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Recently in Consumer Radios Category

Recently in Consumer Radios Category

September 28, 2017

Which FRS and GMRS radios are license free?

In May 2017 the FCC ruled on Part 95 reform. Starting today, September 28, 2017 the new rules are now in effect. There were many changes, but here's the big one. Consumer FRS/GMRS two way radios 2 watts or less are now considered FRS radios and are license free!

Technically speaking, the radios are now licensed by rule, which means that you are no longer required to apply for a GMRS license from the FCC to use these lower powered models with 22 channels, even on those previously considered the 8 GMRS frequencies. The simple act of purchasing the radios gives you a license to use them on all 22 channels.

Since most of the models, particularly those sold in retail 2-packs or "bubble packs" do not include actual power ratings or wattage on the packaging or the product marketing spec sheets, only one question remains. Which FRS/GMRS radios are within the 2 watt power limit and are now considered FRS?

The truth is, most of the FRS/GMRS combo radios currently on the market are under 2 watts and follow the new rules as FRS only radios. In addition to the wattage requirement, any models that are capable of operating on GMRS repeater frequencies are considered GMRS radios and require a GMRS license to operate. Only two handheld models currently available are repeater capable and fall squarely in the category of GMRS.

Rather than creating a long list of radios that do fall under the Family Radio Service (FRS), perhaps the easiest thing to do is list the models that don't, and are now considered GMRS only. It's a short list.

GMRS Handheld Two Way Radios

Make Model Power
Cobra CXR925 2.8W No
Cobra MR-HH450 DUAL 2.24W (GMRS)
6.2W (Marine)
Midland GXT1000VP4 3.07W (high power) No
Midland GXT1050VP4 3.07W (high power) No
Motorola MR355R 1.32W Yes
Olympia R500 .973W Yes
We will continue to update this list as models are introduced. Bookmark this page or subscribe to our blog for the latest information.

December 11, 2015

Repeater capable FRS/GMRS radios

We often receive questions about the range limitations of consumer FRS/GMRS radios. In fact, it is probably one of the most commonly asked questions about them, and for many, it seems to be one of the most important considerations when shopping for a handheld radio. This is certainly understandable, of course. Everyone wants the ability to communicate with others across great distances, and certainly more than just across their front yard.

However, since radios communicate line-of-sight, and given the power and other limitations of the typical FRS/GMRS handheld walkie talkie, coupled with the uncertainty of weather conditions, location and terrain, the average range of direct radio-to-radio communications with the typical consumer radio may not meet some applications.

In such a scenario, one may need more than just a standard walkie-talkie. One may need a handheld radio with the ability to operate through a repeater.

Although the FCC does not allow the use of a repeater on FRS frequencies (and given the 1/2 watt limitation of the FRS service, it isn't practical anyway), it does allow the use of repeaters on the GMRS. Yes, there are GMRS repeaters out there, not too many, but they do exist. But what about repeater ready GMRS radios?

Yes, they do exist as well. We receive frequent inquiries and requests from customers who are searching for GMRS radios with the ability to operate through GMRS repeaters. While they aren't common, they certainly are out there, and they aren't too hard to find.

This chart lists brand name portable handheld GMRS radios currently available with repeater capability. Click on the name or image of each model for details and more specifications on each radio. All models listed in the chart are available from Buy Two Way Radios.

FRS/GMRS Two Way Radio Comparison Chart

Model Interference
Talkabout MR355R
121 22 11 8
Talkabout MS350R
121 22 11 8
Talkabout MS355R
121 22 11 8
Olympia R500 121 50* 11 8

Additional resources:
TWRS-68 - An Introduction to Repeaters
Radio 101 - How To activate repeater channels on a Motorola Talkabout radio

*According to Olympia, the 50 channels consist of 22 FRS/GMRS and 28 "extra" channels.

December 19, 2014

Two Way Radios vs. Cell Phones

The convenience of the typical cell phone is irrefutable. It allows you to send a photo, text a message, or dial a number and speak to almost anyone, almost, anytime, almost anywhere in the world.

While not as widely used by the public as cellular telephones, it is not uncommon to find many people using two way radios for both personal and business applications. Consumer FRS/GMRS walkie talkies are widely used for home and recreational uses. Business radios are used extensively in many commercial, industrial, municipal and government agency operations, and in some cases are used exclusively.

