FRS/GMRS or Business Radios?
Thinking about FRS/GMRS instead of UHF or VHF? There are several factors that need to be considered to ensure you’re getting the best value for your dollar, and that the products you select will meet your needs over the course of the product’s lifecycle. FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radio can be effective in the right situation, however, you will want to make one important decision early on: if you are purchasing radios for a business, definitely buy Business Radios. All FRS/GMRS radios are basically one step above toys. They’re built for occasional, recreational family use and do a great job for what they’re intended, but they’re not built to endure the hardships inherent to business usage. FRS/GMRS radios used on a regular basis for business-type purposes will typically break within a relatively short time. Business Radios, on the other hand, will generally last years.
- All FRS radios transmit with 0.5 watts of power or less, and have a maximum range of up to two miles, depending on weather and topography. Transmission is best if you have a clear line of sight between parties. Radios from different manufacturers can communicate with one another. However, unlike cell phones or VHF radios, FRS units cannot communicate directly with emergency services. The radios are equipped with up to 14 channels. The more channels available, the more likely you are to find one that is not being used by other nearby parties. Most FRS units feature privacy codes, sub channels, or group codes. These sub-audible tones filter out transmissions from other radios set to the same channel but not transmitting the same tone. Privacy codes do not provide an exclusive, secure channel; other radios set to the same channel and code will be able to overhear your transmissions.
- GMRS units are similar to FRS radios but have a larger range and more available channels. GMRS radios have a maximum of twenty-three channels, seven of these are shared with FRS radios. On shared channels, transmissions are restricted to 0.5 watts of power. On the channels exclusive to the GMRS, they can use up to two watts, giving them a maximum range of eight miles. Transmission power and licensing requirements differ for the US and Canada. Radios used in Canada must carry a label from Industry Canada or DOC (Department of Communications) to show they are approved for use in Canada. Radios used in the US must be approved by the FCC. Radios designed for the US market can transmit at five watts of power on GMRS-specific channels. Use of these radios is limited to the US and users must have a license from the FCC.
UHF or VHF: Avoid a Costly Mistake
Walkie-talkies that aren’t toys, are not cheap. Whether you’re buying a set of 4 for your Deli or a fleet of 40 for your distribution center, you’ll want to spend wisely to avoid having to live with a mistake. A critical point in choosing the right two-way radio is knowing that UHF is going to be your best bet in most circumstances. Note: UHF radios will never be able to communicate with VHF radios! So, if you already have radios and are looking to purchase additional units to use with them, be sure to select the same band.
- UHF radios (Ultra High Frequency) operate on frequencies from 400 to 512 megahertz (MHz). UHF radios work best for most two-way radio users because the waves are shorter and can get around or penetrate areas of interference found in buildings, thickly wooded or hilly areas and urban outdoor settings. UHF walkie-talkies with a good-sized antenna and enough power will reach further into a building and push through and around steel, concrete, wood and earth. If your two-way radios are going to be used exclusively indoors or if they’ll need to go indoors and outdoors, UHF is hands down your best choice.
- VHF radios (Very High Frequency) operate between 136-174 MHz. The advantage to a VHF walkie-talkie is that it can cover more distance with less power because VHF waves are longer and remain closer to the ground. Two-way VHF radios work best when there’s a clear line-of-sight between the sender and the receiver with little obstruction. For instance VHF radios are used exclusively in aviation and marine communications where signals are sent across open bodies of water or between the sky and the ground. VHF band walkie-talkies are also great for open fields, golf courses, landscaping and for outdoor situations with few obstacles. Typically, VHF antennas are longer than those built into UHF radios because they need to facilitate reception in the VHF frequency range. Another benefit of VHF waves is that they will penetrate trees and foliage better than UHF radios. However, you will be better served with UHF radios, if you have any plans to use the radios indoors or indoors to outdoors or around any yards or any areas with obstacles.
Bottom line? Over a 5 year period, you’ll spend less on quality Business Radios versus what you’d spend replacing lower cost, but less durable Family Radios. Also, use of Family Radios for business purposes voids their warranty.