No doubt you’ve experienced some form of radio interference in your lifetime. Whether that was in your car listening to the radio when another station begins to mix in, or hearing others’ conversations over your two way radio. Barring you don’t hear something nefarious, this isn’t usually a big deal out on a hike with friends, but when you are operating a business and relaying sensitive information, channel security can be paramount.
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 FRS vs GMRS vs LMR a read.
The FCC coordinates licenses for the private sector across frequency bands to ensure your data is protected. There are 2 primary two way radio licenses obtainable by the private sector: GMRS licenses and LMR licenses. Each license has specifics, but simply put a GMRS license is geared more toward the individual enthusiast while LMR licenses are more for commercial use.
The General Mobile Radio Service frequency band is around 462 and 467 MHz with 30 allotted channels within those frequencies. 22 of those channels are shared with FRS users with an additional 8 channels set aside for use with licenses utilizing repeaters.
In the GMRS frequency band, if your radio has an output of higher than 2W the FCC requires you to obtain a license to operate your equipment. The fact you have designated frequencies for your radios provides you with clearer, more private communication, but that comes with a cost.
The fee for acquiring a GMRS license varies depending on the quantity of radios and frequencies needed for your license, as well as if you plan to use repeaters and/or antenna base stations. Based on your needs, the fee can be as little as $70 for the 10-year period or it could be much more if you have a highly complex radio network. Think of it as the more interference you could theoretically cause in an area with your system, the higher the fee will be to keep your communications confined to your frequencies.
The nice thing about General Mobile Radio Service licenses is that once obtained, anyone in your family can use your network and you can apply for and acquire one without outside aid. To apply for a GMRS license you can register and apply online via the FCC’s Universal Licensing System or go to the FCC forms page fill out forms 159, 605, and 1070Y and turn them in to their corresponding destinations.
LMR licenses are set up similarly to GMR licenses in that they too scale based on the “interference” your communication network may cause. Typically, your LMR networks will inherently be more complex than most GMRS systems so the cost of an FCC license for an LMR network will usually start out higher than $70 and depending on the size and location of your network can sometimes reach upwards of $500 for the 10-year license.
Before you swear off licensing, know that systems requiring a fee upwards of $500 or more will be very extensive and are usually limited to larger businesses with high-powered antennae that operate over several locations.
Something else to consider is all these licensing fees are good for 10 years. So no matter what your fee, $70 or $500, you can spread it out over its 10-year use. $7 or even $50 a year for confidence in your network sounds much better than being busted by the FCC for what could be $1000’s in fines for illegally operating on un-licensed frequencies.
Do to the size and scope of the Land Mobile Radio network, the FCC does not allow for individuals to apply online as easily as with GMRS. To obtains a license for a system that will operate on LMR frequencies, you will need to work with a third-party frequency coordinator, who takes information from you regarding your radio network and location, and then selects the best frequencies for your organization and those around you.
Only after working with a frequency coordinator will the FCC review your application and determine to approve your license or not. Thankfully, your friend in the radio business, Radio Depot, has ongoing relationships with Frequency coordinators and would be happy to make your life easier by streamlining the process and acting as the go-between so you can focus on your business.
If you would like to move forward with an LMR license for a network your currently operating or have purchased equipment but no license for, please fill out our contact-us form, or give us a call at (888) 733-7681.
FCC Licensing FAQ’s
Why do I need an FCC license?
The FCC regulates all of the 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?
There are a couple of ways you could apply for a license from the FCC.
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. I will say, this can be a very time-consuming and mind-numbing process, as dealing with bureaucracy tends to be. If you do not have a lot of prior radio experience, the latter can be a rather confusing process.
How do I apply for an LMR License?
The easiest solution to acquire your LMR license is to utilize 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 Frequency Coordinators that can get the process done as quickly and painlessly as possible.
We will work to make sure the process is effortless for you and get your license set up in the shortest time possible.
But, as always, the choice is yours.
Do I have to get a license before I can buy a GMRS radio?
Absolutely not, though we do not offer GRMS radios, we would not require proof of licensing before we shipped a radio. We are not affiliated with the FCC in any fashion.
We only advise that you acquire a license if you will be using a GMRS radio, this simply provides peace of mind. The licensing fee will seem rather insignificant if the FCC finds you and lays down those hefty fines as well as making you get a license.
Do I have to get a license before I can buy a LMR radio?
Again, 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.
Think back to what the FCC uses to help make the decision for how much your license will be, the interference of your network into other networks. If you opt to not get a license, your network could be creating interference to another licensed user, making you the bad guy when you meant no malice. 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 GMRS radio?
While we do not offer radios that operate GMRS, no we would never share any private information about our customers to an outside entity.
Do you report to the FCC when a customer buys an LMR radio?
To repeat, we are not affiliated with the FCC or any government agency. We also have a policy of NEVER sharing any private information about our customers to ANY outside entity without strict consent by that customer.
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.
Bring it Home
Licensing from a government entity can be intimidating, and sometimes feel like it's not worth the initial cost but it can also provide peace of mind and channel security you might not otherwise have.
Remember, you always have options. You can opt for FRS radios, which have come a long way. You can get license-free radios manufactured by the big radio players which offer wonderful features you won’t find in radios bought at your typical big box stores. You can opt to create an extensive communication network that knows no bounds via licensing. The choice is yours.
For more information on FCC licensing fees and requirements, you can visit the FCC website, feel free to leave a comment below with any questions, fill out our contact-us form, or give us a call at (888) 733-7681. One of our Master Certified Radio Technicians would be happy to walk you through more specifics.
If you'd like to go back over more specifics for each network type, learn more at FRS vs GMRS vs LMR, or at Radio 101 in the FCC licensing section.
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