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3 Types of Two-Way Radios for All Industries

Communication has never been easier than it is right now.

Whether you call, text, tweet, comment, or DM, connecting with others across the room or around the globe only takes a few seconds.

Two-way radios have been at the forefront of voice communication for nearly 100 years. Despite the ever-rising communication technology, this century-old style still reigns supreme.

What keeps two-way radios relevant and necessary? And why will they continue to dominate the communications market?

Get ready to dive into why all different types of two-way radios are still the best choice and how to decide which one is best for you.

3 Types of Two-Way Radios

There are three main types of two-way radios: portable two-way radios (aka Walkie Talkies), mobile radios, and desktop base station radios.

Approximately 90 percent of all two-way radio users are choosing portable radios. Although mobile and desktop stations still have specific industries where they are primarily used.

1. Portable Radios 

These types of two-way radios, otherwise known as walkie-talkies, are handheld two-way radios that can both transmit and receive voice communications. They are often found carried on a belt-loop of professional workers on the job. These radios can either be analog or digital two-way radios.

Today’s professional two-way handheld radios are incredibly versatile, providing users with a variety of options for improving communications on the job.

Portable two-way radios can be used in almost any job setting and are ideal for the following industries:

  • Construction
  • Facility Management
  • Golf Courses
  • Healthcare
  • Hotels & Resorts
  • Manufacturing
  • Religious Institutions
  • Schools

2. Mobile Radios 

Mobile two-way radios are designed to be installed inside a vehicle and connected to an external antenna mounted outside the automobile. All mobile two-way radios are transceivers, meaning they can both transmit and receive and are designed to cover long distances.

They are perfect for employees that are driving most of the day and need to stay in touch with the home base as well as other employees who are driving most of the day.

These types of two-way radios are ideal for the following industries:

  • K12 Education
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Manufacturing
  • Security
  • Hotels

3. Desktop Base Station Radios

A desktop base station radio rests on top of a desk and plugs into the wall for power. These types of two-way radios are extremely reliable but also larger and heavier than portable or mobile radio options.

Desktop base stations are ideal for receptionists, admin, and others who run the show from a desk most of the day.

These types of two-way radios are ideal for the following industries:

  • K-12 School front office admin
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Manufacturing
  • Security Facilities
  • Hotels

Types of Radio Services

As two-way radios began to grow in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, defining frequencies became essential to keeping radio use organized and clear.

Your radio service is essentially the frequency on which your radio sends and receives transmissions.

Think of radio services like a highway. Some frequencies are public and open to anyone, others are private roads. Some require special licensing to use (like a toll road) others are available for anyone to use (or drive on).

In addition to the frequency (or highway), radio services also include one- and two-way voice services, data services, and remote-control transmissions that operate the equipment.

For more information about radio frequencies, check out out article about uhf vs vhf radio frequencies.

Here are some of the most popular types of services:

1. CB Radio

Citizens Band (CB) radio is part of what the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) calls “personal radio services.” These are low-power, short-range radios for personal communication that do not require a license to use.

While CB radios can be used for commercial use, they’re most commonly used for private individuals in motor vehicles, homes, offices, and other locations where wireless telephone service is unavailable.

CB radios have 40 channels and are open to anyone. That means it’s up to you to find a channel that’s available, and it’s possible for anyone to hear your communications by plugging into the same public channel.

2. Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS)

This is a short-range service for personal use. There are only 5 MURS radio channels

This is best used for short-distance, two-way communications. For example, employees inside of a Walmart or Sam’s Club may use MURS radio when communicating within the building. It may also be used by hunters, farmers, or security personnel.

3. FRS Radio 

The Family Radio Service (FRS) is a private, two-way, short-distance voice and data communications service.

There are 22 channels available, all of which are open to the public. FRS is great for facilitating family and group activities using small hand-held radios that are similar to walkie-talkies.

Most commonly, FRS is used by hunters, hikers, bikers, and families enjoying the outdoors together.

4. Low Power Radio Service (LPRS) Radio 

Low Power Radio Service (LPRS) is a private, one-way communication service that can be operated anywhere in the world.

