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Do I Need A License To Use Walkie-talkie In the US?

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This article will help you know about different types of walkie-talkies in the US, and also explain the license requirements and procedures for these types.
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Walkie-Talkies are a kind of Personal Radio Service. They are portable two-way radio systems. Walkie-talkies allow communication between different users over a short range. People use them both for personal and commercial purposes. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulates walkie-talkies in the US.

Do you need a license to use the walkie-talkie in the US? Well, it depends on the type of walkie-talkie you are using. There are different types of walkie-talkies. Family Radio Service (FRS), Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS), and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) are the main types.

If you are using an FRS or MURS walkie-talkie, you do not need to get a license from FCC. But, if you use a GMRS walkie-talkie, you should get it licensed from FCC.

This article will help you know about different types of walkie-talkies in the US. I will also explain the license requirements and procedures for these types.

What are Walkie-talkies?

radio
Walkie Talkies

Walkie-talkies are low-power, short-range portable devices. They are a great way to stay in touch when you are on the go or out of cell phone range. Walkie-talkies have a variety of applications. There are walkie-talkies designed for recreational activities like camping and hiking. Also, there are professional uses of walkie-talkies, such as security and emergency services. They are also great for keeping in touch with family members or friends when you are out and about.

Licensed vs. License Free Walkie-Talkies

Generally, all two-way radios or walkie-talkies devices operating in GMRS radio frequencies require a license. And for other two-way radios or walkie-talkies devices use FRS channels 8 to 14 with a transmitting power of fewer than 0.5 watts, or devices using MURS channels, FRS channels 1-7 and 15-22 with a transmitting power of fewer than 2 watts, they are license free.

Licensed walkie-talkies have a greater operating frequency range than their counterparts. Also, the difference in transmission power directly impacts the broadcast range. As a result, licensed walkie-talkies have a wide broadcast range. General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is an example that allows the walkie-talkie to use 30 frequency channels in 462 MHz and 467 MHz and can set transmitting power up to 5 watts. In this case, you can communicate over long distances using GMRS walkie-talkies.

License-free walkie-talkies have short range due to their less output power. Also, these devices have fewer operating channels than licensed ones. Family Radio Service (FRS) is an example of a license-free walkie-talkie with maximum transmitting power from 0.5 watts to 2 watts and is limited to using 22 frequency channels in 462 MHz and 467 MHz. 

Types of Walkie-talkies Frequency Services In The US

There are different types of walkie-talkies in the US. Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) walkie-talkies are the most popular types the general public will use.

Family Radio Service (FRS)

license free radio 1
License-free Walkie Talkie

FRS allows two-way voice communication over short distances. It generally has a talking range of one-half mile when operated on 0.5 watts. The available talking range may increase to 2 miles when the transmitting power is set to 2 Watts in granted channels. FRS is license-free by rule, meaning there is no need to get a license while operating FRS devices.

FRS operates in between the 462 MHz and 467 MHz frequency bands. There are 22 channels in the FRS band, each with a bandwidth of 12.5 kHz. These channels are not exclusive to anyone. Everyone can select a frequency of his choice. But remember that the FRS channels 8 to 14 can only set transmitting power to 0.5 watts. Channels 1 to 7 and 15 to 22 are allowed to set the transmitting power to 2 watts. The detailed information is shown as follows:

Channel NumberCenter Frequency (MHz)Channel BandwidthMaximum Transmit Power
1462.562512.5 kHz2 Watts
2462.587512.5 kHz2 Watts
3462.612512.5 kHz2 Watts
4462.637512.5 kHz2 Watts
5462.662512.5 kHz2 Watts
6462.687512.5 kHz2 Watts
7462.712512.5 kHz2 Watts
8467.562512.5 kHz0.5 Watts
9467.587512.5 kHz0.5 Watts
10467.612512.5 kHz0.5 Watts
11467.637512.5 kHz0.5 Watts
12467.662512.5 kHz0.5 Watts
13467.687512.5 kHz0.5 Watts
14467.712512.5 kHz0.5 Watts
15462.550012.5 kHz2 Watts
16462.575012.5 kHz2 Watts
17462.600012.5 kHz2 Watts
18462.625012.5 kHz2 Watts
19462.650012.5 kHz2 Watts
20462.675012.5 kHz2 Watts
21462.700012.5 kHz2 Watts
22462.725012.5 kHz2 Watts
FRS Channels Chart

