Walkie-talkies are ideal devices for communication even in the absence of cell towers in the most remote places and in emergency situations. Questions regarding “what walkie-talkie channels to use?” are often asked by quite a lot of people whenever they decide to purchase a Walkie-talkie or set out to use one for the first time.
It’s important for you to note that different Walkie-talkie channels serve different objectives. This is because the effectiveness of your device depends on the channel you’re using.
In this article, I will be answering those questions you have trying to figure out what channels you can use on your walkie-talkies and what type of Walkie-talkie is suitable for use indoors, outdoors or both.
What is a Walkie-Talkie Channel?
Walkie-talkies are short-range battery-powered transceivers that can send and receive radio messages without the need for a cell tower because they use radio waves to transmit signals to one another.
Radio waves (often called frequencies or channels), are measured in Hertz (Hz), Kilohertz (kHz), Megahertz (MHz), or Gigahertz (GHz) which exist as a part of the electromagnetic spectrum ranging from as low as 30 Hz all the way to 0.0003 GHz or 300,000 MHz.
These devices are designed to work on specific channels (or frequencies). To communicate with others, you must be on the same channel as them.
Are frequencies and channels the same?
Though used interchangeably, Walkie-talkie channels are basically invisible walls or guides that partition frequencies to reduce or limit interruptions during communications as multiple users may be on the same frequency at once.
The primary frequencies designated for general public use in the United States are the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) and Family Radio Service (FRS) frequencies which share a total of 22 channels between them.
I would not be talking about other frequencies like the Business Band frequencies (set aside for corporate use only) due to the fact that they are not as popularly used as the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) and Family Radio Service (FRS) frequencies.
Walkie-Talkie Channels to use
According to FCC regulations, FRS Walkie-talkies can only use channels 1 – 15, while GMRS devices are free to use channels 15 – 22 to communicate.
Your situation or need, location, device model and license often determine the Walkie-talkie channels you can use, due to the fact that:
- Walkie-talkies use the UHF band (Ultra High Frequency) for indoor use and the VHF band (Very High Frequency) for outdoor use.
- Some Walkie-talkies are capable of using 2 or more power modes, thus allowing you to switch and operate your device in ‘high power’ modes with channels that permit it, effectively allowing you to get the best transmission range on your device.
- You must be a licensed radio operator to use GMRS
- FRS has a transmission range of 1 – 2 miles (short distance), whilst GMRS can transmit over 3 miles and more (long distance).
- Although most ‘consumer’ Walkie-talkies have an average of 2-16 channels, a few high-end ‘industrial’ devices possess up to 256 channels which is more than the average person will ever need.
Whether you’re going to be using your device indoors, outdoors or both, I recommend the purchase of a radio with many channels and 2 or more power modes to increase privacy and limit the rate of interruptions during communications whilst also increasing your transmission range.
What Walkie-talkie channel can I use in which situation?
With so many factors involved, it’s pertinent to know which Walkie-talkie channel you can use in whatever situations you find yourself.
Read on to know what frequencies you can use in different situations.
UHF (Ultra High Frequency) Walkie-talkies are better suited to indoor communications due to the fact that they have a higher penetration power compared to VHF radios and are capable of producing crystal clear transmissions even in the presence of obstructions like concrete walls, steel doors etc.
UHF Walkie-talkies work at 400 to 512 Megahertz (MHz) which makes it easier for them to go through any obstructions.
However, UHF Walkie-talkies have a shorter wavelength, rendering them unsuitable for long-distance use.
Standard VHF (Very High Frequency) band radios have only 8 channels and operate at 136-174 MHz, but they are more suitable for outdoor and long-distance use because VHF signals have a longer wavelength and can go a very long distance in areas with few obstructions.
However, VHF signals have a lower penetration ability compared to UHF signals.
Although adding an antenna to your VHF Walkie-talkie can considerably improve the signal, it’s advisable for you to switch to a UHF band if you’re in locations with hilly terrains, thick forests or a lot of buildings.
VHF radios are mostly used for communication in the air and at sea because they perform better across long distances in open areas with minimal obstructions.
Indoor and Outdoor (Dual-band)
Dual-band Walkie-talkies offer you the best of both worlds.
These devices enable you to use both the UFH and VHF bands, an increased number of channels, and two or more power modes and are capable of being used indoors and outdoors.
Some Dual-band devices can use both the FRS and GMRS radio services, since they are designed with two or more power modes, effectively allowing you to operate your device in ‘high-power’ mode and switch channels to suit your needs.
FRS and GMRS both share the same 22 channels, with only different power outputs required to connect to these channels.
GMRS radios offer greater range and privacy options if you’re in an area more susceptible to signal interference or for long-distance communication.
GMRS radios also allow you to use privacy codes, offering you more protection from interceptions and interruptions.
To enable you to communicate effectively in any situation or location, it’s best you buy a dual-band Walkie-talkie that offers the use of both FRS and GMRS.
The information on whether a Walkie-talkie is of a UHF, VHF or dual-band variant is usually indicated on a radio device’s product packaging, so it’s advisable to look there when shopping to determine this before purchase.
Conclusion- Walkie-Talkie Channels to use
Determining what Walkie-talkies channels to use depend on factors such as your location, situation or need, device mode and if you have a valid license.
UHF Walkie-talkies are better suited for indoor use because they have a higher penetration ability and are capable of producing crystal-clear transmissions even in the presence of any obstructions.
VHF signals have a longer wavelength and can go a very long distance making them better for communication in open areas (outdoors) with few obstructions.
GMRS provides more privacy options and a greater transmission range, although you need a license to transmit on GMRS, unlike FRS which is free.
Walkie-talkies transmitting on FRS must use channels 1 – 15, while you need a radio operator’s license to transmit on GMRS channels 15 – 22.
However a dual-band Walkie-talkie with UHF and VHF bands offers you the best of both worlds,
Dual-band Walkie-talkies allow you to communicate seamlessly in whatever scenario you find yourself in, reducing any expenses associated with buying both UHF and VHF radios whilst helping you get maximum utility out of your Walkie-talkie.