UK Walkie talkie frequencies
Ensure Very High Frequency (VHF) signals for devices are those with a frequency of 30MHz – 300MHz and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio signals are between 300MHz and 3000MHz. Walkie talkie transmissions can extend from a couple of hundred metres to a few miles or more, depending on their power output (measured in watts), whether your model uses digital or analogue transmission, the location of the device and the type of frequency you use (VHF or UHF). Walkie talkies, or two-way radios, transmit and receive information through radio signals at a number of possible frequencies, using either digital or analogue technology.
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There are eight licence-free UHF walkie-talkie channels in the UK, as well as channels for businesses that require a licence from OFCOM. These channels are licensed because they protect communications for life-saving services including the police, emergency services, railways, military, air traffic control and marine services, by ensuring that they remain clear from interference by other users. There are specific models of walkie talkies designed for businesses that operate on the licensed UHF (400 – 470MHz) and VHF (136 – 174MHz) channels and which require a licence.
Walkie talkie transmissions can extend from a couple of hundred metres to a few miles or more, depending on their power output (measured in watts), whether your model uses digital or analogue transmission, the location of the device and the type of frequency you use (VHF or UHF). The range of your walkie talkie will depend on where you use it – a built up area reduces the transmitting range of your walkie talkie, whereas a flat, open environment will enable wider transmission. For longer-range transmission, VHF signals between 136 and 174 MHz are recommended, because they are better for reaching greater distances for the same power output. This is why VHF is used in maritime radio. However, UHF signals (400 – 470MHz) are better for built-up areas, giving better penetration for the same power. If you are looking for a general walkie talkie frequency, UHF is probably your best choice.
To complicate things further, traditionally, a walkie talkie is a transceiver that is set to use analogue FM signals. With the growth of digital technology, a number of digital two-way radios are available and use licence-free digital private mobile radio (dPMR446) and digital mobile radio (DMR) channels transmitting at 446.1 – 446.2 MHz. These products may have a better range and sound quality, but they are much more expensive. Digital walkie talkies allow conversations between multiple users as well as encrypted one-to-one communications, text messaging and safety calls, and they are designed to also support traditional analogue signals. However, there may be compatibility issues for different types of digital walkie talkies.
Licence-free walkie talkies are specifically designed to be used so that they will not interfere with priority signals, and they and they can be used by anyone within the UK without a licence. These are less expensive and less powerful than walkie talkies designed for licensed frequencies, but they can serve many everyday needs. They are usually called 'PMR446' radios because of their frequencies, and can only have a power output of 0.5 watts, which means that their range is less than the more powerful licensed business walkie talkies, which have power outputs of 4 to 5 watt (or up to 25 watts for vehicle radios and 'base stations'). Because they are more powerful, licensed radios have a larger range and a better signal penetration in buildings. Licence-free walkie talkies may also experience more interference if they are used in an area with multiple users on the same channels, but this can be overcome by using a model that supports 'codes', as described below, or by switching channel. Because they are cheaper they are easier to replace than the more powerful models.
PMR walkie talkie frequencies
There are eight 'licence-free' (PMR446) UHF channels licensed for use within the UK, and these run in 12.5Khz internals (listed here in MHz):
Tones and codes
Walkie talkies may also be set up to use a number of possible 'identification tones' on each channel. You set your radios to a given channel and tone, and you will only hear messages from other radios set to the same combination. There are two types of codes available – continuous tone-coded squelch system (CTCSS) or digital-coded squelch (DCS). However, it is these codes will not be suitable for life-saving services who need to gain access to a particular channel in a particular location at a given time.
In the US, a system of FRS and GMRS channels are used which are roughly equivalent to the PMR channels, but devices that use these are not licensed in the UK. The PMR frequencies have been 'harmonised' for use around Europe, but you should check whether they have been authorised in a particular country you intend to use them in. For instance, in America, the PMR frequencies are generally used for amateur radio.
UK walkie talkie frequencies and licence options
The Simple UK Light walkie-talkie licence is available from OFCOM for a standard five-year fee of around £75 per organisation, and allows for transmission across a specific range of frequencies for all users who have this licence. It may be used anywhere in the UK. Alternatively, there are a number of custom licence options can be created to access a specific frequency or for exclusive use of a frequency by your organisation within a certain limited range. The price for this licence varies according to demand for radio frequency in the area, and the frequency cannot be used outside of that area. Finally, a Business Radio Suppliers' licence can be used if you hire your walkie talkies from a particular retailer, or borrow a device for trial.