Frequently Asked Questions about
The Family Radio Service (FRS)

Last Major Updated: March 28, 2003
Minor Typographical Amendments: June 28, 2003

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On May 15, 1996, the FCC created the Family Radio Service (FRS) in the 462 and 467 MHz spectrum. The FCC rules that pertain to FRS station operation are available through this link.

FRS uses narrowband FM (NBFM) with maximum effective radiated power of 0.5 watt. FRS is intended for hand-held, short-range local communications. No license is needed. FRS radios are now available from dozens of manufacturers.

On February 10, 2003, the FCC released a Report and Order which changed the rules (effective April 2, 2003) to permit certain kinds of brief data transmissions from those FRS units specifically certified for that kind of operation.

The FCC also has an FRS page and a GMRS page. The FAQ offered here is not the same as the FCC's!

FRS Home Page | PRSG Home Page

The Family Radio Service
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The citations in brackets are from the FRS Rules, Part 95 of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart B. This FAQ was written by Bennett Kobb and Corwin Moore of the PRSG, and is not an official FCC publication. Send your questions and additions to PRSG.

1. What is the Family Radio Service (FRS?)
2. Where did FRS come from?
3. Is FRS "UHF CB"?
4. What are the FRS channels?
5. Do I need a license to operate an FRS unit?
6. Is my FRS radio an unlicensed Part 15 "intentional radiator"?
7. May I use my FRS radio for business communications?
8. May I use my FRS radio to communicate with a station in the General Mobile Radio Service?
9. Must I identify my FRS station or transmissions?
10. May I set my FRS radios up as a repeater station?
11. May I connect an external antenna or power amplifier to my FRS radio?
12. May I connect my FRS radio to the telephone?
13. May I broadcast music over my FRS radio?
14. May I use my FRS radio to transmit one-way paging messages?
15. May I use my FRS radio to transmit data communications?
16. May I operate my FRS radio anywhere?
17. May I transmit continuously over my FRS radio?
18. Do I need to listen to the FRS channel before I transmit?
19. Doesn't my radio monitor the channel before transmitting?
20. How much does a FRS radio cost?
21. When can I get FRS radios?

==========================

1. What is the Family Radio Service (FRS)?

FRS is a private, two-way, very short-distance voice communications service for facilitating family and group activities [95.401(b)].

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2. Where did FRS come from?

The FRS culminates more than 25 years of attempts by FCC and industry to establish a new unlicensed personal radio service: the Class E Citizens Band and then the Personal Emergency Locator Transmitter services (PELTS) at 220 MHz, the Personal Radio Communications Service (PRCS) at 900 MHz, and the Consumer Radio Service (CRS) at 460 MHz.

None of those services were ever approved by the FCC in the end.

Tandy Corporation's Radio Shack division proposed FRS to the FCC in 1994. After heavy opposition from current spectrum users and support by radio manufacturers, the FCC authorized FRS on May 15, 1996.

The idea of using interstitial GMRS spectrum for low-power, non-repeater communications predated Radio Shack's proposal by ten years, despite reports that it was the "brainchild" of Radio Shack executives.

Bennett Kobb proposed such usage in 1984 as a part of rules changes for GMRS proposed to the FCC by the Personal Radio Steering Group. The FCC later acted favorably on the proposal in 1986.

What Radio Shack can be fairly credited with is the idea of allocating the interstitial spectrum to a separate Personal Radio Service, and of making operation in the service license-free.

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3. Is FRS "UHF CB"?

Yes. FRS is the first and only "UHF CB" in the United States.

FRS is one of eight Citizens Band Radio Services. The others are the original Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS) at 27 MHz, the Low Power Radio Service (LPRS) at 216-217 MHz, the Medical Implants Communications Service (MICS), the Wireless Medical Telemetry Service (WMTS), the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) at 150 MHz, and the Personal Locator Beacon Service at 400 MHz.

The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) at 460 MHz is sometimes described as "the old UHF CB." That description has no legal or historical basis in fact. GMRS is the former Class A of the Citizens Radio Service, never Citizens Band.

There were several classes of Citizens Radio Service, only one of which (not GMRS) was eventually named CB.

The LPRS, although legally a form of CB, only allows certain limited uses including theft tracking, auditory and health care assistance devices and control stations in automated maritime radio networks. No two-way voice communications are permitted in LPRS.

The MICS and the WMTS, although also legally a form of CB, allow only certain kinds of non-voice medical telemetry communications.

The Multi-Use Radio Service (at 150 MHz) is a relatively recent (November 2000) VHF CB service. It permits maximum of 2 watts transmit output power and detachable antennas.

The FCC has recently implemented an additional CB service, "Personal Locator Beacons" (PLBs). These are alerting devices that persons can use in remote areas to summon assistance in emergencies.

FRS, CB, GMRS, LPRS, MICS, WMTS, MURS, and the RCRS (Remote Control Radio Service, for radio remote control) are members of the Personal Radio Services as designated by the FCC. The Personal Radio Services should not be confused with the Personal Communications Services (PCS) in the 900 and 1900 MHz bands.

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4. What are the FRS channels?

 Channel (MHz)

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

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5. Do I need a license to operate an FRS unit?

No license will be issued. You are already allowed to operate an FRS unit if you are not a representative of a foreign government, and if your authority to operate an FRS unit has not been withdrawn by the FCC, and if you comply with all FRS rules in Part 95, Subpart B-Family Radio Service (FRS).

The FCC does have the power to revoke your authority to use the FRS. It has used this power in a few instances in the CB service.