But wait. If cell phones are as powerful, popular and easily accessible as they are, why not just use a phone instead of a radio? For that matter, why use two way radio at all?

The truth is, there are many advantages to using two way radios over cell phones in many applications and situations. In fact, considering the options, it is rather astonishing how many businesses, particularly smaller companies, don't consider using radios at all and instead opt to use cell phones for one-to-one short range communications between employees.

To find out which option you should choose, let's compare the two.

Cell Phones:
  • are best for long distance communications
  • are in use almost everywhere; Almost everyone has a one
  • are expensive require a service subscription with a monthly service fee
  • cannot operate without active cell towers and service within range of the phone.
  • do not require a license to operate
  • typically require a one or two year contract for service
  • may incur additional fees when monthly usage is exceeded
  • incur roaming charges when out of the home area of service
  • are generally not impact resistant, waterproof or otherwise sufficiently durable for many business uses
  • may not work well or at all in some rural or remote areas
  • include text message capabilities
  • require you must dial a number and wait for the call to connect, which can take thirty seconds or longer
  • feature group calls which involve dialing multiple numbers and establishing multiple connections.

Two Way Radios
  • are best for short range communications
  • are not as commonly used as cell phones, but very easy to obtain and use
  • are typically more rugged and durable than cell phones and many are fully waterproof, submersible and even float!
  • usually cost much less than cell phones
  • do not require contracts
  • do not incur monthly usage fees
  • do not have over limit usage fees
  • do not have roaming charges
  • Airwaves are free
  • may require an FCC license to operate on some frequencies or bands. Some are "licensed by rule" and do not require the purchase of a license. Read Types of Two Way Radios for details.
  • only requires a one-time purchase of the radio (and a license, if required)
  • require line-of-site transmission and reception
  • work well within a limited line-of-sight range in rural or remote areas
  • Some digital radios have text message capabilities
  • provide instant communcation with no wait time. Press the PTT button and transmit instantly. Simply turn the radio on to listen.
  • group calls are simple. Turn on the radio to listen. Simply press the PTT button to talk to the group.

Comparing the two, it isn't difficult to determine two distinct advantages two way radios have over cell phones for many recreational activities and commercial applications. One huge difference is the cost. Even considering the cost of obtaining the most expensive license to operate a GMRS or business radio, cell phones can cost more to own and operate, a lot more.

For instance, consider the family that takes frequent hiking trips out of their home cell service area. Roaming charges can add up fast, even on a family plan, and there is no guarantee of service in the area of their hiking excursion. Taking a couple of $200 to $400 cell phones out on the trail and into the elements is also a risky proposition, unless of course, money is no object.

However, a GMRS license currently costs $85 and covers the entire family. A pair of high end Midland GXT1000 radios cost considerably less than one $200 cell phone. These radios are also a lot more durable and can take more punishment from the outdoors. Their chances of survival are considerably higher than the phone. If the hikers are using FRS frequencies, the cost is even lower, because no license is required to operate on the Family Radio Service. In this scenario, using two way radios for short range communications between members of a group just makes more sense.

This is particularly true in a commercial environment. In fact, based on the comparison above, businesses and organizations that require employees to use cell phones for localized, short range two way communications within relatively close proximity to one another instead of business radios can actually reduce or impede the efficiency of their operations very quickly, ultimately wasting time, resources, and, of course, money.

One of the greatest advantages of using two way radios over cell phones in any environment is the ability for simple, instant communication. Instant means just that. You simply pick up the device, press one button and talk, or even simpler, just listen. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

There is an old axiom about using the right tool for the right job. In the case of cell phones and two way radios, this is especially true. Each has their place, to be sure.

However, while a cell phone is useful for one-to-one, full duplex conversations across great distances, It isn't usually the best choice for instant, "always on" group, team or one-to-one communications over short distances or within a limited, confined area. In such situations, the two way radio is usually a more efficient, economical and overall practical choice.

