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FRS Radio: Bringing Families Together

A continual audio stream broadcast over the Internet is called a radio webcast. Radio webcasts come in all shapes and sizes. There are free radio webcasts and there are radio webcasts for paid subscribers only. Radio webcasts can also be...

The Family Radio Service (FRS) which has been authorized in the US since 1996 is an improved walkie-talkie system. Because this personal radio service utilizes frequencies in the UHF (ultra high frequency) band, there is no interference from CB radios or cordless phones which use different frequencies. Instead of AM (amplitude modulation), FRS uses FM (frequency modulation) so it is reliable at greater ranges than CB radios.

Although FRS was initially proposed for use by families by Radio Shack when it was introduced in 1994, FRS has been increasingly adopted by businesses as a cost-effective alternative to the business band. FRS doesn't require a license either.

FRS Radio Technical Information

In accordance with FCC regulations, the current limit on FRS radios is 500 milliwatts. General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) shares channels 1 through 7 with FRS. As long as the power output does not exceed FRS limits, no license is required. It's common for FRS radios to use sub-audible tone squelch codes (CTSS & DCS) to filter out unwanted noise from other users on the same frequency. These codes don't offer any protection from eavesdroppers even though they are sometimes referred to as privacy codes. Their only purpose is to help share busy channels.

To restrict the range of communications and promote the sharing of available channels, FRS rules prohibit the use of duplex radio repeaters and interconnects to the telephone network. These restrictions do not apply to GMRS.

The effective range of FRS radio is generally about 1 mile even though most FRS radio manufacturers will market their products as having an effective range of 2 miles. The reality is that actual performance varies significantly based on conditions. The effective range is reduced in the presence of large metal buildings. However some hobbyists have found FRS radios capable of communicating at ranges of 30 miles or more under exceptional conditions in wide open spaces.

Hybrid GMRS/FRS radios have been manufactured recently with 22 channels compared with the 14 channels commonly associated with FRS. A GMRS license is required to transmit on all channels above 14. Transmission on channels 1 through 7 requires a license only if the ERP (effective radiated power) of the radio is above 1/2 watt (500 milliwatts). The responsibility for understanding and abiding by FCC rules & regulations rests with the user. Most hybrid GMRS/FRS radios can be set to operate at fewer than 500 milliwatts on channels 1 through 7 which eliminates the requirement for getting a license.

FRS Radio in foreign countries Although called by different names, services similar in nature to American FRS radio exist in several countries. In 2000, Canada approved the use of American-standard FRS radios. Considering the proximity of the US & Mexico, the importance of commerce between the countries, and the fact that tourists often bring their FRS radios across borders with them, Mexico has also authorized the use of FRS radios.

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