If you want to take your love for walkie talkies to the next level or have a keen interest in radio communications, personal radio services may grab your interest. Personal radio services can aid you in communication within a short-range and use low power unlike heavy duty radio towers or transmission stations.
There are 5 different types of personal radio services and have numerous uses and forms of communication. Some use two-way radio transmissions while others have one-way transmissions that allow users to transmit data or operate equipment remotely. Apart from low power, users of personal radio services also enjoy another advantage. They can choose the services that use ultra-high frequency and very high frequency of radio spectrum to reduce disturbances and keep the static to a minimum.
In this article, we will take a quick sneak peek into different types of personal radio services and regulations to use them.
You can use the Citizens Band Radio (CB) service for both personal and business use. However, there are strict guidelines that you need to follow for using this service. With a CB system, you can’t communicate with any station that is located at a distance of 155.3 miles or 250 km from you.
For CB service, you can use either AM signal or SSB (single sideband). Power level fluctuation is normal but there are guidelines for maximum power levels. If you are using AM transmission, you can use around 4 watts of power while SBB transmissions have been approved for 12 watts of PEP (Peak Envelope Power) at most. CB radio devices sold in the United States need to have certification from the FCC and manufacturers must label all information and certifications on each unit.
The authorization on these power standards are is strict that you may be severely punished by law if you try to increase the power output on these units.
A major disadvantage of the CB service is that you can’t have a CB channel all to yourself. There are 40 communication lines that are shared and individuals get to talk for less than 5 minutes consecutively to keep the flow of the system smooth.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) systems are much more versatile than CB systems and can be used for two-way communication with land-based mobile radio service within short distances. This system may include a station along with mobile stations that have multiple or just one mobile unit.
If you want to extend the range of these systems then adding more land stations can do the trick. These land stations act as repeaters that transmit the radio signal to the next station. But compared to CB systems they require hefty investment and much more power. However, detachable antennas and all other features bring you some advantages and even modularity to some extent.
If you are an individual you can easily acquire a GMRS license from the FCC. Unfortunately, for businesses, new licenses aren’t granted and licenses issued before July 1987 can be renewed if your business is eligible.
For a new GMRS license, you can fill up FCC Form 605 or online on their websitehere. If you are wondering about thelicensing fees, it can change annually, but fortunately, it covers you for a solid 10 years.
Family Radio Service (FRS) essentially looks and for the better part works like a walkie talkie. Over very short distances, around a mile on half-watt channels and 2 miles on 2-watt channels, you can conduct voice communications between two devices.
Since 2017, new channels were added for use by FRS communication and some dual-use devices that were previously classified as GMRS devices too are designated now as FRS only. For using them in the United States you don’t need to go through forms or any level of bureaucracy.
The chief advantage of using Multi-use Radio Service (MURS) is that you don’t need to acquire any licenses for operating a MURS system, unlike GMRS. You can think of it as the modern-day upgraded and relaunched version of CB radio. However, propagation on MURS is much more stable and reliable compared to CB as it uses the FM band instead of AM.
The service can be used within 5 channels and users need to cooperate to avoid any interference. MURS system also allows you to transmit data, not just voice. With VHF frequency and a small band, you can get much more out of a MURS system. One disadvantage of the MURS system may be the 2-watt power limit. But if you have a high antenna and clear weather, you may get a good range out of a MURS device. Since it uses VHF frequency, height is always a might.
Low Power Radio Service (LPRS) is a one-way communication system used for communicating within a short distance. LPRS is usually used for education, healthcare, and law enforcement by the relevant organizations and authorities. LPRS stations can transmit data or voice signals and essentially broadcast to people. Even the AMTS (Automated Marine Telecommunications System) uses LPRS for their network control.
Low powered devices that fall under part 15 can be used for broadcasting within a range of 200 feet and don’t require you to have any license. Campus Radio Stations and Carrier Current Stations don’t require licenses either as long as they work within the regulated guidelines. Being caught running an unlicensed broadcast station that isn’t covered within the things mentioned above can cost you a maximum of 75,000 dollars in fines.
FCC regulates and grants licenses for operating personal radio services. These rules can’t be violated and have been set for a wide variety of reasons such as National Security to interference. As long as you are operating a device or using a service that doesn’t require licenses you are fine. But illegally using services that require licenses without one may attract heavy fines that can easily reach 6 figures or cause imprisonment.