FRS, or Family Radio Service, is a radio band which allows for two-way communications without the need for a license. Most FRS radios are handheld, but some stationary units (such as the Audiovox FRS-1000) are available. They are generally able to transmit about two miles, but this may be increased or decreased depending upon the terrain and objects in between the units in use. FRS offers a number of benefits, but should be compared with CB (Citizens’ Band) and 49MHz-FM radios before making a purchase.
The range of most FRS transceivers (transmitter/receiver) is lower than that of full-power CB radios, but greater than some low-power CBs like the Radio Shack TRC-92. FRS transceivers are stronger than 49MHz-FM radios, such as the Radio Shack TRC-512, which have a maximum range of 1/4th mile. Like 49MHz-FM, most FRS radios have a “Call” button which lets the user transmit a tone while pressing it.
Many radios of this type have additional features such as an AM, FM, or weather band receiver. If the radio receives the weather band (this may be indicated with an “NOAA” logo on the package and/or radio), this lets you listen to weather conditions, forecasts and alerts if there is a weather station in your area. Such stations can be received in most urban and rural areas, but not all of them. AM and FM reception usually isn’t especially good on pocket radios, due to their small size. Other features may include a thermometer, lighted display, or headset.
An advantage of handheld FRS radios is that many of them are more compact, use shorter antennas, and use fewer batteries than equivalent CB radios. While most full-power CBs (and some with lower power) are difficult to fit in a pocket, this is usually not a problem with FRS transceivers.
If there is a lot of communication on CB from travellers in your area, an FRS radio may be preferable because people are less likely to listen in on or interrupt your conversation. It also offers greater privacy because fewer multiband and shortwave radios are capable of receiving it. Still, anyone with an FRS radio, UHF multiband receiver, or scanner with the UHF band is capable of listening. An advantage of CB radio, on the other hand, is that you are more likely to be heard by someone if you request assistance in an emergency.
This type of radio usually can transmit and receive on 14 different channels. Most portable CB radios use one, three, twenty-three (old), or forty. 49MHz-FM radios most commonly have five channels.
FRS radios are produced by a variety of electronics and communications brands – especially Cobra, Uniden and Motorola. Some smaller brands make them as well, including GPX (Gran Prix) and Curtis. They can be purchased at department stores, electronics stores, shopping websites, and internet auctions.