Difference between the licensed and unlicensed radios

For some people it’s pretty straightforward – licensed two-way radios require a license, license-free radios don’t.

But why do I need to get a license? Why should I bother to get a license? How are the licensed radios better? What are the differences?… These are some of the FAQs we meet with on an everyday basis.

Licence Free Two -Way Radios

Let’s have a look at the licence-free radios first. When you purchase your license-free radios you are all ready to use them. However, before you start using your license-free two-way radios please follow the instructions in the manual, also you usually need to charge the battery first (remember like with older mobile phones?)

You should consider buying license-free radios if you work over a smaller area and you don’t need a large coverage (depending on territory license-free should provide coverage of about 1mile).

If you are buying two-way radios for leisure such as hiking or road trips.

The disadvantages of license-free radios are that other users can transmit on the same frequency therefore you might receive unwanted traffic and hear conversations of other people. It also works both ways – the people operating on the same frequency can hear your conversations.

Therefore, we usually don’t recommend license-free radios for schools or institutions where sensitive information might be released during the usage of two-way radios.

Licenced Two-Way Radios

Let’s start this topic with what the radio licence actually is. A Radio licence provides you with a unique frequency on which you can operate your radios legally and securely. This licence is obtained from Ofcom in the UK and COMREG in The Republic of Ireland. The basic and most common licence starts from £75 for 5 years. However, there exist a few more different types of licenses. For instance, there is a special nationwide licence to ensure that a large systems or premises throughout the UK operate on legal frequencies. (Your radio provider will be able to advise you more)

When you obtain your licence Ofcom will provide you (or your radio supplier if they’re applying on your behalf) with the unique frequency on which your radios will transmit. With a Site-Specific Licence, there are no legal ways other parties can listen to your conversations and all critical information is safe. With UK general licence you may have shared frequencies but the tones can be configured to ensure minimal interference occurs, you can ask your radio provider to do this for you.

Secondly, licensed radios are 8 x more powerful and in the open territory can have a coverage of up to 2.5 miles. If you require larger coverage or you work in difficult terrain there are options for how to increase the coverage by using repeaters.

Licensed radios tend to be slightly more expensive compare to non-licensed as they usually have more applications.

The licensed radios also need to be specially programmed.  This is done by your two-way radio supplier as they have access to special programming software and cable. Many people ask us how to program their own radios as it seems really easy to just ‘download a software and buy the right cable’. However, many people don’t know that it is illegal to ‘just programme’ your own radios. There is not usually an extra charge for programming the equipment so you do not need to worry yourself with this!