Family Radio Service (FRS)

FRS Definition: Family Radio Service. 

Summary: Does not require a license.  Limited equipment, limited in power, limited in “distance” you can talk.

First of all, you can purchase radios on this “band” of frequencies for not very much cash. Check with Walmart, Best Buy, Radio Shack and probably a whole lot of other places. Sporting goods stores carry such radios.
(Note:  A “band” is a group of frequencies, like UHF, VHF, etc. FRS is UHF)

They are usually small, hand-held radios operating from AA batteries (or even AAA) or proprietary batteries, the units have a built in antennas, microphone and speaker, and multiple channels. May or may not have a “privacy setting”.  Note that this is NOT encryption and does NOT prevent others from hearing what you’re saying!

The use of these do not require a license, but they are limited in power and distance. They are good for about a quarter mile or so, perhaps a bit more on open terrain. They are good for kids to play with, or for you to keep in contact with the kids while they run around the neighborhood, or go to the nearby park or whatever.

FRS consists of 14 UHF channels on FM. FRS Channel 1 is unofficially used as a common call channel.

FRS  shares channels 1 through 7 with GMRS, and many FRS radios are also GMRS radios.

The maximum allowable power for a FRS (Family Radio Service) radio is .5 watts. GMRS radios are allowed to transmit on the channels they share with FRS at 5 watts, ten times the power of FRS radios. There are 14 channels, however, most FRS radios have CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System) which means your FRS radio’s squelch will remain silent until it receives the correct digital code (38 different codes per channel).  Some manufactures offer the ability to scan all 14 channels allowing you to easily listen in on others’ conversations.

Unlike GMRS, repeaters are not allowed on FRS (Family Radio Service).

(Note: A repeater takes a radio signal and re-transmits it at a higher power level for further distances.  We don’t have the space to cover repeaters in detail here.)

FRS Frequencies

The frequencies utilized by FRS (Family Radio Service) are:

Channel Frequency
1 462.5625 Mhz
2 462.5875 MHz
3 462.6125 MHz
4 462.6375 MHz
5 462.6625 MHz
6 462.6875 MHz
7 462.7125 MHz
8 467.5625 MHz
9 467.5875 MHz
10 467.6125 MHz
11 467.6375 MHz
12 467.6625 MHz
13 467.6875 MHz
14 467.7125 MHz

You may legally operate your FRS unit within the territorial limits of the fifty United States, the District of Columbia, and the Caribbean and Pacific Insular areas (“U.S.”). You may also operate your FRS unit on or over any other area of the world, except within the territorial limits of areas where radio- communications are regulated by another agency of the U.S. or within the territorial limits of any foreign government. (Note: You may illegally operate where ever the hell you like, but be prepared for bad things to happen!)

The above is from the FCC web site. LEGALLY you can operate these radios where they say you can. Basically you can operate these anywhere in the US.

Pros:

Cheap
Easy to use
handheld
low power consumption
requiring small batteries
can use external mic and earphone on most
no license required – thus no fee
units from various manufacturers work together
can be purchased from many places
Lots of people have them, so lots of people to talk to

Cons:
Cheap (as in buy a bit more expensive one for durability)
limited frequencies (14)
Ultrahigh Freqency (UHF) limiting them to Line of Sight (LOS)
Low power (about 1/2 watt) limiting distance to about 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile in clear terrain (clear terrain is no trees, woods, buildings, cities, etc)
CTCSS is not an “encryption code” – It ONLY prevents you from hearing others unless they use the same code you are using

Basically, if you just want a couple of radios to play around with and get the hang of using a walkie-talkie, and communicating with family members or friends, these would be a good thing to have. They have served me well in a couple of woods excursions which nearly turned into survival situations. They are better than nothing at all.

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