Walkie Talkies vs. Two Way Radios: What’s the difference?


Many people seem to interchange the terminology when referring to either a walkie talkie or two way radio. But we’re here to clear up this mistaken identity between these two communication devises for they can be remarkably different.

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Walkie Talkies


Walkie-talkies, as they were called, were first developed for military use during World War II and eventually spread to public and commercial use after the war. They typically look like a telephone handset with an antenna sticking out the top with a built in speaker that can be heard by the user and anyone in close proximity.

Modern walkie talkies still utilize the push-to-talk technology and are available in numerous price ranges - from units sold as toys to more commercial units used for public safety, business or any setting where a portable radio would be necessary. Some walkie talkie models can be made to be very small and depending on the differing use, the equipment varies with consumer use and commercial use.

Commercial walkie talkies - also called commercial two way radios - have a more rugged construction with metal cases, and often have only a few specific frequencies programmed into them since a given business or public safety agent must often abide by a specific frequency allocation.

Consumer walkie talkies, on the other hand, are generally made to be small, lightweight, and capable of accessing any channel within the specified band and the low powered versions that are exempt from licensing requirements can be popular children toys.

With the walkie talkie’s development, even the powerful commercial walkie-talkie is limited to only a few watts of power output and hand held communication range is still quite short in open areas. Many radio services permit the use of a repeater (which is a device that increases range and coverage of a walkie talkie) which is usually placed at some high point within the desired coverage area. The repeater listens on one frequency and retransmits on another, so that reliable hand-held to hand-held unit range can be extended to a few score miles (kilometers) or further, using repeaters linked together.

Walkie-talkies (generally known as HTs or "handheld transceivers" by radio hams) are widely used among amateur radio operators and have become popular with consumers for personal use. Most personal walkie talkies that are sold are designed to be very compact, with buttons for changing channels and other settings on the face of the radio and a short, fixed antenna. Most such units are made of heavy, often brightly colored plastic cases to attract consumers.

Commerical Two Way Radios


Like walkie talkies, commercial two way radios are hand held transceivers (they send and receive signals) and utilize the push-to-talk system.

While commercial 2 way radios or hand-held portable two-way radios are often called walkie-talkies or handie-talkies, don’t confuse them with the cheaper model 2 way radio “walkie-talkies”.

Two-way radios are available in mobile and stationary base configurations. An example of a two way radio that both transmits and receives at the same time (or full-duplex) is a mobile phone or cellular telephone, which uses two different radio frequencies to carry the two directions of the conversation simultaneously.

However, there are differences between using a cellular telephone and using a two way radio. Commercial two way radios are an excellent way to maintain communication and keep your business operating efficiently for the following reasons:
  1. Two way radios do not rely on cell towers as the cell phone. They operate radio to radio independently from any other system.
  2. Two way radios do not rely on telephone lines which can overload or fail in bad weather, crisis or emergency situations.
  3. If you prepare, 2 way radios can operate without any electricity. Communication within your own team of people can continue radio to radio within a fixed location.
  4. Specific frequencies are often programmed into them for a given business by a specific frequency allocation.
Without getting too technical for this aricle, some other considerations to note with commercial 2 way radios:
  • There is an array of two way radio technologies, systems, and types.
  • There are families of radio types and each family has differing sub-groups and specific radio models.
  • In some cases, data in communication over two way radios can be analog or digital.
  • Commercial 2 way radios consist of a more rugged construction and are often used by policemen, firemen, emergency medical teams, security personnel, construction teams, military, college campus security, etc.
Visit our two way radio product pages for more information and details on Hytera, ICOM, Tekk, Vertex, Motorola, Kenwood, Jobcom, Relm and Ritron commercial two way radios.

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