The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a licensed radio service that uses channels around 462 MHz and 467 MHz. The most common use of GMRS channels is for short-distance, two-way voice communications using hand-held radios, mobile radios and repeater systems. In 2017, the FCC expanded GMRS to also allow short data messaging applications including text messaging and GPS location information. It is a licensed service that covers the licensee and his/her entire family including grandparents!
This is a great addition to any family or groups’ daily, emergency, or back up communications needs!
It allows the use of repeater systems that can take low power portable and even mobile radios and send the signal over a larger area. This is great in both small towns and big cities in order to increase coverage for your family to use.
Who Can Use GMRS?
A licensee can use it with his/her entire family all under ONE license. This includes parents, brothers, sisters and in-laws! It is the perfect tool for families to keep in touch with one another. From the FCC themselves:
You may apply for a GMRS license if you are 18 years or older and not a representative of a foreign government. If you receive a license, any family member, regardless of age, can operate GMRS stations and units within the licensed system.
Radios can be used with or without a repeater. For small area communications such as a department store or small campground, portable and mobile radios might work just fine. If you’re looking for coverage across the whole town, you might need a repeater to use.
What Are The Frequencies?
GMRS operates in the Ultra-High Frequency Band, otherwise known as UHF. From the FCC themselves, here are the channel/frequency allotments:
The GMRS is allotted 30 channels—16 main channels and 14 interstitial channels. GMRS stations may transmit on any of the channels as indicated below.
(a) 462 MHz main channels. Only mobile, hand-held portable, repeater, base and fixed stations may transmit on these 8 channels. The channel center frequencies are:
(b) 462 MHz interstitial channels. Only mobile, hand-held portable and base stations may transmit on these 7 channels. The channel center frequencies are: 462.5625, 462.5875, 462.6125, 462.6375, 462.6625, 462.6875, and 462.7125 MHz.
(c) 467 MHz main channels. Only mobile, hand-held portable, control and fixed stations may transmit on these 8 channels. Mobile, hand-held portable and control stations may transmit on these channels only when communicating through a repeater station or making brief test transmissions in accordance with §95.319(c).
Commonly called “Repeater Inputs”, The channel center frequencies are:
(d) 467 MHz interstitial channels. Only hand-held portable units may transmit on these 7 channels. The channel center frequencies are: 467.5675, 467.5875, 467.6125, 467.6375, 467.6625, 467.6875, and 467.7125 MHz.
If you’re curious about the rules in the GMRS, here is the complete link to
ALL of the Part 95 Personal Radio Services rules below….
BUT WAIT! What is a CTCSS Tone?? WHAT IS DCS???? What does PL mean?
CTCSS stands for Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) and is used to minimize interference to radio systems on the same frequency, otherwise called co-channel transmissions or interference. What it does is that the repeaters and radios send each other a sub-audible analog tone (you can’t hear it) that tells the radios to open its squelch to receive a signal. The sub-audible tone can be transmitted and received, to only allow radios to hear each other with matching tones.
These tones allow repeaters to not open up (read:transmit) without receiving the proper tone. Sometimes called privacy tones, these tones will allow your radio to only hear traffic on a frequency with matching tones. In all reality, there’s nothing private about them. We use them to demarcate specific repeaters across the area and allow others, who may not be members of our group, to have their systems also with minimal interference.
Sometimes, these tones are called “PL Tones”, which stands for “Private Line” and is a Motorola Trademark Name. They are the same thing.
Here is an example of a repeater listing and what it means:
GMRS Call Sign: WRBK701 (This is the repeater owner registered with the Group)
Repeater Frequency Pair: 462.650 & 467.650 (462.650 would be the “output ” or frequency your repeater listens to the repeater on and 467.650 is the “input” or frequency you transmit to the repeater on. Just like the frequency list above)
CTCSS/PL Tones: 127.3 (TX and RX) (this is the CTCSS tone to access this repeater. You need to have 127.3 Hz programmed into the “TONE” or CTCSS/PL section of your radio programming.)
DCS is a Digital Coded Squelch. Same as a CTCSS but a Digital one instead of an analog subaudible tone. You don’t hear it but it does the same thing. Some repeater owners use these and some use CTCSS. It is all personal preference of the repeater owner.
What does this mean for me?
We live in a well-connected world. Internet and cellular telephone has become ubiquitous in most every place in the US. However, there are many places that lack Internet/phone coverage that GMRS can fill in. It’s also real quick and convenient when traveling in multiple cars to talk to one another without dialing a phone! But even more so, GMRS does not rely on Internet and cellular telephone and many repeaters are stand alone systems that cover a great deal of real estate. This is great for families in the case of an Internet or phone outage to have as a backup for your family. GMRS isn’t there to replace other methods of communication, its there to supplement it. Lastly, it’s just fun! Using two way radio can leave your phone open for other calls and you just might meet some other like minded people and forge new friendships.
What do I look for in radios?
So, as a GMRS licensee, you have several options, including
- A Base Station; radio used in a stationary place such as your home or office. This radio is usually connected to a larger, outdoor antenna and can be used with or independently of a repeater within its coverage area.
- A Mobile Station; radios usually installed in vehicles. Radio is usually 10-50 Watts output and uses the battery supply of the vehicle and an antenna mounted to the vehicle by either a magnet, hole drilled or other bracket. Most of these types of radios can also be used as a base station also with a power supply and external antenna.
- A Portable Radio Station; radios designed to be carried on the person and/or hand held. Sometimes called a HT (handy-talkie), walkie-talkie or portable. These radios are self-contained with battery and antenna. They are for short range and work better with a repeater for any significant distance. They operate poorly inside of vehicles and enclosed buildings.
