Facts About Licence-Free Radios PMR446 walkie talkie

About licence-free (PMR446) radios

Radio transmitters, including two way radios, and the VHF or UHF frequencies they operate on, are governed, licensed and co-ordinated by Ofcom in the UK. Two way radios can operate on either licensed or licence-free (PMR446) frequencies. Here we explain more about licence-free radios.

  • Licence-free radios are generally lower powered, handheld radios with a maximum power output of 0.5 watts, resulting in a shorter range.
  • Depending on the surrounding terrain, the range can vary from a few hundred metres in a built up area to a few kilometres in open ground.
  • Use licence-free radios for business or personal use on any of eight UHF frequencies, both in the UK and across the European Union.
  • PMR stands for Personal Mobile Radio
  • 446 refers to the UHF frequency range 446MHz on which licence-free radios are permitted to operate.
  • In the USA and Canada the closest equivalent to PMR446 is FRS or GMRS

Licence-free two way radios are manufactured with the frequencies already programmed in. Power sources can vary, from basic models which use AA cells to more advanced models which use Li-ion rechargeable packs.

Benefits of a licence-free radio

  • Less expensive than licenced radios
  • Easy to use
  • Pre-programmed radio frequencies
  • No call charges
  • No contracts
  • Rechargeable versions give good operating time
  • New digital technology has improved voice quality and performance
  • No licence required!
  • Operate throughout the UK and in most EU countries

Disadvantages of licence-free radios

  • Lower power, so their range is shorter (approximately 3km maximum)
  • Their popularity means the channels can often be congested
  • Not suitable for emergency use as channel usage is on a first-come-first served basis
  • If users are too far apart they may suffer interference from other two-way radios within range

Who might use them?

There is a huge range of possibilities for the use of licence-free radios, for example:

  • Construction workers
  • Event managers
  • Hotel and tourist attraction operators
  • Neighbourhood watch co-ordinators
  • Factory workers
  • Farm and country estate workers
  • Leisure use (hiking, cycling, camping, orienteering, shoots etc.)

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