Communications: FCC Changes in FRS/GMRS

FRS Changes

The FCC recently changed a number of important rules when dealing with FRS and GMRS radios.  The basics are that each license class can both use channels 1 through 22 but GMRS licensee’s have access to more power (5 Watts) and FRS radios are below 2 Watts.  This is good news for volunteer groups needing to coordinate with unlicensed team members.  Combination FRS/GMRS radios were only legally usable on channels 1-14 for unlicensed persons.  The FCC ruling makes manufacturers designate FRS radios differently from GMRS radios based on broadcast power.  Existing radios are grandfathered in.  The great part is that you don’t have to limit your team to channels 1-14, all channels are available and GMRS licensed persons can run a radio dispatch using a more powerful radio and coordinate with unlicensed persons.  The license is also cheaper that it was and lasts 10 years instead of 5 years.  You may see more digital radios and features enter the market as Bluetooth and WiFi are now allowed to be used along side FRS frequencies.

This means some new features potentially to look for when shopping for FRS radios in the future would be:

  • GPS location broadcasting (like the Garmin Rino series)
  • Short text message transmission
  • Blue tooth hands free features
  • Wifi features

Dual mode FRS/GMRS radios until this point caused many people to unwittingly violate the law by using frequencies they were not licensed to use.  This also causes problems when training people because the radios don’t stop you from using a licensed channel.  The power increase (2W) is extremely useful as half a watt has very little range.

Things that have not changed:

  • FCC Part 95 frequencies still require a type accepted radio

Resources:

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