Two-Way Radio

What is Two-Way Radio

A two-way radio is simply a radio that can both transmit and receive (a transceiver). In broader terms, most of voice wireless communications systems, including cellular system, fall into two-way radio definition. Two-way radio refers to radio system mainly used for group call communication. Portable two-way radios are often called walkie-talkies or handie-talkies. Two-way radios are also available in mobile and base configurations as well as utilizing radio network infrastructure.


A two-way radio is typically equipped with a “Push-To-Talk” PTT button to activate the transmitter. User just simply presses the PTT button and can immediately start to talk. User releases the PTT button to listen to others.


Two-way radio can “talk” directly to other radios or use radio network infrastructure. A direct talk among radios (usually also known as direct more operation, talk around mode) has limited range due to limitation of radio power. To overcome this limitation, a radio network infrastructure can be utilized to extend communication range.

Why Two-Way Radio

With various wireless technology options and two-way radio being one of the “earliest” wireless technologies, one may question whether two-way radio is still a viable technology today. The answer is yes and the following are the 2 key points that uniquely differentiate two-way radio to other wireless technology:

  • Instant communication Two-way radio provides instant communication. User just need to press the “Push-To-Talk” (PTT) button and within fraction of a second, this user can immediately talk to convey his/her messages. This is due to a quick call set-up time imbedded in the technology. This instant communication capability is one of key factors of why many organizations rely on two-way radio for their tactical or operational communications.
  • Group communication Another distinct feature of two-way radio is its capability to facilitate “one-to-many” group communication (also known as "group call") very efficiently. By efficient means that one user can talk to one, five, tens, hundreds, thousands of users at the same time. User don’t need to repeat the same message over and over again if he/she need to convey to more than one user. In addition, two-way radio performs the group communication using minimum RF channel resources. If all of users reside in the same area, most of the time, you only need one channel resources to talk to these hundreds of users.
  • Why Not Other Wireless System

    Every wireless technology has their advantages and disadvantages. The choice of which technology is the most suitable for one’s organization depends on whether that particular technology can meet the user requirement.

    For those users who need to:

  • Work in a group
  • Communicate instantly, and Mobile
  • Two-way radio can be considered as appropriate solution compared to other wireless technology. Following are the reason why other wireless technology, such as public cellular network, may not be able to meet the above requirement:

  • Communicate Instantly

    Imagine you are in the field and face an emergency situation and need to communicate immediately to declare your situation. If you are using a cellular phone, for example, you need to dial a number, wait for a while when the call is being set-up and connected, ring at the other side and finally answered. This process can take a few second and during that valuable time, your emergency situation can become worsen.

    With two-way radio, you just press the PTT button and shout out “emergency” to get attention and immediate help. Of course, this is assuming that RF channel are available. We will discuss later on two-way radio features that can overcome RF channel congestion and give highest priority for emergency users, a feature that are not available in other wireless technology.

  • Group communication

    Say you need to inform your 5 staff that a meeting has been rescheduled. If you call them one-by-one, it will take sometimes. With two-way radio, you just select your talkgroup and press the PTT button and start to talk to your 5 staff at the same time. Now, just imagine if you need to broadcast your message to 1000 staff in the field.

    While some wireless system allows a group calling, it typically limits the number of group member that you can talk at one time. With two-way radio, you just need to “talk once and heard by many”.

  • Who Are The Users

    Two-way radio has been used for many years by various organizations and industries. Due to the nature of their operational needs, they have to utilize two-way radio to address their communication needs. Examples of organizations and industries that rely on two-way radio are:

  • Public Safety organization:
    Police, Fire Brigade, Emergency Medical Services / Ambulance, Disaster Recovery agency
  • Security:
    Military, Intelligence agencies
  • Transportation:
    Railway, Airport, Seaport, Light Rail, Subway
  • Oil & Gas
  • Utility companies:
    Electricity, Gas, Water, Telephone, Cable TV
  • Transport Service companies:
    Taxi, Limos, Trucking
  • Construction companies:
    Commercial, Residential, Road and Bridge
  • Hospitality industries:
    Hotel, Resort, Restaurant, Tourism
  • Government agencies:
    Ministries, Local government, Municipal, Embassies, Public Works
  • Services industry:
    Delivery companies, Towing companies
  • Manufacturing
  • Contractors:
     Electrical, Excavating, Plumbing, Roofing
  • And many others...

    In other words, users of two-way radio are any agencies or businesses with multiple staff or workers who work in group and mobile.


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