Things To Know Before Getting Your First Two Way Radio


A two way radio differs from a broadcast radio in the sense that it can receive as well as send messages and it can be used for communication between two people. Two way radios are available in several different configurations. Configurations include hand held radios, mobile radios and stationary base radios.

Radios can either operate in a full duplex mode or a half duplex mode. In full duplex, two way radios can be used to both send and receive voice or data at the same time over different channels or frequencies. In half duplex, two way radios can be used for either sending or receiving voice or data over a single channel.

There are various things that you should  take into account with two way radios prior to making a purchase. Generally handheld or HT two way radios are very compact, are light weight and are very affordable. Two way radios are available in different styles and are used for a large number of applications. Two way handheld radios have a push to talk button which makes it very convenient to use. Two way handheld radios are available with either rechargeable batteries or replaceable batteries. Handheld batteries are usually made of nickel and cadmium or lithium ion.

Two way radios operate in different ranges. The range specifies the distance that can be used in a two way communication. Two way radios can operate over short ranges or longer ranges depending on various factors like the frequency, terrain, output power, etc. Most two way radios operate in a “line of sight” manner. That is the antennas of two way radios must “see” each other. This just means that they cannot work well in hilly areas and in places where there are large obstructions such as city buildings.

Two way radios today come with a large number of features. Two way radios can use repeaters to help with communicating over longer distances and in areas where line of sight communication is not possible. Some two way radios also provide an option to use the computer in conjunction with a terminal node controller or TNC. The TNC converts the digital data from the computer to analog data which is then transmitted / received by two way radios. Packet radio networks have been around since the 1980’s and are used to communicate with Amateur Radio stations locally and worldwide.

Another thing new users must know about two way radios is that they may or may not require licenses to operate. When toy like two way radios are used as a personal radio within the home for example, there is no need to apply for a license. In addition, radio controlled toys do not require a license.

However, most two way radios do require some form of a license. Operating  Amateur Radio equipment does require a license from the country you live in. In the U.S. the FCC controls all Amateur Radio licenses. All business or commercial radios in the U.S require licenses issued by the FCC.

Two way radios operate on different “channels” or frequencies. Since these “channels” are open anyone can listen to the communication or intercept the messages being sent. To prevent this to some degree, radios come with privacy codes of sorts. Most two way radios and police scanners include the ability to scan the channels and automatically detect these so called privacy codes. Therefore there is no such thing as a truly “private” channel.

Today, entry level equipment can be purchased for as little as $50 to $75. One of the most popular introductory two way radios is the BAOFENG two way radio because of its included options and its very low cost.



BOTA? LOTA? Operating Portable Ham Radio

Montauk NY Lighthouse

Montauk NY Lighthouse

It almost looks like an early spring morning today except for the snow that’s still hanging around.

Now I am beginning to get itch to dust off my portable operating gear. I can almost hear the KX3 paddles clacking away in my head (voices???).

You’ve heard of SOTA operations haven’t you? Well this year I want to start doing a few BOTA’s and LOTA’s.

I can almost hear you saying, OK I give up, what does BOTA and LOTA stand for? I have to be honest, these are terms that I made up. Maybe I have a bit too much time on my hands these days 🙂

Anyway, living on an Island does have some advantages, one of them is living close to Beaches and the other is Lighthouses. No, there’s no official BOTA or LOTA (except for ILLW – ). So I hope this view from my window is a sign of good weather (and operating) ahead.

Do you operate HF portable? What kind of gear do you use? I am always interested in hearing about other types of portable antenna systems. I have made and used homebrew dipoles, a homebrew Buddistick, Hamsticks, an Eagle One vertical and more recently the Buddipole Deluxe package. In my opinion, in regard to purchased antenna systems, using the expression “bang for the buck” the Hamstick comes out as the price/performance winner in my book!