Two-way radios, also called walkie talkies, come in two basic types: those for consumer use and those for business use. Business walkie talkies include those used by the police department and the military, while the ones made for consumers are used by individuals and family members.
Most walkie talkies use either UHF (ultra-high frequency) or VHF (very-high frequency) capability. The former is better for urban or indoor settings because the signal is more penetrative, while the latter is better suited for wide open spaces because they cover much longer distances than the UHF units do.
FRS and GMRS Walkie Talkies
If you’re curious about whether you need a license to operate a walkie talkie, the answer is, it depends. In addition to both UHF and VHF walkie talkies, there are units that use lower frequencies; namely, the GMRS and FRS walkie talkies. You can read more about what frequency walkie talkies use here.
Simply put, the Family Radio Service (FRS) models of walkie talkies do not require a license from the FCC. The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) models do. But if you’re worried about this, don’t be. In fact, the special licensing required from the FCC will only cost you around $70 and will be good for 10 years.
In 2017, the FCC made some modifications to its guidelines to accommodate some updated technology. For instance, they now allow for individuals who have a GMRS license to transmit limited data applications, which includes GPS and text messaging.
The license for GMRS walkie talkies is issued to one individual, but that individual is allowed to use the walkie talkie with anyone in the family. GMRS radios are stronger and more powerful, and they are best for people who use walkie talkies frequently in areas with more available signals.
How Do You Get a GMRS License?
Getting a GMRS license is simple. If you buy your walkie talkie from a reputable dealer, they will know the law and can help you decipher it. After all, the last thing you want is to get in trouble with the FCC for not having a license when you are legally required to have one.
To get the license, you have to be 18 years old and agree to use the GMRS device only as it is intended. In other words, only you and your immediate family will be able to use it, and you have to agree to use only the frequencies that are specifically designated for these types of radios.
Before 2017, FRS and GMRS radios were essentially one and the same, but no more. Now, the former can be utilized without a license but the latter can’t. If you had an older license that has since expired, you’ll have to reapply for a new one.
Think of both FRS and GMRS walkie talkies as being an option for individuals, with the difference being that GMRS walkie talkies are more powerful and can be used for people who need a stronger radio and who talk on it regularly.
If you’ve ever wondered about a license for a walkie talkie, just know that while many business radios need licenses to operate, only GMRS radios used by individuals require the same. If you have any questions or concerns, the answers are easy to find if you start online.