What is FRS radio?

The Family Radio Service (FRS) is an improved hand held, unlicensed radio system authorized in the United States since 1996. This personal radio service uses channelized frequencies around 462 and 467 MHz in the ultra high frequency (UHF) band. It does not suffer the interference effects found on citizens' band (CB) or cordless phones, toys, and baby monitors. FRS uses frequency modulation (FM) instead of amplitude modulation (AM). Since the UHF band has different radio propagation characteristics, short-range use of FRS may be more predictable than the more powerful license-free radios operating in the HF CB band.

Join the Crisis Application today!

Initially proposed by Radio Shack in 1994 for use by families, FRS has also seen significant adoption by business interests, as an unlicensed, low-cost alternative to the business band. FRS is a great starter radio for families looking to chat around their property on the go during a hike. FRS doesn't require a license and is limited by the FCC with regards to the power output which significantly hampers its use for people looking for an all around emergency radio. There are FRS/GMRS hybrids available, but that will be covered in another article.


Data: FRS radios use narrow-band frequency modulation (NBFM) with a maximum deviation of 2.5 kilohertz. The channels are spaced at 12.5 kilohertz intervals. FRS radios are limited to 500 milliwatts according to FCC regulations. Channels 1 to 7 are shared with low-power interstitial channels of GMRS, the General Mobile Radio Service. A license is required for those channels if the power output is over FRS limits. Unlike Citizens' Band (CB) radios, FRS radios frequently have provisions for using sub-audible tone squelch (CTCSS and DCS) codes, filtering out unwanted chatter from other users on the same frequency. Although these codes are sometimes called "privacy codes" or "private line codes" (PL codes), they offer no protection from eavesdropping and are only intended to help share busy channels. Tone codes also do nothing to prevent desired transmissions from being swamped by stronger signals having a different code.

Green Beret Moderated forum for only $1 a month!

FRS stations on channels 1 through 7 may communicate with GMRS stations on those shared channels; the GMRS stations may use up to 5 watts of power, while the FRS stations are restricted to 500 milliwatts (half a watt). All equipment used on FRS must be type accepted according to FCC regulations. Radios are not type-accepted for use in this service if they exceed limits on power output, have a detachable antenna or for other reasons. FRS radios must use only permanently attached antennas, such as walkie-talkies; there are also table-top FRS "base station" radios that have whip antennas. This limitation intentionally restricts the range of communications, allowing greatest use of the available channels. The use of duplex radio repeaters and interconnects to the telephone network are prohibited under FRS rules, unlike other radio services. FRS manufacturers generally claim exaggerated range. The presence of large buildings, trees, etc., will reduce range. Under exceptional conditions, (such as hilltop to hilltop) communication is possible over 60 km (37 mi) or more, but that is rare. Under normal conditions, with line of sight blocked by a few buildings or trees, FRS has an actual range of about 0.5 to 1.5 km (0.3 to 1 mile).




Sources and citations:
Article: Wikipedia