My radio dealer said the
channels my business is using are perfectly legal for us to use.
Your radio shop is wrong. Call the FCC
800 number and discuss it with them. The FCC wants to help companies do the
My radio dealer said the channels my
business is using are called "Color Dot" business channels. Now
you're telling me the channels are not for business use?
Prior to 1987, fourteen years before
this FAQ was written, some manufacturers gave color codes or labels to
frequently licensed business channels. Before 1987, 462.625 and 462.675 were
listed in this color dot scheme. The color coding made it easier for a business
to buy compatible radios. The color dot scheme has not applied to these GMRS
channels since 1987 but some manufacturers and radio shops still believe it
does. So no, the color dot scheme does not apply in this case and even before
1987 an FCC license was required.
What types of radios are popular
with bubble pack pirates?
While any brand of radio can be
operated without a license, the growing problem of unlicensed use across the
United States involves newer radio models manufactured for mass retail since
mid-2000. The radios typically range in price from $41 on sale to just around
$149. These radios are often similar in appearance to FRS radios and have been
erroneously advertised as GMRS & FRS hybrid radios. The inexpensive simplex
only radios generally have the same features as FRS radios including the
annoying call alert function, normally not found in GMRS radios. You probably
bought one of these radios thinking you were getting a more powerful FRS radio
when in fact you were trading up to an entirely different radio service that
only SHARES seven of the fourteen FRS channels. What you gained was maybe a
half watt to one and a half watts of output power and the ability to transmit
on the eight standard GMRS frequencies typically used for radio
As a business pirate, a radio shop may
have leased or sold you some very durable radios programmed on GMRS channels.
This is more common than you might think.
I bought this radio to talk to my
friends on their FRS radios but I don't have all the channels they have! I
thought this was a better radio! Why does this radio not have all the FRS
GMRS licensees may not, by FCC rule,
operate their radios on FRS channels eight through fourteen. Your new radio
only shares FRS channels 1-7 with GMRS. Your new GMRS radio also requires an
FCC GMRS license and the use of the FCC call sign EVEN when using the radio
with your friends on FRS radios.
Are there different kinds of
At GMRS Web we see two predominant
types of Bubble Pack Pirates. Those are business or commercial pirates and
personal or family pirates. Both pirate groups purchase GMRS capable radios and
use them without a license. In many cases, both pirate groups get their
bubble-pack pirate radios from the same retail stores. The attraction for these
radios is the low cost and purported higher power output that could transmit
signals at a greater distance than a typical FRS radio. (We have found in one
case that the radio is in fact not capable of transmitting at the rated two
The packaging or advertising for these
radios leaves the impression for both groups that unlicensed use is OK and/or
that commercial use is OK. The statements on the package are very misleading.
GMRS licensees have been very concerned about GMRS piracy for three years now.
Just as that problem was beginning to show some promise of easing up, along
came the inexpensive cookie cutter GMRS radios sold at mass retail. GMRS
licensees are beginning to hear what amounts to obnoxious FRS and CB like radio
behaviors that have the potential for changing the GMRS for the worse.
Were you mislead by the vague and
misleading statements made on the product box or in advertisements? We urge you
to let us know at the magazine and we also urge you to write the President of
the company that markets the radios. Let him or her know you are not
Tell me more about the business
Unfortunately, business pirates are
often put on the air by unscrupulous radio shops. Radio shops across the U.S.
have already been caught programming customer radios on the first seven shared
channels with GMRS and FRS. Some have even programmed radios on the band edge
channels 12.5 KHz from the top and bottom channels at 462 and 467 MHz.
Radio shops regularly provide GMRS
radios as rental radios, in violation of the law. Unsuspecting pirates use
these rental radios at public events or company related activities. The real
estate convention in California rented a portable GMRS repeater for a week. The
local radio station rented radios for a public event and the rental company
sent commercial two-way hand held radios programmed on GMRS channels. A golf
course was given five watt commercial radios programmed on FRS channels,
several schools were given complete GMRS systems, the movie theatre
projectionists, the tree farm, the elementary school, and even a small
telephone company were equipped with GMRS radios they were not even eligible to
license. The mischief goes on and on.
Business pirates put GMRS at risk. GMRS
licensees are aware of that so they now report any pirate activity they here to
their local FCC Enforcement Bureau office.
