Why is FRS/GMRS “suddenly” more interesting, especially in emergency preparedness?

Recent changes to FCC rules have rewritten the separations and overlaps between the two services and the creation of high-power repeater options for channels 15 to 22 have created reliable, longer-range links.

FRS is now the low-power, unlicensed, channels 1 to 22 service.

GMRS covers the same channels of 1 to 22, but offers high power options and repeater options on channels 15 to 22. GMRS is a licensed service, but the cost is coming down to $35 for a 10-year license. While there is a fee, there is no test—a limitation that keeps many people out of amateur radio. In addition, the new rules allow a licensee to share his license with specified family members at no extra cost.

The repeater options include simplex repeaters and duplex repeaters. The duplex repeaters have new, specified frequencies for the inputs.

The overlapping channels allow an FRS operator to use a GMRS operators’ simplex repeater with permission. That can provide reliable service over a 2-mile-diameter zone using a $10, ½-watt, unlicensed radio. That can be effective “last mile” communications.

The full-duplex GMRS repeaters allow reliable, many-mile communications for those willing to invest $40 to $200 for a 5-watt radio and $35 for a GMRS license. The setup for these radios is a bit more difficult.

Also, the eight channels (15 to 22) for GMRS repeaters are largely available. There is no formal coordinating agency (as there is for amateur radio), so users may “claim” a channel on mygmrs.com.

Amateur radio will likely out-perform FRS/GMRS technically in just about all circumstances, but the ease of access and low cost is making FRS/GMRS very attractive to many people today.

Mike Von der Porten, AD6YBM WRJQ994
comments, corrections, suggestions welcome!