The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a licensed radio service that uses channels around 462 MHz and 467 MHz. The most common use of GMRS channels is for short-distance, two-way communications using hand-held radios similar to walkie-talkies.
Services that provide functionality similar to GMRS include the Citizens Band (CB) Radio Service, the Family Radio Service (FRS) and the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS).
The GMRS is available to an individual (one man or one woman) for short-distance two-way communications to facilitate the activities of licensees and their immediate family members. Each licensee manages a system consisting of one or more transmitting units (stations.) The rules for GMRS limit eligibility for new GMRS system licenses to individuals in order to make the service available to personal users. (Some previously licensed non-individual systems are allowed to continue using GMRS.)
In 2010, the FCC proposed to remove the individual licensing requirement for GMRS and instead license GMRS “by rule” (meaning that an individual license would not be required to operate a GMRS radio). This proposal is still pending.
An FCC license is required to operate GMRS system. Licenses are issued for a five-year term and can be renewed between 90 days prior to the expiration date and up to the actual expiration date of the license. After a license expires, an individual must request a new GMRS license.
A GMRS system licensed to a non-individual prior to July 31, 1987 is also eligible for renewal, but the licensee may not make any major modification to the system.
You may apply for a GMRS license if you are 18 years or older and not a representative of a foreign government. If you receive a license, any family member, regardless of age, can operate GMRS stations and units within the licensed system.
The FCC service rules for the GMRS are located in 47 C.F.R. Part 95 Subpart A. You can find information about GMRS licensing in the rules.
There are 23 GMRS channels and each channel is 25 kHz.
Operating a GMRS System
A GMRS system consists of station operators, a mobile station (often comprised of several mobile units) and sometimes one or more land stations. A small base station is one that has an antenna no more than 20 feet above the ground or above the tree on which it is mounted and transmits with no more than 5 watts ERP. The use of some channels is restricted to certain types of stations.
None of the GMRS channels are assigned for the exclusive use of any system. You must cooperate in the selection and use of the channels in order to make the most effective use of them and to reduce the possibility of interference.
You can expect a communications range of five to twenty-five miles. You cannot directly interconnect a GMRS station with the telephone network.
Normally, you and your family members would communicate between yourselves directly or through a repeater station. The stations must be within the territorial limits of the fifty United States, the District of Columbia, and the Caribbean and Pacific Insular areas.
In transient use, a mobile station from one GMRS system may communicate through a mobile relay station (repeater) in another GMRS system with the permission of its licensee. The communications may also be with mobile stations from other GMRS systems also with permission from the licensee to communicate through the mobile relay station.
GMRS channels Along the Canadian Border
GMRS applicants must certify that they will comply with the requirement that use of frequencies 462.650, 467.6500, 462.7000and 467.7000 MHz is not permitted near the Canadian border North of Line A and East of Line C. These frequencies are used throughout Canada and harmful interference is anticipated.
GMRS and FRS Dual Service Radios
Some manufacturers have received approval to market radios that are certified for use in both GMRS and FRS. Other manufacturers have received approval of their radios under the GMRS rules, but market them as FRS/GMRS radios on the basis that:
- Some channels are authorized to both services, or
- A user of the device may communicate with stations in the other service.
Radios marketed as "FRS/GMRS" or "dual-service radios" are available from many manufacturers and many retail or discount stores. The manual that comes with the radio, or the label placed on it by the manufacturer, should indicate the service the radio is certified for. If you cannot determine what service the radio may be used in, contact the manufacturer. If you operate a radio under the GMRS rules, you must have a GMRS license. GMRS radios generally transmit at higher power levels (1 to 5 watts is typical) than FRS radios and may have detachable antennas.
If you operate a radio that has been approved for both FRS and GMRS, and if you limit your operations to the FRS channels with a maximum power of ½ watt effective radiated power and an integral antenna, you are not required to have a license. (Note that some dual-service radios transmit with higher power on FRS channels 1 through 7; these radios can be used without a license only on FRS channels 8 through 14.)