Can you use Baofeng as Walkie Talkie without a License?

This is a common question among new users and those interested in exploring the capabilities of these versatile devices.

The short answer: It depends on the type of Baofeng Radio. Amateur and GMRS Radios require a license. FRS and MURS Radios do not require a license.

  • Amateur radios like the UV-5R and UV-82 require a license to operate.
  • Baofeng FRS Radios like the GT-18 do not require a license
  • Baofeng GMRS Radios like the GM-15 require a license.
  • Baofeng MURS Radios do not require a license.

Let’s dive deeper into the regulations and practicalities.

Understanding Radio Frequency Regulations

Radio frequency usage is regulated by governmental agencies to ensure orderly and interference-free communication. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) governs these regulations. Similar bodies exist in other countries, such as Ofcom in the UK and the ACMA in Australia. These regulations dictate which frequencies can be used without a license and under what conditions.

Key Terms to Know

  • FRS (Family Radio Service): A set of frequencies designated for short-range, personal communications. No license is required.
  • GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service): Allows for higher power and longer-range communication. A license is required in the US.
  • MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service): A set of frequencies that allow for communication over short to medium ranges. No license is required in the US.
  • Amateur Radio (Ham Radio): A broad spectrum of frequencies allocated for non-commercial use. A license is required to transmit.

Using Baofeng Radios Without a License

Baofeng amateur radios, such as the UV-5R, are capable of operating on a wide range of frequencies, including those that fall under FRS, GMRS, and amateur radio bands. However (in the USA, UK and Canada at least) they cannot legally be used for anything other than Ham Radio.

For FRS you would have to use a FRS specific radio like the GT-18. It is the same for MURS band.

1. FRS Frequencies

Family Radio Service (FRS) frequencies are designed for short-range, personal communications and can be used without a license. However, Baofeng radios often exceed the power limits allowed for FRS devices, which are limited to 2 watts of power.

  • Legal Use: The UV-5R and other amateur radios can be programmed to use FRS frequencies and ensure it operates at or below 2 watts. However in the USA it is not legal to use these radios for FRS.
  • Practical Considerations: It’s important to note that the FCC has designated FRS devices specifically for these frequencies. Using a Baofeng radio, which is not certified as an FRS device, will still be considered non-compliant.

2. MURS Frequencies

Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) frequencies allow for unlicensed use for personal and business communications. MURS operates on five VHF channels with a maximum power of 2 watts.

  • Legal Use: Many Baofeng radios can be programmed to use MURS frequencies, but they often exceed the power limit and this use is not legal.
  • Practical Considerations: Like with FRS, MURS is intended for devices specifically designed for this service. Using any other Baofeng radio on these frequencies, while keeping within power limits, will raise compliance issues.

3. Monitoring Frequencies

Even without a license, you can use your Baofeng radio to listen to a wide range of frequencies, including:

  • Weather Channels: NOAA weather channels can be freely monitored for weather updates.
  • Public Safety Channels: Depending on local regulations, you might be able to listen to police, fire, and emergency medical services.
  • Commercial and Amateur Bands: Listening to communications on these bands can be educational and entertaining, though transmitting requires a license.

Frequencies Requiring a License

1. GMRS Frequencies

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) frequencies are similar to FRS but allow for higher power (up to 50 watts) and the use of repeaters for extended range. Using GMRS frequencies requires an FCC license in the US.

  • License Requirement: You need a GMRS license to legally transmit on these frequencies. The license is relatively easy to obtain and covers your immediate family members.
  • Baofeng Use: Baofeng radios can operate on GMRS frequencies, but you must have a GMRS license to use them legally.

2. Amateur (Ham) Radio Frequencies

Amateur Radio frequencies cover a wide range of bands and allow for various modes of communication. To transmit on these frequencies, you need an amateur radio license, which involves passing an exam.

  • License Requirement: There are different classes of amateur radio licenses, each allowing access to specific bands and modes.
  • Baofeng Use: Baofeng radios are popular among ham radio operators. However, you must hold the appropriate license to transmit legally on these bands.


While Baofeng radios are versatile and capable of operating on many frequencies, you have to use radios that are specific to the application:

  1. FRS and MURS Frequencies: You can use Baofeng radios that are specific for these applications. Baofeng radios are not certified as FRS or MURS devices will present legal issues.
  2. Monitoring Only: You can freely use your Baofeng radio to listen to a wide range of frequencies without a license.
  3. GMRS and Amateur Radio Frequencies: Transmitting on these frequencies requires the appropriate licenses.

Always check your local regulations to ensure compliance with radio frequency use. If you plan to use your Baofeng radio beyond FRS or MURS frequencies, obtaining the necessary licenses will not only make your use legal but also open up a broader range of communication possibilities.

For more detailed guidance on programming and using Baofeng radios within legal limits, or on obtaining the necessary licenses, refer to resources provided by the FCC or local regulatory authorities.