If you need an affordable means of staying in touch with friends and family in places without cellular coverage, your best bet is probably a handheld or mobile UHF or VHF radio. A license-free FRS or MURS radio rated at up to two watts can provide reliable communications up to several kilometers. If you need even more range, GMRS radios, which require a basic license, offer up to 50 watts of power and can transmit 30 miles or more in perfect conditions.
GMRS FRS radio privacy features
Along with some unrealistic range claims, FRS, GMRS and MURS radio manufacturers can tout the benefits of "privacy codes" for their radios, but these tones and codes offer no privacy at all. Some FRS and GMRS radios sold online even go so far as to claim that they are "scrambled" when referring to these privacy tones, which is very misleading.
What are voice tones and codes?
Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System, "Tone Squelch" or CTCSS, is a system of 50 audio tones used to "mute" or unmute another radio that has been configured to recognize them. A similar system, CDCSS, or Digital Coded Squelch (DCS), uses digital codes to do basically the same thing, with over 100 codes to keep you from hearing unwanted radio traffic. None of these systems prevent other people from overhearing your conversations, despite what some radio manufacturers say.
CTCSS and DCS: The Ostrich Theory of Radio Secrecy
Using CTCSS or DCS to keep mute on all conversations except those in your group only gives the impression of privacy. It can happen that you're talking about another group of people without even realizing it, except for "crosstalk" interference, which can distort someone's transmission.
If you use privacy tones to mute your squelch, you may not be able to talk to someone on the same channel you need to be hearing from, which is why we rarely use these tones on our GMRS radio, or at least not when we're away. in the slums. When you're outdoors, you could miss important information or even someone's call for help if you set these so-called "privacy tones" to keep your radio quiet.
But what about those situations where you need complete privacy on a walkie-talkie or mobile unit? If you don't want anyone else to overhear your conversations, and there are many reasons for that, there are royalty-free "encrypted" walkie-talkies that offer complete privacy. You'll pay more for it and likely have less usable range, but if you need to make private voice calls up to a few miles away there aren't any cost-effective alternatives yet.
Is voice encryption in GMRS, FRS or MURS legal?
A few years ago you could buy an FRS walkie-talkie that used "voice reverse" coding. This technology is not allowed on CB, FRS, GMRS or MURS and even if you still see radios with this feature for sale online it is not legal to use them in the US. Use "Voice Scrambling" on any GMRS radio o FRS could result in a hefty fine if you're ever caught. See FCC Part 95 Rules for GMRS/FRS Devices Prohibiting Voice Encryption.here.
Few options for walkie-talkies with encryption
While you can see DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) handsets for sale online, almost all of them are designed to be used with FCC-licensed digital cellular systems or over a cellular network. To date, there are no digital or encrypted radios available without purchasing an expensive commercial radio license from the FCC, with the exception of a handful of 900 MHz Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) radios, which transmit in digital form over many channels , which guarantees almost complete privacy from intruders.
LoRa mesh network devices
LoRa stands for "Long Range Radio", but these devices are underpowered and don't really live up to the name. GoTenna is an example of a LoRa device that also uses the license-free 900MHz band. A range of up to 5 miles is possible, with each device "meshing" with another to extend the range outwards, but only when there are multiple users. Only text messaging is supported so far, and with a pair of GoTenna units costing around $180, outdoor enthusiasts might be better off with a half-price pair of GMRS radios as they offer much better range.
GMRS text messages
For those who want to communicate in a way that is indecipherable to most FRS/GMRS radio users, the Garmin Rhino 755t allows you to send short text messages. The FCC limits the message size in GMRS to 13 characters, which severely limits the usefulness of this feature. Until now, the use of text messaging on GMRS devices is not widespread and you will not find this feature on many radios. GMRS text messages can still be read by other users of the same device.
The license-free ISM band
FHSS radios operate in the 902-928 MHz license-exempt Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) band, which is regulated by Part 15 of the FCC Rules. One watt of power and external antennas are allowed, however the maximum effective isotropically radiated power (EIRP) is limited to 36 dBm (4 watts).
