A two-way radio is a radio that can both transmit and receive (a transceiver), unlike a broadcast receiver which only receives content. A two-way radio (transceiver) allows the operator to have a conversation with other similar radios operating on the same radio frequency (channel). Two-way radios are available in mobile, stationary base and hand-held portable configurations. Hand-held radios are often called walkie-talkies, handie-talkies, or just hand-helds. Two-way radio systems usually operate in a half-duplex mode; that is, the operator can talk, or he can listen, but not at the same time. A push-to-talk or Press To Transmit button activates the transmitter; when it is released the receiver is active. A mobile phone or cellular telephone is an example of a two-way radio that both transmits and receives at the same time (called full-duplex mode). It uses two different radio frequencies (channels) to carry the two directions of the conversation simultaneously.

A trunked radio system is a complex type of computer-controlled two-way radio system that allows sharing of relatively few radio frequency channels among a large group of users. Instead of assigning, for example, a radio channel to one particular organization at a time, users are instead assigned to a logical grouping, a "talkgroup". When any user in that group wishes to converse with another user in the talkgroup, a vacant radio channel is found automatically by the system and the conversation takes place on that channel. Many unrelated conversations can occur on a channel, making use of the otherwise idle time between conversations. Each radio transceiver contains a microcomputer to control it. A control channel coordinates all the activity of the radios in the system. The control channel computer sends packets of data to enable one talkgroup to talk together, regardless of frequency.

The primary purpose of this type of system is efficiency; many people can carry many conversations over only a few distinct frequencies. Trunking is used by many government entities to provide two-way communication for fire departments, police and other municipal services, who all share spectrum allocated to a city, county, or other entity.