The Different Types of Walkie-Talkies Explained

There are a number of different types of walkie talkies on the market that offer various features.

The two most common types of walkie-talkies are Family Radio Service (FRS), and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).

For many years FRS was considered a low power short range system, while GMRS was thought of as high power long range.

However, since both operate on different portions of the 450 MHz band there is no technical basis for such statements any longer. The performance difference comes from antenna height; transmission distance.

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Different Types of Walkie-Talkies: 

Walkie-talkie systems can be divided into three broad categories, depending on the distance at which they communicate:

1. Mobile systems


Mobile Systems use handheld radios (called handsets) that are usually powered by removable batteries. These walkie-talkies have a range of up to several miles and can be used over hills, mountains or through buildings depending on the terrain and number of obstructions. This distance is typically limited to about 25 km for FRS/GMRS & 27 km for MURS frequencies in rural areas with few obstructions using handheld FM units. In suburban environments without many blocks or mountainous regions, longer distances may be achievable.


The range also depends on the particular device's power rating, antenna type, and height above ground level (particularly important for mobile units). Mobile two-way radio systems are often referred to as trunked radio systems if the frequencies are divided over a large area by geographic region and cell phone towers.

Switching between these areas is automated, allowing users to roam from one cell to another without manually changing frequency or other settings on their mobile radios.


Mobile trunked systems also feature "smart" capabilities such as automatic power control (ACP), which makes the re-transmission of messages in weak signal areas unnecessary.

Many trunked radio systems include a digital encryption capability, which ensures that communications remain confidential, even if a third party manages to gain access to the same transmission channel.

2. Portable systems


Portable systems are usually used within a single building or small area. These walkie-talkies have a range similar to that of mobile units but can often communicate through walls and floors when their base stations are in the same building, or through windows when they're right outside.


Portable systems generally use wired "stations" rather than handheld radios that must be carried around and operated by hand; these stationary microphones have a cord attached to them and allow users to carry them from one room to another without having to take their hands off of other critical tasks. Portable/stationary walkie-talkies may be used for applications such as school bus monitors and hotel reservations.

3. Fixed systems


Fixed systems are used in areas where it is impractical to move mobile units during the course of an incident (such as inside large buildings) or where it is ordinarily impossible (e.g., underwater).

 

These communications systems often make use of wired infrastructure, although portable radio systems are also available. Fixed systems generally have one or more base stations and a number of mobiles (or portable) units that work in the same way as for mobile/portable systems, except that they are not handheld and normally do not require batteries.

What are some common uses for walkie-talkies?

Ham radio walkie-talkies 

Ham radio walkie-talkies - these have more power and range than regular two-way radios, but they can only be used by those who hold an amateur radio license.

Radio-controlled models

Radio-controlled models - these are for use with a model car, plane, or boat. These are often controlled with remote control and the walkie-talkie is placed in various locations on the vehicle to allow it to be heard while it moves.

Radio scanners

Radio scanners - there are two types of scanners: handheld and radio base stations. The handheld version is used as a regular walkie-talkie but can pick up more channels than most consumer devices. Base stations plug into your home phone line and give you access to all police and public service frequencies across your entire area. 

Radio scanners can display the call sign of every radio in a set area, or just those belonging to certain types of organizations like fire departments, police forces or other government agencies.

These radios can be used for more than listening in on conversations; they can be made into transceivers (devices that allow communication between two parties) by using a push-to-talk (PTT) switch, which is typically located on the top or side of the device.

Teaching aids 

Teaching aids - Walkabouts are a popular teaching aid that let you send signals between different points in order for students to receive them using their own equipment at home or in class.

Air band radios

Air band radios - these walkie talkies have weather channels as well as air-to-air/ground channels. They are often used by pilots and others to connect with air traffic control.

CB radios 

CB radios - these walkie talkies can be used while traveling in a car or on foot. All commercial two way radio have channels that are dedicated to emergency workers, which allows them to contact each other at any time without fear of interference from ordinary users who also operate their devices on the same frequency.

FRS/GMRS/MURS

FRS/GMRS/MURS - these are low-power radios. They typically all use about 25mA so they can run for long periods of time with rechargeable batteries. The best FRS models have a range of 2-3 miles line of sight, while GMRS and MURS will reach up to 5-6 miles under the same conditions.

What is Family Radio Service (FRS)?