Goodbye to eXRS
A few years ago, a company called TriSquare developed a proprietary transmission method called eXRS, or "Extreme Radio Service," that operates on the 900MHz band with 1 watt of power. We've used them before, and the range of the eXRS radios is up to about two miles outdoors. There are still some of these radios available on the used market, however the company has been out of business since 2012. It has been speculated that the cheap FRS radios that have more power and range with less complexity were too much competition for eXRS.
Radios Motorola FHSS
As far as we know, Motorola is currently the only company offering encrypted walkie-talkies with FHSS, similar to TriSquare radios. Those one-watt radios that include theseMotorola DTR600 and DTR700 are advertised to cover up to 350,000 square feet indoors. and are built to military specifications with IP54 water resistance. Motorola doesn't claim it's range outdoors, but after using it we can confirm it's up to around two miles in open country.
With a cost of over $300 per phone, privacy comes at a high cost. A slightly cheaper FHSS walkie-talkie thatmotorola dlr1060- features a similar MilSpec construction but has a shorter antenna and is only intended to cover up to 300,000 square feet indoors. The Motorola DLR 1060 isn't exactly cheap either, costing over $200 for a phone. Portable FHSS radios are capable of privately calling any radio or page of an entire group.
Other 900MHz FHSS radios
So far, these are the only FHSS radios on the market that we know of. A company called Retrevis Solutions is reportedly launching an FHSS walkie-talkie soon. While not technically walkie-talkies, EnGenius offers the DuraFon line of 900MHz FHSS cordless phones that work phone-to-phone with a range similar to Motorola FHSS radios, as well as base stations via a external antenna can speak. A range of up to 6 miles is possible from the EnGenius DuraFon Rover to the base units. EnGenius phones don't come cheap, starting at $350 for a base and cellphone, with additional phones costing around $160 each. With 120-volt charging stations, these devices aren't as practical outdoors.
Are Encrypted FHSS Walkie-Talkies Right for You?
You should probably only consider getting a pair of FHSS walkie-talkies if you really need privacy. Hospitals and businesses with HIPPA concerns, race teams, and others wishing to keep their strategies private are examples of those who need such privacy. At the very least, you're spending over $400 on a set of private, encrypted walkie-talkies. For the rest of us, that kind of money can give you a lot more range and flexibility when you spend it on quality GMRS, MURS, or FRS radios.
Retevis RT21 2-way radio
Radio Motorola DLR1060 FHSS
Absolute data protection, resilient, unlimited expansion
Encryption for privacy
Range: up to 4 miles
Range: up to 1 mile
Retevis RT21 2-way radio
Encryption for privacy
Range: up to 4 miles
Radio Motorola DLR1060 FHSS
Absolute data protection, resilient, unlimited expansion
Encryption for privacy
Range: up to 1 mile
Aside from the cost, another disadvantage is the fact that FHSS radios are not compatible with other radios commonly used outdoors. GMRS and FRS radios can still "talk to each other", but 900MHz FHSS digital radios can only call another of the same model that has been paired to it. With such a limited range, they just aren't that practical for most people, except of course in cases where privacy is absolutely necessary.
(It would be nice if someone made a 900MHz FHSS radio like the one mentioned above using the FRS band for interoperability.)
See our article“Best Radio for Overlanding: FRS or GMRS?” for more information on these more affordable wireless alternatives to FHSS walkie-talkies.
The author, Troy H., has been involved in radio engineering since the 1980's and holds GMRS and Advanced Class Amateur Radio licenses.
Full Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. There are no additional costs for our readers to use it.
