Assessing the True Range of Two Way Radios

Like if this guide is helpful
Assessing the True Range of Two Way Radios

A two way radio is a message transmitting and receiving device. Like the mobile phone, it facilitates wireless two way communication. Unlike the mobile phone, however, the two way radio normally operates in half-duplex mode; in other words, an operator can speak or listen but not simultaneously. Typically, the operator presses a transmission button to speak and releases it to listen. The operator can speak with as many people as are connected to its particular radio frequency.

Two way radios come in different formats, and eBay carries an extensive range at competitive prices. There is the handheld version, commonly called a portable; the stationary base radio, which the operator uses from a single location; and mobile two way radios attached to transport, especially those of a commercial, industrial, and military nature. The effectiveness of two-way radio communication is determined by its clarity and range, and finding the best product for optimum results may require substantial research. A prospective buyer, therefore, needs to be made aware of the performance levels they can expect from two way radios before making a purchasing decision.

Typical Two Way Radio Use

There are many reasons why a customer may want a two way radio. It may be needed for a particular sport or simply to build on a hobbyist’s collection, but nevertheless, the two way radio’s primary purpose is to provide efficient communications for industry.

On-site Use

Two way radios are most typically used for sending and receiving verbal or text messages, within a work site or between personnel over vast distances. Handheld two way radios are considered essential items for factories, construction sites, oil refineries, mines, steel works, electrical plants, and virtually any large workplace that requires an internal communications network. Although organisations with many personnel typify a two way radio environment, some workplaces, such as hospitals, use pagers instead because radio transmission can interfere with sensitive equipment.

Off-site Use

Stationary base two way radios are commonly used in work situations where communications are required between a work base and its outfield workers. Fire brigade units, military divisions, ambulance crews, law enforcement agencies, search and rescue operators, and other emergency services are among some groups who regularly use stationary base equipment.

Other Work-Related Use

Other extensive users of two way radios are long-haul lorry drivers who network together with citizen band (CB) radio, as do some farming communities. Crowd controllers at public events normally use two way radios as the preferred way to stay connected with fellow personnel.

Recreational Use

Aside from various practical vocational needs, there are also those who use two way radios for all kinds of outdoor recreation, especially ones that may involve a team of people, such as bush walking or mountain climbing. There are also toy versions of the handheld two way radio made for children.

Two Way Radio Coverage

The signal range of a two way radio that retailers promote in order to sell their merchandise refers to an unobstructed line of sight between users. It does not take into account the usual day-to-day scenarios that drastically reduce this range.

Environmental Factors

In real life, the actual range of a two way radio depends on many factors, including the type of terrain, physical obstructions, electromagnetic interference, and stormy weather conditions. The human body, being dense and watery, also weakens the signal. A two way radio user can, therefore, improve the reception of their incoming signals by keeping their handset attached to their backpack instead of clipped to their belt.

Three Major Influences

Unpredictable signal influencing factors make it difficult to assess the actual range in a given situation, but there are some general principles that lie behind achieving maximum coverage. Elevation from the ground is key to greater coverage. This is because there are fewer obstructions to the sound waves being transmitted. Next, powerful handsets with greater wattage improve coverage. They more effectively overcome the signal dropouts that people experience behind buildings or hills. Lastly, a large and good quality antenna increases coverage. Achieving high, reliable coverage depends on the antenna’s "effective radiated power", which is its ability to receive signals. A larger antenna normally facilitates greater signal-receiving transmission.

Radio Frequency

Two way radios today come in Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) ranges. Ultra High Frequency naturally provides the most powerful signal, but different frequencies exhibit better performance in different environments. The signal from a VHF, 800 MHz two way radio for example, has the capacity to penetrate solid objects, such as concrete, but the UHF signal is effective in both penetration as well as long distance line of sight coverage.

The performance of two way radios ultimately depends on their power source. Portable handheld types are limited to five watts, most types being between one and two. A mobile two way radio installed in transport is powered by the vehicle’s battery, can run at much higher wattage, and transmit over longer distances. A stationary base two way radio operates from AC power, can run at up to 100 watts, and usually enjoys the greatest transmission coverage.

