Basic Radio Rules & Regulations

Did you know two-way radios require a license?

When you purchase a radio, you are required to obtain a license through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. This license is per radio, per year. Further, you must add to your license those frequencies you are using, whether Basic 10, Appendix 6 (BC), RR’s etc. Further, if you wish to have special frequencies added, you must have a letter of authorization and add the frequency to your license.

Did you know that programmable, amateur and marine radios are not usable for land mobile purposes?

Very often people will come in hoping to buy programmable radios to use on resource roads. Unfortunately, programmable radios are not permissible for land mobile use. Frequencies are managed by the government for specific purposes. Thus, ISED wants to ensure whoever is programming a radio understands what frequencies are permitted.

Did you know your license is for a particular area?

This is because frequencies are often ‘reused’ in different areas. For example, a private channel in Kamloops, may be a crane operators channel in Edmonton. If you use that channel in Edmonton you can cause interference with the crane operator- thus putting other people’s safety at risk.

Did you know radios you purchase online may be illegal for use in Canada?

Many popular and cheap ‘walkie walkie’ style radios from overseas are actually illegal for use in Canada. Before you buy a radio, ensure that it is approved for use by ISED. Use this link to check it out.

Radio Licensing

Radio licensing is something most people don’t think of when purchasing a radio. However, it is an important consideration for any individual or business utilizing this technology.

All radios must be licensed unless certain exemptions are met. Therefore, whether using a radio for business or leisure, licensing will come into play.

For those who use radios for enjoyment, special licensing exists. These individuals are known as ‘amateur radio operators’. Becoming an amateur radio operator is a long process which requires study and examination. This licensing exists because of how amateurs use their equipment. Often amateurs will build their own stations and will use ‘user programmable’ radios. These are privileges that require a solid understanding of radio technology and surrounding regulation.

For those who use radios professionally, licensing is also required. These licenses can be obtained through Industry Canada’s website through developing a user profile and making an application. Licences are usually approved in a few days.

It is important to understand the licensing requirements behind radio use and to follow it accordingly.  Industry Canada has developed a new web page in an effort to make finding this information easier.

As always, we are happy to help with any questions you may have on radios or radio licensing!

Resource Road Updates: Southern and Northern Interior

As noted in our previous posts[1], standardized resource road channels are coming into use in various areas of BC at staggered times.

The latest update from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations notes that the next area to undergo this change is a large portion of the Southern Interior Forest Region, including Quesnel, Thompson Rivers, Cascades, Okanagan Shuswap and Chilliwack.[2] The date scheduled for this change is May 4th, 2015.

As of June 1, 2015 portions of the Northern Interior Areas will also make the move to RR. Specifically, Prince George, Robson Valley, Mackenzie, Stuart Nechako (Vanderhoof and Fort St. James), Nadina (Burns Lake and Houston) and Skeena Stikine Forest Districts.

A rough idea of the included area can be determined by use of this map from 2011:

Prior to May 4th and June 1st respectively, radio users in the above areas must have pre-programmed the new 40 RR channels into radios. As previously mentioned, compliance with this requirement may require a newer narrow band radio to accommodate the channels.

In an effort to promote a smooth transition, it is advised that resource road users become familiar with the new signs.  Information regarding the content and interpretation of these new signs can be found here:

Walco will continue to endeavor to provide updates as they occur.



CB Radio: The Basics

Citizen’s Band (CB) radio has long been a source of information, enjoyment and connection. The band has expanded and changed over time, originating with 23 channels and growing to 40 in the late 1970’s.[1] Of late, CB has become less and less favored as people move toward alternative technologies including cell phones and other radios.

Public Resource

A CB may be less fashionable than an iPhone; however, it remains a valuable tool for the public. CB or General Radio Service (GRS) is “exempt from licensing. Radio Standards Specification 136 (RSS-136) prescribes the technical requirements applicable to radio apparatus operating in the GRS.” Thus, CB is far more accessible than other frequencies, which are closely regulated by Industry Canada and require licensing. As such, CB is a public communications resource, especially during emergencies. For those who often drive in areas out of cellular coverage, or who may require information regarding changing road conditions- CB’s offer a back up system.[2] Further, in situations of emergency, ‘channel 9’ remains a place where people can communicate dire situations and obtain assistance.[3]

Basic and Valuable Skills

CB radio requires basic radio communications skills that are valuable as general knowledge. Just as it is beneficial to know CPR, or how to fix a flat tire, it is also beneficial to understand the basics of radio communication. Examples include the phonetic alphabet and procedure codes. Most people have vague knowledge of these facets of radio from the movies (10-4 sound familiar?). However, it can  be valuable and interesting to have this information on hand.

The phonetic alphabet is as follows: [4]

A Alfa

B Bravo

C Charlie

D Delta

E Echo

F Foxtrot

G Golf

H Hotel

I India

J Juliett

K Kilo

L Lima

M Mike

N November

O Oscar

P Papa

Q Quebec

R Romeo

S Sierra

T Tango

U Uniform

V Victor

W Whiskey

X X-ray

Y Yankee

Z Zulu

Procedure Codes are as follows:[5]

10-1 Receiving poorly.

10-2 Receiving well.

10-3 Stop transmitting.

10-4 OK, message received (acknowledgment).

10-5 Relay message.

10-6 Busy, please standby (unless urgent).

10-7 Out of service, leaving air.

10-8 In service, subject to call.

10-9 Repeat message.

10-10 Transmission completed, standing by.

10-11 Talking too quickly.

10-12 Visitors (non-CBers) present.

10-13 Advise weather and road conditions.

