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ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
GMRS Rule Changes
|Author||Topic: GMRS Rule Changes|
posted 07-06-2015 08:42 AM ET (US)
For boaters who would like to remain strictly legal, use of a VHF Marine Band hand-held radio on shore is not permitted under FCC rules. To communicate from boat to shore, boaters could use a Family Radio Service (FRS) radio. FRS radios are UHF 0.5-watt hand held radios and are licensed by rule.
FRS radios share some channels with the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). GMRS hand-held radios can be 5-Watt radios, which is a significant 10-dB advantage over FRS radios. However, GMRS radios must be licensed by individuals, although a GMRS license to one person will cover use of the GMRS radio by all members of that person's immediate family. GMRS licensing presently requires a $90 license fee, but it is anticipated that this fee will be removed later in 2015. See the FCC announcement at
The adoption by the FCC of no [regulatory] fee for GMRS was made on May 20, 2015, and requires a 90-day period before implementation. After August 18, 2015 there should no longer be a [regulatory] fee for a GMRS license. This removes [some of] the cost impediment in licensing GMRS radios. [UPDATE: the application fee for the license will not be eliminated; see below--jimh]
The FCC has been considering eliminating the need for individual licensing of GMRS radios and may, at some time in the future, make GMRS radios licensed by rule. However, at this time, my understanding is GMRS radios still require a license. Compare at:
If a boater wishes to use a 5-Watt GMRS UHF hand-held radio to communicate from boat to shore, they can soon obtain a GRMS license at no cost, and then legally use GMRS radios from their boat to communicate with shore.
The use of GMRS radios to communicate with other licensees or with licensed-by-rule radios in the FRS is apparently permitted under FCC rules, although I could not find an explicit mention of this in the regulations. The FCC says the communication in GMRS is permitted between the licensee and their immediate family. The definition of immediate family is rather broad, and includes spouse, children, stepchildren, parents, stepparents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and in-laws.
It is also possible to use external antennas with GMRS radios, so a boater could install an external antenna for a GMRS radio on a boat. Using a well-made external antenna mounted atop a mast on a boat could make a significant improvement in range of communication. One drawback to external antennas for GMRS radios is the need to use low-loss feed line. The typical RG-58C/U coaxial transmission line will have too much loss at UHF frequencies to effectively be used with external antennas.
posted 07-06-2015 03:20 PM ET (US)
Sadly I just paid them two month ago.
posted 07-06-2015 11:23 PM ET (US)
I know JimH means well with his advice on the use of marine band channels for licensed or unlicensed radiosand that the title of his topic is for those who want to be legal. But the fact remains that unless you are broadcasting like a rock and roll radio station the feds do not want to know who you are. There is some value in being considered "legal" as far as carrying a station license in Canada and all that. But casual conversation over VHF whether handheld or boat station is not going to rock the world with law enforcement be it USA or Canada. They have better things to do.
posted 07-06-2015 11:35 PM ET (US)
I tried to edit my post before it wound up here. I recalled JimH's statement that his post was for those who whished to remain within the legal bounds set forth by the FCC. So take my comments with a grain of salt. I have no concern for the legalities or wishes of the FCC in my limited communications over the VHF bandwidth. Nor have they expressed any interest in my conversations so I assume there is little need to accommodate an antiquated federal agency with unneeded paperwork and fees for something that is completely ignored by law enforcement. Try asking your local Sherriff's deputy what the codes are for VHF transmissions and protocol's.
posted 07-07-2015 02:30 AM ET (US)
I can't join Frank in recommending violating the rules of the FCC nor can I endorse his view. The FCC monitors all radio services. They routinely issue notices of monetary forfeiture to rule violators. For example, they send people to prison for violation of the rules of the Maritime Radio Service.
