The FRS and GMRS combo was once available owing to their similarities. Nevertheless, they also have a number of differences.
Firstly, while both operate in the same UHF band and share the same 22 channels, GMRS is regarded as more powerful. For instance, a GMRS radio has more channels and can be modified to have a far-reaching signal. However, FRS does not require a license, unlike GMRS.
So, let’s get into more detail on the differences between FRS and GMRS.
What are FRS Radios?
FRS, or The Family Radio Service, is designed for short-distance, two-way voice communication. Besides, it features 22 channels at a frequency range of 462 to 467 MHz.
Additionally, most FRS systems use handheld radios, such as walkie-talkies. Basically, anyone with a two-way radio can use FRS channels, making it ideal for close proximity hiking, hunting, etc.
Moreover, the system works great within 1 to 2 miles. Besides, your radio must have a maximum output power of 2 watts. Further, FRS users cannot use repeaters or signal boosters. It is prohibited by the FCC.
What are GMRS Radios?
As with FRS, GMRS also operates on 462 MHz and 467 MHz. It is intended for short-distance, two-way voice communications. Besides, portable radios and repeaters are used to transmit GMRS signals.
Additionally, GMRS has its own channels along with the 22 shared with FRS. As of 2017, the FCC also approved text messaging and GPS location information for GMRS.
However, It requires a license from the FCC. Besides, despite being more expensive, they offer more customization.
The Differences Between FRS and GMRS
GMRS and FRS differ mostly in terms of their range and power. The following are some of the most prominent differences.
For FRS radios, only limited handheld models are allowed. However, GMRS may be used both on hand-held portable devices, as well as on base units.
Nevertheless, GMRS units in mobiles or base stations can’t transmit on channels 8 to14. That is why you may not find those channels in many mobiles or base unit devices.
Additionally, GMRS and FRS share Channels 1 to 7. Besides, on channels 8 to 14, they operate at 0.5 watts.
In contrast to FRS, GMRS has eight designated channels 15 to 22 within these ranges.
GMRS and FRS Wattage
For FRS radio channels 1 to 7 and 15 to 22, you are allowed a maximum of 2 watts. Comparatively, the GMRS is permitted to transmit up to 5 watts in channels 1 to 7, while a staggering 50 watts on channels 15 to 22.
While FRS has a permanently fixed antenna, GMRS has a removable one. In addition, removing the antenna from an FRS system would violate rules and also affect the warranty and appearance.
Alternatively, the GMRS antenna can be mounted remotely on a building, vehicle, or tower. However, make sure it is within a certain height limit.
Furthermore, the FRS antenna is typically 3 to 5 inches, whereas, the GMRS antenna may go up to 12 inches. As a rule of thumb, the higher the frequency, the shorter the antenna.
FRS operation does not require a license. However, FRS transmitters must be certified by the FCC and cannot be modified.
On the contrary, a GMRS system will need an FCC license. You will get a ten-year term. Besides, if it nears expiration, you need to renew the permit between 90 days prior to the expiry date
The maximum power level of FRS is typically 0.5 watts. As a result, communication ranges are shorter. Hence, you will face a great amount of interference and reduced quality, if there are buildings, trees, and mountains.
Nevertheless, a shared FRS/GMRS system is now permitted to transmit up to 2 watts. Besides, this hybrid system does not even need an FCC license.
In comparison, GMRS radios can transmit up to 50 watts. This allows for a greater range of communication.
FRS radios have shorter ranges due to their low power levels. It is thus suitable for short-range communication. In ideal conditions, it can transmit up to 2 miles.
Meanwhile, because GMRS transmits at a higher power, its range is wider. It can often reach up to 20 miles or even more in optimal situations.
FRS radios operate on UHF bands of 462 MHz and 467 MHz. It features 22 designated channels shared with GMRS.
Likewise, the frequency bands of GMRS are also 462 to 467 MHz. However, it also has several additional channels for extended coverage.
FRS radios feature privacy codes CTCSS and DCS. It helps reduce interference. Additionally, GMRS also uses the same privacy codes. Besides reducing interference, it does not allow anyone to listen without the code. Hence, all your conversations will stay confidential.
Despite FRS radios being generally compatible with other FRS radios, they may have limited range when used with low-powered devices. It is because if one radio is less powerful than the others, its signal will be drowned out by the stronger signals.
This is quite common in places with a lot of FRS radio traffic. It is, therefore, advisable to use FRS radios with similar wattages.
On shared channels, GMRS and FRS radios can communicate. However, not all FRS radios are compatible with the higher-powered GMRS radios.
For two-way communication within close range, FRS radios are a good choice. Some examples,
- Talking to someone in the next room
- Conversation across the yard
- In near-distance outdoor activities
- Family and recreational activities
- Hiking, camping in short distance
- At businesses, schools, or organizations
GMRS is great for long-distance communication. Examples,
- Talking outdoors at a distance
- Serious outdoor activities, e.g., off-roading, adventures, hunting
- Visiting remote areas
- During construction works
- In farms and ranches
FRS operates under simpler regulations. Besides, it is designed for casual, non-commercial use. Therefore, the users have fewer restrictions on how, when, and what kind of equipment they can use.
Meanwhile, the licensing requirement for GMRS results in stricter regulations. Due to this, it is suitable for both commercial and personal use.
With many budget-friendly options available, FRS radios are generally more affordable. You will typically get them for less than $50 per radio.
In contrast, GMRS radios are a bit more expensive due to the additional features and higher power. They may cost $100 per radio or more.
In the United States, FRS and GMRS are two different types of radios. While FRS radios are more affordable and easier to use, their range is shorter.
In contrast, GMRS radios are far stronger, with longer ranges. However, they are a bit more expensive. Besides, they require a valid license from the FCC to operate. Ultimately, it comes down to your budget and needs when it comes to choosing the type of radio you want.