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Walkie Talkie Frequencies: Ultimate Guide

walkie talkie frequencies
Updated on 01/17/24

This guide will help you gain a better understanding of walkie-talkie or two-way radio frequencies.

The FCC, or Federal Communications Commission, has set specific guidelines to regulate private, public, and commercial radio use.

You may not be aware that you can’t just use any frequency or wattage you want when using radios.

While some ranges of frequencies, or bands, are free to use, others require licenses.

The normal operations range for two-way radios, according to the FCC, is 136 MHz to 900MHz.

The official FCC Frequency Allocations Guide can be difficult to understand, so I will do my best to explain it here more simply.

Family Radio Service (FRS)

The Family Radio Service (FRS) is a free-to-use radio service that requires no licensing up to a certain wattage.

The FRS is designed for personal, short-distance two-way communication and is not intended for business use.

FRS uses channels in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band of between 462 to 467 MHz.

FRS radios have 22 channels but have the following wattage restrictions:

Channels 1 – 7  Up to 2 watts
Channels 8 -14  Up to 0.5 watt
Channels 15 – 22  Up to 2 watts

Any radio that exceeds 2 watts of power is classified as GMRS and requires licensing to operate.

The general range you can expect for FRS radios is a half-mile to a couple of miles, depending on the environment and obstacles in the way.

Some FRS radios provide access to some GMRS only channels that shouldn’t be used without a GMRS license.

FRS radio units are legal to operate anywhere in the US on the given channels and under the specified wattage.

Here are the exact FRS rules of operation on the FCC website.

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)

The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a radio service that requires a license to use.

GMRS uses channels in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band between 462 to 467 MHz.

Though the FRS and GMRS share some frequencies, a GMRS license will allow you to operate your radios at higher power on some channels.

GMRS radios have 22 channels with the following wattage restrictions:

Channels 1-7  Up to 5 watts
Channels 8-14  Up to 0.5 watt
Channels 15-22  Up to 50 watts

GMRS also has an additional 8 repeater channels that can be used with up to 50 watts.

On channels 8 – 14, you are still limited to using only 0.5 watts, like FRS.

The benefits that a GMRS license provides over just using FRS are:

Repeater and external antennas usage, as well as run at a higher wattage on some channels.  These features will generally allow GMRS to communicate much greater distances than FRS.

How Much Does a GMRS License Cost?

A license is required to operate on GMRS frequencies legally.

The current price for a GMRS license is $35, and it is valid for 10 years. The price decreased from $70 to $35 on April 19, 2022.

There is no test required to get a GMRS license; instead, you go through the application process online and pay the fee.

When you get a license, you are given a call sign that you can share with your group or family. You must use it to identify yourself at the end of a message or every 15 minutes during a long conversation.

Here are the exact GMRS rules of operation on the FCC website.

Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS)

MURS is a free-to-use radio service that requires no licensing up to a certain wattage.

It is designed for short-distance two-way communication for personal or business use.

MURS uses channels in the very high frequency (VHF) band between 151.82 and 154.60 MHz.

MURS includes 5 channels with the following frequencies:

Channel 1  151.82 MHz  Max. Bandwidth 11.25 kHz
Channel 2  151.88 MHz  Max. Bandwidth 11.25 kHz
Channel 3  151.94 MHz  Max. Bandwidth 11.25 kHz
Channel 4  154.57 MHz  Max. Bandwidth 20 kHz
Channel 5  154.60 MHz  Max. Bandwidth 20 kHz

MURS units are restricted to a maximum of two watts of power output.

When programming radios, it is important to use the correct bandwidths to avoid audio issues and interference with other channels.

Use of repeaters is not allowed with MURS, but you can use external antennas to increase range.

A benefit of using MURS over something like FRS is that the MURS channels are less commonly used and may have less traffic.

Here are the exact MURS rules of operation on the FCC website.

Business Radio Service (BRS)

BRS, also called the Industrial/Business Radio Pool Service (Business Band), is a radio service that requires a license to use.

It contains frequencies set aside specifically for business use and includes some in the following: Low Band, VHF, UHF, and GMRS.

There is a long list of frequencies in the business band, and you can find them all here.

How Much Does a Business Radio License Cost?

Most business radios require a license which is required to ensure you are operating on an unassigned frequency.

A license for a single frequency is currently $449 or $549 with a base station or repeater. The license is good for 10 years, so the average yearly cost for a business will be around $50.

Many businesses choose not to get licensed, but the fines, if you are caught, could be thousands of dollars.

You can fill out a form online to get a business license, and you must work with an FCC frequency coordinator.

Extreme Radio Service (eXRS)

The Extreme Radio Services (eXRS) is a free-to-use radio service that requires no licensing but is tied to one particular radio brand.

EXRS uses channels in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band around 900 MHz.

You need a TriSquare brand radio to use eXRS, but the company has been out of business for a while now.

What makes eXRS different from other radio services is that it uses frequency hopping technology to make it harder for your messages to be monitored.

The company also claimed that their devices could reliably support up to 100,000 users in range of each other.

The eXRS radios also have the capability of sending SMS-like messages through digital radio modes.

While the TriSquare brand is discontinued but you still may purchase their devices second-hand off eBay or Craigslist.

Very High Frequency (VHF)

The frequencies between  30 – 300 MHz are designated under the Very High Frequency (VHF) classification.

VHF waves are longer and can go greater distances with less amount of power. VHF will generally be a better choice for use outdoors when there aren’t too many obstructions in the way.

Servies that most commonly operate under the VHF band include air traffic control and some marine radio services.

Ultra-High Frequency (UHF)

The frequencies between  300 MHz – 3 GHz are designated under the Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) classification.

UHF is generally better for indoor use because the radio waves are shorter and can more easily make it through obstructions.

This might also be a great choice for a hilly area or one that has many obstacles like trees to get through.

Most common walkie-talkies operate within the UHF band.