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Learn The Basics About Two Way Radios

Radio Features

What are channels? How many do I need? Channels provide a way to separate your staff into groups. For example, a hotel may choose to put their housekeeping and maintenance teams on different channels. This would mean that one team wouldn't have to be distracted by hearing transmissions that are unrelated to their job. Using multiple channels is great if your groups are truly separate from one another or if you have a lot of radio traffic, but they can become a pain if some employees need to do a lot of switching back and forth to communicate with multiple groups. The scan feature allows employees to monitor multiple groups, but it can take some getting used to.

Should I choose UHF or VHF? UHF and VHF are different frequency bands and are NOT compatible with each other. If you already have radios and you are looking to add more, it's important to find out what frequency band you're currently using and choose the new radios with the same band. If you're buying radios for the first time, most likely you want UHF. UHF frequencies work well both indoors and outside. VHF frequencies travel a little further outdoors, but sometimes don't work as well inside.

What's the right way to talk over a radio? Hold the radio's microphone a few inches from your mouth, press the Push-to-Talk (PTT) button (usually located on the side of the radio), and then speak. It's best to wait a split-second after pressing the PTT before you start talking - this way you're sure the first part of your message won't be cut off. It's also important to hold the radio straight vertically. Talking into a radio that is turned at an angle can significantly reduce your range!

Are there any special requirements when charging my radios? If you've been using radios for a long time, you may have been told in the past to completely drain your radios before putting them on the charger. Of course, it's best to check the manual for the models you buy for specific advice, but generally this is no longer necessary. Almost all two way radios use lithium-ion batteries, which is likely the same technology as the battery in your cell phone. They're fine to be plugged in or dropped in the charger at the end of your shift. Of course, as with your cell phone, you will see reduced battery life with your radio over time. Expect to get around 2 years of daily use out of a battery before it needs to be replaced. When you finally do need a replacement, we've got you covered. .

Radio Usage and Compatibility

How much range can I expect from my radio? Unfortunately there's not a great answer to this because it depends so much on where you're using the radio. A radio that will reach 8 miles over water may only reliably provide a half mile of range in a dense urban area with lots of obstructions. Generally a 1-2 watt radio will be great inside a building that is up to 100,000 square feet, and a 4-5 watt radio will work great up to 300,000 sq. ft.

How can I extend the range of my radio? A repeater is a device that is designed to extend a radio's coverage area. Repeaters are much more powerful than handheld radios, and usually have an antenna attached that is mounted in a high location. Be sure your radios are repeater capable! Many lower powered models are not.

How do I know if my new radios will be compatible with the old ones? The best and easiest way is to contact us before you place your order, so we can help determine your current frequencies. Generally, 1-2 watt business radios are compatible with one another right out of the box, but have some limitations if custom programming is needed. Four and five watt business radios are often compatible with one another out of the box, but they also have a larger probability of having been programmed to custom frequencies by a previous dealer.

How much do you charge if custom programming is required? Exactly zero dollars. If you buy a radio from us, we will program it for free for as long as you own the radio. If you ever need a radio reprogrammed after your original purchase, that's free as well - you would only need to cover any shipping charges. One exception that we do have to this policy is with certain digital radios. Basic programming is free on those, but some advanced setups involving many locations, users, or groups are very time consuming and may be subject to extra charges.

I'm receiving interference - other people are talking on our radios! What can I do? It is extremely common for businesses to use radios right "out of the box" without a license, and without changing frequencies. If your business is located in the same area as another business that is doing the same thing, it can cause this issue. You'll hear them, and they'll hear you. The easiest solution is to switch to a different channel (if available). Some radios will allow you to enter "programming mode" and change to a different frequency yourself. Other radios would require that your dealer (us!) reprogram the radio. If you have a license for your frequencies and are receiving interference, you may be able to report the violators to the FCC.

Digital Radios

Why would I buy a digital radio? Digital radios are more expensive, but they do offer several advantages over analog models. Most significantly, the audio quality is far superior. Transmission quality of an analog radio gets worse the further you are from the transmitter. With digital models, if you're within range of the transmitter at all, the quality will be the same as if you were as close as 20 feet away. Digital radios also tend to offer many features that aren't available in a lot of analog radios - contact lists that allow for easy 1-to-1 calling, for example.

What are the differences between the digital radios that are available now? There are several different digital standards currently in use, and they are not compatible with each other. Kenwood and Icom use the full-featured NXDN standard. NXDN uses half the bandwidth of analog "narrowband" signals, and can be integrated with repeaters and advanced systems. Motorola's on-site digital radios (DTR and DLR series) use 900 MHz frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) technology. These radios are limited to 1 watt of power and cannot be expanded with repeaters, but they do not require a license to operate and offer advanced 1-to-1 and group functions that can be user programmed with free software.

Licensing

Do I need to get a license? If you are using a UHF or VHF business radio, the FCC requires that you get a license.

How much is a license? Can I buy one from you? We do not offer licensing, but we can refer you to, and work with, a frequency coordinator. A business radio license is good for 10 years and generally costs in the neighborhood of $500.