The answer to your question "Do I need a License?" will depend on:
- the type of communication (personal or business related),
- and the type of equipment you use.
Licenses are granted to either individuals or businesses. Through the licensing process, you are assigned specific frequencies to use on approved equipment.
Let Us Do the Work for You ....
Need an FCC license? Don't want to deal with confusing technical paperwork? If you are a business or non-profit organization we can help. We do all the paperwork, submission, and track your application to completion. Order your FCC license here...
Options for Businesses
In the USA, two-way radios used in businesses can only operate on frequencies in the following service bands:
|• LMR||(licensed) Radios must be programmed with your licensed frequencies.|
|• MURS||(non-licensed) Radios come pre-programmed with MURS frequencies.|
|• CB||(non-licensed) Radios come pre-programmed with CB frequencies.|
(non-licensed) Operates in the 903-928MHz ISM band. We offer the Motorola DTR650 radio for businesses wishing to go license-free.
(non-licensed) Service between low power hand-held radios, for individual, family, group, recreational and now includes business activities. Channels 1 – 7 and 15 – 22 must not exceed 2.0 Watts.
(licensed) for Small Family Businesses Only. Operates in the 462-467MHz range. The FCC licenses GMRS "to facilitate the activities of licensees and their immediate family members." So, only small family run businesses qualify to use GMRS. One license covers the licensee and their immediate family members.
Serious penalties and prosecution can result from the unlicensed transmission on frequencies which require a license, and/or interference with public safety transmissions.
Overview of Frequency Bands
In the US, the FCC has divided the radio frequency spectrum into different sections called ‘Bands’ (such as HF, VHF, UHF). Bands consist of a range of frequencies. The FCC then assigns each frequency within the band to a 'Service' (such as CB, Amatuer, FRS, GMRS, Land Mobile, etc.). Some Services require a user to be licensed, and some do not. The following table outlines the common service bands used in two-way radios, along with a description of each. More detail on each band follows this chart.
|Overview of Service "Bands" (USA)|
|Service ||Band & Frequency |
|License Required||Length |
|Approx. Cost of License||Max Channels||Max Watts||Antenna Type||Repeater Allowed||Usage Type||Comments|
|FRS||UHF 462 & 467 MHz||No||0||22||2 ³||fixed stubby||No||personal or business||New changes to this service allow it for business. ³ Channels 8-14 must be ½ watt.|
|GMRS||UHF 462 & 467 MHz||Yes||10 yrs||90||22 |
+ 8 repeater
|50||any type||Yes||family use only||Licensee must be 18 yrs or older. Anyone, regardless of age, can operate your radios.|
|VHF 150-174 MHz |
UHF 421-512 MHz
|Yes||10 yrs||Varies ²||512||100 +||any type||Yes||business or |
|Licensee must be 18 years or older. Also called PLMR.|
|MURS||VHF 151 & 154 MHz||No||0||5||2||fixed*||No||mixed use||Limited range. * External antenna up to 60ft to extend range.|
|Marine||VHF 156 - 162 MHz||No * (see note below)||0||48||100 +||any type||N/A||mixed use||Only use marine radios. ³ All marine radios have the same pre-set channels & frequencies.|
|ISM||UHF 902 - 928 MHz||No||0||1000+||any type||yes||mixed use||Also know as 33 centimeter. Used for on-site short-range communications.|
|Airband||VHF 108 - 137 MHz||Yes ¹||760||8||aircraft & stations ¹||Only use airband radios. ³ All airband radios have the same pre-set channels & frequencies.|
HF 26.965 -
|No||40||mixed use||All CB radios have the same pre-set channels & frequencies.|
|Ham||HF, VHF, & UHF||Yes||10 yrs||Yes||Also called Amateur radio. |
Requires passing an exam.
3 types of license: Technician, General, & Extra.
|Equipment must be certified for use within the band being used. For example, only use marine radios on the waterways, airband radios in the airways, etc.|
|¹ For Airband - License code is RR (Restricted Operator). No test is required, since certification is through your pilot certificate. See the FCC for more details.|
|² Costs can vary depending on the type of license. We offer several licensing packages. Click here to learn more.|
|³ Marine and Airband radio channels are configured for specific frequencies and uses.|
|* For Marine - No license required for harbor and waterway. A license is required to operate in international waters.|
|** Most commonly used frequency ranges are listed for each service. For a complete list of frequencies please see the FCC.gov website.|
|Frequencies 462.650, 467.6500, 462.7000 and 467.7000 MHz are not permitted near the Canadian border.|
Radio Frequency Bands
Below is a diagram showing the division of radio waves into bands, and which services are assigned each band.
Two-Way Radio Services
FRS (Family Radio Service)
- The FCC does not require a license to use the FRS service.
- Intended to be used by family and friends to communicate within short distances. Now for both commercial & persoanl use.
- Most consumer radios have both FRS and GMRS channels (see next section on GMRS).
- If you purchase a FRS / GMRS radio you can avoid the need for a license by staying within the FRS channels (usually channels 8-14).
- On May 18th 2017 the FCC adopted new rules:
- FRS radios are now authorized to use up to 2 Watts ERP (Effective Radiated Power) on FRS 462 MHz frequencies (FRS ch. 1-7).
- Frequencies within the 467 MHz range (ch. 8-14) now have the same technical limits that previously applied to FRS radios (½ watt with a built-in antenna).