Determining the Appropriate Two Way Radio

The customer first of all needs to determine if their sought after two way radio is for business or recreational use. The UHF band is only offered for business purposes and the VHF for recreational use. A customer searching for the most suitable two way radio should establish their own range and coverage requirements. Handheld two way radios vary in wattage and transmission frequency, but all have a far more limited range than a stationary base or mobile two way radio. The handheld two way radio is designed more specifically for on-the-job communications within a strict range, even though the potential for that range varies considerably between models.

The Three Types of Two Way Radios

The different two way radio formats is what determines their functionality, coverage; and usefulness. Buyers should take into account that each type being designed for its specific purpose.


The handheld two way radio is used for both recreation and work to communicate short range messages within a limited geographical boundary. They function as a walkie-talkie and have limited wattage. They may operate with both VHF and UHF band frequencies depending on their given purpose.


Mobile two way radios are designed to be used whilst travelling and have a high range of coverage compared to the handheld. They can be mounted to any kind of transport and are most commonly used for communication between travellers, especially lorry drivers.

Stationary Base

The stationary base two way radio is a fixed unit used to communicate over a short range or long distance. The operator at base can communicate with other bases operators as well as those connected to the frequency via handheld or mobile devices. The military, police, and other specialist units previously mentioned commonly use this type.

Two Way Radio Type Summary Chart

The following chart can help customers articulate their own needs when choosing a two way radio. A customer is provided with a radio channel and license according to specified purpose although no license is required for most handheld radio use within the European Union.




Limited range for domestic and professional use


Vehicle mounted and wider range for both domestic and professional use

Stationary Base

Fixed position and widest range for professional use

A purchase of a mobile or stationary base two way radio always involves a license. Although this attracts an additional fee, some two way radio retail outlets can, however, organise the licensing procedure on behalf their customers.

Advantages of the Two Way Radio

With the advancement of the mobile phone and alternative new media, many people imagine the two way radio to have become obsolete, yet it still has its advantages over a mobile when communicating at close range.

Networking Advantages

Although mobile phone coverage is generally greater, a two way radio is not dependent on network coverage as is the mobile phone, and it can connect with multiple people on the one channel. This makes it ideal for conferencing or when a group of people travel in convoy. Being connected to the same radio frequency ensures that all travellers stay in constant communication.

Safety Benefits

Another advantage is the safety benefits of a two way radio over a mobile phone. A child who is well instructed in the proper use of a two way radio, when nearby but away from home, is far safer than they are with a mobile phone. Not only is coverage more reliable, but extra batteries can be taken and emergency calls normally solicit a more immediate response.

Environmental Advantages

Other advantages include the robustness of the handheld two way radio compared with a mobile phone, as it is more resilient in extreme temperatures and even water submersion. Most can survive considerable impact and still operate after being dropped in water. These benefits alone give the handheld radio an advantage for close communicating with friends whilst camping in rugged country.

How to Purchase Two Way Radios on eBay

Two way radios are expensive items, but you can save a lot of money purchasing on eBay, whether you buy used or brand new. The important thing to remember is to remain savvy and question everything. If you know what type of two way radio you are looking for, a simple keyword search should bring up the relevant listing.

When you have found a two way radio that interests you, carefully look through all details the seller has provided. Many sellers have eBay shops, which provide customers with a much increased range of options. Two way radios are often marketed with much hype, so it is important to look past this and understand the real capabilities of the item you are interested in. Contact the seller and ask questions if you are unsure about the chosen item’s performance capabilities.

Before making your final decision, you must understand your designated seller’s terms of sale, postage and delivery details, as well as their return policy. Always check the seller’s ratings and feedback page, as this gives provides the best indication of their trading professionalism.


A customer wishing to purchase a two way radio not only needs to be aware of their own requirements, but they also need a thorough and realistic understanding of what they can expect from a two way radio of their choice. It is too easy to become complacent and believe the manufacturers claims without testing them against the facts. It is vitally important, therefore, that a customer takes the likely operating circumstances into account when choosing their two way radio and remembers that weather conditions, physical obstructions, and geographical terrain drastically reduces actual signal performance from the stated claims.

Two way radios facilitate a wide range of services. Although they are most often used for serious business, they are no stranger to fun and outdoor games. The diversity of two way radio units on eBay reflects their demand and indicates the various ways they can be employed for both work and recreational use. With this in mind, there should be no shortage of options for the serious two way radio enthusiast.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides