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Blog: Why Two-Way Radio Just Won’t Die     Published: 24/03/2021

“You mean, walkie talkies? Oh. Who uses those these days?”

Anyone in the two-way radio industry will recognise this conversation. They’ll have had it multiple times when chat turns to chosen career paths. There are two main ways to respond. The first involves a little smile and the words, “You’d be surprised,” before steering the conversation back to their “normal” job. The second way is to go into a convoluted rant about the past, present and future of radio. Those unfortunate enough to experience this second response will end up nodding politely, wishing they hadn’t asked in the first place!

To answer the original question, two-way radios are used in almost every sector, from aviation to agriculture, hospitality to healthcare. What’s more, as we move into the 2020s, the two-way radio industry isn’t showing any sign of shrinking. The era of the fixed household telephone has gone – radios remain. Nokia mobiles were replaced with Blackberrys which, in turn, were replaced by IOS and Android smart devices. In comparison, the evolution of two-way radio has been infinitely less dramatic. So how has the two-way radio hung on and thrived?

Over the next few paragraphs, I’ll attempt to answer this question and explain why two-way radio is still relevant today.

Take Security Officers. They need to update team members about ongoing and evolving situations, whilst staying focused. Just think how difficult this would be via multiple telephone calls or WhatsApp messages. Even a smartphone push-to-talk app has its limitations. With a two-way radio, the Officer can press one dedicated button and instantly connect to dozens of people. They can also hear messages from other team members without touching their radio.

The value of one-to-many group calling can’t be underestimated. For day-to-day operations, it can be a time-saver – and in crisis scenarios, it can be a lifesaver. Many digital two-way radios provide one-to-one calling, but it’s rarely used. Group calls remain the preference. One of our clients in the agriculture sector recently gave an example of traipsing around his farm looking for some machinery, phoning several of his colleagues, only to find that another team member was using it, who he hadn’t even considered. Now the farm uses radios, these situations don’t happen. Every worker hears and can respond to every message – saving a lot of time. This example certainly isn’t unique and can be found in transportation, retail and countless other sectors.

If your warehouse team were issued with smartphones, you’d spend £15-£45 per device, per month, just to stay connected. If you deploy a two-way radio system, the only significant ongoing costs are the Ofcom licences (less than a few hundred per year), optional maintenance and replacement batteries.

Whilst people need instant communication, radio is going nowhere. The technology behind it, push-to-talk, is spreading faster with the evolution of Push-to-talk Over Cellular/broadband (PoC or BPTT). We’ll explore the PoC revolution in a future blog.

Whether you use analogue radio, digital radio or PoC, the need for simple, effective push-to-talk functionality just will not die.

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