The use of radio transmitters in the UK (whether walkie-talkies, vehicle radios, base stations or broadcast radio stations) is governed by Ofcom (full title "Office of Communications") which is a government regulatory authority.
Most countries have some government agency in charge of who can use what radio frequencies. This is necessary to ensure that different organisations can use radio communications effectively without interfering with each other.
The UK government allows small, low-powered handheld radios that use a set of eight frequencies in the UHF band (around 446Mhz) to be sold and used without the need for any licencing. They may be used for both business and personal / leisure purposes.
Radios that meet this standard (usually called "PMR446" radios) can only have a power output of 0.5 watts, which means that their range is less than the more powerful licensable business walkie-talkies, that have power outputs of 4 to 5 watts.
This standard for licence-free radios is the same across the European Union so radios that comply with it can be use anywhere within the EU without problems.
Use of more powerful radios (up to 5 watts for handheld radios, and up to 25 watts for vehicle radios and "base stations") requires some sort of a licence.
Licenced handheld walkie-talkies can have 5 watts power output, but "licence-free" PMR446 radios can only have ½ watt power output, so the licenced radios will have a better range and better signal penetration in buildings.
This licence is effectively a licence to use the more powerful radios anywhere in the United Kingdom, using a set of frequencies that are shared by all users of this licence. This licence is quick and easy to apply for, costs £75 per organisation, and is valid for five years.
It is ideal for most users of business radios, and is the only choice for those who need to be able to use their radios anywhere in the UK.
This licence gives you a specific frequency or frequencies allocated just for your organisation's use within a set geographical location. The cost of the licence varies from fairly cheap in most areas of the UK, with the cost rising in major cities, especially London, where there is very high demand for radio frequencies.
Radios set to use frequencies allocated under this type of licence must not be used elsewhere, so this licence is only suited to radio use in one fixed location.
This is the type of licence that we hold, being a company selling and hiring radio equipment.
It allows us to do short-term radio hire using a set of frequencies allocated for radio hire companies, and also to provide "demo" radio equipment to potential customers using a set of allocated frequencies, and to carry out repairs to radio equipment.
When we hire out radio equipment, it is hired using our licence, so that the hirer does not need to worry at all about licencing issues.
Applications can be made online at Ofcom's web site.