Can you get some sort of repeater for two-way radios?

Friends, this one comes straight from the front lines. I just got done with this conversation minutes ago and set out to write this article. It’s rare that the internet doesn’t have some sort of reference material to help answer questions like this, but in this case it took me a while to track some down. So, you know what happens when I have trouble finding something on the internet, right? That’s right, I make something you can find on the internet.

Getting down to the real question

The real question isn’t just about two-way radios, it’s about a specific kind of two-way radios. The radios used by police officers, taxi drivers, boaters, and other folks require a license. Those radios do have high-powered base stations that can act as repeaters, and you can tell that for yourself just by driving by your local police station. You’ll find a tower holding the broadcast antenna for the dispatcher.

I’m talking specifically about FRS radios. FRS, the Family Radio Service, is a form of broadcasting that’s been around since the 1990s. Back then, cell phones were kind of scarce and expensive to operate. FRS was proposed as a way for people to communicate in a fairly large area without having to get a license.

They’ve been popular for years, although the coming of unlimited cell phone plans has slowed down their roll a bit. At Solid Signal, we still sell a ton of them. They’re great for places like ski slopes and hikes where you don’t want to take (and potentially lose) an expensive phone.

The repeater question

The answer is, no. The FCC does not allow for repeaters or high-power broadcasts on FRS radios. This has to do with the fact that you don’t need a license to use them. Broadcasts are limited to 2 watts, which means that a repeater wouldn’t necessarily give you any extra range unless it was very carefully placed. Still, with only 2 watts, FRS radios can still reach for miles in open areas.

What are the other options?

Well, you can get another form of radio that requires that every operator be licensed. Or, you can use cell phones if you’re in areas with cell service. Places like ski slopes and ranger stations use large antennas to pull in the weakest and most distant signals so that they can find people who are lost. But beyond that, the options are pretty slim.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.