By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The FRS market is continuing to expand into new form factors and new types of radios including both GMRS and possibly MURS.
GMRS radios are steadily gaining in share of the market and could reach 20 to 25 percent of unit sales, next year, according to Audiovox VP, consumer goods group Ralph Etna. In addition, the industry will see the first MURS units on display from companies including Topaz 3 (formerly Maxon) and some unique FRS configurations from Audiovox.
Although suppliers are showing MURS radios here, the format is not gaining as much support as originally expected. MURS radios offer 2 watt power and only five-channel operation, although they have the advantage of license-free status. However, some suppliers say licensing is now a non-issue because most consumers ignore the license requirements on GMRS.
Topaz 3 is showing two high-end MURS radios aimed at small businesses as well as consumers, and Midland said it may show an MURS radio. Audiovox is showing MURS but does not think the format will gain a stronghold in the market and Cobra said it is steering clear of the format.
Explained Etna, "In the recent presentations we've made to retail customers, there's no interest in MURS. Ultimately, there is no price/feature/performance benefit for their clientele. We will show MURS units, but we think the interest level will be very minimal."
By contrast, Topaz 3 national sales manager Steve Koch said, "The awareness of MURS seems to be gaining. We're getting more and more inquiries on it every day and every week they increase. I would say the interest in it grows by 10 percent each week."
Topaz 3 is showing two MURS models under the TruTalk line that have already received FCC approval, according to the company.
Midland's new MURS-22 is a two-channel portable radio but it can receive all five MURS frequencies, so users can select any two of the five channels at any one time. It also has 38 standard and 11 non-CTCSS subcodes. The MURS-22 is built to military standards and ships with antenna, NiMH battery pack and charger, at a suggested retail price of $241 each. The step-up model MURS-25 is a five-channel version with a large LCD that adds 104 digital subcodes as well as full scanning for the channels and sub-channels. It also has seven NOAA weather, internal VOX with 3 settings, and ships with the same accessories as the MURS-22 at a suggested retail price of $269 each.
Midland says it hopes to bring to CES a MURS radio with high and low power settings, five channels and 38 subcodes, scan and flex antenna, at a price to be announced.
Also new to the marketplace are several uniquely configured products. From Audiovox is a car FRS system designed to mount in the trunk or the rear of an SUV. It incorporates a weather/shock resistant charging stand with two 14-channel FRS, with 38 subcodes, that use rechargeable batteries. The system, called the FR2000PC, is aimed at the OEM/expediter market and is expected to ship in April or May at a suggested retail price of approximately $99.
Audiovox is also showing a new headset called the FRSWP1. The swoop headphones connect to a micro-channel, 3-channel FRS that clips onto a belt. The headphones have a built-in boom microphone, FM radio and built-in VOX for hands-free use. The headset is aimed at kids on bikes and skateboards and is expected to carry a suggested retail price of $49.99.
GMRS sales continue to gain, say suppliers, with Cobra senior VP sales and marketing Tony Mirabelli calling GMRS the market's "bright shining star. We just can't bring enough in. We've literally been flying in all the GMRS to keep up with demand. It's helped maintain better-than-average selling prices in the overall marketplace."
Several suppliers, including Audiovox, Cobra and Midland, are showing GMRS with additional channel capacity this year.
Cobra is introducing two new 22-channel models that have a new Switchable Power Output feature. It delivers ½ watt when using the FRS channels, and 2 watts when using GMRS, to extend battery life. Both of the new models, the PR 950DX and PR 1100WX, come with rechargeable batteries and a charger. Other features include five-mile range, water-resistant case, 38 privacy codes, VOX and backlit LCD. The PR 1100WX adds NOAA weather alert, a compass and a clock/stopwatch. Both are expected to ship in the second quarter at $79.99 and $99.99 per unit.
Midland's new 22-channel GMRS feature small size and low price. The FG-1 has a five mile range and VOX, beginning at $39.99 each and the step-up model FG-2 adds 38 subcodes at $49.99 each. The new G-9 15 channel GMRS offers 38 subcodes, up to five mile range, large LCD readout, battery level meter and dual watch to monitor two channels at $44.99 each or $89.99 per pair.
Audiovox and Unwired are both showing new three watt GRMS featuring seven mile range.
Audiovox's new 22-channel unit is the GMRS 7000CH. It is packaged with a wall charger and rechargeable batteries and includes NOAA and weather alert at a suggested retail price of $99.95.
Unwired's new unit is the UGMR-3000 that claims 23 channels and 38 subcodes with vibrate alert and repeater-assisted channels for extended range. It is expected to carry a suggested retail price of $79.99.
Audiovox is also introducing several additional 22-channel, 2 watt GMRS models, including the GMRS1200 single pack with wall charger and batteries, and a twin pack version without charger and batteries. Suggested retail prices for the units are $49.95 and $89.95, respectively. These are joined by the weather-resistant sports model GRMS 1500XTM with 22 channels, digital compass, NOAA, FM radio, temperature with freeze alert at $99 and the GMRS 1100 twin pack with dual desktop charger and rechargeable batteries, also at $99. It has just begun shipping the industry's first GRMS with built-in GPS, model GMRGPS at a suggested retail of $279.
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