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I've recently bought a pair of PMR446 walkie-talkies with some 5–10 km range, operating at 446 MHz. We've happily used them in Sareks Nationalpark in Sweden. Now I'm moving to Canada, where this frequency requires a license.

My options are to:

  1. Buy another pair for use in Canada
  2. Get a license
  3. Use them anyway without a license

Suppose that we're hiking in a remote mountain region of British Columbia, Yukon, or Alaska. In all likelihood, nobody is going to be nearby. What are the likely consequences if we use it anyway — for us, and for others? Wikipedia notes:

PMR446 radios use frequencies that in the U.S. and Canada are allocated to amateur radio operators. PMR446 radios can only be used in North America by licensed amateur radio operators. The conflicting allocations have been something of a nuisance to North American amateur operators due to use of the equipment by European tourists in the U.S. and Canada.[citation needed]

Instead, the U.S. and Canada uses the FRS system, which provides a similar service on slightly different frequencies. FRS frequencies are allocated to the emergency services in Europe, notably the fire brigade in the UK, police in Russia.[2] Interference with licenced radio services may result in prosecution.

Will PMR446 usage in North America likely lead to prosecution, and/or endanger anybody?

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I can't comment for definite but this does sound similar to the UK where usage of any two way radio was illegal (without a license) until the 1990s. In the UK instance, the usage was illegal due to a hangover from the legislation to prevent pirate radio stations. Plenty of people did use them even though it was illegal and in general the authorities turned a blind eye to it. I don't know if that helps but figured it was better than no answers at all. –  Liam Jan 20 at 11:23
I guess that if this is an amateur radio frequency at most you could get a fine. Now if it is the military ... –  Vorac Jan 21 at 8:46
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Excluding the legality question, as to be honest, that's likely to depend on who detects you, and how much it interferes with licensed traffic, the safety angle has a couple of aspects:

  • It doesn't look like you will clash with emergency services, however there is a risk that you will clash with local amateur radio operators who may be handling emergency traffic (low likelihood, but possible)
  • If you get in trouble, you may have difficulty contacting emergency services (I don't know whether you will be able to contact local amateur radio operators - not sure on interoperability of your devices with their kit)
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Oh, I never thought of PMR to contact emergency services. I usually take a personal locator beacon for that, or possibly a satellite phone. –  gerrit Jan 21 at 11:40
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