Licence Free Walkie Talkies in the UK?

pmr446Which licence free two way radios and frequencies can be used in the UK and what are the best options?

Anyone can buy one (or more) licence free walkie talkie two way radios and use them for back to back communications straight out of the box with no need for a licence. The ranges of radios can vary from just a few yards to many many miles depending on what you use and the conditions in which you use them. But which are the best to get? What has the best range? And which one’s are actually licence free and legal to use in the UK?

UHF is probably the most popular band however VHF frequencies are available. One important point is, just because you buy a pair of walkie talkies on ebay, it does not mean they are legal to use, so first we will look at what are actually legal to use.

Legal Licence Free Frequencies and Radios in The UK

The most popular licence free radios are PMR446 and can be bought from places like Argos, Maplins, eBay etc. The fixed purpose made units are 500mw output power (half a watt) and are the only legal UHF licence free two way radios you can buy off the shelf other than LPD 433MHz devices which are not the best, you can find some 446 radios that also include the LPD 433MHz channels on them.

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You can buy other UHF radios that will cover PMR446 on eBay, like the cheap Baofeng, Puxing and other two way radios but many of these are not technically legal to use, mostly as on high power they are 5 watts, 10 times the power of a standard PMR446. This makes them technically not fully legal to use in the UK though many do, and if you do get some of the cheap Baofeng etc type radios then be sure to stick to the PMR446 frequencies, as using other frequencies licenced to other users can get you into very deep water with the authorities.

There are eight PMR 446 Analogue frequencies, these can be used with CTCSS/DCS codes to cut out other users not on your code, CTCSS is usually available on most of the cheaper models, businesses tend to go for higher range PMR446 sets such as Kenwood and Icom that have DCS as well as CTCSS to cut out interference from other users.

The 8 analogue frequencies available for licence free PMR446 are as follows…

PMR 446 Default Channel 1: 446.00625
PMR 446 Default Channel 2: 446.01875
PMR 446 Default Channel 3: 446.03125
PMR 446 Default Channel 4: 446.04375
PMR 446 Default Channel 5: 446.05625
PMR 446 Default Channel 6: 446.06875
PMR 446 Default Channel 7: 446.08125
PMR 446 Default Channel 8: 446.09375

There is also a Digital version of PMR446 available known as dPMR which operates just above the analogue band at 446.1 – 446.2 MHz. The frequencies for all these channels can be seen here.

Are GMRS/FRS two way radios Legal in the UK?

The American equivalent of our PMR446 radios is GMRS/FRS. These sets have higher power and more channels than our PMR446 radios but are not legal to use in the UK. There are a lot of them on eBay which has resulted in a lot being bought and used in the UK as they offer more power, channels and privacy but the frequencies over here are not licence free, some channels are even used by the UK Fire service so should not be used over here in the UK. The same thing goes for the popular Baofeng BF-888 radios which are cheap and widely used in the UK due to their availability but still not legal in the UK.

What other licence free frequencies and radios can be used in the UK?

Along with PMR446 and LPD 433MHz there are other licence free options available. The most popular of these being CB radios. These can be used licence free with higher power and the range can also be increased greatly by using base stations, and base and mobile antennas. It isn’t a private option though, you get a better range but expect to hear a lot of users on the channels, especially local truck drivers in the mornings and daytime along with other using making long distance (DX) contacts. If you are looking for the best licence free option for your business, say a factory or office etc. then PMR446 with the DCS option may be your best choice, or after that consider getting your own licence from Ofcom.

What other licence free channels are available in the UK?

Other than the ones mentioned above there is very little else available for two way coms in the UK that does not require a licence, and certainly nothing that matches the above in performance anyway. For instance there are licence free frequencies around 40MHz – 50MHz, these are mainly used for low power devices such as intercoms, on site pagers, baby monitors and kids walkie talkies, and by kids walkie talkies I mean those cheap toy ones that you can buy, like Action Man, Barbie etc. that have the squelch constantly open because they only have a range of a few yards. Other than that there is very little else. There are licence free frequencies around 800-900MHz but these are really only for wireless mics and headphones and then there are licence frequencies even higher in the GHz bands but these are mainly for things such as CCTV, wireless TV senders, radars, Quadcopter Drones, etc.

I hope this article has helped you if you are looking for licence free radios in the UK, if you have any questions or feedback then please leave me a comment below.

Over and Out…

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433MHz – A Very Strange UHF Band for Car Key Fobs, Garage Doors, Amateur Radio and even Mind Control?

433MHz really is a strange band for a few reasons. For one, it is shared by license free devices and also Amateur radio, not only can amateur radio operators use this full band with very high power for long distance DX contacts but also it is the same band that is used for car security fobs (that lock and unlock cars) along with other security devices such as garage door openers, these operate on frequency 433.920MHz.

This means anyone using a ham radio on 433.8200 MHz or even nearby frequencies near cars will be blocking out people from accessing their vehicles. I have had first hand experience of this when speaking to a friend we legally were using 433.550 which is not only license free (you can buy walkie talkies on these frequencies for your kids) but it is covered by our ham (amateur radio) licence.  We were having a quick chat in a car park and panic ensued. No one could open their cars with their key fobs while we were transmitting, and we were not even on 433.820, just close-by on 433.550.

Some managed to get into the cars by using their key which set the alarm off as they had not deactivated the alarm with their fob however most were simply locked out with no way of getting into or locking/unlocking their vehicles.

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It seems a very strange place to put a lot of users who are unavoidably going to cause interference to each other, surely somewhere around 1.2GHz would be more suitable?

