What’s The Range Of A Walkie Talkie?

by Andrew Hughes – updated: 7th April, 2022

Motorola GP340 Two-Way Radios

We’ve been hiring Motorola radios for several years now, and there are three questions that everyone wants the answer to:

  • how long does the battery last? (Around 8 hours based on average use)
  • how much do they cost? (£12.50 + VAT per week, but big discounts for longer periods)
  • what is their range in km?

The last question is the trickiest one to answer. However rather than giving a typically unhelpful engineer’s response of “how long’s a piece of string?”, Graham, Dan and I have decided to put our radio fleet to the test.

Under perfect conditions

We know that manufaturers claim 8km. Incidentally we have a customer who organises obstacle courses in the Aberdeen area (through muddy bogs incidentally !). He’s reported getting 9km out of our Motorola radios.

Motorola Radios – Digital vs Analogue

As you’re probably aware, the world of 2-way radios is changing. GP340 Motorola Radios had been the industry stalwart for the past 2 decades but all that has change with the introduction of ‘Mototrbo’ technology, which means that technology which was previously only available to emergency services is now available to all users. Motorola’s DP1400 digital radio is their replacement for the old GP340 and we stock them exclusively. The benefits are:

  • longer range (read on!)
  • better battery life
  • increased encription (To put it another way, we estimate it’s a 16 million to 1 chance of someone breaking through onto your channel on one of our radios)
Test Results

We put the range to the test over two parts; in a built-up urban environment, and then in Snowdonia, which offers some of the most wild and open terrain in the British Isles.

First, in town. Using an iPhone to measure the distance between two radios, these are the results:

Area & Conditions: Chiswick / Hammersmith (heavily built up, few low-rise building. Urban terrain). One test radio and one base station, both located on the second floor of an office block.
DP1400 Handheld to DP1400 Handheld: 653metres
DP1400 Handheld to Digital Base Station: 842metres

Having established the range of the new digital walkie talkies in town, we headed off to Snowdnonia to test walkie talkie range in the wild.

We chose a valley between the villages of Rhyd Ddu and Waunfawr, right at the foothills of Snowdon itself. We would describe the terrain as “rugged” – plenty of mountains, smaller hills, boulders and forests.

However it’s worth mentioning that our radios use UHF and stub antennas, because the majority of our hire work is in London. On the one hand, UHF transmits better through buildings. On the other hand, VHF works best in large open spaces. Generally VHF radios would be supplied with taller “whip” antennas, which increase range further.

Area & Conditions: Rural: mountains, smaller hills, boulders and forests. This test was only conducted using two Handheld DP1400 radios (we did not use a base station for this test)
DP1400 Handheld to DP1400 Handheld: 6km (Rhyd Ddu to Betws Garmon)

The radios are very much dependent on local terrain. We were transmitting down a narrow valley between two mountains and the moment one person went behind the line of the mountain, the signal disappeared.

You can see that whilst the terrain plays a key role in how far you cab effectively use the radios, even in a heavily built-up area such as Hammersmith, West London you can still transmit over a decent distance without any fuss at all.

You can find out more about our walkie talkie hire here: radiofacilities.com/walkie-talkie-hire