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6. Is my FRS radio an unlicensed Part 15 "intentional radiator" like a cordless phone?

No. It is a radio station in the Citizens Band Radio Service, "authorized by rule" under the Communications Act.

Unlike Part 15 intentional radiators, FRS users are subject to operator rules.

FRS manufacturers are subject to FRS technical standards found in Part 95.

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7. May I use my FRS radio for business communications?

Yes. "Small businesses...may be users of this service in their business activities." (FCC Report and Order, WT Docket No. 95-102, at 20(D).)

In September 2002, the Industrial Telecommunications Association (ITA) petitioned the FCC to prohibit routine daily business communications in FRS. PRSG supports the concept that businesses should instead use channels explicitly reserved for their business communications, but opposes the ITA petition because it is essentially unenforceable. Click here to view the PRSG Comments filed in response to the ITA petition.

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8. May I use my FRS radio to communicate with a station in the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)?

Yes. The FCC has issued a formal rule interpretation on the subject.

No one, however, may transmit using anything except an FCC-certified FRS radio on the 467 MHz FRS channels 8 through 14. Only FRS radios may operate on those channels, and a GMRS licensee may not lawfully use a GMRS-only radio to talk with an FRS user on those channels. However, there are some "combo FRS/GMRS" radios that do combine both FRS and GMRS operations into a single model.

You may not use an FRS-only radio to communicate through GMRS repeaters, nor on any of the GMRS primary channels, nor on any channels not already built into and certified for use by your FCC-certified FRS radio.

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9. Must I identify my FRS station or transmissions?

No. The FCC does not require you to identify your station or transmissions.

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10. May I set my FRS radios up as a repeater station?

The FRS Rules do not expressly bar FRS repeaters. The FCC has not authorized any type of repeater equipment for use in FRS.

To use an existing FRS radio as a repeater, you would have to set it up to retransmit signals without connecting anything to the FRS radio that was not FCC-certified as part of that radio. The FCC has not certified (and is unlikely to certify) any repeater controller or similar device for use with any FRS radio.

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11. May I connect an external antenna or power amplifier to my FRS radio?

No. You may not attach any antenna, power amplifier, or other apparatus to an FRS unit that has not been FCC certified as part of that FRS unit [95.194(c)].

An FRS antenna must be an "integral part of the transmitter" and have no gain as compared to a half-wave dipole [95.645].

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12. May I connect my FRS radio to the telephone?

No. An FRS unit may not be interconnected to the public switched [telephone] network [95.193(c)].

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13. May I broadcast music over my FRS radio?

No. You may only use FRS to conduct two-way voice communications with another person [95.193(a)]. Only these types of one-way communications are permitted [95.193(a)]:

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14. May I use my FRS radio to transmit one-way paging messages?

Yes, but only voice paging messages [95.193(a)]. You may not transmit "tone-only" pages (a tone-only page consists of tones communicated in order to find, summon or notify someone).

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15. May I use my FRS radio to transmit data communications?

Effective April 2, 2003, the FCC changed the FRS rules to permit data transmissions pertaining to location information of the FRS station. The new rules also permit the transmission of brief text messages. The maximum transmission time must not exceed 1 second, and the minimum time before the next data transmission must be not less than 30 seconds.

Only those FRS radios that the FCC has specifically certified for such data operation may actually transmit data. FRS rules continue to prohibit the attachment of any device to an FRS radio for which use that radio has not been certified by the FCC.

The FCC has also permitted an automatic ranging transponder system (ARTS), which periodically polls FRS units to determine if they are within range. Currently only certain Yaesu FRS radios have this feature.

Hooking up a packet radio controller (TNC) to an FRS radio continues to be prohibited even under the new rules.

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16. May I operate my FRS radio anywhere?

You may operate your FRS radio in the United States and certain locations specified by the FCC [95.192].

If you want to use FRS aboard a vessel or aircraft owned or operated by a U.S. citizen or company, you will need permission from the captain (see 95.192(a)(1)).

(However, the captain may not have authority to give you permission, for example, if FAA regulations forbid it. It would be foolish to operate an FRS radio from an airliner given the well-publicized susceptibility of avionics to onboard radio emissions. Airlines forbid operation of radio devices by passengers except for air-ground phones installed in the aircraft.)

Even receive-only FRS operation could have effects due to circuit radiation. Keep the unit turned off while aboard the plane or your next radio contact could be St. Peter.

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17. May I transmit continuously over my FRS radio?

You may transmit only as long as you are conducting two-way voice communications with another person, or transmitting one of the types of lawful one-way communications listed in question 13.

Transmitting one-way FRS signals for the purpose of "monitoring" anyone or anything is not allowed.

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18. Must I listen to the FRS channel before I transmit?

You must share the channel with other users [95.191(b)].

There is no meaningful way to share the channel with others unless you listen before transmitting and wait until the channel is available before you transmit.

To listen to the channel, you must disable any tone squelch or other feature that can keep you from hearing other users.

Also, you must at all times and on all FRS channels, give priority to emergency messages [95.193(d)]. You would not be able to do this if you didn't listen for emergency messages.

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19. Doesn't my radio monitor the channel before transmitting?

The FCC does not require that radios do this by themselves. No currently available FRS unit includes this feature.

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20. How much does a FRS radio cost?

The typical price is $10-80. Combination FRS/GMRS radios cost a little more.

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21. When can I get FRS radios?

The radios are available from most major mail order radio dealers and retailers, and from many local general retail outlets.

If you have other questions or comments about this list of Frequently Asked Questions, please leave us an Email message.

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