FCC licensing for GMRS and LMR radios

Updated: 12/2023

Have you ever been in your car, enjoying the radio, when suddenly another station starts playing? Or maybe you've overheard someone else's conversation on your two-way radio. While it's not a big deal during a casual hike with friends, it becomes crucial when you're running a business and sharing sensitive information. Ensuring the security of communication channels becomes extremely important in such situations.

Note: This article will focus on obtaining licenses for GMRS and LMR systems. For a deeper dive into what each sector has to offer, give our FRS vs GMRS vs LMR article a read.

The FCC manages licenses for private businesses to use different frequency bands, ensuring the protection of your data. In the private sector, there are two main types of two-way radio licenses: GMRS and LMR. In simple terms, individual enthusiasts use GMRS licenses, while commercial users employ LMR licenses. Each license has its own details and requirements.


GMRS License

The  General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) frequency band is around 462 to 467 MHz, and has 30 channels (22 shared with FRS and 8 for licensed repeaters). If your radio exceeds 2W output, you are required to have a FCC license for private, clearer communication, but this comes with a cost.

GMRS licensing fees vary based on radios, frequencies, repeaters, and stations. Fees start at $70 for 10 years but can be higher for complex networks. The more potential interference, the higher the fee to cover your communications.

GMRS licenses cover your whole family and can be obtained without external help. Apply online through the FCC's Universal Licensing System or fill out forms 159, 605, and 1070Y and submit them to the corresponding destinations via the FCC forms page.


LMR License

Land Mobile Radio (LMR) licenses are akin to GMRS licenses, scaling based on potential communication interference. LMR network FCC licenses are typically more complex, starting at over $70 and potentially exceeding $500 for a 10-year period. These licenses are suitable for larger businesses with extensive setups.

Despite higher fees, consider that a 10-year license provides long-term assurance. Spreading the cost, whether $7 or $50 per year, is preferable to FCC fines that could reach thousands for unauthorized frequency use. Note, most $500+ fees are for operations utilizing high-powered antennae that may operate in several locations.

Unlike GMRS, LMR licensing involves third-party frequency coordinators because of network size and scope. Radio Depot, with links to coordinators, can simplify the process, acting as a mediator for your business needs.

For an LMR license, contact Radio Depot via our form or call (888) 733-7681 to streamline your licensing process.


FCC Licensing FAQ’s

Why do I need an FCC license?

The FCC regulates all frequencies used by devices like two way radios in the United States. They require anyone using a device with output power greater than 2W to obtain a license prior to use.

How do I apply for a GMRS License?

You can register and apply online via the FCC’s Universal Licensing System or you can visit the FCC forms page and fill out forms 159, 605, and 1070Y. Then follow the instructions on the FCC website and send those forms to the right entities to get the ball rolling. This can be a time-consuming process so be ready to wade through those forms.

How do I apply for an LMR License?

The easiest solution to acquire your LMR license is to use your friendly neighborhood radio depot experts and let us deal with getting through the bureaucratic wall to get you set up. We already have working relationships with Frequency Coordinators that can get the process done as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Do I have to get a license before I can buy a GMRS radio?

No, we don't provide GMRS radios, and we don't need proof of licensing before shipping a radio. We're not connected with the FCC in any way.

However, we strongly recommend getting a license if you're using a GMRS radio. A small fee for peace of mind. Skipping it might cost you hefty fines and require you to get a license if the FCC catches you.

Do I have to get a license before I can buy a LMR radio?

No, we do not require proof of licensing before we will ship a radio. We are not affiliated with the FCC but we do still advise you to acquire a license before operating your equipment.

Consider what the FCC considers when setting your license fee – how much your network interferes with others. Without a license, your network might unintentionally disrupt another user's signal, putting you in the wrong even if you didn't mean any harm. This is why, if found, the FCC lays down hefty fines to those who are operating illegally on LMR frequencies.

Do you report to the FCC when a customer buys a LMR radio?

No. While we do not offer radios that operate on the GMRS band, we will never share any private information about our customers to an outside entity.

Is there a charge for a GMRS license?

Yes. The FCC charges a licensing fee for obtaining a GMRS license. This fee can vary greatly depending on the use case of an individual or business.

The license term is 10 years, after which you will need to renew your GMRS license with the FCC.

Is there a charge for an LMR license?

Yes, you will be charged a fee for your LMR license by the FCC. This pays for organizational needs and the frequency coordination services.

The license term is good for 10 years, after which you will need to renew your license.

Do I need a license if I live outside the United States?

The FCC only requires GMRS licensing and LMR licensing if you are operating on frequencies within the United States.

However, you should always check with your respective governing agency to see their requirements for radio operation.

I don’t want to pay for a license, but I need a radio. What should I do?

Easy, buy a two way radio that does not require a license. Visit our license-free two way radio article to find some great options available to you. All with no license needed.


In Conclusion

Government radio licensing may seem daunting, but it brings peace of mind and secure channels. You have options: choose FRS radios for simplicity, go for feature-rich license-free radios from reputable brands, or create an expansive network with licensing; it's your decision.

For FCC licensing details, visit their website, fill our contact form, or call us at (888) 733-7681. Our Master Certified Radio Technicians are ready to guide you.

Learn more by exploring our FRS vs GMRS vs LMR or Radio 101 articles


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