How Far Will Two-Way Radios Work?

The most common question we hear regarding two-way radios is, “how far will they work?”

Unfortunately, this is a very difficult question to answer. A large number of factors affect the range of two-way radios.  Transmit power, antenna efficiency, user height above ground and surrounding terrain, and urban vs. rural environments are just some of these factors to take into account.

In this article, we will try and talk about the most common situation we encounter with Two-Way Radios to Two-Way Radios with no repeater.

General Coverage

A good general guide is to expect a business two-way radio working in simplex operation to have about 1 to 2 KM (1-1.5 Miles) of coverage.  We do have a number of customers that do experience further distances, but it’s important to give the standard distance, rather that the optimal distance.  This would be for business grade 4 watt UHF radios or 5 watt VHF radio frequencies.

I Saw Radios That Would Talk 30 Miles?

We often hear from our customers that they’ve seen radios at retail stores that say they will talk 30 miles or more…NOT TRUE! The range that a business two-way radio advertises is the range that the radio should get in “ideal” conditions. Ideal conditions are line of sight, such as from a mountaintop to a valley below – with no interference.

Most likely, you will be using your radios in more typical conditions, on your construction job site, in your manufacturing warehouse, or around your property or hotel. Our customers are generally using the two-way radios both inside and outside doing the daily activities they need to do to help their customers, deliver on projects, or protect the safety of the public or their work force.

In these standard conditions, expect a range of about 1 KM or so.  If you get more distance, you should consider this a bonus.

Options for Expanding Coverage

We need to talk further than one kilometre…What should I do? If this is your situation there are a few options to consider.

  • Rent Airtime

Similar to a cellular system, but a much less monthly cost, ROCK Networks will supply airtime services. For about $25/month/radio you will be able to get metro coverage. These systems are now also moving to a digital platform that allows many features like GPS tracking and text messaging features. If you are interested in this system, contact ROCK Networks today and we’ll be able to get you started.

  • LTE Two-Way Radios

lte icom radio

When we first wrote this blog post (all the way back in 2013!), LTE radios weren’t on the market yet. While they come at a slightly price point than the average radio, our customers like it doesn’t have a license fee while also offering the wide-area coverage they need. In fact, you can talk across entire provinces with this radio using the roaming function without any additional charge.

You can read more about them in our blog post here.

Purchase online here.

  • Purchase a Repeater

In some cases, infrastructure (such as a repeater) may be necessary.

This would be a central powerful radio that would allow for much further distances (5 to 25 KM). If you decide to investigate this option, there are two issues that generally stop most businesses from moving forward with this option.

Industry Canada Licensing – To get licensed for a repeater frequency from Industry Canada spectrum office they will require that you have a critical number of radios.  As a general rule, if you do not have 20 or more business two-way radios in your fleet, you will probably be denied a repeater channel.

Pricing – If you do qualify for a repeater license from Industry Canada, a repeater system starts at about $15,000 for a repeater and 20 user radios. Also, depending on the application, the environment, and the coverage desired there will probably need to be some engineering design to make sure the investment will satisfy the requirement.

  • Cellular is always still an option

There is a reason that everyone seems to have a cell phone today…they work well. If you do not require instant communications or if you can afford the higher priced bills, cell phones are still a great option for small businesses that operate outside of their business or work site setting.

However, while we may be biased, we believe that two-way radios are much more reliable than cell phones while offering a lot of other benefits as well.

Read more about how cell phones could be costing your business here.

Wrapping It Up

So, what to do next?

We would suggest considering how much of your business communications are done within one kilometre of each other. If you have 75 to 80% of your standard communications done inside of this zone, two-way radios are a great option for most businesses. Check out our FREE Hytera Two-Way Radio Selection Guide to help you decide on the perfect option for all of your communication needs!

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Need more information on your options? Call us at 1-877-721-7070 or contact us online here.

Two-Way Radio, Rugged Devices, and Mobility