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I'm aware that encryption of amateur radio communications is prohibited (or rather, any technique to make the message unreadable is). Does this apply to handheld transceivers ("Walkie-Talkies")?

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    Would the downvoter please explain how I should improve this question?
    – forest
    Mar 21, 2021 at 7:44
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    Seems fine to me (and an interesting question). I guess it could be improved by citing the regulation/law that bans encryption, but that's really just icing on the cake, in my opinion.
    – Ryan M
    Mar 21, 2021 at 8:47
  • I'm not the down voter, but why would there be any difference between amateur radios and handheld transceivers?
    – Rick
    Mar 21, 2021 at 8:49
  • @RockApe I don't know, but I've always heard that encryption for amateur radio is a big no-no, but I've also heard "encrypted walkie-talkie" a number of times not once with any claims that such a thing is illegal.
    – forest
    Mar 21, 2021 at 9:03
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    @RockApe, amateur operators are licensed. People using handheld transceivers are generally operating under one of the exemptions to licensing.
    – Mark
    Mar 21, 2021 at 22:02

1 Answer 1

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Handheld transceivers are usually operated under some portion of 47 CFR 95 (Personal Radio Services). Typically, this is subpart B (Family Radio Service) or subpart D (CB Radio Service); occasionally it's subpart E (General Mobile Radio Service.

CB Radio Service only permits plain-language voice communication. Not only is encryption prohibited, using coded language is also forbidden (eg. the Navajo code talkers would be forbidden to communicate over CB radio).

Family Radio Service is slightly more permissive, permitting certain data transmissions in addition to voice, and it doesn't have the requirement of plain language. However, encryption is forbidden under the general prohibition of voice-obscuring features for Part 95 operation.

General Mobile Radio Service has a general prohibition on coded messages or messages with hidden meanings, making it possibly even more restrictive than CB radio's "plain language" requirement.

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  • Forgive my ignorance, but does this mean that "Personal Radio Services" permit encryption?
    – forest
    Mar 22, 2021 at 10:26
  • "Personal Radio Services" is a very broad grouping. Some of the subparts (eg. subpart H, "Wireless Medical Telemetry Service") have no restrictions on encryption, but something like a wireless heart-rate monitor isn't exactly a "handheld transceiver".
    – Mark
    Mar 22, 2021 at 20:17
  • So I can conclude that it is not legal to transmit "coded language" over walkie talkie?
    – forest
    Apr 25, 2021 at 0:47
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    Unless you've got a license that lets you do so, no. In virtually every situation in the US, the rules for what you can do with a radio aren't determined by what device you're using, but by what license or license exception you're operating under.
    – Mark
    Apr 25, 2021 at 0:56

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