GMRS was started up in the 1960s by the FCC who called it
the class A citizens radio service. At this time
radios were very expensive for the average consumer and
the band was used mostly by businesses and industry. At
that time, tube transceivers abounded. The regulations
specified that 60 watts input was permitted on these new
frequencies, with Frequency Modulation wideband, 15 khz
spacing, of 50 khz per channel. Just a few years later,
FCC decided to narrow the spacing to 12.5 khz in order to
allow more channels. Some years later in the 1970's,
regulations changed to allow 50 watts output In the
1980's, the FCC decided to discontinue licensing
this band in order to encourage them to move to newer
frequencies. Congestion was getting to be an issue.
FRS was created in 1996 by the FCC as a low-cost,
low-power, no licensing required alternative to the
GMRS radios, which were mostly the previously mentioned professional
grade radios. They still are the
least expensive route to choose if you need communications
within a couple blocks, or, within a half mile or so,
although it is hard now to find a cheap new FRS radio; for
example, Icom still makes an FRS only
walkie-talkie. It's very highly rated (Amateurs know that
Icom is synonomous with quality) but the little Icom FRS
handie is definitely not inexpensive.
Basically, FRS and GMRS are now combined
but the changes are more or less transparent to the user.
FRS will be permitted on most GMRS channels with 2.0 watts,
although the original 7 FRS channels will still be limited
to 0.5 watt.
Existing 'hybrid' FRS/GMRS radios, which
operated on both FRS (0.5w) and GMRS (2.0w) will now be
classified as license free GMRS (yay!)
In addition, you can now legally use these
radios for business purposes (many people already were, but
were breaking the law).
So what if you want to get a higher power
'professional' type radio that will run 5 watts?
Radios on GMRS can put out up to 5.0 watts
output and these radios will be the 'new' GMRS radios which
will require a license. BUT! The license is $70
for the whole family and is now good for 10 years!