FRS Radios & Frequencies

So at some point everyone has seen a little radio like this. Campers, fishermen, families and even children use them. You can pick them up nearly anywhere, even Wal-Mart. They always advertise, “no license necessary”. This is very true, but that is about where the truth ends. There is a lot of false or misleading advertising that goes with these little radios. They do however have their place. As such, they are a resource we enlist, but we want folks to understand what they are for, what their capabilities are and what the rules are for operating them.

FRS, or Family Radio Service is a license free set of frequencies that nearly any US Citizen can use. The service is set aside for families to be able to use “walkie-talkies” to communicate in everyday life without having to buy expensive radios or licenses. Unlike many of the services it’s just a baby, being authorized by the FCC in 1996.

Many people often get upset at the limitations by the FCC on this service. It is intentionally limited so that this can be a community service. The goal is for it to be short range to allow the maximum number of people to use it without interfering with each other. The idea is if you need more range you like have a business or other interest and can either pay for a GMRS license for personal use, a business license for business use or get an amateur license for more in depth communications.

What are they good for?

So, these are license free frequencies which pretty much anyone can use, but are limited in range. For those reasons alone, it’s good to have some on hand. You aren’t going to get a lot of range, but you can take them anywhere in the USA and Mexico legally. They are great for short distance communications, but remember there is no such thing as privacy on the radio waves and even more so on these shared frequencies. Don’t be fooled by the term “privacy codes”. We will have another article on that which I will later link.

So here are some suggestions:

  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Shopping Trips with family
  • Fairs & Theme Parks
  • Neighborhood Communications
  • Small Buisnesses
  • Any other event where you need universal radios and are pretty close to each other

The misleading stuff:

So the big thing the manufacturers have always misled about with these radios is their range. First of all, always be cautious anytime a radio manufacturer gives a distance range for their radio. That isn’t something that can be done, because terrain is different everywhere and that is one of the two big factors (the biggest) in coverage. These are LOW power radios. Some of the lowest on the market. The truth is, don’t plan on getting more than a couple of blocks to a mile of range out of them. You might get lucky and get more, but don’t plan on it.

Rule Changes

  • The FCC changed the rules in 2017 for certain services, FRS included. Most were beneficial to users. One of the big changes was the maximum permitted power level has been increased.
  • The other big change that was made and just went into effect as of Oct. 2019 was that GMRS and FRS can no longer be produced in the same radios.
  • FRS is now permitted in Businesses. Businesses have been using it all this time, but it wasn’t legal. As of the 2017 rule change it is now legal.

FULL Rules can be read HERE. I warn you, it’s lengthy and in legal terminology.

Technical Facts:

License Required: None

Useage: Personal or Buisness

Maximum Power: 2 Watts

Antenna Specs: ONLY permanently “fixed” attached antennas

Encryption Permitted: No

Repeaters Permitted: No

Band: UHF

Modulation: Narrow FM (2.5 kilohertz max deviation, 12.5 kilohertz spacing)

Radios MUST be certified by the FCC

These (FRS) are the only UHF frequencies which are truly license free.

Frequencies:

ChannelFrequency (MHz)FRS Power Restriction 
1462.5625Up to 2 watts 
2462.5875Up to 2 watts 
3462.6125Up to 2 watts 
4462.6375Up to 2 watts 
5462.6625Up to 2 watts 
6462.6875Up to 2 watts 
7462.7125Up to 2 watts 
8467.5625Up to 0.5 watt 
9467.5875Up to 0.5 watt 
10467.6125Up to 0.5 watt 
11467.6375Up to 0.5 watt 
12467.6625Up to 0.5 watt 
13467.6875Up to 0.5 watt 
14467.7125Up to 0.5 watt 
15462.5500Up to 2 watts 
16462.5750Up to 2 watts 
17462.6000Up to 2 watts 
18462.6250Up to 2 watts 
19462.6500Up to 2 watts 
20462.6750Up to 2 watts 
21462.7000Up to 2 watts 
22462.7250Up to 2 watts