Because I hold several FCC-issued operator's licenses and station licenses, including commercial operator licenses, I have indicated to the FCC formally that I am aware of the rules and intend to obey them. This puts me in a little different position than joe-six-pack boater who has never been issued an operator's license by the FCC. Please don't think that I write about radio with an eye to compliance with the rules "because I mean well," as Frank says. I do it because I have qualified for and have been issued a lot of FCC licenses, and I do not intend to willfully violate any of the FCC rules, risk losing my licenses, risk being liable for monetary forfeitures, and risk going to prison.
posted 07-07-2015 11:08 AM ET (US)
According to a press release, the electronics manufacturer MIDLAND is going to introduce a new GMRS radio this month, July 2015, that will be quite interesting for GRMS licensees. The new radio is called the MIDLAND MXT100 MICROMOBILE GMRS 2-WAY RADIO. See
The MXT100 will sell for $150. It is an incredibly small radio, having dimension of 0.9-inch high, 4-inch wide, and 3.5-inch deep. The radio has a standard SO-239 antenna connector on the rear panel for connecting an external antenna and is powered by 12-Volts DC. An external antenna is included.
The included antenna has about a 12-foot coaxial transmission line attached and is a magnetic mount. It will be good for a vehicle steel roof but not for a fiberglass or aluminum boat.
Because the radio is a 5-Watt radio, it does not operate on the channels that are reserved for FRS-only (which are limited to 1-Watt transmitters). It transmits and receives on Channels 01 through 07, then skips the FRS-only Channels, and continues with Channel 15 through Channel 22. This provides a total of 15 GMRS channels. This should be plenty of frequency agility and permit finding a working channel with low traffic. The radio can communicate with FRS radios on Channel 1 through Channel 7.
With an ultra-small radio like the MXT100 available at a modest $150, and the GMRS license fees eliminated, it seems like the General Mobile Radio Service offers the perfect solution to the very common desire for boaters who want a shore station at their homes or cottages to communicate with their family out in a boat. With decent antennas on the shore station and boat, communications to a range of ten miles ought to be very reliable.
posted 07-07-2015 05:37 PM ET (US)
A summary of the General Mobile Radio Service appears at
and seem to give good insight. According to that source:
It also warns:
posted 07-09-2015 11:39 AM ET (US)
Ham radio is another option.
* You can get a 5w amateur handheld for $50 on ebay.
* License fee is typically about $15.
* Free access to VHF and UHF repeaters which can extend hand-held range to 100 miles
* Access to the Maritime Mobile Service Net and other support groups http://www.mmsn.org/
* Talk to any other licensed amateur station about anything with few restrictions (no commercial or criminal activities)
* Free tech support from the excellent and talented amateur community
* You must pass a technical exam; it's pretty easy; anybody can pass it with a bit of study.
posted 07-09-2015 11:49 AM ET (US)
Oh one other amateur advantage is that it is generally possible to legally operate your ham radio in a foreign country. http://www.arrl.org/us-amateurs-operating-overseas
posted 07-09-2015 04:27 PM ET (US)
I have a bit of experience with Amateur Radio myself. I have held an Amateur Radio station license and operator's license for over 50-years.
The Amateur Radio Service is a good method of communicating if everyone in your family or everyone in your boating group just happens to hold an Amateur Radio license, but it seems like a lot of effort to undertake just to be able to talk from your boat to shore.
The FCC seems to be holding to strict rules about not using VHF Marine Band radios on shore. But they have opened the way for GMRS radios to be used like that, and with the [reduction] of the license fee there seems to be [less] impediment to using GMRS for that purpose.
[The regulatory fee for a GMRS license was removed, but the application fee remains.--jimh]
posted 08-23-2015 10:17 AM ET (US)
MIDLAND has brought their new GMRS radio to market. See
Initial sales of the radio appear to have been so strong that they have exceed supply and the product is already on backorder status.
posted 08-23-2015 10:35 AM ET (US)
It appears that the GMRS license still has a fee associated with it, although the fee shoudld be dropping to $65 from $90 for a license with a term of five years. The FCC eliminated the regulatory fee portion of the license fee, but apparently retained the application fee portion of the license fee. The implementation of the new fee schedule should occur very soon, as the 90-day period from the announcement has just elapsed.
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