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Radio communications

Yaesu FT-60R

Yaesu FT-60R


Walkie-talkies have been in use for many years in Taiwan and there are many retail outlets where you can buy them. The legal aspects of actually using them are a little more complex however.
In the martial law days the use of radio transceivers was illegal, though this being Taiwan, it hardly stopped anyone from doing whatever they felt like doing. In those days there were some pretty hardcore illicit users on the airwaves and the authorities did what they could to catch them by either trying to figure out their identities and close in on operators by triangulation. It’s from these times that the habits of radio users to use a handle or pseudonym and staying mobile comes.
These days the use of the 2 meter band is still illegal, though the government has for the most part given up trying to police it. Suffice it to say that as long as you don’t interfere with frequencies given over to entities like the police, emergency service or taxi companies you’re very unlikely to have problems using your radio in Taiwan. The old habit of using a handle still continues however, which is why you meet so many Taiwanese pilots with names like Stainless Steel or Pig Killer.

Noise

Note that most users in Taiwan use very simple transceivers with no tone squelching functions. Therefore very few of them use tone squelching and since there is no control of who can use the preferred frequencies, there is a lot of traffic on the airwaves. At most of the flying sites there is one ‘official’ channel but the site may be home to several instructors all carrying on training flights with multiple students and they may be literally controlling the student’s every move by radio. This channel is not closed to other non-flying users. Once you climb to altitude you will find it gets very noisy. Soon you’ll be listening to all kinds of semi-private conversations between truck drivers or friends, all of whom imagine that the channel is theirs and it is you who invading their private chat. I’ve had people literally screaming at me to stop speaking English on ‘their’ channel.
The 430mhz band has less users in Taiwan but it is popular with Japanese fishing vessels. Once you get high enough, you will again have noise problems.

My own strategy is to only use a radio when flying XC with friends who also use transceivers capable of tone squelch operations.

Buying a transceiver

On the retail side there are some pretty good bargains to be had in Taiwan. Although many models popular in other countries do not make it to Taiwan due to the frequencies they can operate on out-of-the-box, the range available is still good enough for most users and the retailers are able to perform a wide range of mods on transceivers of all kinds. In most countries a retailer or repair shop would probably not dare modify a unit for out of band operations but it’s no problem in Taiwan.
Yaesu are quite well represented in the local market but Icom are not, few models being available. There are all kinds of cheap no-name single band 2 meter handhelds on sale for just a few thousand NT dollars.

Safety

Despite all the warnings I’ve given about how noisy it will be on channel I still think it’s a very smart move to pack a radio when flying in Taiwan. When I’m just out flying I tend to have mine stashed in a pocket I can easily get to, turned off, but tuned to the local site channel.

Resources

Taiwan Frequency Allocations from the National Communications Commission