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Purchasing two-way radios for commercial or personal use can prove to be a wise investment for anyone wanting a reliable cost-effective communication system. BUT, the decision as to which radio is right for you requires careful consideration.Operating environments vary greatly from one consumer to the next and there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ approach when choosing ‘the best’ radio. While they can be pricey, two-way radios are a very useful and cost-effective piece of kit to have in your communication armoury.

oil refineries, chemical plants and flour mills) where the presence of inflammable gases or explosive dust creates a danger for any normal radio or electrical equipment then you need to consider ATEX radios

Before breaking out the cheque book, you need to consider:Frequency: UHF or VHF?It is essential to understand the frequency differences on offer so that communication is reliable and as interference free as possible depending on the environment the radios operate in. VHF, or Very High Frequency, operates on frequencies in the 136 Mhz – 174 Mhz range and are typically best suited for use outside on open land or rolling hills with few trees.UHF, or Ultra High Frequencies operate on frequencies in the 450 Mhz – 470 Mhz range and are generally more popular than VHF because they offer better range inside steel or concrete structures and crowded inner-city areas.Licenced or Licenced-Free?The choice between whether to invest in licenced or licence-free radios largely depends on three factors: budget, operating environment and security. Licence-free (PMR-446) radios operate on 8 general channels and share the frequencies with every other PMR-446. The only downfall with is that in certain instances anybody within range of you using a PMR446 radio has the potential to listen in to your conversation or interfere with your signal. Licence-free radios require no licence, no network, no call fees and no contract. They are an ideal cost-effective entry-level radios for anyone wanting to operate within line of sight up to approx. 3km of range.

VHF, or Very High Frequency, operates on frequencies in the 136 Mhz – 174 Mhz range and are typically best suited for use outside on open land or rolling hills with few trees

Licenced radios usually offer increased features and improved communication with larger range and less interference. Frequencies are allocated on a case-by-case basis and can cost anything from £75-£200 depending on the operating environment (i.e. rural, urban, inner-city).

However, digital radios are more complicated, must be designed and programmed to the same standard to be compatible with one another and considerably more expensive

Licenced radios are more suited towards business use and offers additional security, making it difficult for people to listen in on the conversation.Analogue or Digital?Digital or analogue simply determines the way the radio signal is transmitted and received. Analogue radios are less complex than digital radios and have a better ability to communicate in cases where a received signal is weak or noisy. However, analogue operation only enables one conversation at a time on each channel.Digital mobile radio (DMR) is a method of digitising speech and transmitting it over radio waves, whereas analogue equipment uses ‘audible speech’, digital radios ‘digitise’ the speech similar to how a mobile phone does; allowing uninterrupted two-way conversation.Users of digital radios benefit from improved speech quality, greater security, direct calling, more channels, stronger range, text messaging longer battery life. However, digital radios are more complicated, must be designed and programmed to the same standard to be compatible with one another and considerably more expensive.Channels requiredThe number of channels available on two-way radios varies with each model. If all your employees need to communicate with each other, then one channel works well. However, if you operate a business such as a hotel, you’ll want multiple channels. Then your kitchen, housekeeping, and valet service each can stay in touch on one channel with security and hotel management on another channel.You need to determine how many different departments will be communicating among themselves and across departments when deciding how many channels your radios need.Environment You need to consider the environment the radio is required to operate in. If radio communication is required in potentially hazardous environments (i.e. oil refineries, chemical plants and flour mills) where the presence of inflammable gases or explosive dust creates a danger for any normal radio or electrical equipment then you need to consider ATEX radios. ATEX approved or Intrinsically Safe (IS) radios are designed to prevent the possibility of sparks being generated by high electric fields and intermittent electrical connections etc.If the radio is likely to be submersed in water or operated in damp and dusty environments for any considerable period of time then you need to consider selecting a radio with an IP rating of 66 or above. This ensures that the equipment is protected (to varying degrees) against dust and water intrusion.ConclusionThere are many different factors which determine the radio that’s best for you. As well as the factors above, there are many features which also need to be considered such as Man Down, GPS, Lone Worker, Voice Activation (VOX) etc.It is fairly easy to identify the type of radio required but more difficult to pin down the exact make and model that is most suited to your needs without testing in the operating environment. Many radio companies offer free on-site demonstrations and testing and also have radios which are available for hire.This can be an ideal opportunity to try before you buy and is definitely advised before making a substantial investment.

What now? Professional Two-Way Radio Advice.Claire Davies is responsible for online communications at Zycomm Electronics.Zycomm are a leading distributor of Kenwood, Motorola and HYT handheld portable two-way radios (walkie talkies), licenced / licence free radios, mobile vehicle radios, repeater base stations and trunked radio systems.For more information about two-way radios or radio communication in general, please visit http://www.zycomm.co.uk/ or call us on 01773 570123.

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