5 Things To Consider When Entering The World Of Two-Way Radios.

If you have decided that two-way radios are the way to go for your business, there are many factors to consider before you make your choice on what to get. There are thousands of different options available to the consumers and it is important that you consider the requirements of your business as all the variations of options will better suit some people than others.

We wish we could say that there is an easy ‘one-stop’ radio that will make your choice easy, but unfortunately that is not the case. In this article we will look further into the differences and meanings of licenced VS unlicenced, digital VS analogue, VHF VS UHF and more! It is important that the time is taken to consider the sites requirements as well as the environment to ensure you have the best possible experience with your new radios.

Compatibility

Talking To Each Other

The first thing you need to consider if you are looking to get two-way radios is do you already have any? If the answer is no, then you can skip this step – but remember you’ll need to do this the second time you buy.

If the answer is yes, then you must consider what you already have existing and if you would like your current radios to be compatible with your new. The important consideration is – do you have analogue or digital. If your existing radios are analogue, for your new ones to be compatible, you must stay with analogue.

Analogue radios will only communicate with other analogue radios. The exception to this is – some digital radios do have the capability to operate in analogue OR digital mode. The downside of this being you will have to pay the digital price, but only benefitting from the analogue features.

For some people with analogue systems existing, they may decide to completely swap their system over to digital as they prefer the radios. But this can be an expensive task depending on how many radios you may already own.

Programming

The second thing to consider when looking at your new radios is their programming. All radios must be programmed the same in order to communicate with each other. The easiest way to ensure that this goes as smoothly as possible is to stay with your radio provider if you are happy with them. They should have all your programming on file, so any new radios you buy can be linked up.

It is possible for other providers to program your radios the same, however it may come at an additional cost for them to read your existing radio for its programming, and in some case, if the radios are security protected, they might not be able to get the programming off at all.

Digital VS Analogue

Traditionally, analogue systems have dominated the scene for the two-way radio world, however more recently digital systems have been coming into the market and taking over. As with every aspect of technology that evolves, there are those who believe new technology is always better, but there are others who believe the traditional tried and tested methods are the way forwards. Like every conflict of opinion, there always valid reasons on both sides of the argument. It’s my job now to explain both sides, pros and cons, to help you decide which is better for your needs.

There is the argument to be made that analogue radios have come to the end of their growing capabilities in regards to voice communications, where as digital radios are advancing with each passing product. Here’s what to consider when it comes to analogue or digital.

Power

Analogue radios draw more power than digital. This generally means a lower battery life. Digital radios however are more efficient with how they draw their power, so the battery life is much longer.

This does not mean the analogue radios are more powerful though. 1 digital watt can be equal to that of 4 analogue watts.

Signal

The way in which each radio transmits and receives communications is also different.

Analogue radios use continuous sine waves, which can struggle to penetrate obstacles such as trees or buildings. Digital radios use processed signals which convert sound waves into mathematical bits and have the ability to produce up to 20% more coverage.

However, a lot of people find that whilst they may get more coverage with digital radios, as soon as they reach the bounds of their range, the radios cut out completely and there is no warning. Analogue however will continue to attempt to deliver the communications, although crackly and illegible.

You are probably thinking that an illegible sound is pointless, which, in itself, it is. However, what it does do it alert you that someone is attempting to contact you whilst out of range, so you can know to either move to an area with range, or return the message later. With digital cutting completely off, you have no idea if someone is trying to give you some information.

Audio

This sound quality differs on these to radio systems as well. Digital radios feature real-time processing which produces a clearer speech, whereas analogue radios are a lot less tolerant of external noise which is why the receiver may often hear ‘white-noise’ through the transmissions.

However, a lot of people describe the analogue voice as much ‘warmer’ and like talking to a real human, rather than the digitized/robotic sound of a digital radio.

Innovative Features

As with all new technology, their capabilities of additional features are forever growing. Digital radios have a much more extensive range of innovative features that may affect your decision when taking time to consider your needs.

Features such as texting, GPS tracking, private calling, man-down and lone-worker are just some of the extras that could be available for your radio.

However, these do of course mean that the price of a radio drastically increases. Depending on your needs and requirements, it is worth considering if you actually need all the embellishments. A man-down feature is good for construction or site workers who may be out of sight. If they were to fall, the radio will detect the sudden angle tilt and notify the relevant channels. Although this may not be necessary for a school environment.

Licenced VS Unlicenced

Radio licences in the UK are supplied and regulated by Ofcom. Typically speaking, a licenced radio is eight times more powerful than a licence free radio, this power is only legal to use with the licence. They are often a good choice for sites that are large and need extra coverage or for businesses who want the added security as no-one else can legally hear your conversations.

Ofcom have different kind of licences for radios, the most common being a Technically Assigned Licence – 1year or a Simple UK Licence – 5 years.

Privacy

Radios can only communicate by being on the same frequency as each other. Any radios that you purchase or hire from Maximon Solutions will all be programmed the same, if they have multiple channels, these will differ slightly to allow multiple lines of communications. However, the downside of a licence free radio, is that anyone else in the area may be able to get on the same frequency and hear what you are saying or cause interference that will affect your sound quality.

By obtaining a licence through Ofcom (which we can do for you), you can be provided with your own frequency which means no-one else can legally hear what you are saying. This is important to many schools and health-care sites as they operate under strict safe-guarding and confidentiality policies.

Range

Licences allow you to have a more powerful radio which will help increase the range you are able to communicate to. This is good for larger sites but not always necessary for smaller sites. If you are not sure on your coverage area, Maximon Solutions has demo’s so you can see if a licenced free radio would be adequate.

First Use

The benefit of having a licence free radio is that they can be used straight away. This is great if you need a communications solution immediately for an emergency, or if you only need them for a one-off event. There is no need to wait for the licence application to be approved.

You need to wait to use a licenced radio as they application must go through, and then the radios need to be programmed according to the information provided by Ofcom.

Cost

It is important to consider whether the extra costs in having a licenced radio are out-weighed by the benefits. Not only is there the cost of the licence itself to consider, but the radios themselves can also be more expensive due to the added features that come with the radio. For some people, the added range and security is worth it.

VHF VS UHF

VHF stands for Very High Frequency. Radios in this mode have a longer wave length so are able to travel further. However, they don’t penetrate buildings as well as UHF. They are better suited to outdoors environments like golf clubs or marine communications.

UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency. These radios will operate at a higher end of the frequency. They are much better at penetrating obstacles like buildings and trees. They are a good choice for in-door spaces like schools or built-up areas like a construction site.

It is important to consider the ‘make-up’ of your site. Is it wide and open, or more closed off with different building floors and walls.

Style

It may seem like an unproductive aspect to consider when looking into two-way radios, however the style and design of your radios can play into the suitability for your radios.

Two-way radios come in various shapes and size. It is worth taking into consideration if they need to be a certain size to perhaps fit into work trousers or tool belt. The weight of the product. Do they need to be discreet in order to maintain a professional look in a restaurant? Or just general personal preference. It is important that you are happy with the visible outcome of your radio, as well as its practicality and suitability.

Consider different styles of radios

Adesso Trek, Motorola DP2400e, Pronto -P-9200D, Icom IC-F1000T, Adesso WT-3100, Kenwood NX-3320E2.

There are a few things that should be considered when entering the world of two-way radios. It is important that you are happy with the radios you have for your business or site and that they meet all your needs.

If you have any queries regarding what to consider when getting two-way radios or you have any questions, please do get in contact with Maximon Solutions and we will do our best to get the right product to you.

Happy Communicating!

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