The use of the different types of radio services in the U.S. is covered by specific rules and regulations as dictated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Before you buy radio equipment and start operating these, it is always best to check the guidelines of the FCC to see which radio services require a license to operate and which ones do not.
In this article, I will discuss what Family Radio Service or FRS is and whether its operation requires a license or not.
No, operating FRS does not require a license. This is provided that you comply with the rules and regulations set by the FCC.
Perhaps you already know that the use of FRS does not require a license, unlike with other radio services. Given this, it is still good practice to make sure that you do not miss anything that you need to comply with as dictated by U.S. laws.
Here, you can read more details about the rules and regulations that cover FRS.
What is FRS?
Family Radio Service (FRS) is a type of radio that allows two-way communication. It is one of the frequencies that walkie-talkies can operate on. It generates low power wattage within the range of 0.5 to 2 watts. Because of this, the range of its signal reach is relatively low, reaching up to 2 miles when operated in the best conditions.
The use of FRS in the U.S. was authorized in 1996 after RadioShack proposed in 1994 that families can use it.
FRS Licensing and Rules
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not require people to obtain a license first before using FRS. However, there are rules and regulations with which FRS operators still need to comply as dictated by the FCC.
FRS radios must use only up to 2 watts of Effective Radiated Power (ERP). Although its operation does not require a license, an FRS transmitter needs to be certified by the FCC and should not be modified in any way. FRS radios are also confined to stubby antennas that should be non-removable. This is to ensure that the range remains within and stays within the requirements set by the FCC.
There is no age requirement for the operation of an FRS transmitter. You can also use FRS anywhere that is within the jurisdiction of FCC regulations and as long as you keep within the set limitations for its operation.
If you would like to know read more about the complete rules and regulations set by the FCC as concerns the use of FRS, you can read it under the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations.
FRS is allowed to transmit in 22 channels that each have a bandwidth of 12.5 kHz. These channels are within the frequency range of 462 MHz and 467 MHz. None of these channels are exclusive to any single user. Channels 8 to 14 are exclusive to FRS operations and have a low range that does not exceed half a mile. Channels 1 to 7, as well as 15 to 22, are shared with the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) system. Compared to FRS, GMRS can generate up to 5 watts of power. Because of this, GMRS covers a range that is broader than the range of FRS. However, note that GMRS operates on wattage and range that is well beyond the license-free limit that is set by the FCC. Thus, unlicensed FRS operators are authorized to transmit within channels 8 to 14 only.
FRS-GMRS dual-service Radios
There are older FRS-GMRS models that allow for dual-use. However, as previously mentioned, FRS operators are required by law to transmit on the channels exclusive to FRS. If you would like to broadcast on the GMRS channels as well, you will have to obtain a license for this because GMRS operation is not license-free.
Conclusion – Does FRS require a License?
Keep in mind that the illegal operation of radio equipment by FCC standards may lead to serious penalties as well as confiscation of equipment. Some cases may even lead to imprisonment. Rules and regulations were set to maintain public safety transmissions. And ignorance of these rules and regulations is not an excuse.