Most of the time, we see policemen and security guards use walkie talkies, which makes us wonder whether it’s legal for the rest of us to use them. The short answer is yes, but there are certainly some restrictions. In this article, we will explore what these restrictions are and how to use a walkie talkie in accordance with the law.
The FCC or the Federal Communications Commission is a US governmental body that implements and oversees all radio communication regulations. So radio, TV, satellite, wire, and cable are all regulated by them. In fact, before walkie talkie manufacturers release new devices into the market, they must submit the circuit plans for approval and certification.
FRS and GMRS
In the US, walkie talkies operate on two types of radio frequencies or channels: FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service).
The former is mainly used for short-range radio communication amongst friends and family. For instance, if you’re out hiking with a group of friends or monitoring your baby from a distance, you’d be using an FRS channel on your walkie talkie. On the other hand, GMRS channels are used for commercial purposes like coordinating security in a mall.
The biggest difference between FRS and GMRS frequencies is that the latter cannot be used without a license from the FCC. A license is generally around $70 and you must be at least 18 years old in order to apply for one. Furthermore, they must be renewed every ten years.
GMRS channels are strictly regulated by the FCC and if you’re caught using one without a license, you could end up paying tens of thousands in fines!
Using Walkie Talkies Abroad
You can’t use US walkie talkie models in places like Europe. This is because European countries don’t use the same frequencies as the US for either personal or commercial applications. As a result, if you try to use an FRS or GMRS walkie talkie in Europe, you might end up jamming or causing interference in important channels. If caught, you’ll have to pay thousands of dollars in fines!
If you must use walkie talkies abroad, then the best thing to do is buy one from the country you’re in.
While it isn’t illegal for the average person to use a walkie talkie, there are certain restrictions that you must adhere to. You can only use FRS channels without a license and you may not be able to use a US walkie talkie in another country.