Why do regulations matter?

Thread Starter


Joined Jan 27, 2019
Many times people have questions about how to make wireless systems do things that are technically possible but would be in violation of regulatory limits on operation.

The ubiquity of cheap transmitters and transceivers makes certain bands seem like free-for-all, and sometimes the equipment isn't in a license-free band. Why should we care?

The regulations made by the FCC and other regulatory bodies might seem arbitrary but it is actually an evolved and intricate technical exercise with the goal of maximizing the usefulness of a limited resource: the RF spectrum.

Use of unlicensed bands like GSM, FRS, GMRS, RCRS, and the like is a boon to all of us. But, the regulatory compliance is built-in to the devices. We, as consumers of free band products are not allowed to modify them, only to use them as they stand and as they are intended. This allows for interference free operation for all users.

You might think "it's low power and I am not going to interfere", and you might be right, but in that path lies the tragedy of the commons. Your perfectly rational decision to ignore the regulations because your individual use can't really lead to disruption depends on the idea that others will not make the same decision. It's not ethical, and you don't even really know if it is true.

Are the regulations perfect? No, of course not. But they are not arbitrary or capricious either, and they are designed by technical experts to maximize the utility of the bands for all of us.

For this reason, I encourage you to read the regulations for the services you want to use, and if the convenient, first try service or band doesn't support your use case, find one that does. There are a lot of services out there. If you can't find an unlicensed band to operate, see about getting a license. As a ham radio operator you can do a lot of things for personal use on a lot of bands. If it is a commercial product, it's part of the cost of business.

In any case, the regulations are important not just because they are the law but because they are a good idea and represent a lot of work by people who almost certainly know more than you about their purpose.

Personally, I am always happy to help people figure out legal ways to do things with wireless technologies. Radio has been a big part of my life for a long time and it's even more important to the world now that everything is wireless.