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Facts About Licence-Free (PMR446) Radios

Facts About Licence-Free (PMR446) Radios

date Released On 31st May 2023

Radio transmitters, including two way radios, and the VHF or UHF frequencies they operate on, are governed, licensed and co-ordinated by Ofcom in the UK. But not every two-way radio has to be licensed; some can operate on specific, licence-free (PMR446) frequencies. Here's a complete guide to explain more about licence-free radios.

  • PMR stands for Personal Mobile Radio
  • 446 refers to the UHF frequency range 446MHz, on which licence-free radios are permitted to operate. See the full list of frequencies below.
  • Licence-free radios are generally lower-powered, handheld radios with a maximum power output of 0.5 watts. This gives them a much shorter range than their licensed counterparts.
  • Licence-free radios are more often referred to as "walkie talkies" than their higher-powered, licensed counterparts. It doesn't matter whether you call them walkie talkies or two-way radios.
  • Depending on the surrounding terrain, the range can vary from a few hundred metres in a built-up area to a few kilometres in open ground. Typically, think line-of sight range for outdoor activities on a small site.
  • You can use licence-free radios for business or personal use on a specific range of 16 UHF frequencies, both in the UK and across the European Union.
  • PMR446 frequencies are only allowed to be used by lower-powered, shorter range licence-free radios; it's highly illegal to program a higher-performing business radio to these frequencies - these are supposed to operate under an Ofcom licence. 
  • In the USA and Canada, the closest equivalent to a licence-free option is FRS or GMRS.

Licence-free two-way radios are manufactured with the permitted range of frequencies already programmed in. Power sources can vary, from basic models which use AA cells, to more advanced models which use Li-Ion rechargeable packs.

Browse our shop for an extensive range of licence-free radios and headsets from Motorola, Hytera, Icom and Kenwood.

Benefits of a licence-free radio

  • Less expensive than licensed radios
  • Easy to use
  • Pre-programmed radio frequencies
  • No call charges
  • No contracts
  • Rechargeable versions give good operating time
  • New digital technology has improved voice quality and performance
  • No licence required! Neglible running costs
  • Operate throughout the UK and in most EU countries

Unlicensed radio Motorola TLKR T60Disadvantages of licence-free radios

  • Lower power, so their range is shorter (typically, a maximum of approximately 3km)
  • Their popularity means the channels can often be congested
  • Not ideal for business users, as transmissions can be intercepted by other users, so security is a concern.
  • Not suitable for emergency use as channel usage is on a first-come-first served basis
  • If users are too far apart they may suffer interference from other two-way radios within range

Who might use them?

There is a huge range of possibilities for the use of licence-free radios, for example:

Are walkie-talkies easy to use?

Walkie-talkies really are easy to operate, especially the cheaper, licence-free varieties, as they tend to have fewer functions than their licensed, more technically advanced counterparts. Start by making sure both sending and receiving radios are swtiched on and tuned to the same channel - there will be a channel selector button on the radio. Remember, unlike a mobile phone, only one person at a time can speak. The large Push-to-Talk button does exactly that - when you push it in, you're transmitting. Release the PTT button when you've finished speaking, and if the other person then wants to reply, they do exactly the same. 

UK radio frequencies for licence-free radios

Until January 2018 there were just eight frequencies for licence-free radios in the UK, ranging from 446.00625MHz to 446.09375MHz. After that, the frequency spectrum was expanded in line with Harmonised European Standards to create greater capacity across Europe.  

The extended frequencies now range from 446.0 to 446.2MHz, with a channel plan based on 6.25 kHz (for digital equipment) and 12.5 kHz (for analogue equipment) spacing. 

Here's a table showing the whole spectrum of PMR446 frequencies, with the channel plan.

  Analogue (12.5 kHz Channel Spacing)   Digital dPMR446 (6.25kHz Channel Spacing)
CH1 446.00625MHz CH1 446.003125MHz
CH2 446.01875MHz CH2 446.009375MHz
CH3 446.03125MHz CH3 446.015625MHz
CH4 446.04375MHz CH4 446.021875MHz
CH5 446.05625MHz CH5 446.028125MHz
CH6 446.06875MHz CH6 446.034375MHz
CH7 446.08125MHz CH7 446.040625MHz
CH8 446.09375MHz CH8 446.046875MHz
CH9 446.10625MHz CH9 446.053125MHz
CH10 446.11875MHz CH10 446.059375MHz
CH11 446.13125MHz CH11 446.065625MHz
CH12 446.14375MHz CH12 446.071875MHz
CH13 446.15625MHz CH13 446.078125MHz
CH14 446.16875MHz CH14 446.084375MHz
CH15 446.18125MHz CH15 446.090625MHz
CH16 446.19375MHz CH16 446.096875Mhz
    CH17 446.103125MHz
    CH18 446.109375MHz
    CH19 446.115625MHz
    CH20 446.121875MHz
    CH21 446.128125MHz
    CH22 446.134375MHz
    CH23 446.140625MHz
    CH24 446.146875MHz
    CH25 446.153125MHz
    CH26 446.159375MHz
    CH27 446.165625MHz
    CH28 446.171875MHz
    CH29 446.178125MHz
    CH30 446.184373MHz
    CH31 446.190625MHz
    CH32 446.196875MHz

Shop for Licence-free radios

RadioTrader stocks licence-free two-way radios from leading brands such as Motorola, Hytera, Icom, and Kenwood, all at great prices and with FREE delivery to the UK Mainland on orders over £200.00.

Get in touch for friendly advice if you’re having trouble deciding which radio is suitable for you. Call 0151 676 2888.

Grouped licence free radios

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Tags: Licence Free Radios, PMR Radios, Private Mobile Radio, Two Way Radios

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