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November 16, 2012 / awcsziebarth

FRS (Family Radio Service) Vs. FCC Compliant Commercial Radio

FRS Two-Way Radio

Cobra PR135-2 Two-Way FRS Radio, just one of many models of FRS radios available.

Have you ever gone to your local retailer and bought a pair of $75 walkie-talkies to improve communications, but when you started using them, they didn’t quite work like you had planned or hoped?  Did that trial experience lead you to believe that two-way radio communication just isn’t what you had in mind for your business?  This scenario isn’t as uncommon as you think, there are differences in FRS (Family Radio Service) radios that you can buy at your local retail store compared to a commercial grade radio that I’d like you to be aware of.

FRS radios were initially proposed by Radio Shack® in 1994 for use by families, although, many businesses have used this as an opportunity for a cheap way of increasing communications.  The FCC authorized the use of 14 channels (12.5kHz) on frequency range of 462 – 467MHz within the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) for use by FRS.  Since FRS is authorized by the FCC, FRS radios are licensed by rule.  What this means to you is that there is no FCC license that is required to operate a FRS radio.  FRS can be used in a business or personal setting; the only stipulation is that no representative of a foreign government can use a FRS device. 

FRS radios do not require a FCC license to be purchased, they can be used for personal and business use, and the radios themselves are fairly inexpensive.  Why would you want to buy a commercial grade radio when you can save money buying a FRS radio?

  • FRS radios only work on 462 – 467MHz frequencies, what does this mean to you?  There are thousands of FRS radios in use today, there is a good chance (especially in urban areas) that there are other businesses that are using FRS radios too, which could create interference.
  • There are also security concerns while operating a business with FRS radios.  When you have a commercial grade radio and purchase a FCC license (FCC license prices vary) you own those frequencies for 10 years.  Unlike the FRS radio this eliminates the easy chance of someone eavesdropping on your channels and interference that you may receive.
  • FRS radios are limited to 500 milliwatts (.5 of a watt).  If you are outside, with minimal obstructions, full battery, and normal conditions a FRS radio may reach up to a mile.  Even some of the lowest wattage commercial grade radios are double the power of a FRS radio.  FRS radios are restricted from use of duplex radio repeaters and interconnect to the telephone network as well.
  • Quality is a concern with FRS radios, they can break fairly easy, while commercial grade radios go through drop testing, quality checks, have aluminum frames, and have better batteries for longer standby and talk times.  Lastly, the clarity of voice that you receive from a FRS radio is not nearly as clear as a commercial grade radio.
  • Accessory options are almost limitless for a commercial grade radio.  Headsets, Bluetooth, cases, knobs, antenna, batteries, and more.
Commercial Two-Way Radios

Kenwood TK-3230 Commercial grade two-way radio is one of many commercial grade options.

So before you jump to any conclusions as to whether two-way radios are right for your business, look at the full picture.  Many commercial grade radio vendors will let you try out the radios before you purchase them, as does Advanced Wireless Communications.  You will be surprised on how much of a difference there is from a FRS radio to a commercial grade radio.  Go ahead take the test yourself, and experience first-hand the difference and what two-way communications can do for your business. 

Radio Shack, Kenwood and Cobra are registered trademarks of their respective companies.
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2 Comments

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  1. jthomas73 / Nov 16 2012 10:16 am

    So does this mean that if I went with regular radios I would get rid of the other people we currently hear on the little radios we bought? I mean we only spent about $50 for a pair of them but we are always fighting with other people on the same channel and sometimes it is impossible to use them around customers because of what they say. Will I have to share with other people on those radios too?

    • awcsziebarth / Nov 16 2012 10:37 am

      That is a great question Thomas! With a commercial grade radio you apply for an FCC license (license prices will vary). The frequencies that you receive from the FCC from applying for a license, are yours and yours alone (designated to geographical location) for 10 years! This would eliminate the interference you are receiving at your location. The price on the FRS radios you purchased are quite inexpensive, although, many companies look at the extra expense for a commercial grade radios as an investment for extra security, confidentiality and having minimal to no interference.

      I hope this helps you out moving forward Thomas.

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