We get asked this question all the time. And the answer is, it depends.
Recently, I had a new ceiling fan installed in my house. The light and fan were remote operated, no chains, pretty high tech for a ceiling fan. Then some weird stuff started happening. I would walk into the room in the middle of the night and the light would be on. At first I thought, maybe I just forgot to turn it off. Then, I was standing in the kitchen one morning and the light just went on with nobody near the remote. Ok, I was officially freaked out, either my house was haunted, or there was something wrong with the fan.
But, come to find out, there was a completely logical explanation for it. My fan was operating on a frequency that must have been shared with one of my neighbors. We’re still not sure exactly what it was, but our suspicion is that every time my neighbor opened their garage door our fan light went on. Again, this is all because both remotes were on the same frequency. Once our electrician changed the frequency, everything was fine. No more freaky haunted house experiences.
So, what does this have to do with radio licensing? Well, the FCC has put various rules in place in order to monitor certain frequencies. Because of this, depending on what frequency your radio operates on will depend on whether need a license to operate it.
There are several different types of radio services, the 2 most common are Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).
So, what’s the difference? And which one is right for you?
To answer the main question: FRS does not require an FCC license to operate, while GMRS does require an FCC license to operate.
Both services operate between 462 and 467 MHz.
The FRS has 22 authorized channels that they share with GMRS.
FRS radios are great for outdoor activities: camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, there is an FRS radio for all of your adventure needs. Anyone who is planning to use their two way radio in close range (within a mile or 2 depending on terrain) would benefit from an FRS radio. These systems generally only consist of several hand held radios or walkie talkies and can not be modified to amplify their signal. Operating an FRS license is free, however the frequencies are shared with many other radios and this could cause interference (like that with my fan).
GMRS radios sound louder and clearer than FRS radios because they have more power to put behind the frequency which means less interference. These radios provide much more flexibility and power. A GMRS system consists of several hand-held radios, mobile communications, and repeater systems allowing the radios to cover a broader area than FRS radios. While there is a cost to operate on the GMRS frequency, the FCC grants you your own private frequency, therefore diminishing the chances of interference from other radios.
Ultimately, you will have to analyze your two way radio needs to determine which option is best for you. However, if you choose the GMRS option, our wonderful radio experts can walk you through the entire process of getting an FCC license. Cost varies, but the license lasts for 10 years. It is a mild inconvenience, but the penalties for operating an unlicensed radio could result in hefty fines from the FCC.
For more information check out the FCC website