Changes to Part 95 Rules Coming that affect GMRS/FRS
The FCC has proposed several changes to the Part 95 rules that will impact GMRS/FRS channels and power levels, apparently designed to address the problem of commercial GMRS/FRS radio packaging and weak compliance with GMRS licensing rules. (They are also dropping several CB laws. For example, CB DXing will now be OK!)
In a nutshell, GMRS users step backwards and FRS users step forward.
The graphic shown to the right gives my own take on the changes, as they impact the channel assignments and privileges. I combined the before/after graphics from the R&O, clarified them a bit, and added some additional helpful labels. Click the image for a full-size version, and come back to this window for the rest of the story.
The positive changes, from a GMRS viewpoint:
- The 467 MHz Interstitial frequencies (formerly exclusive to FRS) are added for GMRS users with handheld units (with rubber-duck antennas), although limited to 1/2 watt, bandwidth of 12.5 kHz.
- Brief, infrequent, and manually initiated digital data transmissions (e.g., APRS position reports and text messages) are now permitted from handheld units in either GMRS or FRS on 462 MHz channels.
- Applications for NEW combination GMRS/FRS radios will no longer be accepted (after the first 90 days of this revision). Since all 22 channels available to existing GMRS/FRS radios will now be legal FRS channels, these will become "FRS radios."
- The restriction on antenna height is eliminated for base station antennas (formerly 20 feet maximum).
The negative changes, from a GMRS viewpoint:
- GMRS users of the 462 MHz interstitial frequencies are now limited to 5 watts (previously 50W!), and still share them with FRS users, who can now transmit up to 2 watts (previously 1/2 watt). At least GMRS users are still allowed twice the deviation (i.e., volume level) of FRS users.
- GMRS users of the newly permitted 467 MHz interstitial frequencies can only use handheld units transmitting up to 1/2 watt. Base and mobile stations—not allowed. As for all interstitial frequencies, these are shared with FRS users, who are also limited to only 1/2 watt on these channels.
- The only exclusively GMRS frequencies are now the repeater input frequencies (aka "467 MHz main channels"). All other "channels" are now shared with FRS: all the 462 MHz frequencies (channels 1-7, 15-22) at 2 watts (up from 1/2 watt), and the 467 MHz interstitial frequencies (FRS channels 8-12), limited to 1/2 watt. A glimmer of light here is that GMRS repeaters can output up to 50 watts on the "462 MHz main channels" shared with FRS (channels 15-22, limited to 2 watts).
You may see other positives and negatives. For FRS users, there are several reasons to cheer. GMRS users—not so much.
And, again, these are all changes that are not in effect until the day the "Report and Order" is published in the Federal Register.