EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › EpicSki Community › International Zone › Walkie Talkies in Europe
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Walkie Talkies in Europe

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I looked into the topic of two-way radios, also known as walkie talkies, or personal communicators, for Europe, and since I didn't find another topic on this on this site, I am posting this for the benefit of travelers to Europe. I am not an expert on this, so please correct any mistakes I may make.

The intended audience for this note is people inNorth America who are traveling to Europe to ski, and would like to have the same convenience their radios provice at home in Europe.

Walkie talkies made for the FRS (Family Radio Service) regulation are very popular in North America, not just for skiing, but also at shopping malls, theme parks, sporting events, hunting, fishing, and for many other outdoor activities. They are inexpensive, good quality, reliable, and easy to use. They are remarkably good at long ranges. Power is limited to 1/2 Watt (500 mW). They operate in the UHF spectrum using frequency modulation (FM). Range varies according to terrain and obstructions, and is maximally 1/2 to 2 miles (1 to 3 km). FRS is legally used in Canada and Mexico, as well as the U.S.


There are also many radios available that operate according to the GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) regulations, that allow for more channels and more power. Power is the the interesting part. GMRS allows up to 50 Watts, but walkie talkies are commonly and inexpensively available in the 1 to 5 Watt range. This greatly extends range over the 1/2 Watt of FRS. GMRS requires a license, 'though I believe this is largely ignored. Canada allows GMRS up to 2 Watts, fixed antennas (non-removable) only. No GMRS is allowed in Mexico.

None of these radios are permitted for use in Europe. The only direct conflict that I am aware of is with the UK Fire Brigade frequencies. Many tourists apparently bring their FRS/GMRS radios to Europe on vacation and are delighted a the lack of competing traffic in this band.

Many countries in the EU, including Austria, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland allow use of radios that conform with PMR446 (Personal Mobile Radio, 446 MHz), that is the EU's answer to FRS/GMRS. Many of the same radios available in the US are available in PMR446 versions. They are not interoperable or compatible. Power is limited to 1/2 Watt, fixed antenna.

Conclusions:

You can use your FRS/GMRS radios in Europe, illegally, with, I guess, little chance of enforcement.

You can buy PMR446 radios when you get there. They can be used in the US, illegally (unless you have an Amateur Radio license), but given the relative prices, you're better off here with the higher power GMRS radio.

Here are some useful links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_Radio_Service
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GMRS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PMR446

Traveling with PMR446:

http://www.geocities.com/euro446/travels.html

A discussion (argument) of FRS/GMRS use in Europe:

http://www.frommers.com/cgi-bin/WebX?128@@.ef2f399
post #2 of 18
Well don't expect to catch your flight home if you get caught - especially if you're sharing frequencies with the emergency services.

I suggest you live without them or budget say $50 on a twin-pack of PMR446 radios.

FYI, 27MHz CB radios can now be used here in the UK without a licence - but I'm not sure about the rest of Europe. They should have a much better range.
post #3 of 18
I went to Austria one year, and my friends brought FRS radios. We found that they were completely useless because so many other people alos had them. We could never find an open channel. Another year, I brought my VHFs, no problemo there.
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post
I went to Austria one year, and my friends brought FRS radios. We found that they were completely useless because so many other people alos had them. We could never find an open channel. Another year, I brought my VHFs, no problemo there.
Curious - what kind of VHF radio did you bring?
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by altis View Post
Well don't expect to catch your flight home if you get caught - especially if you're sharing frequencies with the emergency services.

I suggest you live without them or budget say $50 on a twin-pack of PMR446 radios.

FYI, 27MHz CB radios can now be used here in the UK without a licence - but I'm not sure about the rest of Europe. They should have a much better range.
Well, that's just the point - get caught by whom?

