Two-way radios, some need a license, some don’t

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.

What is Zello, how do you use it

Zello is an app that emulates push-to-talk (PTT) walkie-talkies over cell phone networks. In other words, it turns your cell phone into a walkie-talkie while using it.

It is being used by people around the world as a direct messaging service that allows members to communicate freely, either privately with individuals or over open channels that can support hundreds of thousands of users.

It has been especially helpful to people trying to circumvent government censors in counties like Turkey and Venezuela.

Rescue workers are also turning to Zello to communicate with one another during disasters.

And groups like ANTS and have set up Zello channels for their members to communicate with each other during good times and bad.

In a nutshell, it’s the next best thing if you do not have your amateur radio (HAM) license.

Its Achilles heel is its dependence on the cell phone and internet coverage areas.

To sign up for Zello

Install the free Zello app from your App Store or Google Play store.

Create an account. You will need to choose a username at this time, and you will not be able to change your username after creating the account, so make sure your spelling is correct.

Add contacts. You can do this by entering your phone number and e-mail address to let the app automatically add them from your phone’s contact information. Or, you can add them manually by using the search function to find users by username, e-mail, or phone number.

And that’s it, your ready to go

Next, open the app and play around with it.

There are many things you can do with the app, but most people use it to join a channel they are interested in. Once you are on a channel, you are ready to talk.

The quickest way to get you amateur radio (HAM) license

In the US, there are three amateur radio license classes—Technician, General, and Extra. You can get one or all depending on what you want to do.

The quickest way to get licensed is to focus on the Technician class

The Technician class license is the entry-level license of choice for most new ham radio operators. To earn the Technician license requires passing one examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations, and operating practices.

Get your Technician license in 5 easy steps

Number 1 – Download the free “Ham Tech” app to your phone or buy one of the many ham radio examinations apps.

Number 2 – Open the “Ham Tech” app in your spare time and take the practice exams under each topic until you have the correct answers memorized. If you do not entirely understand the reasoning behind some of the answers, don’t worry. You can get more in-depth after you get licensed.

Number 3 – Find out where the next amateur radio license exam will be in your area by going to the ARRL site and entering your zip code.

Number 4 – Show up on the date of the exam and take the test.

The Technician license exam is a 35-question test drawn from the question pool you have been studying in the “Ham Tech” app.

The question pool is divided into 10 groups. The groups are subdivided into question topics. There are 35 topics represented in the question pool. One question will be randomly selected from each topic to make up a Technician exam. You must correctly answer a minimum of 26 questions on the exam to obtain a Technician license.

Exam sessions are conducted by volunteers working under the direction of the FCC and a Volunteer Exam Coordinator (VEC). There will likely be a charge for taking the exam. The exam fee is set by the VEC and is usually $15 or less.

Number 5 – After you pass the exam, the VIC will give you all the information you need to finish the process.

I got my Technician class license this way. I hope this will relieve you of some of the stress many people have about this process. It is not a hard test. You can do it.

Having your amateur radio license will give you one more way to communicate during a disaster.