10-16 Make pick-up at . . .

10-17 Urgent business.

10-18 Anything for us? (Any assignment?)

10-19 Nothing for you, return to base or station.

10-20 My location is . . .

10-21 Call by telephone or get in touch (but not by radio).

10-22 Report in person to . . .

10-23 Standby.

10-24 Completed last assignment.

10-25 Can you contact . . .

10-26 Disregard last message.

10-27 I am moving to channel . . .

10-28 Identify your station.

10-29 Time is up for contact.

10-30 Does not conform to Industry Canada rules.

10-32 I will give you a radio check.

10-33 EMERGENCY at this station.

10-34 Trouble at this station, help needed.

10-35 Confidential information which cannot be discussed on radio.

10-36 Correct time is . . .

10-37 Wrecker needed at . . .

10-38 Ambulance needed at . . .

10-39 Your message delivered.

10-41 Moving to another channel. Please tune to channel . . .

10-42 Traffic accident at . . .

10-43 Traffic tie-up at . . .

10-44 I have a message for you . . .

10-45 All units within range, please report (or identify).

10-46 Assist motorist.

10-50 Break channel.

10-60 What is the next message number?

10-62 Unable to copy, use telephone.

10-63 Network directed to . . .

10-64 Network clear.

10-65 Awaiting next message (or assignment).

10-67 All units comply.

10-70 Fire at . . .

10-71 Proceed with transmission in sequence.

10-73 Speed trap at . . .

10-75 You are causing interference.

10-77 Negative contact.

10-81 Reserve hotel room at . . .

10-82 Reserve room for . . .

10-84 My telephone number is . . .

10-85 My address is . . .

10-89 Radio repairman needed at . . .

10-90 I have TVI (television interference).

10-91 Talk closer to microphone.

10-92 Your transmission is out of adjustment.

10-93 Check my frequency on this channel.

10-94 Please give me a long count.

10-95 Transmit dead carrier for 5 seconds.

10-99 Mission completed, all units secure.

10-100 Time out for rest room.

10-200 Police needed at . . .

Meeting New People

Finally, CB radios offer the possibility of communicating with people who aren’t on your Facebook. Hobbyists have long appreciated the ability to ‘meet’ people in this way. In our world of apps and efficiency it has quickly become forgotten that communications devices are supposed to increase communications, not hamper them.


CB still has a place in this world. It provides safety, requires basic and useful knowledge and generates connections between people.





[3] Ibid, note 1.

[4] Ibid, note 1.

[5] Ibid, note 1.

Front Panel Programmable Radios

The use of radios is governed by the Radio Communications Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. R-2 (the “Act”). This Act regulates the various parties using radio equipment. Like any other area, Radio Communications has a complicated regulatory framework. People often are not fully informed of the restrictions and obligations in place surrounding licensing and use. For example, in our experience, many consumers are unaware of the difference between amateur radio equipment (which is front panel programmable) and commercial land mobile radio equipment (which is not user programmable).

Often customers will come to own an amateur radio without full understanding of the limitations on its use. For example, individuals may ‘inherit’ an amateur radio through purchase of a vehicle or other equipment. Alternatively, they may buy an amateur radio because of the significantly lower cost as compared to commercial radios.

However, this equipment may not be used for commercial land mobile purposes. First, amateur equipment requires an amateur license to operate. Second, much of the equipment is illegally modified to accept commercial land mobile channels and thus is not legal even with a proper amateur license. Finally, frequencies are delineated by Industry Canada as to who may use them, under what license. Therefore, commercial land mobile frequencies may not be installed in front panel programmable equipment regardless of the capability of the equipment.

RSS Documents

For those seeking to further understand the requirements and restrictions of certain equipment and licensing, Industry Canada provides numerous documents to assist. These contain important information as to what equipment may be used for what purpose, and whether it must be certified.

RSS-119, section 3.4 sets out the requirement that commercial equipment must be internally preset to operate only on frequencies authorized under the licensing process. Operator selection of other than preset frequencies shall not be permissible.

3.4 Transmitter with External Frequency Selection Controls[1]

In order to prevent radio interference caused by end-user transmissions on unauthorized frequencies, transmitters with external frequency selection controls and/or frequency programming capability shall conform to the following:

(a) Transmitters with external frequency selection controls shall operate only on authorized channels which have been preset by the manufacturer, equipment supplier, or service technician/maintenance personnel.

(b) Transmitters with frequency programming capability must have at least one of the following design characteristics, which prevent the user from altering the preset frequencies:

(1) transmitters with external controls available to the user can only be internally modified to place the equipment in the programmable mode. Furthermore, while in the programmable mode, theequipment is not capable of transmitting. The procedure for making the modification and altering the frequency program is not available to the user of the equipment; or

(2) transmitters are programmed for frequencies through controls inaccessible to the user; or

(3) transmitters are programmed for frequencies through use of external devices or specifically programmed modules made available only to service/maintenance personnel; or

(4) transmitters are programmed through cloning (i.e. copying a program directly from another transmitter) using devices and procedures which are available only to service/maintenance personnel.

If using land mobile equipment, it is strongly suggested you become familiar with RSS-119. Furthermore, it is beneficial to review RSS-Gen, another useful resource for information regarding equipment requirements. RSS-Gen outlines the breakdown of radio types and how the categorizations result in different obligations, including certification. Further information is also available on the Industry Canada website.[2]


Government documents can be confusing to read. Therefore, it is completely understandable how people may be unclear as to rights and obligations. At Walco, we are happy to clear up misconceptions surrounding radio licencing and usage.