In the U.S., most two way radio communications require a license from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) who is responsible for regulating radio frequencies and managing and issuing licenses for commercial and non-commercial users.
CERA's programs currently focus on the using the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) for Neighborhood Radio Watch and on Amateur Radio (HAM) for skills development and providing emergency communications support to government agencies during disasters.
For those who are new to using radios for communicating, CERA has provided this detailed step-by-step guide on how to apply for a GMRS license. Getting a GMRS license is a great starting point to get on the air, overcome any nerves about speaking publicly, be part of a close knit community like Neighborhood Radio Watch, and as an entry to expanding your radio interests into HAM radio.
The license requirements and use for GMRS and HAM radios are similar and different, some of which are highlighted in the following table:
|GMRS License||Amateur Radio/HAM License|
|Good For||Two way short-distance voice communications||Communicating locally or around the world using voice, morse code, or other digital modes|
|License Coverage||One license covers the entire family||One license per individual|
|License Fees||$35 for the license||$35 for a a new license, another $15 for each exam session. No additional cost when upgrading licenses.|
|Renewal||Every 10 years||Every 10 years|
|Exam||No exams are required to get a license||An individual needs to pass at least the "Technician" exam to obtain a license. The exam questions increase in difficulty to upgrade to the "General" and "Amateur Extra" licenses.|
|Radio Equipment||GMRS capable radios, usually portable handheld radios, mobile radios for higher power when traveling in vehicles, or smaller base station radios for use at home||Radios designed for HAM radio use. Portable handheld and mobile radios for communicating locally. Home radio stations can range from a modest setup to very elaborate.|
|Equipment Cost||Affordable and relatively cheaper (e.g. $30 - $300+)||Handheld radios can be as cheap as $30-50+. Elaborate home radio stations can be thousands of dollars.|
|Range||Generally 1-5 miles depending on the antenna. Can be hundreds of square miles when using repeaters and depending on the terrain.||Good radios and powerful antennas are capable of talking around the world.|
|Power Restrictions||1 to 5 watts for handheld radios, up to 50 watts for mobile radios||Up to 1500 watts for Amateur Extra class licensees. Technician licensees are limited to 200 watts.|
|Frequencies||462 to 467 MHz, GMRS channels only||As low as 136 kHz to 250 GHz, HAM frequencies only|
Learn more about GMRS or Amateur Radio licenses by accessing the links below.