Two-way radios, or walkie-talkies, are popular communication devices in various industries, including public safety, military, hospitality, construction, and more.
These devices are designed to provide quick and reliable communication between two or more people without needing a cellular network or Wi-Fi connection.
Two-way radios use radio waves to transmit and receive signals, and understanding the different types of frequencies is essential for selecting the suitable device for your specific needs.
In the United States, several frequencies are allocated for two-way radio use.
Each type of frequency has its range, power output, licensing and regulation requirements, and usage guidelines.
It’s essential to understand the different types of frequencies and the regulations that apply to their use to ensure you select the suitable device and use it responsibly.
This guide will provide a complete overview of the different types of two-way radio frequencies in the United States. We’ll also discuss the regulations that apply to each type of frequency and provide tips for selecting the right frequency for your specific needs.
So, please stick with us!
Types of Frequencies
Family Radio Service (FRS) Frequencies
Family Radio Service (FRS) frequencies are among the most popular two-way radio frequencies in the United States. FRS frequencies are short-range, low-power frequencies designed for personal and recreational use. These frequencies are often used for camping, hiking, other outdoor activities, and family communication in crowded shopping malls or amusement parks.
FRS frequencies are assigned 22 channels, ranging from 462.5625 MHz to 467.7125 MHz in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band.
15 Channels (channels 1 to 7, and 15 to 22) FRS radios are typically limited to 2 watts of output power, which means they have a range of about 1-2 miles in ideal conditions. However, the range can be affected by terrain, buildings, and other factors. Whereas channels 8 to 14 are limited to 0.5 watts of output.
One of the most significant advantages of FRS frequencies is that no license is required to use them. FRS radios are available in handheld and fixed-mount models and are often inexpensive and easy to use. FRS radios can also be used with other types requiring a license, such as GMRS radios.
While FRS radios are relatively simple and easy to use, some regulations still apply to their use. Therefore, it’s essential to be familiar with the rules and regulations that apply to FRS frequencies to ensure that you are using your radio legally and responsibly.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) Frequencies
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) frequencies are another popular two-way radio frequency used in the United States. GMRS frequencies are designed for personal and business use and offer higher power and a longer range than FRS frequencies.
GMRS frequencies are assigned 30 channels, ranging from 462.550 MHz to 467.725 MHz. GMRS radios are allowed to operate at higher power levels than FRS radios, with a maximum output power of 50 watts for mobile and base stations and 5 watts for handheld radios. This higher power output allows GMRS radios to range up to several miles in ideal conditions.
To use GMRS frequencies, an FCC license is required. This license is easy to obtain and covers the entire family or group using the radios. The license is valid for ten years and allows the licensee to use any type of GMRS radio, including handheld, mobile, and base station radios.
GMRS radios are often used in various applications, including hunting, camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities, as well as for business communication between security personnel or construction workers. They are also often used with FRS radios, which do not require a license, allowing for accessible communication between family or group members.
It’s important to note that while GMRS frequencies are often used for personal and recreational purposes, they are subject to stricter regulations than FRS frequencies. For example, GMRS radios must be certified by the FCC, and their use is subject to specific technical requirements and restrictions on power output and antenna length. It’s essential to be familiar with the rules and regulations that apply to GMRS frequencies to ensure that you are using your radio legally and responsibly.
Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) Frequencies
Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) frequencies are another type of two-way radio frequency capable of transmitting voice or data in the United States. MURS frequencies are designed for personal and business use and offer a range of up to several miles in ideal conditions.
MURS frequencies are assigned 5 channels, ranging from 151.820 MHz to 154.600 MHz, in the Very High Frequency (VHF) band. MURS radios are allowed to operate at a maximum output power of 2 watts, similar to FRS radios’ output power. However, MURS radios have a longer range than FRS radios due to their lower frequency range. They are often used for outdoor activities such as hunting, camping, and business communication.
One of the critical advantages of MURS frequencies is that no license is required to use them. MURS radios are available in handheld and fixed-mount models and are often easy to use and affordable. However, there are still some regulations that apply to their use.
Citizens Band (CB) Radio Frequencies
Citizens Band (CB) radio frequencies are a type of two-way radio frequency available for personal use in the United States. CB radio frequencies are designed for short-range communication, with a typical range of up to 20 miles (32 km) depending on terrain and conditions.
CB radio frequencies are assigned 40 channels, ranging from 26.965 MHz to 27.405 MHz.
Each channel has a specific frequency and is designated for a particular type of communication, such as emergency use, general chat, or trucking-specific communications.
CB radios are allowed to operate at a maximum output power of 4 watts. This power output is higher than FRS and MURS radios, enabling them to transmit over longer distances. However, terrain and other factors can still affect their effective range.
Due to the lower frequency range, the CB radios can penetrate obstacles such as buildings and trees more effectively, increasing their effective range.
One of the critical advantages of CB radio frequencies is that no license is required to use them. CB radios are available in handheld and mobile models and are often used by truckers, off-road enthusiasts, and other groups requiring short-range communication. The CB radios can also use for emergency communication or as a backup communication system in case other forms of communication fail.
Like other types of radio frequencies, there are FCC regulations on CB radios that apply to their use.
Amateur Radio (HAM) Frequencies
Amateur Radio (HAM) frequencies are two-way radio frequencies reserved for licensed amateur radio operators in the United States.
HAM radio, established by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is allocated by the FCC in the USA and is designed for long-range communication.
