Radio Types: License or No License?
CAVERN has standardized on two different radios to make life easier for everyone. We selected them because of their bang-for-buck, ease of use and technical features. You can choose another type of radio if you know how to program and operate it.
1. An entry-level FRS radio (Family Radio Service).
The Retevis RT-22 is a low-cost/low-power FRS radio which falls into a special FCC category called “licensed by rule”, so you’re automatically licensed to use one — as long as you don’t break the FCC’s rules. FRS radios are limited to line-of-sight (good for neighborhoods) and range, and can only listen to the CAVERN Repeater.
The Retevis RT-22 Family Radio Service radio (2 Watts) • ~ $15 ea (sold in groups)
2. A high-power GMRS radio (General Mobile Radio Service) for talking.
The specialist radio, a BTECH GMRS-V1, is much higher power (5 Watts). GMRS radios can have power ratings as high as 50 Watts (which is one reason the FCC requires a license). They’re more programmable and flexible, have bigger batteries, screens displaying information, keypads, etc. On the CAVERN network, GMRS radio operators do the heavy lifting, relaying information from first responders and eyewitnesses and making sure FRS operators are accounted for on the network.
The BTECH GMRS-V1 General Mobile Radio Service radio (5 Watts) • $60+ ea.
GMRS Radio Licensing
To transmit using a GMRS radio, you must obtain an FCC license (you can still listen without a license). A GMRS license only costs a few dollars annually (about 55¢ per month) and does not require a test like “Ham” radios. Your GMRS license covers everyone in your household for TEN years.
First register an account with the FCC, using their Universal Licensing System.
Once you register with the ULS, you are assigned a FRN (FCC Registration Number). That’s your ticket to everything else.
Once the FCC has assigned you an FRN, you can login to the FCC website with it, then click the “Apply for a New License” link (upper left), set the pull-down menu to “ZA — General Mobile Radio (GMRS)” and apply online for a GMRS license.* You’ll pay the GMRS license fee online (currently $70 for ten years, until 2030) near the end of the process.
For a visual walk-through of the GMRS license process, see this helpful page. Here’s a 2017 video that may still be applicable. There’s also a downloadable PDF version of FCC Form 605 here if you want to review the material offline.
GMRS rules are found in 47 C.F.R. Part 95 Subpart E.
* You can also use your FRN to get many other types of licenses, including signing up to take the Ham license exam through LCARS the Lake County Amateur Radio Society or other regional exam resources.
If you have a question, send email to CAVERN Network Control and please include the word “license” in the Subject.