Doh! Am I in trouble?
Probably not, but if you persist
operating a GMRS radio without the FCC license you could be. Look, the chances
of you actually attracting the attention of the FCC are minimal at best. Most
pirates will want to either take their radios back to the store and exchange
them for FRS radios or pay the license fee and enjoy the use of their GMRS
radios. Do the right thing. Get licensed! If you are a business and cannot
license in GMRS take your radios back and demand the retailer make good on the
When the GMRS licensee contacted me
on the radio did he call the FCC to turn me in?
It is very possible. The bubble-pack
piracy problem is handled differently in various areas. What most GMRS
licensees try to do is politely explain that a license is required to operate
on GMRS channels. The licensee knows you are not licensed by your operating
habits, a query to the FCC license database, and your failure to identify with
an FCC assigned call sign. A licensee is not required to warn you before
calling the FCC. From experience, business pirates are not generally
cooperative so they are usually reported to the FCC. Personal licensees
generally do the right thing and send away for the license and use their call
Both types of pirates give themselves
up very easily and usually without their knowledge. If the same pirate persists
in interfering with GMRS licensees after being asked to license properly, or
move from GMRS to business channels and avoid interference, that pirate is
often located by radio direction finding methods. The pirate's address is sent
to the FCC for enforcement action.
No one contacted me yet and I have
one of these radios. Should I wait to see if anyone cares?
Do the right thing. Don't wait.
License. If you can't license return the radios to your vendor.
If I decide to ignore the licensing
requirements how easy is it for the FCC, or anyone else, to find a person using
a GMRS radio?
Using today's Doppler radio direction
finding technology it is quite easy to find someone using a GMRS radio. You
won't even know you have been found. Many GMRS groups have at least one person
with a Doppler device they can call on to help locate unlicensed GMRS operators
that are interfering with GMRS systems. In Northern California over 100 pirates
have been reported and well over three fourths of those were located and
reported to the FCC.
What kind of behavior gives me away
as a bubble-pack pirate? How would anyone know I did not have a
1) Failure to use a call sign issued
by the FCC.
2) Use of a fake or expired call sign.
3) Failure to listen before transmitting resulting in interference to others.
4) Unsupervised children using the radio. (playing, yelling, screaming,
5) Unrestrained use of call tones.
6) You do not use the radio repeaters.
7) Business activity on the radio.
What happened? Why did the store not
tell me about the license requirement? Did they lie about it, or did they just
lead me to believe that because this radio had seven of Family Radio Service
channels no license was required? This is whole situation is a bit
embarrassing. What can I do?
Caveat emptor - Buyers beware. We think
many marketing managers plan and expect that the public will not license, care
about licensing, or even ask about licensing. We think the corporate interest
of some manufacturers is only to sell large quantities of radios. What else
could it be? At GMRS Web, we have monitored the activities of retailers and
manufacturers. Even after appropriate and friendly notice, some retailers and
manufacturers continue to mislead the public. The average person does not see
the harm in unlicensed operation since their total GMRS investment might be $82
plus tax. The victim in this sham is the GMRS licensee whose out of pocket
expenses for an entire family oriented radio repeater system is in the
thousands of dollars
You did not find out about the
licensing requirement in the store. Why? Because the odds are stacked against
you making that discovery from the moment you hear about the cool new radios
that can transmit five miles! Whoopee! Even two very good syndicated talk show
hosts fell hook line and sinker for the advertising drivel furnished to them by
a manufacturer. After GMRS Web Magazine readers called it to their attention,
the hosts were apologetic and supportive. You did not have to work very hard to
find yourself in this position. You got help from the retailer and the
Newspaper ads and catalogs tout the
radios as "good for the job site" with no mention of the FCC license
requirement or the license fee! Even major metropolitan newspapers have
faithfully reprinted inaccurate claims from manufacturers sell sheets without
doing their own research. We understand how very easy it was for you to be
confused and do the wrong thing. Here at the magazine, we continue to be
dumbfounded at the number of well-known companies and newspapers that
perpetuate the piracy problem. Even when the inaccuracies are called to their
attention many of these companies simply ignore the complaints.
OK. What are my options?