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Can I use a GMRS walkie-talkie without a license? ›
An FCC license is required to operate GMRS system. Licenses are issued for a ten-year term and can be renewed between 90 days prior to the expiration date and up to the actual expiration date of the license.What is an encrypted walkie-talkie? ›
In two-way radios, encryption modifies a voice signal using a coding algorithm. This algorithm is controlled by an encryption key. The encryption key is used by the transmit and receive radios to enable the voice signal to be coded and decoded for both radios.Are encrypted walkie talkies illegal? ›
This technology is not allowed on CB, FRS, GMRS or MURS, and even if you do still see radios with this feature available for sale online, they are not legal for use in the US.Is encryption allowed on GMRS? ›
Yes, any type of encryption or scrambling technology is not allowed on CB, FRS, GMRS or MURS frequencies.How far will a GMRS radio transmit? ›
2-WAY RADIO - The 40 Watt MicroMobile walkie talkie is equipped with 15 High/Low Power GMRS channels and 8 Repeater Channels for increased communication range. 65-MILE RANGE - Longer range communication in open areas with little or no obstruction.Can my wife use my GMRS license? ›
(2) Any individual who holds an individual license may allow his or her immediate family members to operate his or her GMRS station or stations.How does voice encryption work? ›
Encryption modifies a voice signal using a coding algorithm. An encryption key controls this algorithm. The encryption key is used by the transmit and receive radios to enable the voice signal to be coded and decoded for both radios.Can anyone see encrypted messages? ›
End-to-end encryption is a security method that keeps your communications secure. With end-to-end encryption, no one, including Google and third parties, can read eligible messages as they travel between your phone and the phone you message.What is the most powerful walkie talkie without license? ›
DigiX Nano. The DigiX Nano is one of the smallest and most powerful unlicensed walkie talkies available on the market. It has 10-hour continuous battery life and a number of useful features including group call and remote monitor as well as the ability to record 200 hours of communication on its flash memory.Can police access an encrypted phone? ›
Short answer: If your phone is protected by a passcode or biometric unlocking features, there's a chance police can't gain access to your personal data. But that's not guaranteed. Long answer: In addition to data hosted by a third party, there's a lot of information that can only be gained from access to your phone.
Does military use encrypted radio? ›
Military Secure Radio Encryption System
The DSP 9000 military radio encryption family provides high-end secure communications for most radio makes and models, all frequency bands, and supports radio-to-telephone commander's conferencing.
FRS channels 1 through 7 overlap with GMRS and can be used to communicate with GMRS radios. If you need to talk only to other FRS radios, use channels 8 through 14 to avoid possible interference with low band GMRS users.What GMRS channels can I use without a license? ›
Almost all GMRS radios also support FRS frequencies, which can be used without a license. Channels 8-14 on a typical 22 channel consumer radio reserved exclusively for FRS. These channels can be used license-free, but are limited to a half watt of transmit power and will have limited range.Can voice be encrypted? ›
From the introduction of voice encryption to today, encryption techniques have evolved drastically. Digital technology has effectively replaced old analog methods of voice encryption and by using complex algorithms, voice encryption has become much more secure and efficient.What is the most powerful GMRS radio? ›
The MXT400 MicroMobile is the Most Powerful GMRS Radio and Perfect Long Range Solution. This radio boasts 40 watts of broadcasting power with a 65 mile line-of-sight range.What channel do truckers use on GMRS? ›
GMRS Channel 19 or 462.650 MHZ, just like the old CB channel used by truckers, is sometimes used as the unofficial “road channel”, but again, this is not at all universal practice.What is the best GMRS radio available? ›
- Wouxun KG-905G GMRS Two Way Radio. ...
- Wouxun KG-XS20G Plus GMRS Base/Mobile Two Way Radio. ...
- Wouxun KG-935G GMRS Two Way Radio. ...
- Wouxun KG-1000G Plus GMRS Base/Mobile Two Way Radio. ...
- Wouxun KG-805G GMRS Two Way Radio. ...
- Midland GXT1000VP4 Radios With Headsets and Charger.
