Baofeng, DM-5R, and DMR

15 Oct 2016

With the recent release of the "Baofeng DM-5R", all the problematic comments have flooded the ham radio forums and Baofeng specific groups. While calling it a scam is a bit of a stretch, that is essentially my opinion of it, and many others will share that perspective. There are some key aspects that people need to realize.

First is that this DM-5R radio is NOT made, assembled, sold, or approved by Baofeng. This is made and assembled in a joint venture from Radioddity and Sanatop. While it is possible they have a license to use the Baofeng name (doubtful), Sanatop is a well known seller of known fake Baofeng radios. I suspect they are partnering with another well known scam company Foscam (parent company in China is Shenzhen Foscam, and their US based company Foscam Digital Technologies aka, and very likely that the Korean side of Sanatop is connected to or directly related to Shenzhen Foscam. I have not found any connection YET, but I suspect it is a subsidiary of ShenZhen Foscam to route money and products through South Korea which has a more favorable import aspect with many Middle Eastern and European countries. Radioddity and their products have been questionable for some time, based on hundreds of comments on ebay and amazon, selling new items when they were obviously refurbished or previously used/returned/opened, and then amazon has to step in to replace it since Radioddity will not. Sanatop has their own questionable history having their amazon and ebay stores shut down multiple times for horrible customer service and the same issues as Radioddity.
The reason I have made these connections and made them known to you the reader, is I had contacted Baofeng corporate asking for information about selling a batch of DM-5R radios, and their response within 24 hours was "this model is not made, assembled, sold, nor associated with Baofeng corporate in any way. We are looking into possible copyright violations of models sold under the Baofeng name by multiple companies within China and North America.". Then of course they need to weigh whether they are losing a lot of sales (they are) due to the fakes to make it worth filing for lawsuits on multiple fronts in China, the US, Canada, and in Europe, and whether the lawsuit would be worth the legal fees that would help recoup their lost sales, and make up for new sales in the future.

Second, one of the biggest complaints is people buying these DM-5R and not being able to use them on DMR repeaters. They fail to understand that these are DMR Tier I radios, which is only good for simplex. In Europe there are a few companies which use the Tier I technology under dPMR or "digital private mobile radio". In Europe, PMR is equivalent to the US FRS standard, requiring fixed non-removable antennas, maximum 0.5W out, among other requirements. fortunately the Tier I standard also shares the same limitations as PMR and FRS, so it seems to fit nicely. Still, Tier I does not require any licensing from Motorola, versus Tier II, which is what all the repeaters and other DMR equipment is, does require licensing from Motorola. I will not go too deep into the standards and such, but if you want to read up on it, the wikipedia "digital mobile radio" page has some good info. From the Motorola website:

DMR operates within three tiers:

  1. Tier I
    • Unlicensed operation in the 446 MHz band.
    • Less than 0.5 W transmit power.
  2. Tier II
    • Licensed operation [subject to national frequency planning].
    • Includes DMR repeater operation.
  3. Tier III
    • Licensed operation [subject to national frequency planning].
    • Includes DMR trunking operation.
Motorola Solutions DMR Standards-Based Licensing program grants rights to Motorola Solutions DMR essential patent families.

Now where some people seem to completely confuse the issues is the term "license" or "licensing". This has to do with their company having a license to produce a product that uses another companies technology, NOT a license by the individual to transmit, they are two entirely different things. Where we as amateurs have our amateur license, then companies/businesses have their Part 90 radio license, the Motorola license refers to "patent license", aka the ability of the other company to make products under Motorolas license, which in this case refers to DMR Tier II, DMR-MARC, and MOTOTRBO. Some try to claim their amateur license or Part 90 license is what allows "use of Tier II" which is only true so far as them as an individual or company transmitting on the allowed frequencies, but the individual having the license to transmit has absolutely nothing to do with Radioddity/Sanatop manufacturing a product. An analogy I use is the new Nissan Titan trucks that have the Cummins turbo diesel engines. They have to have a license with Cummins to be able to make and sell those engines in their trucks (just as Ram, Dodge, Chrysler, Peterbilt, and any other company needs the licensing to use/make/build the Cummins engines for their vehicles). Just because YOU have a drivers license does not mean Nissan can add whatever engine they want in their truck and expect your drivers license to cover their ability to add an engine from GM or Mercedes or Ferrari. This is the same thing: Radioddity and Sanatop need a license to manufacture products using Motorolas patented DMR Tier II specs. Thus Motorola will expect Baofeng to file for the licensing since it is their name on the product, which will not happen since Baofeng does not make, manufacture, sell, or have anything to do with the DM-5R.
Some like to use the claim of "open source P25", which is true ONLY as it relates to direct P25 implementations, versus DMR is a Motorola specific implementation thus requires limitations set by Motorola for use with other DMR models of the same tier. This is why Motorola DMR TDMA is not compatible with Yaesu Fusions C4FM 4-level FSK Technology, which itself is based on the same P25, but with their own implementation. Therefore the entire "open source P25" argument is invalid since we're talking about DMR specific technology which is built on top of the P25 framework with Motorolas own technological aspects. When you're talking about cars, would you argue that a Nissan Altima car is the same as a Ford F250 truck solely because they both have gasoline engines? Didn't think so.

Third, have a look at the same Motorola page linked above at the bottom, they have it linked showing the Current Motorola Solutions DMR Licensees. As of 1 October 2016, none of the mentioned companies are listed: not Baofeng, not Radioddity, not Sanatop. So this means they do not have the license to use or manufacture chips that would allow the radio to be used on Tier II or any other DMR repeaters.

Fourth, by their own admission, thy are breaking the laws in every country these are sold and subject to lawsuit since:

  1. they admit they are capable of 5W power out, when the requirement of Tier I is 0.5w aka 500mW
  2. they admit the radio is dual band 2m VHF and 70cm VHF, yet Tier I limits use to the 446MHz portion of the spectrum. In the US this is for amateur radio, in Europe it is their PMR aka "FRS" section of frequencies.
Scroll back up and re-read that DMR Tier I requirement from the Motorola Website.

So for those looking to buy a DM-5R for use on DMR repeaters, don't bother. Radioddity claims you can buy their software for $10 to unlock more DMR features, but that does not unlock Tier II since that requires a completely different encode/decode chipset inside the radio, and these DM-5R radios do not have that capability. Also since all the currently available Tier II radios out there surpass the 0.5W power rating, none of them (that I know of) are capable of simplex communication with any of these DM-5R radios.
So back to my initial comment of this being a scam, while using DMR Tier I is technically still DMR, the primary DMR use for amateurs and businesses across North America and Europe is Tier II through repeaters. They are selling plenty of radios, and I suspect within the next few months they will likely see at least half of them returned due to their inability to access anything Tier II related. This is when we all get to see the previously mentioned horrible customer service rear its ugly head once again. One set of complaints leads to another set of complaints about how people felt they were scammed, and Radioddity/Sanatop sits there laughing at the stupidity of people who refuse to read a paragraph about how this product is Tier I, NOT Tier II. then once you go beyond their 30 day return policy, they will essentially say in a nice way "go screw yourself".

Thanks and 73 all,

As more blog entries are added, some get moved to the archived blog entries page. As this is a new website, this will probably not need to be done for a while.