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11 FAQs About Two-Way Radios

Whether you are looking to purchase or rent two-way radios for your business or personal use, it is important to know the basics. Whether you are experienced with two-way radios or a beginner, you likely have some questions you want answered. Some of these questions include:

1. Should I Use VHF or UHF?

When deciding on VHF or UHF, it depends on several factors.

If you are indoors or somewhere with a lot of obstructions, use UHF.

These would be places like school buildings, hotels, hospitals, construction sites, retail, warehouses, or a college campus. These areas have lots of buildings, walls, and other obstructions where UHF is better equipped to handle.

If you are in areas free of obstruction, you should use VHF. These would be road construction, farming, agriculture, ranch work, etc.

2. What Are the Benefits of Two Way Radios Over Cell Phones?

Many people wonder why they need a two-way radio when they have a cell phone.

While both contain the ability to communicate, that’s about the end of their similarities.

  • Radios cost much less and do not have monthly service fees, roaming charges, contracts, or data plans.
  • Radios are built to communicate, that’s it. When clear communication is the goal you don’t want the additional distraction of scrolling, surfing, or searching.
  • Radios are always preferred in an emergency because of the instant Push-to-Talk capabilities. No need to unlock the phone, search for the contact, dial the number, wait while it rings, and hope they answer.
  • A radio will have a battery life of at least twice as long as your cell phone battery, some can even last up to 24 hours.

3. What is Wattage and Why Does It Matter?

Wattage refers to the amount of power a handheld radio can put out. Most business radios run between 1 to 5 watts.

Higher wattage means a larger range of communication.

For example, a radio running at 1 watt should translate to around a mile of coverage, 2 watts may reach up to a 1.5-mile radius and a 5-watt radio may be able to reach up to 6 miles away.

4. Do I Need a License for My Two-Way Radio?

If you are using a two-way radio to communicate more than 1 mile apart, chances are you need an FCC license.

If you’re within a 1-mile range (and are not communicating for business), you may not need a license.

An example of this might be a family hiking or camping trip, those radios are for personal use and do not require a license. Anytime you use a radio for business or extend your range, you’ll want to check into an FCC license.

5. Where Do I Get an FCC License?

To apply for a new license, you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Log in to ULS Online Filing with your FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password. (If you don’t have an FCC number, you’ll need to apply for one)
  2. On the left side of the screen, click Apply for a New License
  3. From the drop-down box, select the Radio Service for the new license
  4. Click Continue to navigate through the application
  5. Sign your application and click Submit Application

6. How Long Will My Two Way Radio Battery Last?

Typically, two-way radios have a battery life expectancy of 10-12 hours for single use and a lifespan of 18 to 24 months.

This of course depends on the quality of the battery, and how the radio is used. There are ways to maintain your radio battery to increase its lifespan, those steps can be found here.

7. What is the Difference Between Two Way Radios and Walkie Talkies?

Two-way radios and walkie-talkies are often used interchangeably, but they actually aren’t always the same.

All walkie-talkies are two-way radios – they are handheld devices that receive and transmit messages.

However, some two-way radios aren’t handheld.

For example, a desk-mounted radio is a two-way radio that receives and transmits messages but isn’t classified as a walkie-talkie.

So, if you can walk and communicate at the same time, you’re using a walkie-talkie. If you’re sitting at a desk and can’t take the radio with you, you’re using a two-way radio.

8. What are PL and DPL Tones?

These are sub-frequencies that filter our other radios user’s transmission to create a clear frequency in the same area.

PL Tone stands for Private Line Tone, DPL is Digital Private Line.

Even when using these sub-frequencies, you can and should still “monitor” the frequency first before transmitting the channel.

9. What is Two-Way Radio Encryption?

Encryption is a method of scrambling the voice signal so that only radios with the encryption code can hear each other.

This prevents other people from listening in on your conversations and is important in sensitive industries like law enforcement, first responders, and hospital use.

10. How Far Will Two-Way Radios Work?

Companies, in general, will always overstate their radio range.

Anyone claiming to have a radio that works 30 miles away is likely speaking more theoretically than realistically.

We don’t live in an empty and flat world, and every obstacle around you will affect the range of your two-way radio. Terrain, signal type, population, obstruction, and wattage can all affect the range.

For a general estimate, two people around 6 feet tall using a 5-watt handheld two-way radio, used on flat ground with no obstacles, can expect a maximum range of approximately 6 miles.

You can increase this with a better antenna, or this distance may only reach 4 miles with any number of outside factors.

11. Should I Rent Two Way Radios for My Event?


Renting radios is a great way to receive the benefits of communication at your event without an investment.

If you are planning for the county fair, a local concert, sporting event, conference, trade show, school or church activities, construction changes, etc., two-way radios are always a great idea.

Got more questions? We are here to help. We are your one-stop shop for two-way radios in Louisville, KY.

At VEI Communications, we help keep your team connected with a wide variety of radio options, rental equipment, and customized systems to help your team when it matters most.