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Radio Channels - A complete description.

How do I select a channel for my two-way radio?

Channels are a way to partition a two-way radio so that its user can communicate with multiple people without everyone talking over each other and having to worry about who talks when. Imagine the chaos if there were no phone numbers and everyone just picked up the phone and started talking! Of course, there aren't as many two-way radio channels or frequencies as there are phone numbers, so walkie-talkie users have to make some adjustments, but there are dozens and dozens of possible frequencies from which to choose. Users select from the frequencies available to them, and lock it into partitions called "channels." In a typical 4-channel two-way radio two-way radio, the user has 4 possible channels to tune to frequencies for the radios in that group. Once clear frequencies are selected, all radios in the group would choose the same frequencies for the same channel numbers.For instance, in a restaurant, the kitchen staff would be on channel 1, the waiters on channel 2, the car valets on channel 3, and maintenance on channel 4. The manager could scan between all channels to hear everything that is going on. The waiters could set the radios to only tune to channels 1 and 2 so that they hear only other waiters and the kitchen staff, but not the unneeded talk from the valets or maintenance staff.

Before shipping, all radios of a brand and model are typically set to the same frequencies and channels in the factory. A common issue with new radio users is that they often use their radios right out of the box with the factory settings for frequency and channel on channel 1 unchanged. Using your new radio without changing the factory set channel frequencies greatly increases the possibility of nearby, similar radios interfering with each other because those users also probably didn't change their factory settings. Your best bet is to review and set your channels to frequencies that are clear of other users in your area as part of your initial radio setup.

In sum, channels are partitions of your radio that you can and should tune to different frequencies. Besides surfing around for a chatter-free frequency, another way to filter out other people's broadcasts uses "privacy codes."

Privacy Codes? These are otherwise known as Interference Elimination Codes Privacy Line Codes (PL), Tone, Squelch Codes, Quiet Talk Codes (QT), or Interference Elimination Codes. There are more than a few names for them in the two-way radio industry. Privacy code is the most common name, but interference elimination code would be more accurate. Though they greatly reduce the odds of your conversation getting stepped on by someone else's broadcasts, they don't guarantee privacy.

How do I select a channel for my two-way radio?

To communicate using privacy codes, you and the person you're talking with must have your radios set to the same frequency and the same privacy code. For example, set both radios to frequency 462.5625, privacy 13. Depending on the type of radio you buy (analog or digital) you may have access to between 38-121 privacy codes.

Multiply the number of privacy codes available for your radio by the number of frequencies allotted to the type of radio service you use and you'll have anywhere from 500 to 3,000 or more chances to have an uninterrupted conversation! Just remember that privacy codes increase your odds of not being interrupted, but they don't guarantee it. If someone within range has their walkie-talkie set to the same frequency and the same privacy code as yours, they could hear and join in your conversation. With so many frequencies and privacy codes the odds are against this happening, but it is still a possibility. If someone has their radio set to the same frequency but not the same privacy code, they will be able to hear your conversation, but they won't be able to join in. Analog two-way radio privacy codes range from 1-38. In general, manufacturers use them in a standardized way allowing for radio compatibility across brands.

Digital two-way radio privacy codes are numbered starting at 39 and can go as high as 99, 121, or higher. However, digital privacy codes don't always map across manufacturers, so your digital two-way radios with digital codes may not be able to communicate using privacy codes with radios made by other manufacturers.

Quick Summary: Channels are partitions of your radio that you tune to different frequencies that you can then subdivide, for more potential lines of communication, by using privacy codes.