Two-way radios are nothing sort of amazing. They are dependable little pieces of technology that can make communication so much easier and excellent. But sometimes, two-way radios lack certain communication tech traits such as long-distance coverage. If you do not know this yet, two-way radios are limited by distance and this is the reason why there are long range two-way radios specifically designed for longer distance coverages from one two-way user to another. Here are the factors that affect the operating range of your radios:
Signal Type: UHF & VHF
Two-way radios use radio frequencies, and these frequencies have types. In radio systems, there are frequencies called UHF and VHF. UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency while VHF stands for Very High Frequency. UHF has a frequency range of 130 – 174 MHz or megahertz, while VHF has a frequency range of 400 – 520 MHz.
VHF signals are longer than UHF, this makes VHF outstanding for use in unobstructed terrains and can travel almost twice as far as VHF. However, it is inefficient in areas where there are lots of obstructions such as cities and mountains. UHF signals on the other hand are shorter than VHF but are much more efficient inside structures and obstructions as UHF signals can penetrate objects easier than VHF.
To simplify, if you intend to use a long-distance two-way radio for unobstructed and plain terrain, you are better off with a VHF radio. If your nature of work, however, is inside concrete jungles, you will be better off with a UHF radio.
One of the most noticeable and obvious components of a long-range two-way radio is the antenna. Antenna length can vary per model and is most certainly used with two-way radios advertised as having the capability to talk to someone several miles away. In two-way radios, there are two types of antennas: the whip antenna and stubby antenna. The whip antenna is a long antenna that looks like a stick protruding from your radio, while the stubby one is the shorter and “cuter” version of the whip.
The issue is, these antenna lengths are directly proportional to the distance coverage of your radio. For example, using a radio with a stubby antenna can decrease your distance by as much as 30% over a whip antenna. So basically, if you want your radio to cover longer and farther distances, choose longer antennas such as the whip. Or better yet, mount an antenna high up in the sky to better pick up radio frequencies better.
Radio signals are affected by solid objects such as concrete, metal, wood, and more. This problem is particularly familiar with cellphones—you get zero coverage when you are inside a basement, or even when you are surrounded by skyscrapers. This problem is shared by two-way radio communication systems too. Just as we mentioned earlier, there are types of frequencies and longer wavelength frequencies tend to have a hard time penetrating thick objects such as walls and ceilings. Shorter frequencies, however, are better than longer frequencies in penetrating objects but are handicapped when competing against longer frequencies in distance coverage with an unobstructed environment.
In simpler terms, the denser and thicker the object is, the harder it is for radio signals to pass through, and if it manages to pass through, the signal is significantly reduced.
All in all, there are much more complex factors in play that affect the operating range of your long range two-way radios system. The three we have talked about are the major ones and the ones you should really pay attention to if you want to increase your radio system distance. There are also systems, equipment, and accessories that can expand your distance coverage.
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