FCC Personal Radio Service Revisions Will Affect GMRS, FRS, CB, Other Part 95 Devices


In a lengthy Report and Order (R&O) in a proceeding (WT Docket No. 10-119) dating back 7 years, the FCC has announced rule changes affecting the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), the Family Radio Service (FRS), the Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS or “CB”), as well as other applications that fall under the FCC’s Part 95 Personal Radio Services (PRS) rules and regulations. Part 95 devices typically are low-power units that communicate over shared spectrum and, with some exceptions, do not require an individual user license from the FCC. As the R&O explains, common examples of PRS devices include “walkie-talkies;” radio-control cars, boats, and planes; hearing assistance devices; CB radios; medical implant devices; and Personal Locator Beacons.

“This draft Report and Order completes a thorough review of the PRS rules in order to modernize them, remove outdated requirements, and reorganize them to make it easier to find information,” the FCC said in a summary attached to the R&O. “As a result of this effort, the rules will become consistent, clear, and concise.”

GMRS and FRS devices are used for personal communication over several miles; compact FRS handhelds, often sold in pairs, are widely available. While GMRS and FRS share spectrum, GMRS provides for greater communications range and requires an FCC license; FRS does not.

“The rules will increase the number of communications channels for both GMRS and FRS, expand digital capabilities to GMRS (currently allowed for FRS), and increase the power/range for certain FRS channels to meet consumer demands for longer range communications (while maintaining higher power capabilities for licensed GMRS),” the FCC explained.

The amended rules eventually will eliminate combination FRS/GMRS radios for the most part, but allow up to 2 W PEP output for FRS transceivers. “[M]any current users of GMRS/FRS combination radios do not obtain licenses to operate over the GMRS frequencies in those radios,” the FCC said. “Much of this problem likely arises as a result of the mass consumer marketing of combination devices for sale to the public in large quantities to users who do not know about or do not understand the licensing requirements attached to such radios and obligations associated with operating in the GMRS.”

The FCC said it no longer will certify FRS devices that incorporate GMRS capabilities or capabilities of other services. Existing GMRS/FRS combination radios that operate at power levels of less than 2 W ERP will be reclassified as FRS devices; existing GMRS/FRS radios that operate above that power level will be reclassified as GMRS devices, requiring an individual license. Radios that can transmit on GMRS repeater input channels will continue to be licensed individually and not by rule.

“We believe the 2 W limit for FRS is appropriate, because many of the existing combination GMRS/FRS radios already operate under that level with no significant complaints about interference or other problems, and it provides a reasonable balance between the desire for increased range over the prior FRS power levels and battery life,” the FCC said.

The FCC said changes to the decades-old Citizens Band (CB) rules will remove outdated requirements, including certain labeling requirements. DXing on Citizens Band will become legal too. Once the new rules are effective, CBers will be allowed to contact stations outside of the FCC-imposed — but widely disregarded — 155.3-mile distance limit. The revised CB rules further clarify how hands-free devices can be used with CB radios and will allow the use of wireless microphones with CB radios. “We find the record persuasive regarding the consumer demand for this feature, and it will promote safety on the highways by reducing driver distraction for those using CB [radios],” the FCC said. The FCC left in place the current power limits for the CB Radio Service.

The rule changes will phase out the use of voice-scrambling or “obscuring” features in all Part 95 devices, and it will ultimately prohibit manufacture, importation, or sale of any devices incorporating such features, “regardless of whether the Commission has previously certified that radio.”

Overall, the FCC said, its action “achieves a thorough review of Part 95 rules and creates a new rule structure where common administrative rules are consolidated to reduce duplication, and individual subparts are structured with a common numbering scheme.” The FCC said the changes remove “outdated and unnecessary rules, while clarifying others.”

Most of the new Part 95 rules will become effective 30 days after their publication in The Federal Register.




In reading the new rules from the FCC here is what is happening. Once the rulemaking is passed it would take effect 30 days later. It looks like it will be on the agenda for the May FCC meeting, thus if passed should take effect in the summer 2017.

FRS is being expanded to 2 watts and full unlicensed access to the 8 GMRS 462 MHz. channels with 2 watts. Thus FRS radios will be allowed 2 watts on 22 channels. This effectively legalizes unlicensed use of the 22 channel bubble-pack radios without need for license and allows new radios to be set to 2 watts on all 22 channels.

Radios with power levels over 2 watts on any of these channels are now classified as GMRS and require licenses. No cross-service (FRS-GMRS, FRS-Marine Band etc.) radios will be allowed. 

The 467 MHz. repeater inputs are NOT authorized for FRS use and are still restricted to GMRS licensees only.

Channels that had been shared between FRS & GMRS. FRS users were limited to 1/2 watt.


(FRS Channels 1-7)

462.5625 FRS 1

462.5875 FRS 2

462.6125 FRS 3

462.6375 FRS 4

462.6625 FRS 5

462.6875 FRS 6

462.7125 FRS 7

Channels that are/were FRS Only, limited to 1/2 watt.


(FRS 8-14)

467.5625 FRS 8

467.5875 FRS 9

467.6125 FRS 10

467.6375 FRS 11

467.6625 FRS 12

467.6875 FRS 13

467.7125 FRS 14


Former GMRS Only channels often included in Bubble Pack radios.

(Now known as FRS Channels 15-22)

462.5500 FRS 15

462.5750 FRS 16

462.6000 FRS 17

462.6250 FRS 18

462.6500 FRS 19

462.6750 FRS 20

462.7000 FRS 21

462.7250 FRS 22

GMRS Licenses will remain to be required.

Other changes include:

  • Rule Numbering will change thruout. 
  • Technical specs will be updated to conform with current technology and terminology.
  • Scrambling/encryption will not be allowed.
  • Certain portable radios will no longer require GMRS licenses and will be reclassified to FRS.
  • GMRS Licenses will be extended to 10 years, making them cheaper per annum since the fee will not change. 
  • Location info and some texts will be allowed to be sent with GMRS transmissions.
  • GMRS will be authorized to use the FRS 467 MHz. channels at the same 2 watt limit now allowed for FRS.
  • Other GMRS power limits (50 watts for base and mobiles etc.) will not change.
  • Small Bases are now eliminated as they are moot.
  • GMRS will not be required to go narrowband and may continue to use either narrow or wide band. 
  • DMR/TRBO/NXDN/TDMA etc. will not be allowed, only analog FM.

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