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Two-way radio systems are perhaps a little more complicated than they may seem to be at first.  While you can easily use them to connect to people in your team with a few touches of a button, it remains to be said that to get the most out of your equipment, you are going to need to get used to a few different features and facilities.

With this in mind, we’ve written the following FAQs guide for you to help you on your way.  We’ll take a look at some of the most common functions of two-way radios and what you’ll need to bear in mind when it comes to everyday use.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s important you understand how to get the best out of your device!

Don’t suffer in silence!  Read on to learn more about how to understand even some of the more complex features your radio has to offer.  Think of this as your one-stop guide to getting to know your new tech!

How Does My Radio Work?

This is a fairly broad question, but it’s one we can answer.

  • Radio technology allows you to send and receive information via the air.  Think of modern two-way radios as like the walkie-talkies of old.  Only, they are perhaps a little more sophisticated!
  • Generally, modern radios allow you to submit and receive data in one simple unit.  This means you are working with a dual receiver and transmitter combo.
  • Transmitter devices and receiver devices both have their own unique facets and features which enable them to work without complaint.  Dual devices, of course, bring together all of these parts into one neat package!
  • Here’s what you’ll find built into your receiver:
    • An aerial, to receive a signal.
    • An amplifier, to improve the signal so that it can be translated by the unit.
    • A demodulator, which translates the audio from the signal.
    • A further audio amplifier, which ensures the translated audio can be played out to a speaker unit, such as headphones or your hand-held radio.
  • Here’s what you’ll find built into your transmitter:
    • To be able to transmit audio, your radio needs a power source.  Basically, this is either going to be a mains connection or a battery.  In most cases, it’s the latter!
    • An oscillator will help you to generate a signal which can be received at the other end.  You simply have to pick the right frequency.
    • A modulator will allow you to add your message, or data, to your signal.  Modulation can cover a wide amount of ground, though it’s all based around the message you wish to send.
    • An RF amplifier will help to amplify the signal you’re producing.
    • An aerial, the cherry on top, will basically transmit your data into the air.
  • These are the basics to two-way radios, and how they operate – however, as you can imagine, many systems come with more than a few features and functions which are worth reading up on!  Read on to learn more.

How Long Will the Battery in My Radio Last?

This all depends on the type or brand of two-way radio you buy.  Most should allow you to operate without charging for a full eight hours.  However, it’s always recommended that you take a close look at any and all specifications advised before you buy.

Do also be aware that heavy use can impact greatly on how long your radio will last out for.  Keeping your unit on standby will obviously use hardly any power, but speaking constantly will run life down considerably.

Should I Get a Digital or Analogue Radio?  What’s the Difference?

Think of the difference between analogue and digital radios the way you think about analogue and digital clocks, or even back when TV was available in two forms.

  • Analogue radios operate on traditional signals.  This means they work on AM and FM, or Amplitude Modulated and Frequency Modulated signals, respectively.  Older systems will run via analogue signals – many modern devices will be purely digital.
  • Digital models work on a binary model of communication.  This means signals they receive and send are converted into simple 0s and 1s.  Digital radio communication is seen as the standard nowadays as it is clean, efficient and requires little space to work with.
  • However, you can still purchase analogue radio systems.  It’s recommended, however, that you look for a digital model for the best functionality and performance.  Many analogue radios are subject to intense noise and background crackles or hissing.

What Do UHF and VHF Mean?

The difference between UHF and VHF lies in frequency.  While VHF devices can be widely used across expansive spaces, UHF models and modes are best reserved for short-range communication.  But why is this?

  • UHF, or Ultra High Frequency, applies to shorter wavelengths for radio communications.  UHFs fall between 300 and 3000 MHz.  These frequencies are best suited to smaller devices with smaller aerials and are perhaps best relied on when you are needing to communicate in built-up areas.
  • VHF, or Very High Frequency, applies to longer wavelengths and is therefore useful when communication is required across wide open spaces.  VHF communication requires larger aerials, on the whole.  VHFs fall between 30 and 300 MHz.

What Are Some Common Two-Way Radio Features?

Of course, the various features of your radio will differ from model to model.  However, there are many functions which run common to most modern devices.

  • Loneworker is a useful emergency function which allows the user of a radio to issue a message to receivers at timed intervals without having to remember to do so.  It works rather like a reminder.  It will also trigger an alarm if said reminder isn’t answered within a short period of time – meaning that anyone on the same wavelength can attend and help in the event of an emergency.
  • Mandown is another emergency feature which also triggers an alarm to other radio users on the same wavelength.  Mandown will activate when a radio is not being held in a vertical position.  For example, if a radio has been tilted to a different angle for some time, other users can be alerted in case there is a problem.
  • PTT – put simply – means Press To Talk!  It’s probably the most common feature on all radios, and will simply allow you to connect with someone instantaneously if you need to.
  • Talk through repeaters allow you to effectively boost the range of your device.  Many modern radios come with a TTR station enabled as standard, meaning you know you always have access to the best quality comms.

Getting to Know Your Acronyms!

Finally, let’s take a look at some of the more common acronyms you’ll come across while using your radio.  There are plenty of different terms you may notice which might baffle you at first!  Consider this a short glossary of sorts!

  • DMR – Digital Mobile Radio.  As discussed above, this is a modern radio system which greatly outperforms analogue models of old.
    • There are also DMR Tiers, used to measure the power of a unit.
      • DMR Tier 1 applies to low power systems.
      • DMR Tier 2 encompasses units which operate on a licensed frequency, and which are commonly used in line with repeater technology.
      • DMR Tier 3 is even more advanced!  These radios allow for automated radio trunking, which means your unit will automatically head for the best available channels for communication.
  • PBR – Private Business Radio.  It’s a term to describe your two-way system for business use.
  • PMR – Private Mobile Radio.  PMR can apply to non-business radio systems, but it generally means the same as PBR.
  • PCR – Private Commercial Radio.  We’ll let you work this one out for yourself!
  • TDMA – Time Division Multiple Access.  This is largely the norm for modern radios, which means they can operate on two voice paths at a time.  This is thanks to the technology creating super-short time slots for access.
  • FDMA – Frequency Division Multiple Access.  Radios using this technology work via digitised audio.  FDMA systems are perhaps less capable than TDMA equivalents, as they operate on narrower channels.

Do I Need a Radio Licence?

Yes.  Providing you’re using a radio more powerful than DMR Tier 1 equipment, OFCOM will require you to hold a valid radio licence.  OFCOM regulate all communications devices and are therefore responsible for delivering applicable licences, too.

Can DMR Be Used to Deliver Voice and Data?

Yes!  There are voice and data services on DMR which run separately to each other.  DMR voice services deliver traditional audio, while DMR data delivers text and location data.  DMR can even operate on a simulcast basis, which means the same information can be transmitted in different ways – at the same time!

Two way radios and the way they operate don’t have to be complex!  We hope this guide has helped to explain a few of the basics to you.  If you do need any more help, do not hesitate to ask!