Short for family radio service, it is a type of two-way radio that uses FM instead of AM and can be used with simple handheld units. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has assigned channels in the UHF band to this kind of system. They are designed for use by individuals or families on outings such as camping trips, whitewater rafting expeditions, or other activities where they might otherwise have trouble communicating over long distances. FRS walkie-talkies are limited to 2 watts of power and have a range that's determined by the terrain. I

n good conditions, they can reach about 1/4 mile (400 meters). This is plenty far for most uses since you don't want people you are with going off ahead of you in the woods or any other terrain where there might be dangers.

They also come with privacy codes that help prevent others from listening to your communications if they happen to be tuned in to the same frequency as you.

What is GMRS?

The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) was originally developed for business applications requiring portability but now permits private citizens to use these frequency bands too under certain restrictions. An individual must hold an FCC license grant in order to use GMRS equipment legally.

It was created in the 1970s to provide citizens a radio band for short-distance two-way communications. Although it is often mistakenly referred to as "two-way", this service does not offer call-response capabilities. Instead, users can only transmit at any time and listen when the other party transmits; hence the term "push-to-talk".

GMRS radios are only allowed to legally be used if they have been individually licensed with the FCC, unlike FRS which does not require licensing. Because of use restrictions imposed on its frequencies, GMRS has never become as popular or inexpensive as FRS and CB radio.

In addition, GMRS channels do not share channel/frequency spacing with FRS. A license is required to use GMRS equipment for business or personal purposes in the United States; however, an individual may operate a walkie-talkie without being licensed but only if it is solely for personal use.

What is MURS?

The Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) is a UHF land mobile FM service created by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It is a narrowband personal radio service similar to FRS but with much less channel spacing between channels, allowing for fewer frequencies overall, unlike FRS which has as many channels as there are TV broadcast channels.

Bluetooth - the Bluetooth protocol has been adapted for use in walkie-talkies and headsets, but it is not considered a standard way of transmitting voice over long distances as its sound quality tends to be low (although it's excellent for hands-free calling). This means that it's not suitable for professional users or those who need clarity when communicating with each other.

Bluetooth walkie-talkies - these are the newest type of walkie-talkies. They are also sometimes called "wireless headsets" because they not only have a microphone but also have earpieces attached to them so that conversations can be held privately without anyone else hearing what is being said. The Bluetooth technology even allows for data transfer between two devices, such as handsets and laptops.

Walkie-talkies are available in various designs such as one-way and two-way radios, portable radios for personal use, and base stations that can transmit messages across large areas using radio waves.

They often come equipped with features like high-definition sound recording capabilities, weather channels, channel scanning capability, and GPS tracking.

Are Walkie Talkies Two-Way Radios?

Walkie-talkies are two-way radios. Two-way radios are used for a wide range of purposes these days, including by emergency service workers who need to be able to communicate while in the field. They provide better clarity than cell phones and have longer ranges than walkie-talkies that rely on WiFi connections.

-I explain in in thorough detail in this article about how walkie talkies work

The best two-way radios come with features like hands-free calling, GPS tracking, and high-quality sound recording capabilities. These allow users to send messages between devices regardless of whether they are online or not, so long as they are in the same vicinity.

The basic idea behind two-way radios is relatively simple; people need to be able to communicate with each other over short distances quickly and easily without having to use cell towers or a WiFi connection.

While many people still use CB radios, it can often be hard to have a normal conversation on these due to interference and distance. Two-way radios are great for when you need to communicate with someone quickly and there's no cell reception or WiFi available.

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Another good reason for using two-way radios is that they are often cheaper than cell phones and do not require the use of an operator or special services plan in order to transmit messages.

A number of modern walkie-talkies also have GPS tracking capabilities, allowing users to track their whereabouts and position on Google Maps or other digital maps. Some devices can even send out an emergency SOS distress call in case anyone using them needs help from rescuers.

One with GPS tracking capabilities that is highly-reviewed is the Midland 50 Two Way Radio

Midland 50 Channel Waterproof GMRS Two-Way Radio - Long Range Walkie Talkie with 142 Privacy Codes, SOS Siren, and NOAA Weather Alerts and Weather Scan (Black/Silver, Pair Pack)
  • 2-WAY RADIOS - These walkie-talkies feature 50 GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) channels, along with channel scan to check for activity. The JIS4 Waterproof Protection prevents splashing water from having any harmful effect on it (splash resistant).
  • 36-MILE RANGE - Longer range communication in open areas with little or no obstruction. Easy Voice and Sound Activation Transmission (eVOX) with 9 sensitivity levels for hands-free operation.
  • 142 CTCSS/DCS PRIVACY CODES - The privacy codes give you up to 3,124 channel options to block other conversations.
  • NOAA WEATHER SCAN + ALERT - NOAA Weather Scan will automatically scan through 10 available weather (WX) band channels and locks onto the strongest weather channel to alert you of severe weather updates. NOAA Weather Alert will sound an alarm indicating that there is a risk of severe weather in your area.
  • INCLUDED IN THE BOX: Radios (x2), rechargeable battery packs (x2), boom mic headsets (x2), belt clips (x2), 120V dual desktop charger, AC adapter, DC adapter, and an owner’s manual.

