What to Consider When Buying Walkie Talkies

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What to Consider When Buying Walkie Talkies

From their bulky and fragile beginnings during World War II, walkie talkies have come a long way. The original walkie talkies were backpack-mounted devices used by the military, with one radioman as the backpack and aerial-wearer, whilst another walking behind could speak into a conventional-looking telephone handset. The backpack was heavy and contained all the valve radio equipment and the dry-cell batteries needed to power it.

After the Second World War, interest by amateur radio enthusiasts (HAMs), and the development of cheaper, smaller handheld units, largely imported from the Far East, meant that many more people could enjoy the benefits of wireless communication with people nearby.

Nowadays, with modern miniaturisation technology, cost reduction, and the opening up of several frequencies to the general public, people from all walks of life find the benefit of a walkie talkie in their everyday work and leisure time.

Just about everybody can remember, as a child, tying two tin cans together with a long piece of hairy string, stretching it down the length of the garden, and then listening excitedly as their friends’ voices were barely audible by painfully pressing their ear to the rim of the tin can. These days, everyone can be the secret agent or super spy, quietly whispering into a unit, often no larger than a watch, all the while keeping a careful eye out for ‘enemy forces’.

There are some common misconceptions about walkie talkies, however, it’s quite easy to obtain a fuller understanding of modern radio communications, and the various uses today.

Walkie Talkies vs. CB (Citizens Band) Radios

The CB radio was first introduced – illegally – into the UK in 1972. It was illegal because its frequency of 27 MHz was not licenced by the UK government. These sets were American ‘AM’ (Amplitude Modulated) models, and were popular with both truckers and farmers, no doubt due to their portability and usability where the users were in remote, even isolated environments.

As their use gradually increased, there was pressure on the British government to legalise CB radio in Britain. This it did on November 2, 1981, using the same frequencies as the American market, but instead of using AM, they permitted FM (Frequency Modulated) transmitters and receivers.

For a few years, legal CB became vastly popular, but gradually waned in the late 1980s, due to irresponsible use and some, mainly young users possessing high-powered transmitters that would drown out all local, legitimate users. Technology played a part in the demise of CBs, as cheap cell phones equipped with satellite capability became the norm.

In April 1997, the first steps were taken to allow for use of the radio spectrum by private individuals all across Europe, and PMR446 was born. PMR446 stands for ‘Private Mobile Radio at 446MHz’ and is now in use throughout Europe. It allows for eight individual main frequencies to be used, and, because it is set at a much higher frequency than the CB band, range is subsequently much shorter. Out in the open countryside, this may span up to several kilometres, but, in a built-up city, this may be reduced to only a few tens or hundreds of metres.

FM PMR446 Channels and Frequencies

These frequencies, as noted by the designation ‘FM”, are solely for FM transmitters and receivers.




in MHz

















Although the initial channels only allow for eight individual frequencies to be used, techniques such as ‘Side-Banding’ and the introduction of ‘dPMR446’, the digital version, have brought many more frequencies or channels into use.

dPMR446 Channels and Frequencies

The ‘d’ before the ‘PMR446’ indicates that these are digital frequencies. Each frequency has 4-level FSK modulation of 3.6 KBit/s, taking the total number of channels up to 64. ‘FSK’ stands for ‘Frequency Shift Keying’. This effectively quadruples the available channels.




in MHz

































In the past, people wanting to maintain contact would invest in two CB radios, and agree on a channel to use, regardless of others who may listen in on their conversations. Nowadays, with the advent of modern, digital communication, buying two hand-held walkie talkies is much cheaper, even than buying a CB set, and, because of the frequencies allocated to them, there is much less chance of being overheard or of upwards of four people trying to have a conversation on the same frequency.

Walkie Talkies as Children’s Toys

No-one can forget the innocent pleasure to be had as a child, reading in a comic book about the cheapest way to make two-way conversation over a longer distance than could be shouted. It could be achieved with the simplest of ingredients, namely, two clean tin cans connected by a simple piece of string. The string had to be taut, however, in order to carry the vibrations and be able to hear anything at all.