December 4, 2014

What is the difference between walkie talkies and two way radios?

business-consumer.pngRecently we received a comment from a customer who took issue with our use of the terms two way radio and walkie talkie in one of our older posts. Apparently the customer was searching for a two way radio but after locating radios listed as walkie talkies, considered it a misdirection to another line of products, presumably perceiving that an item labeled as a walkie talkie was inferior to another item labeled as a two way radio. According to the customer, walkie talkies and two way radios are not the same.

In reality, the terms walkie talkie and two way radio are often considered interchangeable, at least here in the US, and are sometimes even used together in the same conversation to reference the same thing. As a US based company, our use of these terms is based on their common accepted usage within our country. These terms may be used differently in other countries, so it is, by no means, an absolute.

Of course, there is a difference between a two way radio and a walkie talkie that is somewhat universal. Technically speaking, the two are not the same thing, although in some cases, they can be. To understand the difference, we need to define the terms.

A two way radio is a radio that can operate two ways, that is, it has the ability to both transmit and receive a radio signal, as opposed to a radio that can only receive. A two way radio can either operate in a half-duplex or full duplex mode. Half-duplex allows the radio to transmit or receive in turn but not both simultaneously. Full-duplex allows the radio to transmit and receive at the same time. A two way radio is also commonly called a transceiver, because it can both transmit and receive radio communications. In either case, the radio operates two ways; it can send and it can receive.

A walkie talkie is a portable two way radio, particularly one that can be held in the hand. This type of radio, also known as a handy talkie, handheld transceiver or HT, allows you to talk on the radio while walking around, hence the name walkie talkie.

Now that we've defined the terms, let's consider the argument. Are these terms interchangeable? Well, yes and no.

According to the definition, a walkie talkie is a two way radio, but a two way radio is not always a walkie talkie. This is because there are types of radios that are not portable handhelds, such as a mobile radio mounted in a vehicle or a desk or wall mounted base station.

But, it can be one. In fact, most, if not all manufacturers of business, CB, consumer, marine and amateur portable handheld radios or walkie talkies do not usually refer to their products as "Walkie Talkies", but as "Two Way Radios".

This is understandable, considering the history of the walkie talkie. It originally referred to the portable backpack transceivers used in the military during World War II. More recently it became associated with consumer grade FRS radios. The term has also long been used to refer to extremely low power radios sold as toys and that stigma, while misdirected, still exists today. Given that, it's no wonder some folks shun products labeled as walkie talkies in search of a "real" two way radio.

Do you consider walkie talkies and two way radios different or the same things? How and why? It's a great topic and we'd like to know what you think. We will be discussing it in a January 2015 episode of The Two Way Radio Show Podcast and we want your comments. From now until December 31, 2014, for everyone who comments on the topic below, tweets a response @2WayRadios, or posts it on our Facebook or Google + pages, if we read it on the podcast, we will send you a FREE T-shirt!

We have plenty of shirts to give away, so send in your comments now.

December 1, 2014

TWRS-83 - New Olympia FRS/GMRS Radios

We tell you about a new line of FRS/GMRS radios from an old company in the business. We also review the XLT EB120 Earbud with PTT Microphone.

Intro :00
Billboard 1:22

Discussion Topic 1:42
We talk about the new Olympia FRS/GMRS Two Way Radios. We'll give you the inside story about these new radios, introduce you to the models, and discuss the key features and the differences between them and similar models produced by the same manufacturer under another well-known and popular brand.

Commercial Break 18:41 1:00

Product Review 19:37
We review the XLT EB120 Earbud with PTT Microphone.

Questions and Answers 26:02
Questions from readers of our Two Way Radio Blog and members of the Two Way Radio Forum.

Wrap up and Close 31:54
Send in your comments and questions for Danny, Anthony and Rick to show[at] Feedback on this and other topics will be read by the hosts and included in future episodes of the show. Visit us at!

© 2014 Cricket Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.

[ Download MP3 ]

January 29, 2014

Get walkie talkies for a cruise without getting soaked

We get a lot of customers who contact us on a daily basis and are looking for radios to use on their upcoming cruise. One customer recently contacted me looking for an older Motorola Talkabout model, the T5620. This is a model that has been discontinued for some time and originally sold brand new for under $42 a pair. She mentioned that the cruise company was offering this outdated model as a rental to cruise goers. I asked her what the charge was, and she replied with $8.00 per day, per radio. She is going on a 15 day cruise. If my math is correct, that is $120 per radio, and she needs four of them, bringing the total to $480!! Sounds outrageous to me.

We have tested many different models of consumer two way radios on our annual cruises and we have found certain models work better than others. My personal favorite is the Midland GXT1000VP4. It gets me the coverage I need for my family and other cruise goers in my group. With a price of $69.99 per set, you will definitely come out better in the long run - and have something to show for it when the cruise is completed.

Needless to say, she was stoked by the fact that we could get her the four radios she needed for around $150!

When you are ready to take your next cruise, give us a shout. We will be glad to point you in the right direction.

Happy Sailing!!!

To learn how important two way radios are to have on a cruise, listen to The Two Way Radio Show Podcast TWRS-19 - Cruising With Radios.

June 17, 2013

FCC Considering Elimination of GMRS Regulatory Fee

A few weeks ago the FCC released a document proposing some changes to the way regulatory fees are calculated, as well as some changes to the fee amounts for various services. This type of release is not out of the ordinary, and normally we wouldn't give it a second look. However, buried in Attachment E(4) (page 40) is the following statement.

The FNPRM seeks comment concerning adoption and implementation of proposals for FY 2014 and beyond, which include: ... (3) eliminating the regulatory fee component pertaining to General Mobile Radio Service;

The FCC is requesting comments from the public concerning eliminating the regulatory fee for GMRS in 2014. Now, the regulatory fee is only a portion ($25) of the total licensing fee, but this may be a clue that the FCC is moving closer to finally adopting their 2010 proposal to eliminate the GMRS license fee entirely.

May 6, 2013

Radio 101 - The truth about FRS / GMRS two way radio range

Most manufacturers of consumer walkie talkies boast a maximum range between 16 and 50 miles. But are the numbers for real or are these range claims over the top? In this episode of Radio 101, Anthony from Buy Two Way Radios will tell you the truth about two way radio range and what you can reasonably expect from the typical FRS/GMRS radio under normal operating conditions.

For an in-depth discussion about two way radio range, listen to The Two Way Radio Show episodes TWRS-05 - Radios in Range and TWRS-45 - The Truth About GMRS Radio Range.

Related Resources
GMRS Radio Range Chart
30 Miles? The Truth About Range
Getting The Most Range From Your Radio
The Two Way Radio Show TWRS-05 - Radios in Range
The Two Way Radio Show TWRS-45 - The Truth About GMRS Radio Range
How To Optimize Range for Motorola Talkabout Two Way Radios

April 19, 2013

TWRS-56 - Update on the Proposed Changes to the GMRS

We talk about the current status of the proposed changes to the GMRS announced by the FCC in 2010. We also review the XLT TM-200 Adjustable Throat Mic.

Intro :00
Billboard 1:13

Topic Discussion 1:31
We give you an update on the FCC's proposed changes to the GMRS. We'll talk about the current license requirements, some of the proposed changes to those requirements, and the current status of the proposed changes. For more information on the proposed changes to the GMRS, read A Summary of the FCC's Proposed Changes to GMRS and Other Services and My Thoughts On The FCC's Proposed GMRS Changes. For tips on using your two way radios, watch our Radio 101 video series hosted by Anthony.

Commercial Break 25:29 1:00

Product Review 26:30
Today we review the XLT TM-200 Adjustable Throat Mic. For instructions on how to properly wear a throat mic, watch Radio 101 - How to use a throat mic.

Questions and Answers 35:06
Questions from readers of our Two Way Radio Blog and members of the Two Way Radio Forum.

Wrap up and Close 40:17
Send in your comments and questions for Danny, Anthony and Rick to show[at] Feedback on this and other topics will be read by the hosts and included in future episodes of the show. Visit us at!

© 2013 Cricket Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.

[ Download MP3 ]

February 11, 2013

Radio 101 - Are GMRS radios user programmable?

A commonly asked question by new users of walkie-talkies is about programming consumer FRS/GMRS radios. Are GMRS radios user programmable? In this episode of Radio 101, Anthony from Buy Two Way Radios gives you a fast, matter-of-fact, no-nonsense answer.