It may be an effect of the mind control powers this frequency apparently has, according to one YouTube user 433MHz is used for Nazi Mind Control, you can see his video here

I don’t know which is crazier, the suggestion it is used for mind control or the decision to clump all these users together in the same band?

Top recommended Scanner for the UK is…. The Whistler TRX-2

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The Whistler TRX-2 is the top recommended scanner for users in the UK. It is analogue and DMR so will pick up both normal analogue users and also Digital users.

Covers Motorola P25 Phase I, X2-TDMA, NXDN,Phase II and DMR making it capable of monitoring the following systems… Conventional DMR (Entered as a DMR trunked system, NXDN, Hytera XPT, MotoTRBO Capacity Plus, MotoTRBO Connect Plus, and MotoTRBO Linked Cap Plus systems.

The TRX-2 allows the user to group their stored objects using up to 200 Scanlists plus a special Skywarn scanlist. Programmable audible alarms can be configured to sound when certain Scannable Objects are active. You can record received audio from selected objects and searches to the Micro SD card. Replay recorded audio using the powerful built-in playback system or transfer to PC for playback and archiving. Record up to 50 hours of audio on the 2 GB microSDr

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A built-in Discriminator Output provides raw discriminator signal to third party signal decoding software without risky hardware modifications which works great with SDR (Software-defined radio), Pocsag, DSD Digital Speech Decoder and other online software. Predefined service search ranges make it easy to find activity in your area.

With the expanded V-Scanner II (VS-II) storage system, you can use the TRX-2 PC Application to save up to 200 V-Scanner configurations on the MicroSD Card, which can be recalled at any time in the field using the radio’s keypad. Scans most common trunked radio system signaling formats, including Motorola, EDACS, LTR and P25 trunked radio networks. Both talkgroup and individual call monitoring are supported.

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The TRX-2 Quickly sweeps the TRX-2’s frequency ranges for digital and analogue transmissions from nearby sources. When a nearby transmission is found, the TRX-2 automatically tunes to that frequency and receives the traffic. Lock out found frequencies and continue searching the same band. The back-light can be programmed to flash with custom flash patterns when certain objects are active, providing another way alerting the operator when important radio traffic is present.

All in all the TRX-2 is probably the best scanner to recommend to UK users due to many users switching from analogue to DMR Digital. It does have a programming hurdle but once you get over it the scanner is a good performer. Ther is also a mobile/handheld version, The TRX-1, Google “Whistler TRX-1”

Awesome and amazing light up CB Radios

There are some really cool and innovated Light Up/LED CB Two Way radios out there.

Some are great out of the box, but many more are modified by the CB users themselves. In any case, I have never seen an image collection of some of the best so I have posted them below for you to enjoy….

The Galaxy DX 939

cblightThe Galaxy DX 939 has a StarLite front panel, blue lighting and built-in frequency counter, the DX 939 looks as good as it sounds. From Galaxy Radios

 

CONNEX 3300 HP

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CONNEX 3300 HP Pure Green with Nitro Knobs, see the video of it here on YouTube

 

Cobra 29 LTD CLASSIC CB Radio with RED Lights

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A Cobra 29 LTD CLASSIC Cb Radio RED Light Edition with Clear Knobs & Echo, see the video of it here on YouTube

 

CONNEX CX-566SB SSB Color Changing CB Radio

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CONNEX CX-566SB SSB Color Changing CB Radio with Echo

 

CONNEX CX-3400HP AM/FM CB Radio

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Connex CX-3400HP AM/FM 10 Meter Radio CB with 6 selectable colors.

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CB radio is part of UK and worldwide history. With the introduction of mobile phones CB’s are less popular but still in use by many people. You can now chat to people on a CB in the UK without a licence. CB’s are available cheap on places like eBay, or you can get a scanner that covers 27MHz and listen in. The CB Frequencies can be found on my blog here

 

UK Fire Service to Keep Tetra Airwave until 2020 but analogue and digital DMR frequencies for firefighters handhelds remain the same.

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Although the UK Emergency Services main scheme radio coms are on Tetra Airwave which is due to be replaced by a 4g LTE network very soon the UK Dept for Communities and Local Gov have extended the tetra airwave contract for the fire service main scheme coms until 2019, but more likely 2020 and beyond.

Only the main scheme fire radios are Tetra, these are the ones mainly fitted in Fire Engines to keep in touch with control. The Main Firefighter handheld radios (also known as fireground radios) that all firemen wear and that are used at incidents will remain on the usual frequency of 457.0375.

Tetra was rolled out to the fire service in 2006 and had full coverage in 2010 and is known as “Firelink”. There has been a lot of criticism of the UK Gov who are accused of cost-cutting as a 4g LTE network may be much cheaper however it is far from ready and untested whereas the tetra network has proved to be reliable.

You can still listen to firefighters in the UK on their main handheld radios on frequency 457.03750. Depending on where you are in the UK they may be analogue or DMR Digital, either can be listened to an an average radio scanner. There are analogue and digital DMR modes available.

457.0375 is their main “primary” frequency. They also have other channels in their handheld radios, you can get the full frequency listings in The UK Scanning Directory

You can read more about the new extension to the Tetra contract for the UK Fire service at this article on computer weekly

MandyWandllitz

The Walkie Talkie Future is Here! Star Trek ComBadge is now a reality and available.

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Well they have only gone and done it. Don’t get me wrong, I love a real proper walkie talkie that you can hold in your hand with a nice antenna popping up and a large PTT push to talk button on the side, however these are just awesome.

The new Star Trek style combadge walkie talkies make free long distance PTT communications possible by using a free app and are very stylish, they are called Onyx Smart Walkie-Talkies, check out the video below.