FRS and GMRS radios operate at a much higher frequency than CB (approximately 465 megahertz, compared with 27 megahertz for CB). They therefore cannot communicate with CB radios.Does FCC enforce GMRS license? ›
The FCC requires a GMRS radio license as a way to regulate frequencies that are used by two-way radio devices. Before operating a GMRS radio, a consumer must have a valid license.How long does it take for the FCC to approve a GMRS license? ›
How long does it take to receive my GMRS license? Most GMRS licenses are issued within 24 - 48 hour time frame. The FCC Licensing Support Center hours are 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM EST, M – F.
Which is the most powerful encryption? ›
AES 256-bit encryption is the strongest and most robust encryption standard that is commercially available today.Which encryption method is best? ›
- AES. The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the trusted standard algorithm used by the United States government, as well as other organizations. ...
- Triple DES. ...
- RSA. ...
- Blowfish. ...
- Twofish. ...
- Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA).
AES. The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the algorithm trusted as the standard by the U.S. Government and numerous organizations. Although it is highly efficient in 128-bit form, AES also uses keys of 192 and 256 bits for heavy-duty encryption purposes.How do I read an encrypted conversation? ›
Open the WhatsApp Viewer, then click on the File menu and choose the Decrypt . crypt12 option. Proceed to load the database and key file you copied from your phone earlier into the software. Click OK and wait for the decryption process to be completed.Can radio communication be encrypted? ›
In a radio communications system, encryption is a means of encoding radio transmissions in such a way that only the person or system with the proper key9 can decode it.Is voice over WIFI encrypted? ›
When making a call, your mobile carrier encrypts your voice. This happens when you're using a Wi-Fi connection, making such calls perfectly safe — even if the Wi-Fi network isn't secure or password-protected.Can someone reroute your text messages? ›
But SMS is also one of the most non-secure messaging systems. With a little bit of technology and nefarious motives, hackers can intercept your messages easily. Without you knowing, cybercriminals can reroute your messages to other devices.Can police track encrypted messages? ›
The FBI training document reveals that the government agencies can obtain access to the encrypted message content and other details from secure messaging solutions like WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, iMessage, Line, Telegram, Wickr, and Threema.How to tell if someone has used secret conversations on Messenger? ›
How to Tell if Someone Has Used Secret Conversations on Messenger? You cannot tell it directly because the secret conversation is end-to-end encrypted. However, you can use the AirDroid Parental Control app. You can access the Messenger of the target device from your device.What radios do Navy Seals use? ›
The AN/PRC-148 Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio (MBITR) is the most widely fielded handheld multiband, tactical software-defined radio, used by NATO forces around the world. The radio is built by Thales Communications, a subsidiary of the France-based Thales Group.
What is the longest range a walkie-talkie can reach? ›
Motorola Solutions Talkabout T460 rechargeable two-way radio walkie talkie is great for outdoor activities covering a wide span of distance and terrain like camping and hiking. It can cover a distance of about 35 miles in open mountains, 6 miles in open water and about 2 miles when used in the neighbourhood areas.Can police track walkie talkies? ›
Short Answer. Despite the claim that walkie talkies are challenging to track, it can still be traceable. It might not be as accurate when tracing a GPS device, but it is possible. Tracing happens due to the release of radio waves when the device is on.How do I make my phone impossible to track by the police? ›
- Open the “App Drawer.”
- Go to “Settings.”
- Select “Location.”
- Enter “Google Location Settings.”
- Turn off “Location Reporting” and “Location History.”
- You can also select “Delete Location History” to remove all previous tracking data.
You can check the encryption status for Android devices by navigating to Settings > Security > Encryption. This tab shows whether the device is encrypted or not. In case the Android device is not encrypted, you can enable encryption from the same tab.What is the most secure cell phone? ›
- Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. The newest and most expensive smartphone in Apple's enduringly well-liked iPhone series is the iPhone 12 Pro Max. ...
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. ...
- Google Pixel 5. ...
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. ...
- Apple iPhone SE. ...
