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The Radiowave Highway: License your Two-Way Radios

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Did you buy some two-way radios online for your business? Are they licensed with the FCC? Read this article to avoid unnecessary fines!

The two-way radio, or walkie talkie, is a great tool for any business that requires their staff to maintain healthy communication in a facility where they must mill about to complete their tasks. It’s an excellent way for everyone to stay in touch without cell phone service or overhead paging, but if walkie talkies need to use free-flying radio waves to work, how do you know you’re not going to catch the wrong wave? One essential part of reducing interference and generally controlling the use of frequencies is moderation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and co-operation by two-way radio users in the United States. Failure to obtain a proper license when using two-way radios for any business related purposes (as long as you are using them to assist or facilitate communication within your business) could lead to interference issues, or worse, a fine! The license is meant to ‘reserve’ frequencies in a given area for the licensee, in order to avoid overlapping or interference, so it is imperative that you legally claim your frequency to ensure that you can continue to have smooth operation of your walkie talkies.

Who, what, where, and why?

The FCC is an organization run by the US Government that regulates the use of radio waves, be it for businesses, emergencies, or individual use. GMRS (General Mobile Radio Services) are for the individual, so if you ever see something about licensing that way, you would need to license every employee individually. While this is legal, it is generally

considered impractical, as business licenses would cover any use of those frequencies by staff, regardless of turnover. What a business should do is file FCC Form 601 once they speak to a frequency coordinator, or better yet, use a dealer like Sure-Response, where all you need to do is sign the forms we send you and we’ll do the rest.

The FCC regulates use of two-way radios in businesses.
Photo by Pavlo Gonchar via Getty Images

How do you know you need to file this form? If you use two-way radios as a tool to facilitate communication between staff, as opposed to it being the end product that you provide to customers, then you must register for the frequency that you want to utilize. That being said, some very low power, low security walkie talkies can be legally used in a business. Wondering if the walkie talkies you're using now should be licensed? First step is to check your current radios: Are they Digital or Analog? Then check the back of the battery for the wattage. Is it a 2 Watt radio? 4 Watt? Analog radios with 2W of power or less do not need to be licensed - the drawback is that they are not only low-range, but anyone can listen in or even start to talk on your frequency. Therefore, even with a low-power analog radio, the FCC still recommends you file for your frequencies.

What do we mean by the frequency? In short, frequency itself has to do with the shape of the radio waves. You could say that different frequencies are like different lanes on a highway: Everyone using the same frequency can communicate on it, and changing the frequency means you are essentially ‘switching lanes’, and so communication with the old line stops. If others are using the same frequency, it can cause interference, kind of like a traffic jam, or someone merging between you and someone you were following. Interference means communication may become choppy or conversations overlap, reducing the overall quality and effectiveness of your walkie talkies.

It’s important that radio-waves are regulated so that frequency use disputes and emergency channels are being monitored and coordinated properly to avoid interference. Cooperate with the FCC to ensure that you have the rights to your frequencies and overlapping can be easily avoided.

No License No Rights

If you have a license with the FCC for your two-way radios, then you have a right to your frequencies in your area. The FCC has you recorded as the rightful user, so if anyone starts using those frequencies, you simply file a complaint with the FCC and soon enough the interference will stop. However, if you are unlawfully using those frequencies, and a business with a legitimate claim on that frequency happens to move into the area, you have no claim at all to using those frequencies. In fact, you may receive a cease and desist letter from the FCC letting you know that those frequencies are taken and you must stop using them. Finding a replacement frequency will be difficult, and you will be in a tough spot to file if you wait long enough for someone else to grab the airspace.

The FCC can use DF (direction finding) equipment to find businesses illegally operating on unlicensed frequencies.
Photo by @cgleason22 via TikTok

How would they know?

There are several ways that the FCC can catch wind of you using frequencies that you haven’t registered. For one, if another business situated by your facility files for and starts to use those frequencies, then you will be the interference, and they will report you. How will they know it’s you using it? Well, aside from listening to conversations and figuring it out that way, FCC employees can use DF (direction finding) equipment to locate the source of the illegal radio-waves.

I Don’t Want to Deal with the FCC

The good news is, you don’t have to! If you work with a two-way radio dealer -

Quick access to FCC Compliance and quickly get Form 601 filed away with Sure-Response!
Forget wading through technicalities and stop searching for forms, Sure-Response can help you get licensed today, fast and easy | Photo by Viorika via Getty Images

that is to say, you order your radios not online but directly with a company that talks to you, figures out exactly what you need, and sets the orders up for you, like Sure-Response - we have the capability to work out frequency coordination for you. All you need to do is tell us what you want in terms of inter-staff communication, and we’ll match you with a radio and set up your licensing as is appropriate lickety-split. Sign some forms, and you’re all set! No need to call or email FCC coordinators or even touch their website (which, as it turns out, is filled with all kinds of technical jargon related to radios that you really don’t need to know).

Your license is good for 10 years - quite a long time! At which point you should receive notice to renew your license, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there too.

Don’t deal with the FCC - work with us and we’ll do all the heavy lifting for you. Curious about how it works? Our experts will explain everything you may have questions about in an efficient and digestible manner. Want to cut to the chase? We can do that too!

The Facts

Here are the facts, laid out plain and simple. Businesses, such as senior care facilities, need a commercial license in order to legally operate their two-way radios on a specified frequency unless their radios are analog and run on 2 watts or less. Compliance avoids fines and ensures that you will have clear and constant communication and a legal claim to your radio channels. Using a dealer for two-way radios has many benefits, not the least of which is that you don’t have to deal directly with the FCC. We will provide the forms necessary and take care of filing for you - so what are you waiting for? Give us a call at 1 (888) 530-5668 and claim your airspace today!

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