Information on Canada's General Mobile Radio Service - GMRS - Phillip J. Boucher

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Phillip J. Boucher 


Information on Canada's General Mobile Radio Service - GMRS


On April 1, 2000, the Government of Canada authorized a new two-way radio service called Family Radio Devices. Modeled on the same service in existence in the United States, called Family Radio Service (FRS), this new radio communications service used small, inexpensive, UHF handheld radios to provide efficient, licence-free, short-range radio communications for mostly family-oriented activities such as camping or hiking. On September 7, 2004, Industry Canada launched the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), also modeled on our southern neighbour's GMRS. It is the same type of service as FRS, but the radios have a higher transmit power and more channels, thus being more attractive to business users. Since almost all GMRS radios today contain all the GMRS and FRS frequencies, the services have basically merged into one, and any reference to GMRS automatically includes FRS unless otherwise noted.

Initially conceived to provide communications for families and friends during recreational activities, the features of GMRS radios combined with the few rules and regulations that control the service open up the potential for GMRS to expand beyond the "family service" parameter. Now, you will find commercial establishments and businesses/corporations,  manufacturing;  government ministries and agencies, the military, private investigators, security firms, and restaurants, hotels, and other establishments using GMRS radios. Some applications of use include job sites, traffic control and event coordination, intelligence and surveillance work, and customer service. In fact, any time short distance communications is needed for personal or business applications, GMRS is the perfect solution over pagers, cell phones, and commercial two-way radios.

Read the first chapter of my book "The Complete Guide to Canada's General Mobile Radio Service"

Click here for a glossary of GMRS terms.

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the distance I can talk using GMRS radios? All GMRS radios are limited to a maximum of 2 watts of output power from the antenna on GMRS and shared GMRS/FRS frequencies. FRS only frequencies are limited to one half watt (0.5 watts) of power from the antenna (see the frequency chart below.) A GMRS UHF radio signal at two watts of output power can have a range of about eight to ten kilometres over water. That range is reduced when used in a rural and urban setting. On average, the indoor range can cover approximately sixty thousand square meters (two hundred thousand square feet), or about twenty floors of a building, and very easily the average warehouse or job site. When used in a city setting, you can usually get reliable communications from two to eight city blocks depending on terrain and building architecture.

How big are GMRS radios? Most GMRS radios are no bigger than your hand, and even with the small antenna, can easily fit in your pocket or purse. They weigh very little and are totally portable. You can wear a GMRS radio on your belt and it will feel like it's not there at all.

What frequencies does GMRS operate on? Canada's General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) operates on assigned frequencies in the 462/467 MHz UHF bands, and are channelized as follows (based upon channelization settings for Cobra radios. Other radio manufactures may assign different channels to the various frequencies. Power output shown is the maximum for the frequency, and 2 watt channels may be switchable from 0.5 to 2 watts [Lo-Hi settings] depending on the manufacturer):

Channel 1 462.5625 MHz - FRS/GMRS 2 Watts Channel 12 467.6625 MHz - FRS 0.5 Watts
Channel 2 462.5875 MHz - FRS/GMRS 2 Watts Channel 13 467.6875 MHz - FRS 0.5 Watts
Channel 3 462.6125 MHz - FRS/GMRS 2 Watts Channel 14 467.7125 MHz - FRS 0.5 Watts
Channel 4 462.6375 MHz - FRS/GMRS 2 Watts Channel 15 462.5500 MHz - GMRS 2 Watts
Channel 5 462.6625 MHz - FRS/GMRS 2 Watts Channel 16 462.5750 MHz - GMRS 2 Watts
Channel 6 462.6875 MHz - FRS/GMRS 2 Watts Channel 17 462.6000 MHz - GMRS 2 Watts
Channel 7 462.7125 MHz - FRS/GMRS 2 Watts Channel 18 462.6250 MHz - GMRS 2 Watts
Channel 8 467.5625 MHz - FRS 0.5 Watts Channel 19 462.6500 MHz - GMRS 2 Watts
Channel 9 467.5875 MHz - FRS 0.5 Watts Channel 20 462.6750 MHz - GMRS 2 Watts
Channel 10 467.6125 MHz - FRS 0.5 Watts Channel 21 462.7000 MHz - GMRS 2 Watts
Channel 11 467.6375 MHz - FRS 0.5 Watts Channel 22 462.7250 MHz - GMRS 2 Watts

What features do GMRS radios have? Tone and/or vibration paging, multiple scan options, voice encryption, weather and/or GPS reception, and voice operated transmit are just some of the features that a GMRS radio can have.

