The author is an amateur radio operator and user of MURS radios.
Choosing a Radio for Your Business
If you're a business owner who needs to stay in touch with employees on the job site, one of the best tools you can have is a good commercial walkie-talkie or two-way radio with rugged construction that's also made for business use. There's a lot of confusion these days as to what is legal and what is not regarding walkie-talkies.
Ordinary GMRS-FRS walkie-talkies, which are sold at discount stores, are not really legal for business use except under special conditions. The law states that a business can only use GMRS radios if every employee has his or her own license. Since getting a $75 license for each of your employees is most likely unreasonable, business owners frequently use them illegally.
There are many of these radios being used by businesses in the U.S., and enforcement of the FCC's rules is becoming increasingly more difficult, but still, you could be risking a huge fine if you're ever caught. Business use of GMRS is much more likely to raise eyebrows, especially since the radios can transmit a signal for many miles, which can interfere with other users.
If long-time users in the community become annoyed, they may report unlicensed use to the FCC. Another reason not to use FRS—GMRS radios for business use is that there are nearly 90 million of these radios out there. This means that interference from other radios is highly likely, even when using privacy codes.
Finally, another downside of using FRS-GMRS radios for business is that since there are so many users out there potentially listening, the private workings of your business can be widely heard.
MURS: A Radio Service That Fills the Gap
A better solution for business owners is one that uses one of the commercial VHF or UHF radio frequencies. Motorola is one of the best-known business walkie-talkie makers and makes radios that operate on commercial frequencies.
Most of the commercial radios on the market require an FCC license, and some require that you wait for a frequency assignment. Once assigned a frequency, you must use it for all of your communications.
For businesses that will be communicating over a large area, such as a city, having a dedicated frequency and higher power output is essential for good communications. A lengthy licensing process, expensive equipment, and having to use a call sign are downsides to a full-blown commercial two-way radio system. Business radio systems are usually required to operate only in a fixed geographic area, making this type of radio impractical for businesses that have operations in other areas.
A Middle Ground
Not every business needs an assigned radio frequency, thousands of dollars of equipment, and an expensive license to worry about. To serve the needs of small businesses and individuals, the FCC created the Multi-Use Radio Service. Basically, this service consists of five channels, as listed below.
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Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) Channels
MURS Range and Interference
Despite the fact that there are only five MURS frequencies, there are still not that many users of this radio service. This means that there is typically less interference on MURS channels than on GMRS ones.
Power output for MURS walkie-talkies is limited to two watts, which is still enough power to communicate over several miles in open country, or across a large industrial complex or warehouse. MURS radio range of up to six miles is not uncommon. Many MURS radios feature privacy codes that block transmissions from other radios operating on the same frequency.
Overall, MURS two-way radios are a very good solution to the needs of most small businesses. Unlike business walkie-talkies that use an assigned frequency, you're free to switch between any of the five channels and to use them wherever you go. The fact that it's legal to use these radios anywhere in the U.S. makes them an excellent choice for businesses that also have mobile operations.
A Bonus Feature
A remote driveway sensor alert device can be added to a MURS walkie-talkie system. In an operation such as a salvage yard, the owner could be notified by walkie-talkie with an alert tone whenever someone drives in the front entrance. This feature can also be useful for security guards on large properties.
A MURS driveway alert can be added to a system for just over $100. There are also MURS radio system base units, which operate off AC power and which don't require charging.
Other Options for Business Two-Way Radios
A downside of MURS radios for business is that transmissions can still be heard by others with MURS radios or scanners. If you want a truly private walkie-talkie radio for your business, you'll need to use a more expensive digital system. Those that offer any significant amount of range do require an FCC license.
One widely used commercial radio that offers a high degree of privacy is the Motorola On-Site model, which features voice scrambling and 89 channels. In addition to licensing fees, expect to pay more than $300 each for these radios.
There are several models of 900 MHz FHSS (frequency hopping spread spectrum) radios, such as the eXRS radios (Extreme Radio Service) by Trisquare. Most models of 900 MHz radios feature the ability to call chosen groups of employees or individual walkie-talkies, making these devices more like a local phone system than a radio network. These radios sell from between $80 to $300, depending on features. These radios are license-free, but a major downside to them is that they do not offer as long a range as MURS radios.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Nolen Hart