I don't intend to break any rules, but for those who do, I'm not sure many will be using an FRS/GMRS radio on a ski trip to the UK! That's the only place I'm aware of a direct two way communications conflict. In other places, Austria and Switzerland in particular, I guess that there isn't any active enforcement, just as in the US, only partly because there isn't any conflict (that I know of) with public service radio applications. In addition, the European market PMR446 radios from the major makers are identical in appearance to their US FRS/GMRS cousins, so you can't tell by inspection if its a legal one or not.

I don't get your comment about range regarding 27Mhz CB radios. They require a longer antenna, are limited to 4 Watts. They also use AM, so are more susceptible to static than the FRS UHF/FM radios. UHF allows efficient use of a much smaller antenna. Finally, I don't think you can purchase a CB radio that is comparable to common FRS radios in the general retail market, if at all. CB is passe.
post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by jviss View Post
Curious - what kind of VHF radio did you bring?
Vertex Standard
post #7 of 18
Quote:
I'm not sure many will be using an FRS/GMRS radio on a ski trip to the UK!
post #8 of 18
More details about the de-regulation of 27MHz CB radio in the UK here:
http://www.ofcom.org.uk/radiocomms/i...binfosheet.pdf

Note that European CB radios are subtly different to those in the US. They use narrow band FM not AM. Apparently, this is to reduce the amount of interference to other radio users.

PMR446 radios are virtually line-of-sight because of the high frequency (446MHz) used and the limit of 0.5W. On the other hand CB radios use 27MHz at up to 4 Watts. There's more power to start with and the lower frequency is much better at 'bending' round obstacles.

Yes, it's true that CB radios are bulky and passe - but they needn't be that bulky and they'll do a much better job for you. Eg:
http://www.thunderpole.co.uk/midland_42_plus.htm
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by altis View Post
More details about the de-regulation of 27MHz CB radio in the UK here:
http://www.ofcom.org.uk/radiocomms/i...binfosheet.pdf

Note that European CB radios are subtly different to those in the US. They use narrow band FM not AM. Apparently, this is to reduce the amount of interference to other radio users.

PMR446 radios are virtually line-of-sight because of the high frequency (446MHz) used and the limit of 0.5W. On the other hand CB radios use 27MHz at up to 4 Watts. There's more power to start with and the lower frequency is much better at 'bending' round obstacles.

Yes, it's true that CB radios are bulky and passe - but they needn't be that bulky and they'll do a much better job for you. Eg:
http://www.thunderpole.co.uk/midland_42_plus.htm
That's interesting, thanks, but I don't think I'll be buying a set (perhaps four) relatively expensive UK/Europe CB radios for a seven to ten day ski trip.

I know about the line of sight range issue at higher frequencies, but my practical experience with the .5 Watt FRS radios at Mont Tremblant is much better than that - we found they worked very well from inside slopeside condos out to the slopes, base and peaks. THe only big issue was congestion and pranksters.

An "illegal" US 1 Watt GMRS blister pack radio, readily available, cheap, using three AA alkaline cells is probably the best bet - except, it's illegal. The PMR446 equivalent, if you could get near a discount store in Europe to grab a coupe, woul dbe good, but a "waste," for a US visitor. I checked eBay, including a couple of European eBay sites (Swiss and German) and found that there are indeed inexpensive PMR446 walkie-talkie sets available in the under $50 per pair price category (just barely), including the Albrecht Tectalk Easy and the Motorola T4512. I may get a set of these after doing some searching for reviews.
post #10 of 18
You could try RS Components - an electronic component distributer:
h**p://uk.rs-online.com/web/

They have the Motorola T4502 twin pack on offer at £12.45 + VAT until the end of April. Search for order code 500-6249 and use promotion code MDC11P.

I know what you mean about congestion and pranksters. I bothered to take my PMR446 radios to Austria once skiing. I found the range disappointing and all I seemed to listen to all day were Brits going "Mayday, Mayday" or broadcasting their favourite music - prats! At least with CB there's more channels for them to spread over.

