How to Know if you Need Licensing for your Two-Way Radios

Once upon a time, two-way radios were reserved for government and businesses. But the creation of the Family Radio Service (FRS) band by the FCC in 1996 prompted a popularity wave for two-way radios for use by families and friends. However, depending on how you use your two-way radios, you may need licensing from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).


The FRS system uses channelized UHF band frequencies that don’t suffer the same interference effects of Citizen’s Band (CB) radios. It’s limited to a power output of half a watt (500 milliwatt) and allows for use of seven channels provided specifically for two-way radio users. Use of these seven channels alone does require licensing by the FCC for use in the United States. If you operate a radio that has been approved exclusively under the FRS rules, no licensing is necessary.

FRS users can also use the 7 shared channels with GMRS for a total of 14 channels without licensing, provided you broadcast using no more than the half-watt of power allowed. However, for full GMRS operation and for dual-band FRS/GMRS operation at higher power levels (typically 1 to 5 watts), you will need a GMRS license.

GMRS licensing comes with some parameters. The FCC allows licensing to individuals age 18 or older who are not representatives of foreign governments. The licensed individual’s family members of all ages subsequently are eligible to operate GMRS units within the licensed system. For non-individuals (corporations, partnerships, associations, governmental units, etc.), licensing is available under the FCC’s Private Land Mobile Radio Services.

At press time, the current fee for a new or renewal GMRS license is $85, but fees change over time, so be sure to check the FCCs GMRS licensing webpagefor updated fees and application instructions.

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