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GMRS in Canada

There are major differences from US regulations 

Following up on a recent blog post by Bob Witte K0NR [] with the Canadian perspective.

There are big differences in GMRS rules between the US and Canada. If you understand the rules, you’ll  understand what you need to look for when purchasing GMRS radios, and you’ll understand what channels to use to get better range. And you’ll understand why you could get in trouble for using some US radios that are not approved for use in Canada – and vice versa.

Radios must be approved in the country of usage

Every GMRS radio has to be approved by the authorities of the country where you will be using the radio –  Industry Canada (IC) and the FCC in the US. There are also rules for usage. If the radio does not have an IC number, it’s not approved for use in Canada. If the radio does not have an FCC number, it’s not approved for use in the US.

Industry Canada has a lot of information here.

GMRS – FRS with more channels, and *maybe* more power

GMRS is an evolution of FRS that is compatible with older FRS radios on the FRS channels.  But there are significant differences between Canada and US regulations.

Licensing, power limits, antennas and repeaters

In Canada, GMRS users do not require a  license. In the US, radios above 0.5 watt require a GMRS license. In Canada, you’re limited to 2 watts power on the GMRS and combined GMRS/FRS channels, and 0.5 watts on the GMRS channels. In the US, if you have a license, you can go to 5 watts on the GMRS/FRS and GMRS channels.

Repeaters. There is no provision for legal usage of GMRS repeaters in Canada. In the US, licensed users can us GMRS repeaters and GRMS radios with repeater capability.

Antenna. In Canada, the antenna must be fixed on the radio. It cannot be removed, and it is illegal to replace or modify it. In the US, licensed users can change the antenna.

What’s the range of my radio? How is it affected by power?

Most of the radios you buy in big box stores in Canada and the US are designed to be legal for unlicensed usage in both US and Canada – which means you will be limited to 0.5 watts, a quarter of the power you’re allowed to use in Canada. The ranges they advertise are generally ridiculous, varying from 20 km to 80 km (50 miles).

Finding the power rating for the radio is not always simple. Most manufacturers don’t tell you. We’ve checked the packaging, manuals and web sites for the two biggest manufacturers, and it was either not there or very difficult to find. We’ve never seen a radio rated for the full 2 watt maximum. The closest we’ve seen is 1.92 watts, advertised with a 80 km/50 mile range. We’ve seen 1.6 watt advertised with a 50 km range. So everything is approximate.

Another hint is the batteries. A 0.5 watt radio might have a battery compartment for 3 x AAA batteries. A radio with 1 watt, 1.5 watt or just under 2 watts might have 3 or 4 AA batteries to handle the extra load.

- John VE7TI


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