Alternatively, use your mobile phone - but ensure it's tri-band first. Most resorts are covered well. Yes the calls will be relatively expensive but there's no capital outlay and you don't have to listen to everybody else.
post #11 of 18
In Europe we just use our Mobile Phones
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stanton View Post
In Europe we just use our Mobile Phones
Well, I hope that works out well for you. For a visiting American its not practical.

At home, I've found the cell phone coverage hit or miss at ski resorts, and I prefer the convenience of a walkie talkie,. In fact, Sprint became popular with their cell-based walkie talkie service, so I guess I am not alone.

In Canada we US citizens can get burned on high rates. You can get an International plan with Verizon for an extra $4/month which drops the rates from $.49 to $.09 per minute. Fortunately, the infrastructure is the same.

Traveling to Europe, you'd need a phone that works there ( a US "tri-band" phone is good), and then you're faced with a jumble of rates and charges. The default seems to be to charge for a call as if it was coming from your US home area, then charge network access charges on top of that.

An economical alternative is to have a European phone and buy a prepaid SIM card.

In the end, a rogue US walkie talkie that one already owns is the most expeditious, albeit technically illegal alternative. A PMR446 walkie is perhaps the most cost effective legal alternative if one anticipates much communication.
post #13 of 18
jviss, when Markxs and Lisamarie came to ski Switzerland we got in touch via mobile phone.
When I'm heading to Made, I usually ring up Prickly, usually while I'm on the slopes...
Phone cell signal coverage is also good to acceptable nearly everywhere (Italians are notoriously cell phone addicted)
Usually all mid to high end cell phones are tri band (at least here in Europe) like the Nokia 6151 (the one I have). A prepaid SIM is inexpensive and a good alternative. You'll be able to get in touch with people from home as well all in one device.
Still, walkie talkie (or a better device) are used by rescue teams and guides to communicate.
But if you've got a cell phone and an Italian sim you can have the same results by dialing 118 or 112 or 113 (Rescue, Carabinieri and Police respectively). They'll ask your phone number and name and call you back
(apparently to be sure it's not someone trolling)...at least that's what happened in the two occasions we had to call in rescue for people with broken bones...
post #14 of 18

Legal in EU

Hello,

I use a set of Mororola Motorola T5022 walkie talkies. They are legal within the EU.

They have a ringe of 5km.




Greetz, DBF
post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by altis View Post
At least with CB there's more channels for them to spread over.
The not quite so cheap PMR446 sets have 8 channels and 38 subchannels (using CTCSS - Continuous Tone Code Squelch System). Which is effectively 304 channels. CB is only 40 as I recall.
post #16 of 18
^ ya
post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by jviss View Post
That's interesting, thanks, but I don't think I'll be buying a set (perhaps four) relatively expensive UK/Europe CB radios for a seven to ten day ski trip.
So, jviss... how much is you 7 day ski trip to europe costing you? I'm just wondering, if $50 is relatively expensive...

Here's the deal. For a single trip you don't need to buy Mortorola or one of the big brands. I bought a cheap pair about 5 years ago and use them every winter in the mountiains and every summer at the beach - my kids play with them the rest of the year and they're still going strong.

You can buy a pair of PMR radios in a supermarket in the UK for less than £15 (and that's including tax). I'm sure there are similar deals in the supermarkets in the alpine countries, or even in the airport duty free stores if you're stopping off on the way through. For that sort of money, you'd hardly get four cups of coffee on the mountain.

We have both US & European sets and try, as far as possible, to use the correct set for the country we're in. If you want to stay legal, that's the way to go. What you REALLY don't want is a grumpy Gendarme lifting you off the mountain by the scruff of your neck. That would sure spoil your trip!

Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy your visit to our side of the Atlantic :-)

CW
post #18 of 18
come on, to suggest using Cell phones in the mountain is really primitive. it doenst compare with two way radios. your hands could freeze when you take it out of the glove, press the keys or pick an incoming phone call. 2-way radios are faster to speak and operate. who think they are comparable has never tried the motorolas before.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: International Zone
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › EpicSki Community › International Zone › Walkie Talkies in Europe