- Silent Circle Blackphone 2. ...
- Sirin Labs Finney U1. ...
- BlackBerry Key2.
Court documents obtained by Forbes not only attest to that desire, but indicate the FBI has a way of accessing Signal texts even if they're behind the lockscreen of an iPhone.Are police radios encrypted? ›
Some areas block all radio communication from unauthorized civilians. This often includes: Police Dispatch. Police Tac.
Army FM (Ukrainian: Армія FM) is a Ukrainian radio station owned and operated by the Ministry of Defence.Can I use a GMRS walkie talkie without a license? ›
An FCC license is required to operate GMRS system. Licenses are issued for a ten-year term and can be renewed between 90 days prior to the expiration date and up to the actual expiration date of the license.Can all GMRS radios talk to each other? ›
Additionally, Some GMRS radios have 8 additional channels to communicate with GMRS repeaters. Regardless, all of the radios that support FRS and/or GMRS use the same frequencies and are compatible with one another. Simply set all radios to the same channel number and privacy code, and you will be able to communicate.
Is a GMRS radio better than a CB radio? ›
The Bottom Line: GMRS and license free FRS radios are still better than FM CB Radio for most outdoor adventures. If you're a long haul truck driver who already uses CB the new FM CB mode will come in handy when noise is a problem. Otherwise GMRS is still the way to go for a fixed-mount radio setup for recreational use.What happens if you don't get your GMRS license? ›
As long as you do not operate on the GMRS channels, or operate at the higher power settings, then, it is legal to possess the device and transmit on the FRS channels at under 2 watts. The license requirement is for the operator, not for the device.Is a GMRS license worth it? ›
GMRS offers some of the benefits of ham radio, like higher transmit power and the use of repeaters, but the equipment is simpler and cheaper. You need a license to use GMRS, but it only requires a small fee, not a test, and the license covers your entire immediate family.Can civilians own encrypted radios? ›
This technology is not allowed on CB, FRS, GMRS or MURS, and even if you do still see radios with this feature available for sale online, they are not legal for use in the US.How do I encrypt a voice recording? ›
First off, locate your required audio file within your computer system. Right-click on this, or press and hold, and select 'properties' from the options which appear. Then, select the 'advanced' tab and tick the 'encrypt contents to secure data' box.What does encrypted radio sound like? ›
In this form, radio sounds exactly like radio. It can be a human voice that reads numbers, or Morse code, or telex, or whatever. Cellular telephony does this, using modems; and the encrypted signal may be inaudible because it's often not modulated with frequencies available to the human ear.What walkie talkie can I use without a license? ›
Businesses may use FRS, MURS, DLR, and DTR series two way radios without the need for an FCC License.Can I use FRS and GMRS without a license? ›
The FRS is authorized 22 channels in the 462 MHz and 467 MHz range, all of which are shared with General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) which requires an individual license for use. FRS is licensed by rule. This means an individual license is not required to operate an FRS radio provided you comply with the rules.What is the most commonly used GMRS channel? ›
- GMRS – FRS channels 8-14.
- GMRS – FRS channels 1-7.
- Channels 15-22 are used as the output frequency of long-range repeaters, which can boost your GMRS signal over a very large area.
- Midland MXT575 instructions for changing power level.
Motorola Solutions Talkabout T460 rechargeable two-way radio walkie talkie is great for outdoor activities covering a wide span of distance and terrain like camping and hiking. It can cover a distance of about 35 miles in open mountains, 6 miles in open water and about 2 miles when used in the neighbourhood areas.
How many watts can you transmit without a license? ›
The minimum power for a standard FM broadcast station which a construction permit applicant may request is 100 watts (0.100 kilowatts).Do truckers use GMRS or CB? ›
For the most part, CB radios remain in use because they are the norm for truckers who have been working in the industry for the last 10 or 20+ years. While some truckers have resorted to using trucking apps on smartphones to communicate, more advanced radio systems offer a more ideal route.