What is a GMRS Radio?

A general mobile radio service (GMRS) is a short distance, two way radio system used in the United States. GMRS radios are able to transmit and receive audio signals over a longer distance with less static interference than standard walkie-talkies. A GMRS radio is typically a hand held device that has a speaker, microphone and antenna inside a plastic case.

To use a GMRS radio, a license must be purchased from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The annual fee for the license is $5 US Dollars (USD) per year. The license must be purchased by an adult, but can be used by their immediate family members with no additional charge.

GMRS radios provide a very practical service and allow family members located within the same physical space to communicate instantly with each other with no usage fees. These types of radios have less static and interference than Citizen’s Band (CB) radios. They are also lighter, more compact and easier to use.

A GMRS radio can operate on any of eight dedicated channels provided by the FCC. These radios have an average power rating of one to five watts, with a maximum power of 50 watts. The range of a GMRS radio is between one to five miles (1.6 to 8.0 km).

Using a GMRS radio, you will be able to hear the communication from any other radios within range, if you are using the same band and channel as the other party. The make and model of the actual radio is irrelevant. It is the band and signal that determines the ability of the radio to pick up the signal from other GMRS radio users.

A privacy code is a feature that is available on many GMRS radios, which expands the number of channels available for communication by adding continuous tone coded squelch system codes. There are 38 codes, which are multiplied by the number of channels to dramatically increase the number of channels. Although there is no way to provide a private transmission, the sheer number of channels reduces the possibility that someone else in your immediate area is on the same channel as you and your family.
GMRS radio sets must be purchased in sets, with a minimum of two units. Additional units can be purchased and deployed as long as the units are tuned to the same channel. These units are very popular when camping, going to a large amusement park, or anywhere else where the group is separated but located within the same physical area.

When looking to purchase a GMRS radio, make a list of the features that are required for your intended purpose. These units are packed with additional features that increase the price, but may not increase the functionality to you. Global positioning satellite, FM radio, backlighting and ringer are all functions that are commonly bundled into these radio units.