close menu
Home  //  Power Level
Power level - What is the proper wattage for your setting.

What is the difference in walkie-talkie wattage?

Most handheld two-way radios on the market today use between 0.5-5 watts of power to broadcast a signal. Some business radios are designed to run on slightly more power - between 1-5 watts depending on the model. In general, a higher wattage allows for greater range. This drives up the price of the handset, but also increases the capabilities of the unit. Current FRS models of walkie-talkies broadcast at 0.5 watts. Many of those also broadcast in GMRS frequencies at 1 watt. FRS/GMRS radio users will need an FCC license, if their radios are used on the GMRS band.

When shopping for a walkie-talkie or two-way radio system, you may see something labeled "peak wattage" on the packaging. Peak wattage refers to the highest possible wattage for that radio, even though it may not reflect its actual, consistent operating power. A radio running at 1 consistent watt will, in some circumstances, perform better than a radio rated to 5 watts of peak power. All radios listed on TechWholesale.com are discussed in terms of consistent operating power. This makes it easier to find a radio that will meet your needs and that will perform up to your expectations.

Typically, a 1-watt walkie-talkie with an average number of obstructions in its path yields about a mile of coverage. Range increases by approximately 30-50 percent if you double the power. So, a 2-watt walkie-talkie might broadcast within a range of 1.5 miles; 3 watts = 2 miles; 4 watts = 2.5 miles; 5 watts = 3 miles; and so on. Actual distances may vary widely based on weather, UHF vs. VHF, etc. But these are good, general rules of thumb to go by when shopping for a new radio system.

However, things can get a little complicated depending on where you plan to broadcast from. For example, a 1-watt walkie-talkie broadcasting from a high vantage point (think radio tower on the top of a hill) could easily broadcast 10 miles if unobstructed. A lot depends the lay of the land and you should take this into consideration when choosing a new two-way radio system.

For consistent coverage in most situations, a 1-watt radio should be just find. This type of radio will work within a single building with an average number of obstructions or solid walls or outdoors with coverage of a mile or less. If you'll be talking between buildings or for up to 2 miles outdoors, then you'll want to buy 2-watt radios. Four and five watt radios cover still greater distances outdoors and between 350,000 square feet or 30 floors indoors. Beyond that, you'll need the help of a repeater, a mobile unit, or a base station to communicate further. If you need help figuring out which radio, repeater or base station you need for your particular situation, please don't hesitate to contact us.

When shopping for a walkie-talkie or setting up your new communication system, please try to keep in mind that there may be "soft spots" in coverage. A soft spot means that you may get great coverage in a building complex with a 1-watt UHF radio, but there may be trouble between the basements of building A and building C. If this is the case, and those locations are important, increasing your wattage may help. Considering the relatively low incremental cost of stepping up your wattage, it is generally best to review several radio types and purchase a little more wattage than you think you will actually need, just to ensure complete coverage in all situations.

Again, communication may happen at much greater distances than what we've stated here, but not on a consistent basis due to obstructions, weather changes, and so on. The key is to find the proper power level for your needs and get as close to 100 percent coverage as possible in your setting.