Can I use a license-free radio abroad
Released On 27th Oct 2016
Although a UK licence-free radio will function anywhere in the world, it may not be legal. If you want to use this type of radio abroad, you must first make sure the frequency is an unrestricted frequency in the country you are visiting.
Licence-free radios can be used in most EU countries that implement PMR446 (Personal Mobile Radio 446 MHz). This is an EU standard used in many European countries, including the UK. These frequencies are set aside so walkie-talkies can be available to everyone and to ensure they don’t interfere with the channels used by licensed radio users.
In the USA, your British-bought PMR446 radios can only be used with a licence because those frequencies are allocated to amateur radio operators, so a UK license-free radio can’t legally be used. A different standard, FRS (Family Radio Service), is the license-free standard in the US. On the flip side, a US license-free radio isn’t legally useable here in the UK because it operates on radio frequencies preserved for licenced users.
There is no global licence-free frequency
Unfortunately there is no radio that can be used licence free around the world because standards are different in so many countries, and a radio which transmits on the 446 frequencies can’t be modified to transmit on different frequencies in another country.
Something else to consider when using a radio overseas (or any electrical gadget for that matter) is mains voltage. In the UK the mains uses 240 volts, but in other countries this can be higher or lower, so attempting to charge a device with different voltage could damage it.
What happens if I use a PMR446 radio in a country where that frequency is not licence free?
The consequences for using a radio that’s configured for the UK licence free frequency in a country where that frequency should be licensed may differ from country to country. In the U.S. for example, you may have your radio confiscated and be fined, or even imprisoned!
If you’re planning to take two way radios with you on your travels abroad, check that PMR446 frequencies are licence-free in the country you are travelling to, especially if it’s outside Europe. If they’re not, allow time to arrange the necessary licences before you go abroad.