Radios come in different sizes, shapes and capabilities. The absolute basics one needs to find in a radio for GMRS usage is:
- UHF or “Ultra-High Frequency”. Radios in VHF or “Very High Frequency” will not work here on GMRS.
- “Band split” (functional usable range) of either 438-470 Megahertz or 450-470, or 450-512 Megahertz. Be careful here. Sometimes radios come in 403-420 or 470-512 and these usually won’t work. The key to look for is that the radio works in the 462-467 Megahertz range.
- Some sample Models of radios that GMRS users purchase (samples below, any will work and depends on price and most will need programming) WE DO NOT ENDORSE ANY BRAND THIS IS JUST SAMPLE!
- Kenwood TK-350, TK-380, TK-3140, TK-3180, TK390 Portables
- Kenwood TK-880, TK8180, TK862 Mobile Radios
- Motorola GP300, Visar, HT750, HT1250, HT1000, CP200, MT2000, MTS2000 Portables
- Motorola Radius Mobile, GM300, MCS2000, CM300, SM50, SM120, CDM1250, CDM750 Mobile Radios
- Vertex VX-220, Icom IC-F6021
- eBay/Amazon line of Chinese Radios like Baofeng 888, UV-5R, GMRS- V1.
- Midland makes several basic pre-programmed mobile radios, such as the MXT-400 that is repeater capable. They continue to create many newer repeater capable radios also and are a well known company. Be careful, they have other mobiles and portables that are less expensive BUT NOT repeater capable.
- When programming your radios, make sure they are set to WIDEBAND! (25 KHZ)
Some GMRS repeater owners and operators have software to program some of the radios above, thus the benefit of joining a repeater group! JUST ASK!!
Need help programming a radio? Check out our YouTube video on using Chirp Software to program a lot of different radios!
Okay, I Have A Radio! Now What!
Take some advice from one of our repeater owners! Mason, WRKF394, as he shares his thoughts…
HOW TO TALK ON A REPEATER (From one of our Repeater Owners)
Ok now, hang on – before you roll your eyes – maybe there are some people that really aren’t sure how to use a repeater. I can assure you that at first, I didn’t know how, and it kept me from ever really using my radios. Therefore, I provide this quick and dirty scenario-based “article” of sorts, with examples, to help ease the minds of any nervous or mic shy GMRS licensees.
before doing anything on a repeater
- LISTEN FIRST. Listen for a good 60 seconds to make sure you aren’t going to key up on top of someone else.
- ALWAYS identify yourself on your first transmission. Also identify yourself once every 15 minutes while in conversation. Also identify yourself on your last transmission.
- KEEP IT RESPECTFUL and do not say anything that you wouldn’t want half of the state to hear you say… because they can!
if You want to know if your radio can reach the repeater
- Identify yourself by your call sign, followed by “testing”, “radio check”, or similar. You will hear the repeaters courtesy “beep” informing you that the repeater heard your transmission.
- You might also hear another user respond and tell you whether you came through clear or not. If this is the case, please thank them for confirming your radio check. This is not only courteous, but also lets the other person know that you can hear them as well.
- DO NOT simply key up for half a second and wait for the “beep”. This is called “kerchunking” and is technically in violation of FCC regulations as transmission without identification
Ex: “WRKF394, radio check”
if You want to see if anyone wants to chat
- Just identify yourself. This announces your presence, and if someone is listening and they hear you, they might respond if they also want to chat. If you are driving, you can also say “mobile” which lets anyone listing know that you are moving around and signal strength may fluctuate. Likewise if you are walking around with a handheld radio you could say “portable”.
Ex: “WRKF394, mobile”
IF YOU WANT TO “CALL” FOR SOMEONE
- Say the call sign of the person you are calling, followed by your callsign
“WRBK701, this is WRKF394. Chris, are you on today?”
if more than 1 person regularly uses your callsign
- GMRS allows one call sign to cover multiple family members. If you have multiple people that use your call sign (like my family), it can get confusing.
- I suggest you use unique identifiers, or “unit numbers”, in addition to your call sign. These numbers can be whatever you want.
- Upon applying for membership with the Arkansas GMRS Repeater Group, you will also be given unit numbers that you can use if you want.
Ex: “WRKF394, A100. A103, do you copy?”
if you have an emergency
- Alert anyone listening that you have emergency traffic
- Continue with your emergency transmission
Ex: “Emergency, emergency, emergency, this is WRKF394 with emergency traffic”
EXAMPLE GMRS REPEATER TRAFFIC
“WRKF394, unit 1, mobile. How’s it going, Chris?”
“It’s going well! I decided to go on a walk since the weather is so nice today. What are you up to?”
“Roger that. Me and my brother are heading out to go camping. He’s following behind me and might have his radio on too. WRKF394, unit 2, this is unit 1, do you have your radio on?”
“This is unit 2, copy that unit 1, I’m listening”
“Alright Chris, we just pulled up to the campsite and we’re gonna hop out. Good talking with you today, hope to catch you again sometime soon. WRKF394”
“Sure thing, be safe out there! WRBK701, I’ll be monitoring”
This is just some information that I felt like getting out there. Remember… at the end of the day, it’s just a radio. There is no specific code of conduct for speaking that you have to perfectly abide by to keep from getting in trouble. Just be kind and courteous, follow a few simple rules, and have a good time! Be sure to reach out to someone (including us!) if you have any questions.