There are several different bands available for use by amateur radio operators, including the high frequency (HF), very high frequency (VHF), and ultra-high frequency (UHF) bands. Each band has unique characteristics and is used for different types of communication.
One of the key advantages of using amateur radio frequencies is that they offer more excellent range and flexibility compared to other types of two-way radios. In addition, with repeaters and other equipment, amateur radio operators can communicate over long distances, sometimes even across the globe.
However, operators must first obtain a license from the FCC to use amateur radio frequencies. Several levels of licensing are available, each with its requirements and privileges.
In addition to the technical and licensing requirements for using amateur radio frequencies, some specific rules and regulations must be abided by. For example, amateur radio operators cannot use their radios for commercial purposes and must adhere to particular frequency usage guidelines.
Despite these restrictions, amateur radio frequencies remain popular for hobbyists and emergency responders who require reliable, long-range communication. Besides, HAM radio frequencies are also used for private recreation, wireless experimentation, radiosport, non-commercial messaging, self-training, and contesting.
Land Mobile Radio (LMR) Frequencies
Land Mobile Radio (LMR) frequencies are a type of two-way radio frequency used by various organizations, including law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and public works departments.
It consists of an audio transmitter and receiver in one unit, which can be handheld walkie-talkies, mobile vehicles, or stationary base station units.
The FCC typically assigned these frequencies and are designed for reliable, secure communication over short to medium ranges (around 3 to 20 miles (4.8 to 32 km)).
Several types of LMR frequencies are available, including 800 MHz, UHF, and VHF frequencies. Each frequency has its unique characteristics and is used for different types of communication, depending on the organization’s specific needs.
LMR frequencies can be either analog or digital. Analog LMR systems use amplitude modulation (AM) or frequency modulation (FM) to transmit voice and data. Digital LMR systems use digital signal processing to encode voice and data into digital packets, which are then transmitted and decoded by a receiver. Digital LMR systems offer several advantages over analog systems, including better voice quality, increased capacity, and enhanced security.
One of the key advantages of using LMR frequencies is that they offer greater security and privacy compared to other types of two-way radios. Many LMR radios use encryption technology to ensure unauthorized users do not intercept or monitor communications.
In addition to their security features, LMR radios are also designed to be rugged and durable, making them well-suited for use in demanding environments such as construction sites or disaster zones.
However, organizations must obtain an FCC license and comply with specific regulations and technical standards to use LMR frequencies. This includes ensuring radios meet specific technical requirements, such as output power, modulation, and bandwidth.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the regulatory body responsible for managing and enforcing regulations related to two-way radio communication in the United States.
Here are some of the key FCC regulations that apply to different types of frequencies:
Licensing Requirements for GMRS and HAM Frequencies:
- General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) frequencies require a license from the FCC.
- Amateur Radio (HAM) frequencies also require a license from the FCC.
Power Limits for Different Frequencies:
- Family Radio Service (FRS) and Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) radios are limited to a maximum power output of 2 watts.
- Citizens Band (CB) radios are limited to a maximum power output of 4 watts when using FM or AM voice signals and 12 watts when transmitting single-side-band (SSB) voice signals.
- General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios can operate at a maximum power output of 50 watts with a valid FCC license.
- Depending on their license class, Amateur Radio (HAM) operators can operate with higher power output levels.
Prohibited Activities On Specific Frequencies:
- Using FRS, MURS, and CB frequencies is prohibited commercially.
- It is illegal to use any radio frequency to interfere with the communications of other radio users, including emergency services such as police, fire, and ambulance.
- The use of HAM frequencies for any commercial activity is strictly prohibited.
- The use of GMRS frequencies for any illegal activity is strictly prohibited.
How To Choose The Right Frequency
Choosing the right frequency is crucial when using two-way radios or walkie-talkies. Here are some factors to ponder when selecting a frequency:
- Purpose: The first factor to consider is the purpose of the radios. FRS or MURS frequencies might be the best option if you use them for personal use. However, if you need them for commercial or business use, consider GMRS or LMR frequencies.
- Range: The range required for communication is also an essential factor. FRS frequencies might be sufficient for short-range communication. GMRS, MURS, or HAM frequencies might be more appropriate for longer-range communication.
- Environment: The environment in which you will use the radios is also essential. UHF frequencies are ideal to use in the urban area, while VHF frequencies are better for outdoor use.
Here are some examples of appropriate frequencies for different activities:
- Camping or hiking: FRS frequencies are ideal for short-range communication while camping or hiking.
- Hunting: GMRS and MURS frequencies are suitable for hunting, as they offer longer-range communication.
- Business or commercial use: LMR frequencies are the best option for business or commercial use, as they offer more channels and higher power output.
Note: Interference issues can be problematic when using two-way radios or walkie-talkies. Choose a frequency not already in use in your area to avoid interference. You can also use privacy codes to reduce the chances of interference.
Two-way radios or walkie-talkies are essential for communication in various settings, whether for outdoor activities, work, or emergencies.
With the different types of frequencies available, choosing the right one for your specific needs is vital, taking into account factors such as range, power output, licensing requirements, and interference issues.
At Herda Radio, we offer a wide range of high-quality two-way radios and walkie-talkies designed to meet your communication needs.
Our radios use the latest technology to ensure clear, reliable communication, even in challenging environments. Plus, with our knowledgeable team of experts, we can help you choose the right radio and frequency for your specific needs.