A GMRS radio is a licensed land-mobile FM UHF radio service that uses channels between the 462 MHz and 467 MHz frequencies. These radios are authorized under part 95 of the United States Federal Communications Commission code and are built for short-range two-way or duplex communication.
Although one requires an FCC license to operate a GMRS radio, you don’t have to sit for a test and only pay $35 for a ten-year license. Read on to learn more about the GMRS radio history, frequency assignments, and licensing process.
What is the General Mobile Radio Service Radio?
The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a licensed radio service for short-distanced, two-way communication via mobile radios, repeater systems, and hand-held radios.
However, as of 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) extended the GMRS to include short messaging applications, like GPS location information and text messaging.
Although GMRS radios use the same frequency bands (462 MHz to 467 MHz) as the Family Radio Service (FRS), they have assigned channels in this frequency range that are lacking in the FRS radios.
GMRS radios put out varying amounts of power. Although a GMRS station on a handheld radio is restricted to using a maximum of 5 Watts of power, fixed-based and repeater GMRS stations are allowed to use up to 50 Watts. This makes them clearer and allows them to reach farther distances.
Handheld GMRS radios can operate on any GMRS frequency. On the other hand, fixed-based and repeater stations only operate on the lower 462 MHz frequencies.
GMRS Radios History
The CB Class A Citizens Radio Service was the official GMRS radio predecessor. Originally, CB radios ran on the 460 to 470 MHz UHF band and came in two classes; A and B Citizens Radio Service.
The Class A Citizens Radio Service radio transmitter power was restricted to 60 watts, and used tube-type transceivers. It utilized the wideband FM, with 50 kHz channel spacing and ± 15 kHz transmitter deviation.
Class B Citizens Radio Service was limited to an output of 5 watts and ran a different 461 MHz channel set. Additionally, business owners were allowed to license this radio service. In addition, CB radio for truck drivers has become extremely popular and useful, which, despite its inferior technology, has a gigantic following even today.
The Class A Citizens Radio Service channels deviation was reduced to ± 5 in the 1960s after the 450 to 470 MHz UHF band was reassigned to 25 kHz public safety and business channels. This increased the number of channels in this band tremendously.
CB radios’ allowed power output was 50 watts in the 1970s. By 1987, licenses for business owners were discontinued, but those with existing licenses were allowed to run until they expired. The CB radio service name was also officially changed to the General Mobile Radio Service in the same year.
In 2010, the FCC proposed the removal of individual GMRS licensing requirements. However, in 2015, it ruled to maintain the license requirement but exclude the mandatory licensing regulator fee.
Federal regulations implied the official fee for a GMRS license to be $90 initially. With the regulatory fee removed, the fee for a five-year GMRS license dropped to $65.
In 2017, the US FCC made a massive revision of the FRS radio service. FRS was restricted to an output of 2 watts when utilizing the shared FRS/GMRS frequencies. Any radios that exceeded the recommended FCC limits would be categorized as a GMRS radio.
By the end of 2019, importing, offering, or selling radios capable of FRS and GMRS US operations was made illegal.
According to FCC GMRS rules, a license is mandatory to operate GMRS stations. Any US citizen above eighteen years can apply for the GMRS license. The only qualifications are one must not be a foreign government representative and complete the application form on the online FCC website.
GMRS licenses last ten years. One can renew their GMRS license between ninety days before the expiration to the formal expiration date.
A GMRS license goes for $35 for all applicants as of 19, April 2022. It covers the entire family, meaning all family members can use the GMRS stations within the licensed unit.
GMRS is assigned thirty frequency channels between the 462 to 467 MHz UHF band; fourteen interstitial and sixteen main channels. The main GMRS channels are further divided into eight 462 MHz and eight 467 MHz main channels.
The frequency the repeater system or base station receives is called the input frequency, and the frequency local repeaters transmits is called the output frequency.
Licensees are allowed to use the eight main 462 MHz channels as repeater outputs and for simplex information. On the other hand, the 467 MHz channels can only be utilized as repeater inputs.
Although most GMRS radios are accustomed to transmitting between 1 and 5 watts, GMRS users can transmit a maximum of 50 watts of transmitter higher power on all sixteen main channels.
The interstitial channels are found between the GMRS main channels. 462 MHz interstitial channels put out up to 5 watts and are mainly for simplex communication. A 467 MHz interstitial GMRS channel can only transmit up to 500 milliwatts.
What is the Difference between GMRS and FRS radios?
Unlike the GMRS radios, FRS radios can transmit only up to 2 watts on channels 1 to 7 on the 462 to 467 MHz UHF band.
GMRS radio, typically, have a greater communications range than FRS radio. Typical handheld GMRS radios have a one to two-mile window, while mobile units featuring higher antennas can reach up to five miles.
Moreover, the GMRS range is only expected to increase further thanks to the Wide Area Service Providers, placing GMRS repeaters on tall buildings and structures. Consequently, instead of a signal going directly from one radio to another, the repeater station receives it first and then transmits it to the intended recipient.
Although it’s compulsory to have a license to operate an amateur radio service and GMRS radio, you don’t need one to use an FRS radio.
GMRS radios can be used for duplex communication, whereby GMRS operators can send and receive signals. FRS radios can only transmit simplex or one-way communication.
Lastly, GMRS radios are of higher quality than FRSs. In this regard, they are more expensive than their counterparts.
Using your GMRS Radio
Operating a GMRS radio can be hectic for first-time users. However, understanding some basic GMRS features will smooth the process, allowing you to enjoy your device within no time.
- Volume control – If you can’t hear incoming calls via your GMRS radio, check the volume control settings and adjust them accordingly. It’s advisable to note the settings that work best for you and use the same settings each time you use your radio.
- PTT switch – You must push the ‘Push To Talk’ button to talk and release it to listen. Otherwise, you’ll end up speaking over the recipient.
- Channel selector – GMRS radios have up to twenty-two channels. This feature allows you to browse the channels to determine your preferred choice.
- Squelch – The squelch feature on your radio keeps it quiet until you get an incoming. Set it as low as possible to avoid missing any calls.
GMRS radios offer one of the broadest talking ranges in handheld radios. What’s more, you don’t have to break the bank to get your license for GMRS operation, and your entire family can use the licensed device freely.
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