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Two Way Radio Basics

In this article, we will be discussing some of the basic features and functions of two-way radios. Two way radios are tools for communicating, similar to telephones, and can come in handy for many situations. Whether it be for personal use, for your business or for emergency purposes, two-way radios are an excellent and reliable form of communication.

Two-way radios (also called walkie talkies), allowing for a few exceptions, all work essentially the same way. There is a battery that powers the unit which is typically rechargeable. Volume can often be controlled with the use of a knob or button on the unit itself. When using the radio to communicate, the transmission is activated with the use of a Push-To-Talk or "PTT" button. Simply press the PTT button and speak into the microphone and your voice is sent over the air! When the PTT button is released, the receiver becomes active, allowing other radios to communicate back.

A two-way radio, in its most basic description, is a "transceiver". This means that it is a device that can both transmit and receive content. Radios communicate with one another using certain frequencies. The radios can "speak" to each other only when they are set to the same frequency. The two most popular frequency ranges that two-way radios use are called "VHF - Very High Frequency" and "UHF - Ultra High Frequency". VHF frequencies are best for exclusive outdoor use, as these frequencies will hug the ground and travel further in open areas. UHF frequencies, the more popular of the two, tend to penetrate obstructions and will work well both indoors and out.

Most two-way radios have the capability to work on multiple "channels". A specific frequency can be assigned to each channel, giving the radio many different alleyways of communication. Businesses often take advantage of channels by assigning a channel to each department. This keeps employees from being distracted by irrelevant conversations while still allowing management to easily communicate with all groups. On consumer or family radios the channels are useful as a way to cut down on eavesdroppers or interference when in an area where there are many radios in use.

The maximum range of a two-way radio will vary, depending on any number of things. In the unit itself, the range will be directly linked to the wattage of the unit and the antenna. The higher the wattage and better the antenna, the more range your two-way radio will be able to achieve. Outside factors can also affect range. Certain terrain, solid obstructions, or even day-to-day weather can be factors that will affect the maximum range your radio will transmit. Despite high range claims by manufacturers, we usually tell our customers not to expect more than 1-2 miles in an environment such as a city or town.

Two-way radios can range from very basic to very complex pieces of equipment. This article is meant to introduce you to some of the basic features and how they operate, but we have barely begun to scratch the surface as to what two-way radios can actually achieve. Check our site or contact us for more in-depth information!

4 thoughts on “Two Way Radio Basics”

  • It's interesting that you can get portable radios that can communicate with other radios within a range. That seems like a good way to ensure that you keep in contact with people when they wander during camping trips. You don't want to risk getting lost, after all.

  • It's good that you mentioned that a two-way radio varies in range. I didn't know that it is directly related to the wattage of the unit and the antenna. My dad loves collecting different types of radio to communicate in. I'll be sure to share with him how a two-way radio works. If I were a public safety official, I would consider buying one for me.

  • Theodore Winston
    Theodore Winston June 28, 2016 at 8:48 am

    That's actually a very good idea to use a two way radio to communicate between departments at a store. I'm no business owner myself, but I like that people have found ways to use two way radios to benefit their businesses. I know that if I get a two way radio that it will likely be used for communication on campouts or other outdoor events. Well thanks for the information!

  • pat

    im looking for a 2 way radio system for 4-6 people. i live in the country and only have small towns and farm houses around me. I would like to use a repeater for extra distance and will only use radios in case of emergency or maybe to stay in touch with son and friends while camping at local areas. would like to get 3-10 mile range if possible. thanks for your time


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