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2 way radio

2 way radio

2 way radio


Many of our customers use the term walkie-talkie and two-way radio interchangeably. But did you know that while all walkie-talkies are two-way radios, not all two-way radios are walkie-talkies? While both radio products have value, they have their differences as well as advantages and disadvantages.

When you hear “walkie-talkie,” many may think of a brightly-colored children’s toy. They are often marketed as such, found in more casual settings and chain retail stores. A walkie-talkie is a portable device with push-to-talk technology that only transmits one radio on the channel at a time without the use of towers. During that time, any number of people listen and remain on the receive mode. The device is portable – hence the name “walkie-talkie.” However, they can be limited in range, often have fewer features and are license-free.

Two-way radios send and receive two-way signals and are often mounted in a vehicle or on a desk. There are two different types: full and half duplex. The half-duplex sends and receives signals one by one, while the full duplex sends and receives simultaneously. These radios allow calling and receiving at the same time using two different frequencies. Unlike walkie-talkies where you have to remain on receive mode while someone is talking, two-way radios allow you to deliver your message at the same time. Similar to walkie-talkies, they do not require towers and can be used without electricity. Two-way radios are mostly used for commercial purposes, like construction and public safety, because of their additional features and high quality.

Overall, both walkie-talkies and two-way radios are valuable and have their uses. At General Communications, we have a vast selection of two-way radios that can help you save lives, protect your community and communicate well across your organization whether that is in Public Safety, Business & Operations, Schools & Transportation, Medical & Hospitals or Hospitality & Special Events.

How to Choose Two-way Radios

Once the ultimate tech for communicating with companions who were beyond shoutin’ distance, walkie talkies remain a valuable outdoor tool. Today’s rugged two-way radios are purpose-made for coordinating ongoing trip details when you’re doing activities like hiking, cycling, climbing or skiing. Cellphones may be everywhere, but cellphone coverage is not—and even a high-end two-way radio costs far less than a flagship cellphone model. Two-way radios can also be employed as communication tools during disasters when cellular networks are damaged or overwhelmed.

This overview offers buying and usage tips, and covers key two-way radio features:

  • Types of two-way radiosMost noncommercial outdoor users choose license-free Family Radio Service (FRS) units; General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) units offer slightly more power but require a license.
  • Transmission rangeAdvertised ranges help in comparing radios, but real-world range is often a fraction of claims; line-of-sight use is best because obstacles impede signals.
  • Communication enhancementsFeatures like voice-activated transmission, privacy codes, easy pairing, a settings lock and “ring tones” help make communication go more smoothly.
  • Weather and hazard alertsThese let your radio receive NOAA weather reports, as well as broadcast alerts for a broad range of civil emergencies and natural disasters.
  • Texting and navigationSome models work in tandem with a phone app to allow you to send text messages and location coordinates to nearby group members with the same model of radio.
  • Rechargeable batteries: Most mid- and high-price radios have rechargeable batteries; many also let you bring along AA or AAA alkaline batteries as a backup.
  • Water resistance: Most radios are water resistant; some (expensive) models designed specifically for snow or watersports use offer higher water protection ratings.
  • Prices: Not surprisingly, paying more can get you more advanced features and better performance; radios built for snow and on-the-water use also have higher prices.
  • Weight/size: Radio size and weight varies, so check these specs carefully if you watch every ounce and cubic inch in your kit. The smallest, lightest model might not have the same level of performance or features, though, as a bigger, bulkier radio.

Two-way Radio Transmission Range

Radio Power and Range of Coverage

Transmitting at 2 watts of power won’t give you 4 times the range of transmitting at 0.5 watts of power because many other factors also affect range, including the sensitivity of the receiving unit. A primary benefit of transmitting at a higher power is improving overall quality of the signal by filling in coverage dropouts behind obstructions.

The murky correlation between wattage and range is one reason why radio makers don’t often state exactly how much power their unit puts out on each channel or each power level setting.

Real-World Range of Coverage

Some radios state ranges of up to 35 miles in optimal conditions. Real-world conditions are rarely optimal, meaning statements like “1 mile in neighborhoods” can be found in the fine print. Achieving a good line of sight between you and the other radio operator is a key factor in achieving maximum transmission range.

Note, too, that the Earth’s curvature obstructs “straight line” transmissions, which is why you might see “up to 6 miles” for the open-water maximum range. Theoretical maximum range (like the 35 mile spec) requires your elevation to be several hundred feet above the other radio.

Several other factors can inhibit two-way radio performance: 

  • Topographic obstructions (hills, deep canyons, ridgelines)
  • Other obstructions (dense forest, built structures)
  • Weather (thick clouds, cold batteries)
  • Electromagnetic interference (lightning, nearby high-power transmission lines)
  • Large metal surfaces (a reason why two-way radios are a poor choice for car use)

 2 way radio,  walkie talkie

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