Author's note: This article was written some years ago, and some information may be a bit dated. I'm attempting to bring this up to date gradually.
Ask ten people, get ten answers.
OK... A radio needs Part 95 acceptance for FRS, GMRS, MURS. No Baofeng has this, per se. *BTECH has released a Part 95 MURS radio and a Part 95 GMRS radio.
For commercial use, radios need Part 90 approval. Most Baofengs HAVE this. Many Wouxun radios have this. A few Puxing radios have this. Most Anytone radios have this. GMRS radios need Part 95E certification. MURS radios require Part 95J certification. FRS radios require Part 95E certification.
Check on the back of the radio for the "FCC ID" sticker. This FCC ID can be looked up to see what rule parts the radio is certified for. An FCC ID label is required to be placed on the back of the radio.
SOME commercial radios have more than one rule part. You'd see Part 90 AND Part 95(a). Then these would be legal on GMRS. Not FRS, Part 95(b) or MURS Part 95(j). Because FRS radios have a maximum of 2 watts and non removable antennas. Murs has a 2 watt maximum, and these radios exceed that on high power. Of course, you then have the field programmability, which oddly enough even violates the Part 90 approval... figure that one out!
For Amateur radio use, NO Part 97 approval is required. I don't even think there is an equipment certification for Part 97. Part 97 primarily covers operating rules, although there are some equipment rules. Since amateur operators can use *almost* all equipment, other rule parts dealing with equipment come into play. Part 97 does cover proper engineering practices that are required to make sure equipment is within tolerance.
For amateur equipment, Part 15 largely applies on VHF and UHF radios. This is primarily for radios with a scanning function, to certify the radios cannot monitor cellular, as well as receiver products interfering and receiving interference from consumer products.
If you take your Icom, Kenwood, etc., radios and enter the FCC ID into the FCC database, you will see it likely listed as "Part 15 scanning receiver." That's why you see some new equipment like on Universal being listed "This radio has not received FCC approval." Not waiting for Part 97 approval; but waiting for that Part 15 receiver compliance.
The applicable rule here is 15.101 Paragraphs (a) and (B)
Most Part 90 radios.... Which are commercial radios, can be used on the amateur bands legally. That's why all these Baofengs, Wouxuns, Puxings, etc., have taken off. Wouxun started it off by being the first Chinese radio to get FCC approval. All these other radios floating around at the time had no approval. Of course, when this hit the net with a firestorm and sales took off, other manufacturers finally got into the fray, and we now have the mess we are in today.
You see all the hams with Motorola, Midland, and other radios on the ham bands. They are Part 90 radios, which makes them legal for amateur operators. They have been certified for use in the USA, based on technical standards for commercial use. Amateurs may use any equipment certified under any other rule part. The reverse is NOT true. Amateurs are expected to utilize proper engineering practices and are granted wide latitude for operation.
What about all those Quangshengs, and oddball brands. Forget it. If they have no FCC ID, they are not legal for use on ANY radio service in the USA.... Including amateur. This may, at first thought, contradict my previous statements regarding proper amateur engineering practices. The answer to that is simple: The radios have not passed any type of scrutiny in regards to spectral purity, or any other factors governing equipment for use in the USA.
This will not, by any means, stop the debate. If I get one person to consider the rules, then that is a victory. I will hear 100 different reasons why I am wrong. This is an interpretation. I've tried to be as literal as possible, with as little personal bias as possible. I could spoon feed each and every applicable regulation, and draw pictures. I'd still be doubted. At any rate, at least I'd cause a pause to consider. For the record, I own several brands of radios, such as Baofeng and Puxing.
The point, really, is to make people stop and consider the fact that ALL radio services have rules, regulations and technical standards. Not all radios will work with other radios. Very few can be used by the general public.
[Update 11-27-2015 for Part 15 clarifications and Part 90 corrections]
[Update 07-23-2019 for FRS Rule power limits and some dated material being brought up to date
Note: the FCC approval process only applies to commercially manufactured equipment. Homebrew stuff is exempt.
Of course, feel free to consult the FCC regulations if you don't want to take my word on this:
For UK Users:
Baofeng, Wouxun, TYT, and many other radios are ILLEGAL on PMR446.
For Australian users:
Baofeng, Wouxun, TYT and most if not all Cheap Chinese Radios, are illegal in Australia for ALL PURPOSES! This includes amateur and commercial use. The ACMA will and has confiscated many radios. Unlikw many nations, the ACMA is an active enforcement agency.
John, KD8DVR Ohio Repeaterbook Admin.