You can return the radio to the
retailer for a refund or you can obtain a GMRS license (if eligible) and
continue to use your radio. Consider writing the President of the company that
made the radio as well as the retailer. Call your situation to his
How much does a license
You pay $85 to the FCC for a five-year
license that covers you and your immediate family members whether or not they
all live in the same household.
One package said I could "FCC
Self License." How is that different from what you describe?
That company made that term up. We have
no idea what they meant. We suspect they were trying to indicate it was easy to
obtain a GMRS license. It is very easy. What they should have said on their
package was, "FCC GMRS license required to operate this radio."
My husband is a ham. We do not need
a license. Right?
GMRS has nothing to do with Ham radio.
A Ham license does not allow operation on GMRS. Not only that, but your husband
cannot legally use his Ham radio on GMRS channels. That's really what this
statement was about right? He bought you a radio but he's using his modified
ham radio? Hmmm. Better ask him to check the rules.
Use of a modified ham radio on GMRS
channels can subject the Ham to FCC enforcement action. He could be fined and
lose his ham and GMRS license.
You should also know that GMRS was not
intended to be a supplemental radio service for the Hams. GMRS is for families.
It was not intended for hobby communication.
OK. You sold me. How do I get a
Here are three web links to places
where you can get licensing information.
Once I have a license, can I operate
on the repeaters in my area?
GMRS repeaters are private property.
Until recently, the FCC required by rule that GMRS licensees have written
permission before operating on another licensee's repeater. The FCC dropped the
requirement; however, you must still contact the repeater owner for permission
before you use any repeater that does not belong to you. Just because you
purchased a repeater-capable radio from the retail store does not mean you can
use your radio on any repeater you please.
GMRS is a more formal place. You should
also know that some repeater owners do charge a monthly access fee to use their
repeater. Many families share repeater related expenses. The FCC does allow a
repeater owner to recoup operational expenses but not to make a profit. You
also must agree to the terms of operation imposed by the repeater owner.
Any repeater owner that does charge for
access should be prepared to show you station financial records to show he is
not making a profit. You should see expenses and income. As each new user is
brought on the system the rate should go down.
What is market-place activism? (The
politics of marketing.)
The magazine believes many bubble-pack
pirates are the victim of what we call "market-place activism."
Unscrupulous marketing managers buy cheap, low quality products and dump them
in large quantities on the unsuspecting public in hopes of changing the FCC
rules to meet their own profit objectives. Radio companies are in the business
of selling radios and meeting quarterly sales objectives. These sales
objectives cannot wait for the GMRS to dictate product demand. The manufacturer
therefor creates the demand by fostering conditions under which the product is
likely to be used without a license. When license restrictions are removed the
manufacturer sells more radios.
The two-way radio industry used the
same market-place activism to create the new Multi-Use Radio Service, MURS. For
years, radio shops have been putting companies and individuals on low power
portable only radio channels without the required channel coordination or FCC
license. The unlicensed use problem became so unenforceable that the FCC
finally acknowledge it by creating the VHF license free Multi-Use Radio
Service. They created a license-free VHF personal radio service on radio
channels where unlicensed radio use was common.
GMRS Web believes that some
manufacturers are more interested in profit than in working with the GMRS
community to create product demand within the technical and regulatory scope of
the current service. When some companies feel that the rules are archaic or
that the rules unduly restrain their profit potential the companies take
unprofessional steps toward creating a new radio service that meets their
market expectations. They make the market with market place activism calling it
capitalism or the good old American way. Truth be told it gives capitalism a
The affect on GMRS could be
catastrophic if the bubble-pack pirates proliferate. A very good alternative to
the growing popularity of expensive digital subscription radio services could
be lost if GMRS licensees don't protect their personal investment.
Everyone loses when bean counters act
with unrestrained greed. The same problems now affect many industries including
the high-tech and software industries. Competition now means the complete
destruction and desecration of a competitor with unfair market practices,
nuisance lawsuits, product dumping, and netting to zero schemes. Driving one's
competitor out of business or changing the market to suit profit objectives is
more important than competing on product quality and features. Product
development is quick and cheap. You do not have to have the best product to be
"number one" anymore. Sadly enough, our buying habits make this
possible. You have to admit that if you paid more attention to your purchase
you might not be here now reading this FAQ.
What is the difference between a
GMRS radio and a FRS radio?
