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Can You Use a Ham Radio as a Walkie-talkie? Is it Legally?

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

can you use a ham radio as a walkie-talkie

Ham or amateur radios provide an alternative mode of communication in an era when smartphones proliferate. Because of its popularity, many people are curious if they can use it for other purposes. For instance, can you use a ham radio as a walkie-talkie?

Yes, it’s possible to use an amateur or ham radio as a walkie-talkie, but it’s one thing we don’t recommend because such conduct is illegal in the US.

Read on to learn more about using ham radios as a walkie-talkie. We’ll also compare the two, so you’ll have a general idea of their similarities and differences.

Why It’s Illegal to Use a Ham Radio as a Walkie-talkie?


A 2-way ham radio and walkie-talkie may both be built for one thing—radio communication, but it doesn’t mean that you can use them interchangeably.

As mentioned in the introduction, yes, you can technically use ham radio to talk to walkie-talkies. Nonetheless, like most things in life, not because you could, you should.

If there’s one thing that’s getting in the way, it is the legality of such an action. Knowing how to use radios legally is important for any operator, even if you’re a newbie.

  1. You cannot use a ham radio without a license. And even if you have one, this does not mean that you can talk to other types of radios, considering walkie-talkie users usually don’t have licenses.
  2. In addition, take note that ham radio is only allowed to operate within specific bands, as allocated by the International Telecommunication Union when you get your license. And if you speak to a walkie-talkie, you’ll be going beyond such bands, which makes the act illegal.
  3. More so, the two are also different in terms of the power they need to operate. Regulations state that walkie-talkies can only have a maximum of 2W of power, whereas most ham radios can transmit 100W—even small handheld devices require 5W to 8W.

Therefore, such is another reason why using ham radios as walkie-talkie is illegal.

What Happens if I Use a Ham Radio as a Walkie-talkie?

There are a couple of things that can happen. First, you might be out of contact range, especially given walkie-talkies’ modest coverage. Plus, they might have entirely different accessible frequencies, so connecting them might be almost impossible.

In the event that the two devices do connect, the connection can be finicky, and only one person can be speaking at a time.

In addition, since you’re technically doing something illegal, there can be legal repercussions. These can vary depending on your location.

The use of radio devices should not violate the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. Otherwise, there’s a possibility of equipment seizure. You might also pay a fine. Worse, there could be civil or criminal charges.

Which Situations Are You Allowed to Use a Ham Radio to Communicate to Walkie-talkie?


The only time when you can connect a walkie-talkie and amateur radio is in the case of an emergency. For instance, such can be when you are stuck in a life-threatening situation and need rescue.

The reason for this is that you can use a ham radio on GMRS frequencies even when there are no cellular networks or phone services. Hence, it’s easy to contact relevant personnel if you need help, such as during a calamity.

Walkie-talkies and Ham Radios: What is the Difference?

Now, to better understand the two, let’s have a quick comparison of ham radio vs walkie-talkie. This can help you determine which one is a better option that suits your needs and preferences.

1. Licensing


The biggest difference between the two is the need for a license. Hams require a license to operate. However, in the case of most walkie-talkies, a license is usually not necessary.

Nonetheless, take note that according to walkie-talkie rules, you need a license to access broader frequencies. These might be suitable for commercial applications.

2. Frequency

Understanding ham radio walkie-talkie frequency is vital in taking advantage of their benefits. The frequency of walkie-talkies is lower at 462.5625 MHz to 467.7250 MHz.

On the other hand, ham radios have allocated frequencies that you can access. It can start from 1.6 MHz to 1,240 MHz. At such a range, you can use ham radio to listen to police frequencies, but most of these are encrypted, so they are inaccessible.

3. Range

In this comparison of ham two-way radio vs walkie-talkie, another important thing to highlight is the distance at which they can communicate. The ham radio range can start from as short as five miles to as long as reaching all over the world, provided that you have the tools.

In most cases, a walkie-talkie can talk within one to two miles. They’re best for short-range communication.

Where to Buy Ham Radio and Get a Ham License?


The best place to buy ham radio is online. It’s a convenient platform that allows a quick comparison of multiple brands and models. Best of all, you can easily read reviews and learn from the real-life experiences of other people.

Meanwhile, to use a ham radio to talk to GMRS and other suitable radios, you’ll need to obtain a license. In this case, you can choose from three license types:

  1. Technician License: This is for beginners. You’ll need to pass a 35-question test. Once licensed, you can access frequencies above 30 MHz.
  2. General License: Once you have the technician license, you can take another 35-question exam, and after passing, you’ll get a general license.
  3. Amateur Extra License: This is for people who want to talk to all bands and modes using their ham radios. You’ll need to pass a 50-question exam and have the two licenses mentioned earlier.

To get any licenses mentioned above, you’ll have to find an ARRL-affiliated radio club or organization. Alternatively, go to the ARRL exam page and enter your zip code. In either case, you’ll get to schedule an exam date and get a license should you pass.


How Does a Ham Radio Work?

Ham radios work by accessing specific bands that are assigned to them, which will depend on the specific type of license you have. Unlike other radios that can broadcast to thousands of listeners, hams communicate only to one user or a network of users in a roundtable.

What Frequency Do Walkie-Talkies Use?

When you use the walkie-talkie as an FRS radio, its frequency ranges from 462.5625 MHz to 467.7250 MHz. However, you can also use it at the same frequencies as a GMRS radio, but doing so will require a license, unlike using it as FRS radio.


In this post, we answered this question – can you use a ham radio as a walkie-talkie?

As mentioned, yes, you can, but you should not due to legal concerns. The only exception to the rule is in an emergency, such as when there’s a power outage, and you need rescuing from a life-threatening situation.

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