Is GMRS like CB? No. Unlike CB, GMRS signals are on UHF, have a shorter range, and better quality of signal. GMRS is not the "social" system that CB is.

Do I need a licence to operate a GMRS radio? No, you do not need a licence to purchase or operate GMRS radios here in Canada. This is a licence-exempt service with absolutely no fees or extra costs.

Are there any restrictions on GMRS?  Yes there are. You may not put an external antenna on the GMRS radio. You may not use an active repeater system to retransmit the signal. You may not connect the radio up to the phone lines. You can't swear, whistle, play music, or use your GMRS radio for any illegal purpose or to assist you in any illegal activity. You must operate your GMRS radio in accordance with all aspects of the Radio Communications Act. Other than these restrictions (which on whole are mostly common sense) you can use GMRS for whatever you want.

How many GMRS radios do I need? To use the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) you need at least two GMRS radios.

Are GMRS radios toys? Absolutely not! These radios are sophisticated communications devices. Unlike CB and those 49 MHz walkie talkies, GMRS radios are actual commercial-grade radio communications devices. Most of the manufactures of GMRS equipment also make commercial and public service two-way radio equipment.

What do voice privacy, scrambled, and encrypted mean? Basically, these terms signify the way the radio makes your voice unintelligible to the casual listener. Unlike so-called Privacy Tones, or CTCSS, which are sub-audible tones that are transmitted along with your signal and only open up the audio circuit of receiving radios that are set for the same tone, voice privacy, scrambling, and encryption actually make your signal unintelligible to other listeners who do not have the decrypting circuits in their own radios. Few GMRS units have encryption or scrambling capabilities but this could change over time.

How many batteries does a GMRS radio use? Most GMRS radios use two to four AA or AAA batteries, and some even come with their own battery packs.

I own a pizza parlour. Can I use GMRS for delivery dispatching? If you are only dispatching within a two to four block radius, then GMRS may work for you. However, any further distance than that and you will need to go to a licensed system.

I work in a large warehouse and we are constantly on the phone to several areas and offices throughout the building. Would GMRS work for us? More than likely, yes.  Of course you would have to try the radios in different locations to see just how wide of a communications area you have. If your building is 60,000 square meters (200,000 square feet) or under, then GMRS probably will be quite effective.

How much do GMRS radios cost? In Canada, you can find GMRS radios retailing from about $20 to $200 depending on features and retailers.

Are there airtime or other monthly fees for GMRS? No. Once you buy the GMRS radios, the only additional costs are the batteries. There are no airtime or licensing fees for the service or the radios.

How long do the batteries last in GMRS radios? You can expect around twenty-four hours worth of use from regular alkaline batteries on most GMRS units, and more from nickel-metal hydride batteries or battery packs. This time varies between GMRS radio models and the addition and use of battery-saving circuitry, coupled with the amount of transmit time the radio endures.

Do I have to buy two of the same brand and model of GMRS radio, or can I use two or three different makes? Are they compatible? All GMRS radios are exactly the same in their basic design of operation. However, to be compatible for general use, all radios must be able to operate on the same frequency. Some features of one make or model of radio may only be compatible with other radios of the same make or model.

Do you have a question in regard to Canada's General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)? If so, just click here to send an email and I will endeavour to answer your question on this page.

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Front cover of book "The Complete Guide to Canada's General Mobile Radio Service" (GMRS) by freelance writer and author Phillip J. Boucher


Entire contents 1998 - 2017  Phillip J. Boucher

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