In the United States, the FCC regulates the frequencies and licensing of two-way radios. FCC rules and regulations can be found under Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Services are divided into the following categories
Services highlighted in yellow require no license to operate.
Family Radio Service (FRS) – No license needed – The Family Radio Service is an improved walkie talkie radio system for personal/business communications. The FRS is authorized for 22 channels in the 462 MHz and 467 MHz range, all of which are shared with GMRS.
The typical handheld range is between 1/2 to 1 mile.
FRS radios fall under Part 95 of the FCC rules.
Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) – No license needed – The Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) uses channels in the 151 – 154 MHz spectrum range. No MURS transmitter shall, under any condition of modulation, transmit more than 2 watts transmitter power output.
The typical handheld range is between 1/2 to 3 miles. Manufactures may advertise 30 miles, but that’s in ideal conditions such as a mountaintop to a valley below.
MURS radios fall under Part 95 of the FCC rules.
Citizens Band Radio (CB) – No license needed – The Citizen Band Radio Service is used for personal/business communications and is authorized 40 channels between 26.965 MHz and 27.405 MHz.
The typical range is between 1 to 15 miles depending on setup.
CB radios fall under Part 95 of the FCC rules.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) – 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 voice communications using hand-held radios, mobile radios, and repeater systems. In 2017, the FCC expanded GMRS to also allow short data messaging applications, including text messaging and GPS location information.
The typical handheld range is between 5 to 25 miles.
GMRS radios fall under Part 95 of the FCC rules.
Amateur Radio Service (Ham Radio) – The Amateur Radio Service is intended to bring people, electronics, and communication together. HAM operators can talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones. It is fun, social, educational, and can be a lifeline during disasters. Amateur radio operates on UHF, VHF, and some HF frequencies using International Morse Code, voice communication, data, pictures, and video. There are three levels of licensing that determine which bands and frequencies an amateur operator is allowed to access.
Amateur radio falls under Part 97 of the FCC rules.
Business Radio Service (BRS – LMR – PLMR) – The Business Radio Service is a series of frequencies on the VHF and UHF two-way radio bands reserved for use by businesses, and in some cases, individuals.
BRS radios fall under Part 90 of the FCC rules.
Aviation Radio Service (ARS) – No license needed for individuals – The Aviation Band Radio Service is used in aircraft for navigation and two-way communication. Aviation radios used domestically within US airspace are generally licensed by rule, which means that you do not need to purchase a license from the FCC to operate one in the US.
ARS radios fall under Part 87 of the FCC rules.
Marine Mobile Sevice (MMS) – No license needed for harbor and waterway. The Marine Band Radio Service is used in maritime vessels. The FCC regulates marine communications in cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard, which monitors marine distress frequencies continuously to protect life and property. All users of marine radio, whether voluntary or compulsory, are responsible for observing both FCC and Coast Guard requirements.
Marine radios fall under Part 80 of the FCC rules.