Also, although the FRS channel frequencies are shared with GMRS, to use FRS channels license-free, you can only use the FRS walkie-talkie to operate, which means you will need a license to work on GMRS channels.

FRS Licensing and Rules

There is no need to get a license from FCC to use FRS devices. Yet, FCC has devised specific rules for using FRS radios.

It would be best if you bought an FRS radio that is FCC certified. Then, you can program the channels of your FRS radio to your needs. FRS radio comes with a fixed antenna. The antenna is un-detachable so that no one can remove it. The antenna gain should be that of a half-wave dipole antenna. If support, you can use your FRS device for text messaging and GPS location information.

There is no age restriction on using FRS radio. You can use FRS radio within the jurisdiction of FCC regulations. Representatives of foreign governments are not allowed to use FRS radio.

FRS channels are not exclusive to any user. You must cooperate in the selection of channels to avoid interference. Also, you cannot interconnect your FRS radios and transmitters with the telephone system.

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)

mobile radio and walkie talkie
Walkie Talkies and Mobile Radios

GMRS is a two-way radio system that operates in the same band as that FRS. GMRS shares specific channels with FRS, as discussed earlier. It also has some extra channels, making up 30 channels for GMRS. A GMRS system may include a base station and repeaters to extend the range. So, it has high output power, long range, and is more versatile than low power FRS. The detailed information is shown as follows:

Channel No.Channel NameCenter Frequency (MHz)Maximum Transmit Power (Mobile, Hand-held Portable, Repeater, Base/Fixed/Control Stations)
1462 MHz interstitial channel462.5625Hand-held Portable, Mobile, Base Stations: 5Watts
2462 MHz interstitial channel462.5875Hand-held Portable, Mobile, Base Stations: 5Watts
3462 MHz interstitial channel462.6125Hand-held Portable, Mobile, Base Stations: 5Watts
4462 MHz interstitial channel462.6375Hand-held Portable, Mobile, Base Stations: 5Watts
5462 MHz interstitial channel462.6625Hand-held Portable, Mobile, Base Stations: 5Watts
6462 MHz interstitial channel462.6875Hand-held Portable, Mobile, Base Stations: 5Watts
7462 MHz interstitial channel462.7125Hand-held Portable, Mobile, Base Stations: 5Watts
8467 MHz interstitial channel467.56250.5Watts
9467 MHz interstitial channel467.58750.5Watts
10467 MHz interstitial channel467.61250.5Watts
11467 MHz interstitial channel467.63750.5Watts
12467 MHz interstitial channel467.66250.5Watts
13467 MHz interstitial channel467.68750.5Watts
14467 MHz interstitial channel467.71250.5Watts
15462 MHz main channel462.5500Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
16462 MHz main channel462.5750Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
17462 MHz main channel462.6000Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
18462 MHz main channel462.6250Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
19462 MHz main channel462.6500Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
20462 MHz main channel462.6750Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
21462 MHz main channel462.7000Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
22462 MHz main channel462.7250Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
23467 MHz main channel467.5500Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
24467 MHz main channel467.5750Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
25467 MHz main channel467.6000Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
26467 MHz main channel467.6250Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
27467 MHz main channel467.6500Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
28467 MHz main channel467.6750Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
29467 MHz main channel467.7000Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
30467 MHz main channel467.7250Hand-held Portable: 5Watts
Fixed Stations: 15 Watts
Mobile, Repeater & Base Stations: 50Watts
GMRS Channels Chart

However, a license is required from FCC before operating a GMRS device. After getting the license, you will be responsible for appropriately using the GMRS device. You can also permit your immediate family members to operate the GMRS device. You can also use your GMRS device for text messaging and GPS location information.

