What is GMRS?

GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service.

General meaning that the service is not for specialized use like amateur radio or private 2-way radio.

Mobile meaning that it was meant for use with mobile radios, which includes the use of repeaters for covering a wide area.

Radio service is self-explanatory.

How is GMRS different from CB?

The main differences are that GMRS allows for the use of repeaters and requires a license to operate. CB radio is not designed to be used with repeaters. CB also does not require a license to operate. Another difference is that CB allows you to use your own call sign or handle, whereas GMRS requires an FCC designated call sign when operating the radio.

One advantage that CB offers is the use of SSB (single side band), which allows for extremely long-distance communications. GMRS, on the other hand, cannot reach beyond line of sight.

How is GMRS different from amateur radio?

Both GMRS and amateur radio are able to use repeaters and require operator call signs. They both are able to use simplex and half-duplex communications.

The main distinctions between GMRS and amateur radio are that GMRS does not require any testing. The equipment is standardized and is limited to a distinct set of frequencies for use. Amateur radio, on the other hand, requires examinations, allows for equipment alterations and experimentation, and also allows for a large range of frequencies in different bands.

In terms of licensing, GMRS is issued to an individual who can share the license with family members. Amateur radio requires each radio operator to have their own call sign.

How do I get a GMRS license?

The license costs $70 and can be acquired at the FCC website: https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/systems-utilities/universal-licensing-system

Getting your license is simple but not obvious. First, you need to use the New User Registration to get your FRN.

Once you have your FRN set up, you can File Online with the ULS (Universal Licensing System) for your GMRS license.

There is no exam. There is only the fee.

You will receive your GMRS license withing 2 business days. Once you are licensed, you will receive a call sign that starts with W. Your call sign will be four letters and three numbers, for example WXXX123.

What is the difference between FRS and GMRS?

There is not much difference between FRS and GMRS. FRS is Family Radio Service. GMRS is General Mobile Radio Service. It is important to note that the differences that do exist are important.

Despite the name FRS is available for personal and businesses to use without a license. FRS uses some of the same frequencies that GMRS uses. The shared channels are 1 through 7 and 15 through 22. FRS uses all channels from 1 through 22. The channels that are exclusive to FRS are 8 through 14.

The differences on the shared FRS/GMRS channels are technical and built-in to newer radios. One difference is bandwidth, with FRS having narrower bandwidth than GMRS. Another difference is the maximum power for each channel. FRS allows up to 2 Watts on the shared channels and half a Watt on channels 8 to 14. FRS radios are also not capable of using repeaters.

FRS and GMRS radios are able to communicate with each other using simplex channels 1-7 and 15-22.

Radios are no longer manufactured with combination FRS/GMRS. They caused a great deal of confusion regarding licensing. New radios are either FRS, which is license-free; or, they are GMRS, which requires a license.

Here is a link for more details about FRS and GMRS


What are the rules on call sign use?

When you are operating your radio, you must identify yourself using your call sign. You should also repeat your call sign every 15 minutes while you're in conversation.

If you want others to know that you are listening and open to conversation, you can announce your presence: WXXX123 monitoring OR WXXX123 listening. Anybody also listening can then make contact with you.

If you are talking to a family member, you are both covered under the same call sign. In this case, to avoid confusion, you would also use a unit identifier that your family agrees upon. Here are some examples;

  • WXXX123 Unit 3 this is Unit 5, do you copy? (reply: Unit 5 this is Unit 3, I hear you)

  • WXXX123 sierra mike this is romeo lima, do you copy? (you can use your initials to distinguish between family members)

  • WXXX123 baby bear this papa bear, do you copy? (baby bear here, how's it going papa bear?)

You may hear radio traffic from FRS radios. FRS does not require call signs. If you happen to have a conversation with an FRS user, you are still required to use a call sign unless you are operating under 2 Watts.

What is a Travel Tone?

Sometime somewhere somebody decided that 141.3 Hz would be the recognized CTCSS/PL tone that travelers could use to access repeaters. Some repeaters have a private set of tones for club members and travel tone enabled for visitors. Your best bet is to visit mygmrs.com to find out how to access local repeaters when you are traveling.

Does GMRS have an emergency channel?

There was an attempt to make channel 20 with 141.3 MHz (CTCSS 22), the travel tone, the national emergency channel for GMRS. Very few people are aware of this, which makes it not too useful. The advantage of using channel 20 is that it is a channel that can be shared with repeaters. Thus, somebody calling for help can do it through the repeater or through simplex. Both can be heard. Another advantage is that repeater channels also allow for higher power simplex transmissions than channels 1-7.

Channel 1 on FRS and GMRS is generally used as an emergency channel, especially on the road. Channel 1 is the default channel that most bubble pack radios have, which makes it the most likely to be used to call for help by inexperienced radio operators. The disadvantage of channel 1 is that it will, at maximum, transmit at 5 Watts in simplex. This limits the range to about 2 miles.