Can I Use A Licence-Free Radio Abroad?

Can I Use A Licence-Free Radio Abroad?

two way radioA two-way radio is a communication device that allows users to both transmit and receive radio waves. Here at Wall 2 Wall Communications, we provide these advanced pieces of technology, which act as an audio transceiver, a receiver and a transmitter all in one, compact and portable unit. Generally, license-free two-way radios are used for bidirectional communication between person-to-person and requires the other individual to also have a similar radio device.

Two-way radios were originally developed in Australia in 1923 and developed further during World War 2, these hand-held devices or ‘walkie-talkies’ were used by the ground and air force troops to remain in contact with one another. Harkening back to those times, we now use them in many lines of contemporary work, such as construction, military, taxis, cruise ships and security. All of these workforces use either a licensed or license-free radio system.

Continuing the development of these spectacular inventions, our team at Wall 2 Wall have over 40 years of experience in the communications field and have been pioneers of the ever-growing popularity surrounding these two-way devices. Specialising in the training, hiring and buying of all communications equipment including license-free radios. 

 In this article, we will be looking in depth at the legality surrounding license-free radios, if they can be used across Europe and how we can help you with all your communication needs.

What is a licence-free radio?

A license-free radio is a type of device which works out of the box and you don’t need a license in order to operate one. In addition, any programming that a two-way license-free radio may need, will be straightforward and requires little effort to set up and use, making it accessible to all workers. 

Typically, these pieces of equipment are used for short-range communication with a maximum range being around 2 miles or 3 kilometres. All of our PMR446 radios are legally limited to 500mW transmission power. However, the distance of one of our radios is all dependent on the thickness and density of the materials making up the obstruction between the transmitting and receiving of the radio signals. 

These two-way radios are a very important piece of equipment for a number of users and we have recently been asked whether they can be used aboard. In this article, we will look at the licensing and how possible it is to take your two-way radio across Europe.  

Do You Need A Licence For Walkie Talkies?

For a number of industries, having a two-way radio on hand is imperative. For example, retailers and shopping centres will use this technology to have instant communication with their staff or any warehouses. This allows for better results when it comes to pleasing their customers and boosting their productivity in store. Another popular reason to have a radio present is safety.  In the bar, pub and restaurant industry, two-way radios will be used amongst security personnel and even with other networking establishments to ensure the well-being of their staff and customers. 

However, when using these radios, no matter the reason, it is always best to consider the licensing issues and how OFCOM might factor into your purchase. 

Firstly, as established before, the ‘license-free’ two-way radios, are one of the few exceptions.  You can buy these pieces of technology off the shelf and use them instantly, they have a small range and have a low output of 0.5 watts. These radios do not interfere with the UK’s main radio waves and therefore, do not encounter OFCOM radio. 

Next, there are the licensed radios. These do encounter OFCOM and have higher purchasing costs in comparison. With a high power output, the signal coverage is a lot better and also allows for increased range. The radios are required if your business is looking for a dedicated frequency and you are communicating across a further distance.

OFCOM governs all radio and television licenses in the UK and when it comes to registering your ‘walkie-talkie’, it’s important that you think about the additional costs that may come with your purchase also, which license you will be needing. 

If you need any help finding out which license you need or any of the costs associated with buying or hiring your own two-way radios, we are happy to help. Contact us now through the form on our website.

Can I Use My License-Free Radio In Europe?

Whilst your radio set could possibly work anywhere in the world, it doesn’t mean they should be legally used. It’s important to check the legality of your two-way radio before taking it to different parts of the globe.

The ‘PMR446’, standing for Private Mobile Radio, 446 MHz, is a European Union standard when it comes to approved radios in use in the UK and the European Union. With a maximum range of around 2 miles in open country, these are legal and are compliant with the laws.

If your business operates across multiple European countries, it’s worth contacting our team to find out more about how we can help and ensure you get the most out of your technology. 