Nowadays, with the recent, continuing huge advances in electronics, although the simple pleasure may not be the same, the thrill of hearing a best friend’s voice from many yards away is still the same. A more practical and security-minded application for the convenience of walkie talkies for children is in large shopping centres, where children and their guardians can quickly become separated. Having the reassurance of a walkie talkie may be just the thing to ease a troubled parent’s mind.

Walkie Talkies for Work

In many situations in and around the workplace, walkie talkies are now considered an essential work item. Static security guards, construction workers on-site, and farmers regularly use them as part of their everyday working equipment. In the past, needing a word of advice on how to do a particular job meant a long walk back to the foreman’s shed; nowadays it is just a matter of picking up the walkie talkie and pressing the ‘talk’ button.

Long-Range Walkie Talkies

For workers in larger organisations with massive premises set over many acres, long-range walkie talkies that are licence-free in the 446 MHz band are seen as the obvious solution when workers may be physically many hundreds or even thousands of metres apart. They offer a serious and low-cost alternative to continual mobile phone usage.

Hands-Free Walkie Talkies

To accommodate the user who requires a totally hands-free experience for walkie talkie use, some now come with a hands-free facility. This allows the user to talk freely whilst working, without have to worry about pressing the microphone key/talk button. This is particularly useful for backstage workers in theatres and concerts, as well as those operating large or dangerous machinery whilst on the radio.

Rechargeable vs. Dry Cell

Cheaper walkie talkies tend to have standard non-rechargeable dry cell batteries, and, if the walkie talkies are regularly used, then even with modern miniaturisation the batteries will need to be replaced frequently. Many of the more expensive, professional models feature rechargeable batteries and are supplied with a charger that the units may be plugged into when not in use. Even if the intended walkie talkies don’t come with a recharging facility as standard, the purchase of rechargeable batteries and a suitable charger may be a wise idea if the units are used frequently.

Buying Walkie Talkies on eBay

eBay is a convenient source online to comparison shop on a wide range of models and styles of walkie talkies for any type of use, from those designed for use by children for fun to parents and kids communicating in both remote (camping sites, forests, etc.) and congested areas (shopping centers, amusement parks, etc.) to entrepreneurs and other professionals who can benefit from the added convenience and free per-minute conversation they provide on worksites, as well as those whose safety would be increased by using hands-free walkie-talkies.  

If battery usage is of concern to you, whether the inconvenience or expense of frequent replacement or a desire to be more environmentally conscious, then start your search by entering ‘rechargeable walkie talkies’ and narrow it down from there. eBay also offers a range of rechargeable batteries and battery chargers for any sets you may choose to purchase that only use dry cell batteries.

Another convenient feature when choosing to shop online at eBay is that you can click on all the items you are considering, adding them to your ‘watch list’ to flag them as you shop, in order to return later and do a more close comparison among each set’s features.


With the recent, impressive advances in electronics and miniaturisation, what just a few years ago required a strong soldier to heft onto his back whilst another shouted into a sizeable telephone handset and listening hard for the faint crackle of his commanding officer is now accomplished by a piece of equipment barely larger than a person’s hand. Effortless communication between colleagues hundreds, or even thousands, of metres away is as simple as pressing a button and speaking.

Stagehands and theatre directors need only to murmur into a tiny microphone, barely visible to the eye, to communicate with their colleagues, listening with scarcely noticeable in-ear headsets. Site foremen on large building sites effortlessly communicate with workers scattered all around the site, from the depths of basements to the heights of tower cranes.

In the past, battery life might be quoted in minutes; nowadays, it is often quoted in days, making walkie talkie use far more expedient. And, with the full legalisation of the 446 MHz bands and a plethora of encryption techniques between units, users can be confident that, not only will the use of walkie talkies improve safety and security, but also that their conversations can be held safely and securely.

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