- Can use repeaters
- Maximum output power of the transmitter 50 watts
- No ERP limit on main channels
- can cover tens of miles via simplex and hundreds of square
miles by repeater
- Eight repeater pair channels
- Eight high power simplex channels
- Seven Interstitial channels shared with FRS
- 5 watt ERP base station allowed on Interstitials shared
- FCC License required
- OK for family members to use in a family business
- Commercial use by non-individuals prohibited.
- No use by government.
- Removable antennas on portable radios OK
- External antennas for portable radios OK
- Voice inversion scrambling prohibited. All transmissions
must be in voice
- Moderate to very high cost
- Repeaters and base stations require high quality and low
loss cable and connectors
- Efficient omni or directional antenna systems
- Systems best assembled by qualified radio
- Commercial UHF radios with high frequency tolerance
- Very low power, one-half watt effective radiated
- Intended for short range communication, under 1 mile
- No license required
- Personal and business use OK
- Shares the 7 GMRS Interstitial channels, depending on
equipment can talk to GMRS radios on FRS 1-7
- 14 total channels, 7 are FRS only
- Can use voice inversion scrambling.
- No external antennas allowed
- No detachable antennas allowed
- Very low cost
- No system assembly or radio tech required
I thought FRS channels were license
You can ONLY operate without a license
in the Family Radio Service if you are using a radio that is FCC Type Approved
as a FRS radio. This means a radio type accepted by the FCC as a FRS radio and
NOT a GMRS radio.
Your GMRS radio probably has the first
seven channels also shared with the Family Radio Service. When you use your
GMRS radio on these shared channels you must also use your GMRS call letters.
You must have a GMRS license.
The Type Approval certification of your
radio determines whether the radio is a GMRS or FRS radio. If the radio store
or radio shop tells you differently they are not well informed or are deceiving
*Motorola claims to have
received Type Approval for a new GMRS AND FRS radio that is available September
2001. The FCC Rules still apply to both services. There is NO reason why a
business or organization would buy one of these radios. Mere possession would
imply to us that radios are being used in violation of FCC GMRS rules. This
magazine does not understand the benefit such a device and we cannot
editorially recommend it. The distinction between GMRS and FRS radios has
already been blurred enough through irresponsible marketing. Creating a radio
like this was a dumb thing to do. It is another example of industry creating
market conditions that have a deleterious impact on a radio service. We cannot
imagine what the FCC was thinking when they approved of this device.
Which radio service came first? (A
The General Mobile Radio Service came
The Family Radio Service was carved out
of the radio spectrum allocated to the General Mobile Radio Service. GMRS
shares its portable radio to portable radio frequencies, known as the GMRS
Interstitials, with FRS. In FRS these channels are known as FRS channels one
through seven. GMRS licensees have always used these first seven FRS channels
for small base stations and talking portable to portable. FRS users may hear
GMRS users from time to time. FRS users can even talk to a GMRS station on
these seven frequencies.
FRS channels eight through fourteen are
allocated ONLY to FRS. These channels are in-between the GMRS channels used for
GMRS repeater communication.
Wait a minute. So are you saying one
radio service has to have a license for FRS 1-7 and the other radio service
That is correct! The reason is that
GMRS licensees can use up to five watts of effective radiated power on these
channels. The GMRS licensee's signal can carry farther so the potential for
interference is greater. Licensees tend to be more careful about their
on-the-air activities and listen for others to avoid interference. You will
hear GMRS licensees using their call signs on the GMRS Interstitial channels
also known as FRS channels one through seven.
The manufacturer implies my GMRS
radio is actually a FRS radio on FRS channels one through seven and a GMRS
radio on GMRS channels. They say since my radio transmits with no more power
than a FRS radio on FRS channels that the radio is half GMRS and half FRS. Do I
still need a license to use it on FRS?
Yes. The radio you are using was Type
Approved as a GMRS radio because it also transmits on the standard GMRS
channels. An FRS radio has ONLY FRS channels. The power rating is not the
relevant issue here. FCC Type Approval and the technical requirements and
regulations of each radio service are the relevant issues. There is no such
thing as a hybrid GMRS FRS radio. There are only FRS radios and GMRS radios.
FRS does not require a license. GMRS does require a license.
