Why Two-Way Radio?
There are many choices for wireless communications these days. Why then should you consider 2-way radios?
We admit that two-way radios have not changed a lot since they were first invented, but that is because they haven’t yet figured out how to change the laws of physics. The reason radio still has a place in this technological world is because:
- It does not need infrastructure to operate. You are not reliant on cell towers or satellites
- It is dead simple. One button: push it to talk, release it to listen
- It is the simplest way to reach more than one person immediately. No setup, no dialing. Instantly reach someone, or be ready for when that someone needs to reach you.
- Keeping it simple makes it that much easier to train your staff or volunteers, and that makes it easy for you.
Just because two way radios are simple to the end user, does not mean they don’t have any features. 2 Way Radios have come a long way in 60 years. Modern radios are a lot smaller and can have advanced features like digital displays, built in GPS receivers, text messaging, paging, caller ID and lone worker.
Radio Coverage Range
How far do I expect my radio to communicate? This is a common question with a very convoluted answer. Most commercial radios have 4-5 Watts output power but differ on how far apart they will communicate. This is because more expensive radios have better filters and decoders allowing clearer reception at the fringe areas, and the ability to reject unwanted interference better. Digital radios such as the Motorola XPR7550 MotoTRBO extends this usable range even further. It is also important to note that bigger radios transmit farther due to more efficient antenna systems, especially in VHF models. Longer antennas also perform better compared to stubby antennas.
Portable to portable radio coverage can be extended by installing a repeater. This is common in larger buildings such as shopping malls and hotels, as well as on towers or mountain tops for use by fleet vehicles throughout cities, campuses or plants. Coverage can be extended easily and relatively inexpensively now from city to city or building to building via Voice over Internet (VoIP) such as using Motorola’s IP site connect technology
Most people choose radio because it is simple. They do not need all the bells and whistles. This keeps the unit price and training costs lower. Some features are available in radio now you should still consider.
- Size: Most people want the smallest package possible, Which is why Motorola designed the SL7550, but bigger radios are sometimes more appropriate as well.
- Number of talk groups: Most models have at least 4 and up to 1000.
- Audio accessories: A flush mount connector jack is more robust than an audio jack where the connector is inserted.
- Battery system: Batteries can be a source of trouble (see our web page on Troubleshooting Battery Problems). Motorola IMPRES battery technology addresses this.
- Signalling features: Caller ID, paging, GPS tracking, telephone patch, telemetry, email/text, emergency button, lone worker can add safety, efficiency and functionality to your operation. Signalling is available in digital radios although some signalling features are also found in analogue.
- Audio volume: If you are using your radio in a noisy environment, you likely want a radio that is louder. Larger radios have bigger speakers, which generally sound better at full volume
- Display: Display radios are nice, but they generally are a bit more expensive and a less rugged. If you do not have a lot of talk groups or advanced features, stick to the non display model.
- Ruggedness: Are you operating outside in the rain? You may want a submersible radio. Are the staff rough with your equipment? You will be glad you chose Motorola.
- Intrinsic Safety (IS): Will your radio operate in the presence of combustible gasses or dust? You may need intrinsic safety.
- Trunking: Will you need extended coverage? You may need trunking capability.
- Fleet Management: Will you have a large fleet? You may want fleet management options such as engraving and caller ID.
- Warranty: Motorola radios models vary on their standard warranty offer. 5-year warranty is standard for professional tiered radios. Although Motorola's warranty is the best in the business (especially for accessories), it still does not cover a radio that was run over by a fork lift or “borrowed” for a hunting trip.
Two Way Radios are ideal for industry where simplicity is paramount, and having a reliable, cost-effective communications device is required. Radio remains the most cost effective solution there is. Departments that most benefit are:
Security – so you don’t need to dial for help when someone is chasing you or you are chasing them. Does Apple have an app for that?
Maintenance – so you can reach the nearest person, not necessarily anyone specific.
Events – so everyone is in the loop on what is going on
Fleet vehicles – because it is illegal to operate a cell phone when driving, but not a 2-way radio. That accident info on the bridge is broadcast to all drivers to keep them updated on the fastest route.
First aid – easy to coordinate help quickly and immediately
Public safety for all the same reasons
EOC – so municipalities are not reliant on 3rd party communication networks
2 Way Radios last a long time. Many of our customers have their Motorola radios in service for more than 10 years. This makes it a very cost effective solution compared to other technologies.
What you really need to evaluate is long term cost of ownership, not unit cost. Many people neglect to calculate what their time is worth in the equation. If you are constantly dealing with battery issues, broken radios, coverage issues and unhappy employees, are you really saving your company money?
How much do I want to spend for the radio system and per unit? This is always a major consideration. Many people choose radio because it is the lowest cost solution. We try to get buyers to understand the long term costs of what they are buying because lower up-font costs may in fact end up costing you more. Radios often last for many years, often more than 10. You should calculate the cost per year per radio on how long you expect the system to last. An entry level radio may typically last 3 years whereas an Professional radio will last 10 with far less trouble and more features.
Another important aspect is that the lower the radio cost the higher the probability the radio model will have a short production life. This is an important consideration if you want to buy the same model later to augment your fleet because new models usually have new batteries and chargers that are incompatible with older models. Motorola has the longest production runs for their radios. For example, the HT1000 was introduced in 1993 and was discontinued in 2006. Can you think of any other electronic device model that has a 13 year production run?
Other cost considerations are annual radio license fees, accessories, radio infrastructure or repeater access fees (if necessary) and ongoing service. These costs typically amount to only a few dollars a month per radio.