Most walkie-talkies operate within a range of between 15 km - 50 km depending on terrain and power (higher frequencies require less power to transmit over a longer distance). Hand-held units are convenient because they can be carried anywhere, but large base stations have higher antenna gain thus making them more powerful.

Some models also come with solar panels for charging, so that they never become dead batteries in the field. Walkie talkies are small portable radios used primarily by children as toy radio transmitters but may also be used by adults to stay in contact while traveling outdoors.

If you're looking for a gift idea this holiday season, we recommend purchasing some high-quality walkie-talkies - popular among both adults and kids alike! These are perfect whether the person has been wanting something like this for years, or just wants something new and exciting to play with during their free time.

One fantastic product that we recommend is the Midland X-Talker Two Way Radios.

Featuring weather-resistant construction, powerful battery life, and reliable crystal locks to keep you connected at all times, these radios are perfect for anyone who wants a high-quality product that will work well without fail.

Sale
Midland - X-TALKER T77VP5, 36 Channel FRS Two-Way Radio - Up to 38 Mile Range Walkie Talkie, 121 Privacy Codes, and NOAA Weather Scan + Alert (Includes a Carrying Case and Headsets) (Black/Silver)
  • 2-WAY RADIOS - These license-free walkie-talkies feature 36 FRS (Family Radio Service) channels, along with channel scan to check for activity.
  • 38-MILE RANGE - Longer range communication in open areas with little or no obstruction.
  • 121 CTCSS PRIVACY CODES - The Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System gives you up to 2,662 channel options to help block other conversations. Use silent operation to turn off all tones.
  • NOAA WEATHER SCAN + ALERT - NOAA Weather Scan will automatically scan through 10 available weather (WX) band channels and locks onto the strongest weather channel to alert you of severe weather updates. NOAA Weather Alert will sound an alarm indicating that there is a risk of severe weather in your area.
  • HANDS-FREE - Easy Voice and Sound Activated Transmission (eVOX) for hands free operation. Also included: Belt clips (x2), carrying case, mic headsets, 1000mAh rechargeable battery packs (x2), desktop charger, AC wall adapter, USB car adapter, micro USB charging cable and an owner’s manual.

Why do Military bases use two-way radios?

There's a reason that military bases use two-way radios; they get the job done quickly and efficiently no matter what the conditions might be!

Whether someone needs to communicate with their partner while walking through the woods or has some information to pass on during an emergency, these devices are easy to use and can withstand quite a bit of punishment. Many come with belt clips or other mounting options so they won't get in the way when out and about.

Are Walkie-talkies Worth it?

The best part about walkie-talkies is that they're inexpensive and a great way to keep in touch with one another when out of cell phone range.

They have replaced CB radios as the go-to communication option for many people since they're easier to use and offer better sound quality. There are lots of different models available, so whether you want something simple or need a backup plan during an emergency, there's bound to be something here for you! From portable devices designed for kids that can fit into backpacks or pockets easily to more powerful options perfect for off-roading enthusiasts

A modern example is the Motorola XTN Series which includes push-to-talk, emergency call, GPS tracking, and a built-in rechargeable battery with a solar panel.

The extended range sister models are MTXTN4X which has an extra 50 watts of transmit power available via PA module for Commercial users needing a license-free FM solution.

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What is Jamming on the Walkie Talkie?

Intentionally disrupting or "jamming" a channel with noise is illegal in some jurisdictions. However, the vast majority of walkie-talkies sold today operate in the Family Radio Service and General Mobile Radio Services parts of the radio spectrum where intentional jamming would not subject the operator to legal sanction under United States law.

Most commercial walkie-talkies may also legally be modified for increased range by replacing their standard low-gain antennas with high-gain antennas purchased separately from manufacturers. The modification requires partial disassembly of walkie-talkies and is not easily reversible.