But the antenna on my GMRS radio is
not detachable? That's just like the FRS radio correct.
Bummer! Maybe you should have gotten a
GMRS radio with a removable antenna. Why anyone would design a GMRS radio
without a removable antenna is beyond understanding. When you can remove the
antenna you can generally connect your radio to a mobile antenna on a car or a
base station antenna at home. If you can't do that you have given up a great
benefit to having a real GMRS radio.
What is FCC Type
Before a manufacturer can sell a radio
frequency generating device in the United States, the manufacturer must seek
FCC Type Approval for the device. The manufacturer submits technical
information about the product they want to sell showing the FCC that the device
meets all of the technical rules. There is a Type Approval qualification for
FRS and GMRS. There is no Type Approval for a device called a hybrid GMRS/FRS
I'm still not convinced I need a
license. Why should you bother?
Then can we appeal to your sense of
honor, integrity, and good citizenship. What's wrong with going along with the
program? What do you have to lose by doing the right thing?
The FCC has been organizing the various
radio services with our input since 1934. Organized of limited spectrum
resources makes use that resource efficient. Business use of a radio channel
can make that channel unusable by personal licensees. Even when a business uses
an FRS channel it limits the available channels for families to use in the
Should I have bought this
We do not think you will really
appreciate GMRS if you choose the inexpensive simplex-only GMRS radios. Battery
consumption is lighting fast and equipment life is probably much shorter than
if you purchased a better quality or commercial quality GMRS radio. You will
get more for your dollar if you spend more. We like to say, "You get what
you pay for and you pay for what you get." There are a number of
reasonably priced, very high quality commercial radios for use as simplex-only
Some families have found a useful
purpose for the inexpensive GMRS radios. The radios are closer to the
disposable appliance category so the radios are perfect for kids to use under
appropriate adult supervision of course.
Why is a license required
The license requirement has its roots
in radio history. When you receive your license, you receive call letters that
you use to identify your GMRS station. The call letters are much like the
license plate letters and numbers on your vehicles or the station
identification used by your favorite radio or TV broadcast station. The FCC, or
another GMRS licensee, can readily identify you when you use your call letters.
If you have a transmitter malfunction or cause interference to others, you can
be contacted by researching the licensee information associated with your call
letters. Other GMRS licensees can call you by saying your call letters before
their own. Your call letters or call sign is your on-the-air GMRS identity. A
license also says that you have paid your fees.
We believe that people also tend to
value a radio service more if they have paid their license fee. When people get
something for nothing they tend to take advantage. When you are part of a
community that has an investment in the service you tend to want to use it
properly, and obey the rules. In most areas of the country, you can hear the
difference between families using GMRS and FRS or GMRS and CB.
When a family has gone to the trouble
to properly license, they have also made an investment in their communication
system. When the people who share these systems maintain order and discipline
the efficiency and quality of communication on their GMRS system is quite good.
License free radio services have no order or discipline and are very
frustrating to use. Get the license and learn how to use your radio. You will
appreciate it more. The people who share the channels with you will appreciate
you and your family more as well.
Can my child use a GMRS
You can only be a GMRS licensee if you
are over 18 years of age, but you can operate the GMRS radios under an
immediate family member's license at any age. In general, the GMRS community
appreciates it if you train your children to be respectful of others and learn
the various radio protocols that prevent interference. Some of the bubble pack
pirates that hand radios to their children may not realize it, but their
children's play-time antics on the radio can cause severe interference to
others. The cheap GMRS radios that are advertised as GMRS & FRS radios also
have what marketing managers refer to as "call tones." These short
musical bursts are often played continuously for amusement or the annoyance
effect. Call tones are rarely used as intended. Call tones are an idea carried
back from FRS radios. Until the year 2000 no one in GMRS ever used such a
feature. Children tend to be the ones that play the tones repeatedly, though
some adults are also amused by this annoying behavior.
If you allow young children to use a
GMRS radio you should teach them:
1) NOT to use the call tones improperly.
2) NOT to use obscenities.
3) NOT to sing into the radio.
4) NOT to rebroadcast music from a radio or CD player
5) NOT to scream, yell, or shout into the radio.
6) To listen before transmitting by momentarily pushing the monitor button on
the radio to disable coded squelch.
