Can Walkie Talkies Communicate With CB Radios?

If you had walkie talkies as a kid, you probably played at being police, spies or truckers because they all use portable radios, or something like them anyhow. While it’s great fun to pretend when you’re young, you’ll need to know the actual capabilities and limitations of your gear as a prepared adult. What can those little walkie talkies really do? It’s always better to have gear that can multitask so it cuts down on what you need to carry.

Can walkie talkies communicate with CB radios? The term “Walkie-Talkie,” is a very generic term,” it only gives an overview of a group, not the individual specifics. Handheld radios operate on different frequencies. Some absolutely do not work in the range needed to talk to or hear on a CB, but others are designed to do exactly that. These radios are usually called Handheld CBs, but not always.

How Do Different Walkie Talkies Work

The specific frequency range, the band, your radio operates on determines the type. As mentioned, “Walkie Talkie,” is actually a slang term for handheld two-way radios. Portable radios, which transmit and receive, are known by several names. However, in the US, it is the same product whatever you may choose to call it. Some radios require licensing, such as the GMRS and HAM, while most do not.

The only serious difference between portable radios are the channels or frequency they are designed and authorized to use. Obviously, cosmetic looks of the radios themselves also vary widely. For the most part, if it is portable and you can stick it in your pocket, it’s a “Walkie Talkie.”

AM vs FM

Radio communication exists through an ingenious combination of high and low frequency use. A quick and dirty explanation is: Modulating between the carrier signal (high) and the message signal (low) allows a message signal to travel over long distances without scrambling the signal.

AM

Amplitude modulation was first used in the 1870s. Therefore, AM is the older and simpler form of radio. AM works in KHz and uses less power. Unfortunately, it is also more susceptible to interference. On the plus side, AM signals travel further.

FM

Discovered in the 1930s by Edwin Armstrong, FM is the clearer signal. It functions in the MHz spectrum and uses more power. Additionally, the circuits required are more complex. Limiting the range gives a more consistent good reception and the complex circuits check the signal at the other end.

As you can see, there are advantages to both AM and FM depending on what you need to use them for. Naturally, these extremely short explanations don’t cover the entire subject. Hopefully, this demonstrates enough of the basic differences to help you understand where to begin. Radio is a complex subject, but operating one isn’t that difficult.

Radio Varieties

The first handheld radio was a portable AM by Motorola. It was called the Handi Talkie. Perhaps, without being crass, this goes a long way toward understanding why a portable radio is called a walkie talkie now. While the inventor certainly had a great idea for a product that anyone could use, he could have chosen a better title for his breakthrough.

Different frequencies have their own names and requirements for use as determined by the FCC. Learn what they are in case you ever have to use an emergency radio that isn’t your own. The list below is a quick reference chart for radio frequency use.

  • General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) – A GMRS is almost identical to FMRS radio (below) with one notable exception: Operating GMRS requires a license. Fortunately, one license covers the whole family without any age restrictions.
  • Private Land Mobile Radio Service (PLMRS) –  Predictably, Business Radio Service or PLMRS, is used by businesses. Often PLMRS is repeater capable. Additionally, many of the features are programmable by the users for greater customization All three varieties, handheld, mobile, and fixed bases are available.
  • Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) – Though more limited in availability, these radios are popular because they tend to have less traffic. The MURS are similar to GMRS and FMRS in most ways, though they tend to be a little hardier and harder to damage.
  • Amateur Radio Service (Ham Radio) –  HAM radio requires a license, though there is no minimum age specification. There are three levels of licensing which determines the frequencies a user has access to. HAM radios are considered a recreational hobby by the FCC. You can get handheld, mobile or fixed base HAM radios.
  • Aviation Service (Air Band) –  Air Band is almost exactly what you’d expect. This type of radio works better at high altitude and is often used for navigation. If you want to fly internationally, you need a license.
  • Marine Radio Service (Marine Band) –  Radios of this type tend to carry further because the signal travels over water. MB is similar to Air Band. You’ll need a license for international travel, but not if you stay within the country. In addition to normal ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship, these frequencies may be used for distress calls.
  • Family Radio Service (FRS) – Typically the FRS and GMRS share frequencies. No special licensing or age restrictions exist to operate these radios. When you think of the walkie talkies of your childhood these are likely exactly what you imagine. The average range is about 2 miles and can be less with interference from structures or natural features.
  • Citizen’s Band Radio Service (CB) – CB radios reached the peak of their popularity in the 1970s. Most people think of long haul truckers when they hear the term CB. In reality, CB is used both as a mobile/vehicle-based radio and as a handheld option. It remains very popular with crowded channels.

What Other Wireless or Radio Devices Are Cross-Compatible

This is one of those simple/difficult issues. Anything designed to pick up or put out radio frequencies could be cross compatible. However, this falls short since not all of them are. As previously mentioned, you have to fall within the right frequency range to hear or send a message.

If the device you are using has the ability to pick up or transmit on a wider band of signals, then your device will communicate with other devices. Some Walkie talkies can hear and chat to CB stations. Likewise, other radio devices sometimes pick up an unexpected signal. Police radios can sometimes pick up baby monitors. In turn, some baby monitors can also hear calls on wireless phones. Wireless tv headsets may intercept a radio signal as well.

This is why kids walkie talkies have channels. Different frequency is like a different phone line. If you’re old enough to remember when the lines on the phone could get crossed then this is an incredibly apropos analogy. Like a kids radio on the wrong channel, just because it can be compatible doesn’t mean it is. Moreover, don’t count on any channel being private.

Avoid Trouble When Possible

With sufficient technical knowledge and parts, you could probably modify most radios for wider compatibility. Anything that picks up or sends out radio waves has the potential to be modified for other uses. Of course, some of those uses are entirely illegal. Be extremely cautious with your radio devices, and as a general rule don’t modify them unless you are aware of and prepared for the consequences.

It goes without saying that in a worst-case scenario like the downfall of modern society, it doesn’t matter if you have a license. Otherwise, stick to the rules to avoid persecution.

Final Thoughts

While a rose by any name is sweet, a walkie talkie by any name is useful. The ability to talk over short or long distances has always been prized. Don’t get your signals crossed over price. Getting what you actually need always costs less, even when the initial investment is more. Having a CB you can’t communicate with is pointless, it’s just dead weight. Make certain your devices are cross-compatible before you get to the checkout.

Being prepared means having the right equipment, not the most equipment. Decide what you need first. Then seek out the equipment that fills that niche, and if possible several others as well. You don’t want a dozen lumps of battery draining plastic sitting in your gear when you can get a clearer signal by shopping a little smarter and paying a little more for three that will do the same job.

Additional Questions

  • Can someone track my walkie talkie? The short answer is yes. It is very difficult to track unless the WT in question has a GPS, which some do. Regardless, there are a couple of ways to trace the source as long as it continues to transmit.
  • Will signal jammers mess up my walkie talkie or other radio? You bet they will. An RF or Radio Frequency disruptor does what it says. It disrupts radio signals. They are effective and they will mess with your radio frequency based equipment.
  • How do I get a better signal on my walkie talkie? For the clearest signal you can get, check your batteries first. A low battery doesn’t transmit as well. You can also upgrade your antenna and acquire a signal repeater to boost your distance. Higher ground and having no physical barriers in the way may also help, but you can’t always help where you’re standing when you need to use a radio.