Are Walkie Talkies Legal In Europe? 

Most countries have a regulating body, similar to OFCOM, which looks at the use of radios in their location. For example, for the USA, The Federal Communications Commission is in charge of all interstate and international communications made via the radio, wire, satellite, television or cable. They are responsible for this across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and any other U.S territories. 

Unfortunately, there is currently no radio on the market that can be licenced for every location in the world. This is due to the fact that every standard is completely different and allows (or disallows) many varying factors when it comes to two-way radios. 

In addition to this, a main barrier that users face when it comes to communicating with their two-way radios is the fact that these cannot be modified to transmit on different frequencies in other countries.  

Your PMR446 two-way radio can be used freely in the European Union and can even be taken to countries like India and Vietnam. However, in places like Australia, the USA and Canada, the frequency band is reserved for the military radar systems, which means that they allow no chance of interception or disruption. In addition, New Zealand, Valuato and Malaysia also do not accept the PMR446.

OFCOM Licence: All You Need to Know

OFCOM Licence: All You Need to Know

There are two types of two way radios, licenced and licence-free radios. For licenced radios it is required by law to obtain an radio licence from OFCOM.

Licence-free radios

Licence-free radios are a cheaper alternative to licenced radios. They can be bought and used straight away without obtaining a licence from OFCOM. This is because they have a relatively low power output of 0.5 watts, and only have a small range. This makes them the perfect option if your business is functioning in a small building e.g. retail, construction, smaller schools or any other site where minimal coverage is required within close range. Licence-free radios are also ideal for personal use such as when skiing, hiking or at a leisure park where mobile signal is not available. Their benefits include:

  • Low cost
  • Simple to use
  • Personal use
  • Professional use within a small range

Licenced radios

OFCOM licence



Licenced radios are the slightly more costly alternative as they are designed to have a higher power output of up to 5 watts, offer increased coverage and range. If your business is functioning over a wider area or on a larger site a licenced radio with the addition of an OFCOM licence is required. This will allow your site access to dedicated frequencies and additional features. The benefits of a licenced radio include:

  • Increased security
  • Specific to your site
  • Clear audio quality
  • Conversation  more secure
  • Send text messages
  • Group calls
  • Dial  up individual users
  • Wider and longer range
  • Dedicated frequencies
  • Professional use
  • More features

Types of OFCOM licence

When it comes to OFCOM licences it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Depending on your needs, your business will require different OFCOM licences. These can range from £75 for 5 years, all the way up to £9900 per year, so it is important to find one that meets your criteria. So what OFCOM licences are they, and how do you choose the right one?

  • Simple UK Light- This is one of the most affordable OFCOM licences costing £75+ for 5 years. Every holder of a Simple UK Light licence will share access to a number of radio tones and frequencies. This will allow for communication across the UK without the use of a base station. This licence is ideal for companies who function throughout the country and need a wide coverage. 
  • Simple Site UK- Also costing a relatively low £75+ for 5 years, the Simple Site UK licence will allow for radio use within a 3km radius of the base station or paging system. This is the perfect license if your business functions at a static location. 
  • Technically Assigned (Shared and Exclusive)- This OFCOM licence can range from £75-£1480 per year and frequency. This licence will allow your company to use a designated frequency within an allotted area with the use of a repeater. The shared licence will allow for a frequency to be used up to 50% of the time, which the exclusive licence is more expensive but can be used more than 50% of the time. 
  • Area Defined- This OFCOM licence varies from £75-£9900 depending on the size of the area covered. This licence can cover radio frequency up to 50km2 and can be tailored to your needs. This means your business pays for what it needs and only what it needs.

At Wall to Wall we provide you and your business with assistance and advice on which OFCOM licence would best suit your needs. We also offer assistance obtaining and managing your licence after purchase. Read more about how Wall to Wall Communications can help you with your OFCOM licence application on our blog ‘Wall to Wall Going the Extra Mile’.

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