Typically, it is used for auditory assistance to people with disabilities, people who require language translation, and certain individuals in educational settings.


The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is similar to an FRS radio but has designated channels that require an FCC license to operate.

The channels available to GMRS radios users are more powerful, have a further range, and can be extended if necessary.

Generally, a GMRS service is used by large companies operating over a larger area, or those who want more flexibility and power offered by a GMRS channel.

The Main Components of Two-Way Radios

Two-way radios are very simple, which is why they are so reliable.

Instead of a complicated touch screen, motherboard, widgets, and apps, there are only five main components to any two-way radio.

  • Antenna – This is how your radio receives the communication. It’s important to keep the antenna in good condition and avoid bending or crimping it.
  • Microphone & Speaker – This is where you will hear others, and be heard as you communicate with your team. The microphone and speaker can be connected to a headset for hands-free communication.
  • Display Screen – Some radios have a display screen that clearly shows battery life, radio channels, and sometimes even text messages or work orders from other radios on your network.
  • Buttons – There are two important buttons found on your two-way radio systems: the power and push-to-talk buttons. The power button is simply what turns your device on and off while the push-to-talk button is what allows others to hear you speak. Some devices may have a keypad for texting, others may not.
  • Battery – Each two-way radio comes with a powerful battery that is designed to last between 18-24 hours.

Two-Way Radio Accessories

When you invest in a two-way radio system, it may be worth considering what accessories will make your system work best. You want to ensure that your radio systems are running at peak efficiency, the users are comfortable, and the radios themselves are protected.

The most popular accessories we recommend cover all these bases.

  • Chargers – Every headset needs a charger and a battery. If you have a powerful battery, and a reliable charger, this means a longer-lasting radio. Single chargers or multi-chargers are also great for storing your devices and keeping them organized.
  • Headsets & Earpieces – If your team is using the radio frequently throughout the way, a headset might be the best way to prevent fatigue and allow them to concentrate on their job while working.
  • Radio Cases – Radios are more durable than any smartphone, but a case adds an extra layer of protection and convenience. The case can be attached to a belt and protect the phone against scratching, dropping, or damage.
  • Repeaters – A radio repeater is used to extend the range of your radios. It is designed to act as a waystation to both receive and transmit radio signals across long distances. Similar to a WiFi extender, a radio repeater extends the range of communications for your existing two-way radios.

FAQs About Two-Way Radios

What distance do two-way radios work over?
It depends on the quality of the equipment you are using and the atmosphere you are in. For example, the International Space Station uses two-way radios that can communicate with Earth. However, they are extremely sophisticated and there’s little to no obstruction in space. A mid-range two-way radio technology used inside of a building may only work for about 100 yards. Repeaters can be used to extend signals, and a local expert can get you the setup you need in your area.

Do I need a two-way radio license?
It depends on what type of system you need. For a small operation with just a few radios in a more remote area, you likely can use unlicensed radios. If you require a larger area of coverage, secure communications, multiple teams on different channels, or are operating in the middle of a city, then you will need to buy licensed equipment.

Which is better: FRS or GMRS?
GMRS is a higher quality service because they use designated channels that aren’t available to FRS radios. GMRS radios can also be modified to have a stronger, farther-ranging signal, while FRS cannot be modified.

Can two-way radios be tracked?
Technically no, two-way radios are difficult to trace. However, if you are using a public channel, anyone who tunes to that same channel can hear what is going on. You may not be traceable via GPS (although some have that capability), but your communications are not private unless you’re using a private, licensed, channel.

Make Your Communication Easy

Many people ask us what’s the difference between two-way radios vs cell phones.

The efficient and instant communication you get with different types of two-way radios cannot be replicated with a smartphone.

Despite attempts from all major manufacturers, two-way radios can’t be beaten.

Today, the majority of two-way radio users opt for the handheld style because of its accessibility, durability, simplicity, and effectiveness when communication may quite literally be a matter of life and death.

If your business needs to stay connected on the job with a clear and reliable signal anywhere you work, say goodbye to expensive smartphones and welcome to the world of two-way radios from VEI Communications.