52 April 2017
greatly attenuated. Buildings and trees usually obstruct,
scatter, or reflect signals. In a straight LOS path with
minimal obstructions, the range for a five watt handheld
transceiver is up to 10 miles or so. With obstacles at
ground level, the range is only a mile or thereabouts. It
depends so much on the environment.
The best thing you can do for maximum range is go
to a higher point with a handheld or put up an antenna as
high as allowed.
One solution available to GMRS licensees is a repeater.
A repeater is a radio system that receives signals on one
frequency and retransmits them on another frequency at
a higher power level. Repeaters are usually located at high
elevation points to reach out as far as possible.
With a 50 watt repeater, the
range of a handheld now becomes
more like 10 to 15 miles. Again, it
is highly dependent on the territory.
Some repeaters already exist in
many locales that you may be able
to use. Go to www.mygmrs.com
to check what is available. Or, you
can set up your own repeater if you
have the need or inclination.
Getting an FCC GMRS license
is easier than you think. No exam is
required, but you must be 18 years
of age or older and not be a foreign
country representative. You can do
it online at www.fcc.gov. Go to the
Licensing & Database tab and then
select GMRS. Follow the directions
The first step is to get an FCC
Registration Number (FRN). Once
you get that, you can apply for the
license with Form 605. The fee is
$70 and you submit it along with
payment Form 159. Credit cards
I know that is an over
simplification, but you need to go
through the process yourself. The
term of the license is five years and
it is renewable. The license permits
you and your family members to
use the radios.
The Family Radio
Service as an Option
If you don’t want to fuss with
a license, you can still do something similar with Family
Radio Service (FRS). FRS is a more limited form of GMRS.
It uses fewer channels (see Table 1 for the details). FRS is
a personal communication capability and is license-free.
Like CB, just buy the radios and talk. It uses FM with a
more restricted deviation of ± 2. 5 kHz. Power is limited to
0.5 watts and to handhelds only. No separate detached
antennas, base stations, or repeaters.
Range is more limited but still useful if you are in
a clear area. You should be able to get up to a mile
or so under good conditions. On a recent walk in our
neighborhood, my wife and I were easily able to talk clearly
at just over a mile.
I have been using FRS for several years. The family has
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Channel No. Frequency (MHz) Service Power GMRS/FRS (watts)
1 462.5625 GMRS/FRS 5/0.5
2 462.5875 GMRS/FRS 5/0.5
3 462.6125 GMRS/FRS 5/0.5
4 462.6375 GMRS/FRS 5/0.5
5 462.6625 GMRS/FRS 5/0.5
6 462.6875 GMRS/FRS 5/0.5
7 462.7125 GMRS/FRS 5/0.5
8 467.5625 FRS only 0.5
9 467.5875 FRS only 0.5
10 467.6125 FRS only 0.5
11 467.6375 FRS only 0.5
12 467.6625 FRS only 0.5
13 467.6875 FRS only 0.5
14 467.7125 FRS only 0.5
15 462.5500 GMRS only 50
16 462.5750 GMRS only 50
17 462.6000 GMRS only 50
18 462.6250 GMRS only 50
19 462.6500 GMRS only 50
20 462.6750 GMRS only 50
21 462.7000 GMRS only 50
22 462.7250 GMRS only 50
TABLE 1. GMRS and FRS frequencies and power levels. Some additional
frequencies are reserved for repeater operations. Some manufacturers use
different channel numbers.