Walkie talkies aren’t just for military personnel and police, they come in handy for regular people too. Whether you go on regular camping trips or are part of a crew that’s setting up a large stage for a music festival, a walkie talkie allows you to send and receive messages to and from your friends or coworkers very quickly.
Something you have to be wary about with walkie talkies is tuning in to a channel you’re not supposed to be listening in on. In fact, some channels are illegal because they’re only licensed to a particular group of users. Using these (either intentionally or mistakenly) can result in you being fined by the FCC.
What is the FCC?
The Federal Communications Commission is a government organization in the USA that oversees transmissions occurring over television, radio, wire, cable and even satellite. Before manufacturers release their walkie talkies to the market, they must submit the circuit plans of their devices to the FCC. The latter will then approve and certify the product.
Why do walkie talkies need to go through a certification process? This is because, essentially, there are only a finite number of radio frequencies available to everyone. This means that all users of walkie talkies and two way radios have to share this spectrum, which makes strict regulations necessary.
FRS and GMRS
There are two ‘frequency ranges’ that the walkie talkies in the US operate in: FRS and GMRS. FRS or Family Radio Service are primarily used by walkie talkies designed for short range communication with friends and family. Examples of FRS devices include kids’ walkie talkies and baby monitors. A license is not necessary for FRS devices as the chance of interference is very low.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) walkie talkies, on the other hand, are intended for commercial use. Hence, you’ll need a license to use one, unless you work for an airline or a government organization. Usually, it costs around $70 for ten years which isn’t too bad. However, if you violate FCC regulations, your fine can be as high as $20,000!
What Channels shouldn’t you use for walkie talkie ?
The typical walkie talkie has 22 channels. If you have an FRS radio, you need to stick to channels 1 through 15. The rest are allocated for GMRS users who have a valid license.