7) To use the family call letters every fifteen minutes during long
conversations or at the beginning and end of each exchange of short
8) To be polite to others on the radio and remember that GMRS is shared with
9) To know that at high altitude the radio signal can carry for miles around.
Your child should not use a GMRS radio
until they understand why they use it. They should also understand that when
they use it they are sharing the radio channel with others. It is another
opportunity for you as a parent to teach compliance with rules, manners,
politeness, and respect. While you are at it you may wish to teach them NOT to
talk to people they do not know.
So there is no way
around that requirement?
No! If you
continue to operate your GMRS radios without a license you are technically in
violation of the following Federal Communications Commission Rules &
Regulations (Title 47, Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] ). Each individual
operator of an unlicensed radio can be subject to FCC fines now as high as
$11000 per day for each day the offense occurs:
§95.3 - License required
· §95.119 - Station identification
Operation of radio
transmitting apparatus without a valid radio station authorization constitutes
a violation of Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended 47
U.S.C. § 301. Under the Communications Act, violators may be subject to
civil monetary penalties up to $11,000 and the equipment used is subject to
seizure and forfeiture by court order. Unlicensed operators also could be
subject to criminal fines of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one
year, or both, for a first time offense.
operation may also subject the radio operator to serious penalties as provided
in Section 501 of the Communications Act, as amended. Because unlicensed radio
operation creates a definite danger of interference to important radio
communication services, immediate and strict compliance with FCC Rules and
Regulations is important.
How do I avoid interference with
GMRS is a shared radio service. The use
of tone coded or digitally coded squelch allows you to hear only transmissions
directed to you. It can also prevent you from hearing others using the same
channel. Here are some things you can do to avoid interfering with
1) Monitor before transmitting.
Activate the monitor function on your radio or listen in open squelch before
you transmit. When you do this you make sure your transmission will not
interfere with others using the same channel close to you.
2) Use the GMRS Interstitials for portable to portable communication.
3) Use the GMRS standard channels to access repeaters.
I thought this radio was an FRS
radio that did not require a license!
That is certainly the impression that
the packaging and the stores are leaving with lots of folks. Most stores do not
tell you that a GMRS license is required. The store may not even know a license
is required or if managers know they have not bothered to train employees.
Packaging is often vague or misleading. You will discover though, that the fine
print in the owner's manual is usually more specific about the license
requirement. Did you read the owner's manual? If push ever came to shove
between you, the FCC, and the radio retailer - you would lose and nothing would
happen to the retailer. The FCC deals only with the unlicensed user of the
radio. The FCC assumes that you read the instructions and the rules before you
began operating your radio. You can liken it to the driver of a car. If you get
a speeding ticket from the police, it is not the manufacturer's fault. Go back
and read your manual. What kind of radio did you buy? Does it require a
license? Are you eligible to license?
So, what is the General Mobile Radio
The FCC defines GMRS as a land mobile
radio service available to individual persons 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
stations. GMRS is intended as a radio service where purposeful directed
communication between family members takes place. An individual licensee can
conduct personal or business communication. Business communication must be
conducted between immediate family members. Companies and their employees
cannot use GMRS unless they were licensed before 1987 and meet certain
.but, but I didn't know
I was breaking the law!"
You do now.
How can I get myself out of this
mess? This retailer got me into this predicament. I am very angry now. They put
me in a tough spot, besides I have to spend another $85 before I can use these
radios! ($75 after September 10, 2001)
We believe you should contact the store
where you purchased your bubble pack radios and tell them about your situation.
We also believe that they put you in a tough spot. If you have no desire to
license and would be very happy with a FRS radio ask for an exchange or ask for
your money back. Also, consider writing the Federal Trade Commission regarding
your experience. The FCC has no jurisdiction over the stores.
Are GMRS licensees nice people? If I
get this license, will I be accepted even if I just use my inexpensive
If you run into trouble let us know.
When a bubble-pack pirate family makes the conversion to GMRS licensee in our
area we go out of our way to get to know them. We also invite them to use our
family repeaters if they are eligible to license in GMRS. Within months many
have upgraded to repeater capable radios
You might run into a licensee or two
with an attitude. As long as you observe the rules, avoid interfering with
others, and use your call sign as required you have as much right to use a
channel as anyone else. No one owns a channel.