The Family Radio Service (FRS) is a service created by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission that is for short-range, family communication. The FRS has 14 channels, some of which are shared with the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). Most commonly, the channels are accessed through a walkie talkie unit, which is a type of short-range radio.
The main advantage of the FRS is it does not require any license, unlike operating on the GMRS. No license is required despite the fact the FRS shares the first seven channels with the GMRS. However, the difference is that FRS radios only have a maximum power of half a watt. Generally, this limits the range to not much more than one mile (1.6 km).
Many walkie talkie systems that access the FRS are also capable of accessing GMRS at higher wattages. This will significantly increase the range of the units. In some cases, a license is required to operate the radio at those more powerful rates. It is up to the individual to understand whether they are using the FRS or the GMRS at the more powerful wattage. Application for license to use the GMRS is available through the FCC.
The FRS, according to the FCC, is often used by families, friends and associates for communication over a short range where face-to-face communication may not be possible or practical. For example, it may be used by two individuals who are in a large building or group of buildings on a property. Another use is in theme parks or wooded areas, where families may be separated for a time while in different portions of the park. In such cases, the FRS may help coordinate activities between those family members.
While the FRS, as its name would suggest, is specifically meant for families, the FCC does not regulate its use to only families. In fact, the FCC explicitly states the service can be used for business purposes. However, some businesses may find it better to have another service, such as the GMRS, under which to operate so that the range is expanded.
The walkie talkie units for the FRS are usually very distinguishable. They advertise modest ranges and have antennas that cannot be removed. The cost is anywhere from $15 US Dollars (USD) to around $70 USD. Often, they are sold in pairs for this price and marketed as units specifically designed for family use. The higher-priced models will likely be the ones that also have the ability to be GMRS radios.