GMRS Licensing and Rules

FCC has defined specific criteria and rules for individuals who wish to get a GMRS license.

Licensing Criteria
  • Applicant must be 18 years old.
  • Only individuals can apply for a license (not businesses).
  • Representatives of a foreign government cannot apply.
  • A single license is valid for you and your immediate family members.
  • The license is valid for 10 years.
  • After getting the license, you must obey FCC rules while operating your GMRS device.
FCC Rules
  •  FCC has the right to inspect GMRS devices before issuing a license.
  • You cannot use your GMRS device to send false, deceptive, or coded messages.
  • You cannot use your GMRS device for music, sound effects, or entertainment purposes.
  • You cannot use a GMRS device for political campaigns and marketing purposes.

Other Types of Radio Services

Besides FRS and GMRS, there are also other types of Personal Radio Services in the US. Some are Citizen Band Radio Services, Multi-use Radio Services, and Low-Power Radio Services. As per FCC, there are no license requirements for these services.

Benefits of Getting A FCC License To Use Walkie-talkies In The US

If you use FRS, you may face interference on your walkie-talkie from other users. FRS frequencies are not exclusive to anyone; everyone can operate on any frequency within the assigned band.

An FCC license allows you access to more channels than an unlicensed one.

Licensed devices, e.g., GMRS walkie-talkie, have greater transmission power and broader bandwidth. Therefore, it allows you to operate these devices for longer-distance communication.

How To Get An FCC License?

website screenshot
ULS Portal Screenshot

Before buying a GMRS radio, you should get a license from FCC before operating it. Obtaining an FCC license for your GMRS device is simple and easy. You must get an FRN (FCC Registration Number) before applying for an FCC license. You can get an FRN online by applying on the FCC Universal Licensing System (ULS) portal. Once you have your FRN, you can apply for an FCC license. Below is a simple and easy guide to applying for an FCC license;

  • Log into the FCC Universal Licensing System portal with your FRN and password. 
  • Click on “Apply for a new license.”
  • Select “ZA – General Mobile Radio Service” from the radio service drop-down list.
  • Then click on “Continue.” Enter your personal information.
  • Review your application on the Summary page and click on the “Continue to certify” button.
  • Type your name in the boxes to sign your application on the certification page, and click on the submit button.
  • The system will automatically calculate the fee. You have to submit the fee within 10 days.
  • Select your payment method by clicking on “Continue for payment options.” and make your payment.
  • After your application has been approved, you will get your license. You can download your license from the FCC ULS portal.

How Much Does An FCC License Cost?

FCC charges a very nominal price for issuing GMRS licenses. Therefore, FCC has revised the GMRS licensing fee to $35. The license fee was $70 before this revision.

Conclusion

If you want to use license-free walkie-talkies, you can opt for FRS or MURS. FRS and MURS walkie-talkies are license-free and generally low-cost. However, you may face specific issues while using these walkie-talkies. These issues are interference from nearby devices, no privacy, and short range. With that said, the FRS and MURS walkie-talkies are best for home use, hiking, camping, boating, etc.

Although there is no license requirement for using FRS, you should follow all the rules defined by FCC for FRS usage.

If you want longer-range communication, you should select GMRS. GMRS radios have high transmission power and wide bandwidth. In addition, an FCC license will allow you to operate your walkie-talkie on multiple exclusively assigned channels.

Using a GMRS walkie-talkie without an FCC license is not allowed in the US.

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About The Arthur
Picture of Kenny Zhang
I've been running a factory that manufactures two-way radios & their accessories. We want to share some knowledge and news about Walkie-Talkie from the sight of the supplier.

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