GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) is a service using radios of low
to fairly high power transceivers that are used for hobby, personal, or business use.
The General Mobile Radio Service can be
confused with FRS Radio (Family Radio Service). The difference is that
GMRS Radio is permitted a higher output to reach further distances, and has more channels
(however, within the General Mobile Radio Service frequencies, FRS does share some channels).
FRS on the other hand, is very limited in power output. General Mobile Radio Service
walkie-talkies are available with outputs anywhere from 1 watt to around 4 watts output, and
mobile/base units are permitted by regulation of up to 50 watts output on certain channels. FRS handie-talkies
however, are limited to their 14 frequencies (channels) and to 500 mW (half a watt), and are not
permitted in mobile or base form. Also, FRS is restricted by a fixed antenna; you can't add an external
antenna (which will greatly increase your range) as you can with the General Mobile Radio Service.
However, there is no license required for FRS use. It is entirely license free! That alone can
save you $85, the fee for a General Mobile Radio Service
license. For more information on this License from the FCC, go to the GMRS License page.
Although the General Mobile Radio Service is officially available only in the U.S. and Canada,
although other countries do have their own variations thereof. PMR446 is a radio service available in many European
countries which features 8 fixed channels in the UHF spectrum at 446 MHz, but it restricts users to 500 mW output,
so it is closer to FRS than the General Mobile Radio Service. And the channels are not the same as North
America uses for General Mobile Radio Service frequencies, so the two radios are not interchangeable with each
other; using a PMR446 radio in North America will land you in a heap of trouble as you will be transmitting on
someone's assigned frequencies; same thing would happen if you tried to use a North American General Mobile Radio
Service radio in Europe.
The most popular and least expensive type of GMRS 2-way radio is the walkie-talkie, also known
as handie-talkie (see below). There are also mobile units available, which offer much more flexibility
along with higher power and repeater capability, but the vast majority of radios on the market today are the
bubble-pack walkie-talkies. These are available in the absolute widest variety and at the best
prices from Amazon. You can find these in big box department stores as well, but selection will be
poor. Also, the professional GMRS Radios, which have longer
range, higher output and more features, will not be found at all in retail stores but
are available online at Amazon: Icom, Motorola and others (see right sidebar) offer higher power and have
GMRS repeater capabilities. Most all of these professional UHF radios
will have quite a frequency spread however, so it's important to make sure you operate only on
the designated GMRS frequencies and when on FRS channels, reduce power output to 500 mW.
There are changes coming from the FCC with the General Mobile Radio Service which
will probably result in lower power output and the elimation of repeaters, but it is not cast in stone nor will any
changes be in the short term. See History and Future of GMRS
for some more information.
FRS channels and GMRS
channels are shared between the two services and in fact many GMRS radios will operate on both
frequencies; however when using the less expensive walkie-talkies, output power is automatically reduced when
on the FRS frequencies.
900 MHz Radios
There are some fairly new radios on the market which use the 900 MHz band and are license
free! So far, only two manufacturers, TriSquare and Motorola manufacture walkie-talkies on 900 MHz frequencies. TriSquare handies
are priced comparable to higher-end GMRS radios and are very reasonably priced, but the Motorolas are priced
much higher, as they are marketed as "business" radios.
TriSquare eXRS TSX300-2VP 900MHz FHSS Digital Two-Way Radio (Pair)
Amateur Radio, aka HAM Radio
If you're seeking to expand your radio horizons, aka bitten by the radio bug, you want to look into
HAM radio, officially known as Amateur Radio. I put together a page showing some excellent study guides and top quality radios for beginners all the
way to old-timers!