Ever wondered why you can't use your walkie-talkie with just any random person? It all boils down to frequencies – the invisible highways your radio messages zoom through. This Walkie-Talkie Frequency Guide is your shortcut to understanding the basics.
Two-way radios (or walkie-talkies) generally operate in the 136 MHz to 900 MHz frequency range, as defined by the FCC. This is an overview of the various services and bands of frequencies. For a complete guide to all the officially assigned frequencies, you can refer to the FCC Online Table of Frequency Allocations.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)
Uses frequencies in the 462 and 467 GHz range, and shares some frequencies with the FRS service. GMRS, unlike FRS, requires an FCC license to operate within the GMRS frequencies. GMRS radios are usually handheld walkie-talkie units like FRS radios, and it is possible to find hybrid GMRS/FRS radios that can be used with either service.
Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS)
Operates at 5 frequencies between 151.820 and 154.600 MHz. This is a radio service similar to citizens band that does not require a license to operate. The FCC set aside these frequencies for two-way, private data or voice communications over a short distance. Using radio repeaters and transmitting above 2 watts with MURS is not allowed. This band can be used by businesses, but as it's in the VHF range, it is not as effective for indoor communications as UHF.
Very High Frequency (VHF)
Operates at 136-174 MHz. Longer radio waves are able to cover a greater distance with less power. However, they work best in outdoor areas with fewer obstacles. VHF radio antennas tend to be longer than UHF radio antennas so they can transmit over a longer distance and accommodate the frequency range.
Family Radio Service (FRS)
Uses frequencies around 462 and 467 MHz in the UHF (ultra-high frequency) band. As its name suggests, it is meant as a personal radio service and is not intended for business use. FRS has less interference than what's found with the Citizens Band (CB) service, which operates around 27 MHz.
Ultra-High Frequency (UHF)
Operates at 400-512 MHz. UHF two-way radios are best if there will be any indoor use, because the shorter radio waves can more easily penetrate obstructions that are found inside buildings. Higher frequencies are also preferred for outdoor urban settings with many obstructions and areas that are hilly or have a lot of trees. The higher the frequency, the smaller the antenna size can be, and with a portable walkie-talkie antenna, this allows for maximum portability and a smaller design.
Extreme Radio Service (EXRS)
Operates within a range of 900 MHz frequencies and has been set aside as a license-free band for 900 MHz digital two-way radios. The range is similar to UHF and 900 MHz digital radios work well indoors, but usually do not cover as great a distance outdoors. This band can be used by anyone of any age and for any purpose.
BRS: The Industrial/Business Radio Pool Service (Business Band)
The FCC has set aside certain frequencies for daily business operations, for specific companies that qualify. Acceptable uses include the support of "day-to-day business activities, such as dispatching and diverting personnel or work vehicles, coordinating the activities of workers and machines on location, or remotely monitoring and controlling equipment." This includes low-band frequencies around the 27, 33, 35, 42 and 43 MHz range, VHF frequencies around 151, 154 and 158 MHz and selected UHF and GMRS frequencies between 462-469 MHz. An FCC license is required to use these frequencies.