- Can be used for business as well as personal use.
- All FRS radios must have a non-removable stubby atenna, so your range is greatly limited.
GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service)
- GMRS is also for individuals and their friends and family. For non-commercial use only.
- Is a more powerful service for individuals than FRS (handheld radios can be up to 5 watts).
- GMRS does require a license. Refer to the chart for requirements.
- Equipment must be certified for GMRS use.
- See Getting a GMRS License for step-by-step instructions on obtaining a GMRS license.
LMR (Land Mobile Radio, also PLMR for Private Land Mobile Radio, or Industrial/Business Pool)
- LMR is for use in business, government agencies, and non-profit institutions such as; education, healthcare, and religous organizations.
- Most radios approved for LMR usage operate on either VHF (150-174 MHz), or UHF (421-512 MHz) frequencies.
- Once obtained, the license is good for 10 years.
- There are several different types of LMR licenses. The 3 most common are:
- Simplex License - Licenses a set of frequencies within a radius of a specified location.
- Duplex License - When using a repeater this license includes a frequency pair, spaced for repeater use.
- Itinerant License - Allows the use of radios at temporary locations within a state, set of states, or nation-wide.
- Commercial applications usually require frequent use of channels with minimal interference by outsiders. An FCC LMR license affords businesses relatively open communication with minimal interference. CB and MURS channels are often crowded.
- We can handle getting your license. Order your FCC license here...
MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service)
- MURS is an unlicensed service for either business or personal use.
- Equipment has pre-set frequencies on 5 channels in the VHF 151 & 154 MHz range.
- Since it is open to everyone the lack of privacy and channel interference may be a problem in a business setting.
- MURS radios are limited to 2 watts or less, so your talk range is limited.
- Still, MURS can be a good option for some businesses such as small sites or temporary job sites.
- Your radio must be MURS certified to use MURS.
Ham Radio ( also called Amateur Radio)
- Ham Radio is a popular passion among many people world wide.
- Is used by hobbiests and used in emergency situations by volunteers.
- Requires a licensed to operate communications equipment on the "amateur bands" (or frequencies). There are 3 types of licenses: Technician, General, Extra.
- You must pass an examination to obtain an Amateur radio license within the US (requires knowledge of radios and electronics). There are many online aids to help you prepare for the test.
- Once you have a license you can operate on many frequenices that are not available to other users.
CB (Citizens Band)
- Does not require a license in the US.
- Can be used for either commercial or personal communications.
- Equipment has pre-set frequencies on 40 channels.
- Operates on AM modulation with 4 watts of transmit power
- Frequency range is 26.965 MHz (Ch 1) to 27.405 MHz (Ch 40).
- Since it is open to everyone the lack of privacy and channel interference may be a problem in a business setting.
- Marine radios are specifically designed for communications on the waterways.
- The channels on Marine radios have preassigned frequencies, each channel/frequency is designated for a particular type of marine communication. For example, channel 16 is set at frequency 156.800HMz and is for distress calls only.
- It is important that you only use two-way radios specifically approved for marine use when on the waterways. Other VHF radios should not be used because they will not have the proper frequency settings.
- Today's marine radios have other features such as NOAA weather alert channels.
- There are basically two types of marine radios: handheld and fixed-mount.
- Handheld marine radios are more limited in range, but can be moved from one boat to another.
- Fixed-Mount marine radios, just as the name implies are permanently mounted. They deliver more power as they are run off electrical connections on your boat.
- Airband radios are used for both navigation and communication.
- AirBand radios use VHF frequencies in the 108 MHz - 137 MHz range.
- No license is required for individuals. However, aircraft stations do require a license. See the FCC for more details.
- Use only airband radios for aviation. Aviation radios are not like other VHF radios. Airband radios have specific channel setups and functions used in aviation communications that land-based VHF radios do not have.
- Since aviation transmissions primarily occur in the air, communication range is much greater for airband radios than land-based VHF radios. So a 5 watt handheld airband radio used in-flight will have a much longer range than a similar 5 watt VHF land-based radio. Panel mounted airband radios, usually 8 watts, have an even greater range. From the air, most airband radios typically have a range of around 200 miles.
- Airband channels are divided into:
|COM channels||Used for voice communication, US assigned frequencies between 118.000 MHz to 136.975 MHz. These frequencies are split into 200 narrow-band channels of 50kHZ each.|
|NAV channels||For navigational assistance, assigned frequencies from 108.000 MHz to 117.95 MHz. The common navigation system used in the US is 'VHF Omnidirectional Range' (VOR). VOR is a system of short-range radio beacons that help pilots determine their position and stay on course. VOR has become a global standard for air navigation, with approximately 3,000 VOR stations worldwide.|
|NOAA Channels||Today's airband radios typically have NOAA weather channels and provide NOAA weather alerts.|
|Distress Channel||Airband radios also have an emergency communication frequency (known as International Air Distress or IAD). It is assigned to 121.5 MHz.|
There are three basic types of airband radios:
|Handheld||Looks much like a typical handheld land mobile radio.|
|Panel Mount||Mounted in the cockpit panel of the aircraft.|
|Ground Communication||Much like a land-based mobile radio, it operates on the ground, either mounted in a vehicle for ground crews, or sitting on a desk.|