Which Two-Way Radios Require a License?

NO two-way radios require a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license to purchase them. Some do not require an FCC license to operate them. Many, however, DO require an FCC license to operate them and the penalties for operating those radios without a license can be quite severe. So, which two-way radios require a license to operate and which do not? What actually defines licensed two-way radios?

Who Needs the FCC Anyway?

Isn’t the FCC just another money-grabbing layer of government bureaucracy? Who really needs the FCC anyway? The answer is we ALL do.

Without the FCC, all of our wireless communications would become totally inoperable. Interference from other wireless devices would render our personal wireless devices useless.

The FCC does a monumental job of coordinating all wireless communications, both voice and data, based on several different parameters. These parameters include:

  • Mode of Operation – How are you using your communications device? Are you using cellular communications, Land Mobile Radios (LMR), on-site, mobile, repeater, etc.?
  • Power Output – Are you using Walmart toy walkie-talkies at a power output of 0.25 watts or a Mission Critical Repeater at 100 watts?
  • Frequency/Band – Are you transmitting and receiving on frequencies set aside for special use? Special use can include public safety, military, maritime, etc.
  • Geography – Are you using the same frequencies as someone 10 miles away, yet still within line-of-sight, is using?

The FCC assigns usage permits to all licensed two-way radio users based on the above parameters. So, which radios require a license and which do not?

Radios That Do NOT Require a License…

MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service) – Two-way radios programmed to operate within the MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service) are not required to be licensed. They transmit at 2 watts or less and only operate on pre-set frequencies between 151 -154 MHz in the VHF band. MURS radios have a general lack of privacy, a limited coverage area, and frequent channel interference.

An example of a Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) Radio:

  • Motorola RMM2050 Series

CB (Citizens Band) – Citizen Band (CB) radios do not require FCC licenses to operate anywhere in the country. Although CB radios can operate at up to 4 watts of power, they are restricted to only operating on 40 channels in AM modulation. Because of the limited number of channels, CB radios, like the MURS radios, experience a lack of privacy and extreme interference.

An example of a Citizen Band (CB) Radio:

  • Motorola CP476 CB Radio

FRS (Family Radio Service) – Family Radio Service (FRS) is among the most popular radio service categories. It is a license-free, private, two-way voice and data service designed to facilitate family activities and other group activities. FRS radios transmit at no more than 2 watts and are very short-range. The FRS channels are also shared by the licensed General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)

Examples of a Family Radio Service (FRS) Radios:

  • Motorola DLR1020
  • Motorola DLR1060
  • Motorola TalkAbouts

900 MHz License-Free Business Band – Two-way radios that operate in the 900 MHz band are designed for license-free business operations. The business user is free of the regulatory paperwork of licensing applications and the cost involved in licensing his radios. They transmit at less than 2 watts, so the range is less than stellar like other unlicensed radios. Because the signal strength is lower, obstacles such as trees, buildings, and interior walls can block or even absorb the radio signal.

Examples of 900 MHz License-Free Business Radios:

  • Motorola DLR1020
  • Motorola DLR1060
  • Motorola DTR700

Radios That DO Require a License…

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) – The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is another of the most popular and numerous licenses the FCC granted. GMRS licenses allow for radios to transmit up to 50 watts. GMRS licenses also allow for hand-held, mobile, and repeater devices. The GMRS spectrum has 22 channels that it shares with FRS and an additional 8 repeater channels that are exclusive to GMRS.

Some examples of General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) Radios:

  • Motorola TalkAbouts

Amateur Radio Service (HAM Radio) – HAM radios also require an operators license from the FCC. The process for a HAM operator is more in-depth than what is required for GMRS operators. For a HAM license, an applicant needs to pass an exam given by a volunteer examiner who will then decide which operator class an operator is most qualified for according to their exam.

Virtually Every Other Land Mobile Radio (LMR) Device – Virtually all two-way radios beyond the models mentioned above are subject to FCC licensing. In fact, any device that transmits at 4 watts or higher requires coordination (and, thereby, licensing) by the FCC.

What If I Choose To Operate Without an FCC License?

Suppose you are operating 4 or 5-watt radios right out of the box without an FCC license. In that case, there is a reasonable chance that you will be causing interference issues with licensed users in the area. If the licensed user reports interference on his licensed frequencies to the FCC, the FCC will investigate the issue. The FCC will pinpoint the source of the interference as your illegally operating two-way radios, and you will suffer the consequences.

The consequences could be fines of thousands of dollars per day for the days you were operating without a license. The consequences could also be confiscation of your equipment. At RCS Communications, let us help you with the FCC licensing process when you purchase your new two-way communications equipment. It can be costly if you do not file correctly.

How Much Does an FCC License Cost?

When it comes to FCC two-way radio license cost, asking the price of an FCC License is a little like asking how much a car costs. Like different types of cars, different FCC licenses cost different amounts depending on the specific use and the coverage area you are looking for.

An FCC license can cost anywhere from $70 for GMRS licenses to $1000 or more for high-powered, widespread frequencies. There is some good news, however…

  • FCC licenses are good for 10 years.
  • FCC licenses are not granted per device. You can use any number of devices on your licensed frequencies.

How to Get an FCC License for Two-Way Radio

When it comes to getting an FCC license for two-way radio, the best way is to get help from someone who knows what they are doing. By using RCS Communications to help with your application process, you can save money and time by allowing us to handle all the paperwork and regulatory compliance issues. RCS provides FCC licensing assistance as part of our value-added customer support.

Contact RCS To Learn More About Our FCC Licensing Application Process

RCS Communications has been providing Kentucky and Indiana two-way radio services and solutions since 1952. We are proud to be a Motorola Solutions Channel Partner and offer our customers top-tier Motorola two-way radio and system solutions. We have the knowledge to provide excellent service and support for your two-way radio needs. We understand that every client is unique, so we tailor our solutions to meet each individual need of your business. Our experts work closely with you to ensure everything goes smoothly during the FCC application process and beyond. With our help, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your business communications are always secure and reliable.

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