequencies, the operator is required to have an amateur license to operate the device and must otherwise comply with all applicable rules. The Bureau will take very seriously any reports of failures of two-way radio operators to comply with all relevant rules and requirements when using devices in the amateur bands.

What Happens If Manufacturers, Retailers, or Operators Do Not Comply with the FCC’s Rules?

Violators of the Commission’s marketing rules may be subject to the penalties authorized by the Communications Act, including, but not limited to, substantial monetary fines (up to $19,639 per day of marketing violations and up to $147,290 for an ongoing violation).

What Should You Do?

The FCC rules governing two-way VHF/UHF radios are designed to minimize interference to all authorized spectrum users, including important government and public safety operations. Manufacturers, importers, retailers, and radio operators should take the time to learn the FCC rules governing equipment authorization and comply with them. When manufacturing, importing, advertising or selling two-way radios and accessories that either are electronic or have electronic components, manufacturers, importers and marketers should ensure that such devices or components are properly certified and labeled as FCCcompliant and cannot be easily modified to operate outside its grant of certification. Prior to purchase or operation, individuals should ensure that a device is either labeled as FCC-compliant or operates solely within amateur frequencies.

Need more information? For additional information regarding equipment marketing and amateur radio rules, please visit the FCC website at and, respectively. Media inquiries should be directed to Will Wiquist at (202) 418-0509 or [email protected].

To file a complaint, visit or call 1-888-CALL-FCC.

Click here to download the full advisory including footnotes (PDF).

I can’t imagine how many of these non-compliant HTs are floating around on the market. I’m guessing this could also affect the sale of used non-compliant radios–? I’m sure there are a number of amateur radio retailers that have a vast inventory of non-compliant radios that they can no longer sell, without potentially facing serious fines by the FCC.

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12 thoughts on “The end of cheap non-compliant VHF/UHF two-way radios?

  1. R Hanson

    I find it interesting that some of the comments here are demonizing these radios, while these posters likely have NO experience with them. I’m a tech license Ham operator (another no code tech ruining the hobby! ;>) ), and the Baofeng radios being decried here got me started into the hobby. I’ve been a shortwave listener since the 1970s, but found Amateur Radio too expensive to get into… enter the Baofeng UV5R. I have one set up with a home-brew dual band ground plane antenna in my attic and am hitting a repeater 37 miles from my QTH with full quieting on every report. That radio is almost 3 years old and still performing perfectly… for $35. Another UV5R I picked up in a pawn shop for $18 ($18!!!) is my monitoring radio that goes with me to our weekly bonfires to listen to the FM broadcast band and simultaneously monitor the local EMS frequency. It has absorbed a tremendous amount of abuse from rain to being dropped many times and still performs great. I have no idea how old it was before I got it used 2 years ago. These radios satisfy a need. The simple fact that they are being abused by some elements, and CAN BE programmed/modified to operate in the GMRS and EMS frequencies (just as many more expensive radios can be) should have NO bearing on their continued legal use and sale. The FCC should do their job and go after the abusers, not cite an unenforceable legality to ban their presence. But, as others have stated, good luck with that!

  2. Glenn Hauser

    Most of the Baofengs are part 90 compliant with FCC type acceptance and could still be imported. The piggies can use them along with part 90 services, but not part 95 users (GMRS etc). GLWT.

    1. Michael Black

      But how can they be compliant when they have such wide open tuning?

      Joe Random can use these on the ham bands, but they can also use them on FRS and public service frequencies. That can’t be legal since it allows use where the user isn’t authorized. Many aren’t likely to realize where they are. An empty frequency is an empty frequency to them.

      I’ve never considered these ham rigs, just wideband radios which work on the ham bands.


  3. Dan

    – “I’m guessing this could also affect the sale of used non-compliant radios–?”
    – Of course!!!
    They will sell like popcorn but at astronomical prices for a single one of the unobtainium-made non-compliant, valued, and higly priced pre-2018 radios…

  4. Tom Servo

    Yeah, GFL with enforcing any of this. The cat’s already out of the bag and there’s zero way to get those radios off the streets.

    When I looked up a few Baofeng radios (a name singled out in the footnotes of the FCC release) on Amazon, they all had FCC IDs. So I don’t know if this affects all their products or just ones that might now have an ID, or what.

    Not that it matters much. There’s an “amateur radio exemption” to type certification so as long as the radios are marketed towards that community, they apparently don’t need to be certified or locked down.

    1. Laurence N.

      I’ve always wondered about those, as in why the companies are making them, who are buying them, what people do with them once they have them, etc. I can’t imagine there’s that much pirate radio broadcasting going on. I’d have thought there wasn’t enough frequency space to do that what with the many other people broadcasting what sounds like the same rock/pop music on the FM bands already.

      1. rtc

        Most people who buy them don’t have a clue (as usual).
        The reviews are pretty bad,they usually fail in a short time due to a bad
        power supply or -worse- the freq. synthesizer goes wild across the FM band
        and splatters all over the place.
        An article on here detailed the woes of a guy in Decatur,AL (south of Huntsville)
        who bought one and set it up near his (legal) FM.
        After it trashed the (legal) station the FCC came in,took it away and warned
        A year later he was back at it…this time they put a hefty fine on him which he
        does not understand at all.
        A lot of us find Part 15 FM’s useful but are very careful to use an open
        frequency and follow the rules…if you have a license they will take it
        just for laughs.
        The reviews of these things on Amazon include comments that they are
        Illegal and are junk and will fail at some point but most people think that
        if they can be sold,it must be OK.


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