Limited range is one of the things people are concerned about the most when using handheld two-way radios or walkie talkies. The range of walkie talkies can actually reach up to more than 20 miles. However, this is if they are used under the best circumstances. This will also depend on a lot of factors that can expand or limit the range.
You need to consider the signal strength and antenna features of your walkie talkies because these built-in components do affect range. You can use signal repeaters or boosters to augment the built-in features of your walkie talkies. You also have to optimize their energy. Avoiding obstructions and checking the weather also helps.
Long Answer (Step-by-Step-Tutorial)
Several factors affect the range of walkie talkies, which include the antenna system, signal strength, radio power, the environment, to name a few. These factors can either boost the range of your walkie talkies or limit it, even degrade the quality of communication. The following are some ways that can help expand the range of your walkie talkie.
1: Consider Signal Strength
First off, consider is investing in a good radio because radios do have built-in features that may or may not meet your needs. One of these features is signal strength, which is measured in watts. The higher the wattage, the stronger the signal, the farther the range. In general, walkie talkies built for commercial and professional use can generate around 1 to 5 watts and can cover up to 10 miles or 16 kilometers. Radios that have a watt system lower than this, say at 0.5 watts, may cover only up to 100 yards or 91.4 meters.
Walkie talkies can operate on two types of frequencies: Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).
FRS walkie talkies fall within the range of 0.5 to 2 watts. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have updated their rules and regulations to allow for license-free use of up to 2 watts for FRS radios. However, because of the low wattage, this will not cover much range.
In comparison, GMRS walkie talkies can cover a broader range, given that it can generate up to 5 watts of power. However, these require a license and should only be for personal use. Because of updates that the FCC made on GMRS rules and regulations in 2017, the license term effectivity was increased to 10 years, with one license covering all family members.
Take these into consideration before purchasing walkie talkies — if you have not done so yet — so that you can obtain the type that suits your needs.
2: Optimize Energy
This might seem obvious, but many often overlook this. Check your battery charge and the energy settings on your walkie talkies before using them. The higher the wattage, the stronger the signal emission, the quicker the batteries will drain. Low-power batteries will affect the strength of your walkie talkie’s signal and lessen the length of time you can use it. If you are using rechargeable batteries, consider wear and tear as well, because the strength of batteries that have been used repeatedly get depleted over time.
Make sure that your batteries are fresh or fully charged if you are using rechargeable batteries before using your walkie talkie to ensure that they are in the best working condition. You can use a battery tester to gauge if the batteries of your walkie talkies are still at an optimal level.
3: Avoid Obstructions
Another crucial factor that will affect the range is the presence of obstructions. And not just the mere presence of obstructions but how dense these are and what they are made of. The presence of obstructions matters because radios need to achieve a certain level of the line of sight between communication points. If too many things are blocking that line of sight, this will significantly lessen the range. Obstructions can include buildings, billboards, trees, and even vehicles. Take note that radio waves cannot penetrate metal or hills. Because of this, elevation can also increase range since this helps in reducing obstructions between communication points.
Given these, the best place to be to extend the range of walkie talkies is in an open, elevated space outdoors. If this is not possible and you have to be indoors, you can position yourself on higher floors and faced towards a window to increase the line of sight.
4: Check The Antenna System
The antenna system of your walkie talkies also affects range. Walkie talkies that have stubby antennas have up to 30% lesser range than those that have whip antennas. Raising the antenna will increase the range. This is still part of minimizing obstructions and improving the line of sight between communication points.
The antenna of some walkie talkies cannot be changed as these come as built-in features. If you are going to need an expanded range for your use, you will have to look for walkie talkies that have whip antennas or removable, long antennas.
5: Use A Repeater Or Booster
Explain how repeater work, for which walkie talkies they can be used, what they cost etc.
If your walkie talkies have built-in antennas that cannot be altered or extended, using a signal repeater or signal booster can help in improving range. Simply put, what a signal repeater does is it receives a signal and re-transmits it, which, in essence, boosts the signal and extends the range.
Technically, the functions of a signal repeater and a signal booster do not have much difference. These are often used interchangeably in the market. More than the name of the device, check out the specifics of the device, and see if it fits your needs.
Install the signal repeater or booster on an elevated structure, such as a tower or tall building, to maximize its effect on radio communication. A signal repeater usually has two units: one that will receive the signal and the other that transmits it. Once the repeater has been installed, configure your walkie talkies according to the system requirements.
6: Consider The Weather
Lastly, you should take the weather into account. Ideally, weather with clear skies is the ideal condition to ensure maximum range and signal strength. In contrast, storms, fog, or strong gusts of wind can have some negative effect on the signal strength and range of your walkie talkies.
Of course, this is something you do not have control over. However, it still helps to take this into account for those times when your radio range seems to be less than usual even though you made sure that your walkie talkies are in optimum condition.
Conclusion – How to Extend Walkie Talkie Range
To wrap things up, I discussed the necessary information on the way two-way radios function, some factors that affect its usage, and a few laws and regulations you need to be aware of as concerns two-way radios. I also discussed some ways that you can use to expand the range of walkie talkies.
Which of these tips are you going to try first?
Let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you. 🙂