Two-Way Radio Buyers Guide

Two-Way Radio Buyers Guide

You have been given the responsibility of buying two-way radios for your business. You have looked at the marketplace and see a multitude of manufacturers and two-way radio solutions and are even more confused than when you started. You now find yourself asking a huge range of questions: how do you even start looking, how do you stay on budget, and what do you even look for?

We have put this simple 12-point guide together to navigate you through the process of matching your business communication needs to our range of Icom two-way radio solutions. Following these tips will make the process much faster and simpler for you and avoid frustrations.

Let’s get started....

1. Why should I choose two-way radios for my organisation?

Hopefully, you will have already answered this question; you know that you need to keep in touch with your staff. You know you want an efficient, simple, effective solution that you can control and easily manage.

Two-way radio can do all that. Depending on your needs and the applications you use, they can increase safety, improve productivity, provide better customer or employee satisfaction, and make you more profitable.

2. What can two-way radios do for me?

Two-way radio is a very flexible form of communication. It can provide simple one-to-one communication between a small group of users or increase the number of channels so you could have one channel for everyone, one for management, one for security, one for cleaning and so on. You can use each channel like an intercom system that lets you call individual people or groups instead of broadcasting a message to everyone.

Some radios have scanning capability, so your radios will only pick up conversation for the channels you have programmed.

Depending on your needs, you can build a complex radio system integrating not just radio communication but security monitoring via GPS or CCTV or coverage between groups over a wide geographical area using the internet.

3. Who will use them?
The great thing about two-way radios is that they are easy to use, and anyone in the organisation can use them with little training. So deploy radios to groups of staff, their managers, etc, and remember that the radio system is easily expandable. As the need arises, just add additional handsets. Two-way radios are ideal for security staff, farm workers, office staff, shop watch, shift workers, production line inspectors, playground monitors…the list is endless

4. Where will I use the two-way radios?
Look where you want to use them, in buildings, out onsite in vehicles, perimeter patrolling, define your needs and then get your local Icom dealer to advise on the best way to give you coverage of that area. A quick ‘rule of thumb' is that VHF travels furthest outdoors, whereas UHF is better for local onsite use (within buildings etc), but take advice from your dealer for the best solution.

5. Two-Way Radio vs. Mobile Phones?

It is true that in some cases, people use mobile phones in place of two-way radios. However, there are good reasons to use two-way radio for your business:

• When you want to call someone on a mobile phone, at a minimum, you have to press a speed dial button and wait for a connection. Between the dialling and the time delay of the person on the other end answering, some time can go by (if they answer). With a two-way radio, you press a button and start talking. In an emergency, this speed could be critical.
• You can talk to multiple users at once.
• There is no monthly contract with two-way radios. You never have to worry about exceeding your allotted time as you would do with a mobile phone.
• Icom radios are built to military specification, meaning they will work in wet environments or even after they are dropped on concrete. Most mobile phones are not built to this standard.
• Two-way radios continue to work in natural disasters or major security incidents. Even if mobile phones work, the phone tower can get overloaded with everyone trying to make calls so your call may not go through.
• Two-way radios stay on-site at the end of the day so they can be used by shift or night workers.
• There may be places in your business where mobile phones don’t work. Two-way radios can reach all areas of your company when repeaters are installed.

6. So what types of two-way radio are there for business?

Two-Way Radio Buyers Guide

Two-way radios are available in four types: handheld, vehicle-mounted mobile, desktop base station and repeater base station.

• Handheld two-way radios are the walkie-talkie type of radios you see people carrying around.
• Vehicle-mounted mobile two-way radios mount in a car or truck, using the vehicle's battery for power. They will achieve better range by using an externally mounted antenna on the vehicle.
• Desktop base station radios use mains power and can be connected to a cable that leads to an externally mounted antenna. The higher the antenna is mounted, the better the range. The vehicle-mounted mobile radio is often used as a base station by adding an AC to DC power converter.
• Two-way radio repeaters are essentially radios that increase the operational range of your PMR radio system. Repeaters can be used to cover areas in your business where a two-way radio will not transmit or receive. A repeater receives the transmission of a two-way radio and rebroadcasts it further. Every Icom two-way radio for business is repeater capable, from the low cost IC-F1000 series to the advanced IC-F3400D digital two-way radio series.

7. How do I choose what sort of two-way radio system I need?
Today's two-way radios have lots of functions and features. However, which ones do you need?

• Are the radios going to be used by just a few people?
• Are you in an area where only a few radios are used?

As with all business decisions, you will need to find out what you want to get out of a two-way radio system. There is a lot to think about. A good starting point is getting an Icom business radio dealer involved who can guide you through your options and have the skills to put a radio system together. They will have the local expertise to help you with licensing, installation and after-sales support.

8. Analogue or Digital Two Way Radio?
Having outlined the types of two-way radios for business, there is another choice, whether to choose analogue or digital. If you already have a radio system, it will may be an analogue system.

Icom has a digital two-way radio solution called IDAS (Icom Digital Advanced System), capable of analogue, digital, or digital/analogue mixed-mode operation. This means they can receive both analogue and digital mode signals on a single channel. Mixed-mode operation is a benefit as there is no need to buy a complete system outright, and it allows you to migrate from analogue to digital at your own pace, which is an important consideration in the current economic climate.

There is nothing wrong with purchasing an analogue radio; they will still be around for a considerable time. But there is a clear business case for digital business radio. As well as future-proofing your communication needs, Icom digital radios are incredibly spectrum efficient, doubling the number of potential users on the traditional current channel capacity of 12.5 kHz. In addition, IDAS radios feature outstanding audio and superb noise-cancelling properties. When comparing digital with analogue, the audio quality of analogue gradually deteriorates with static noise as the distance increases. On the other hand, digital provides stable audio for longer than analogue until the edge of the communication range.

A new alternative? – Advances in Radio Technology

Icom’s IP Advanced Radio System, which works over wireless LAN (WLAN) and IP networks, utilises a network controller and remote communicators/handsets and provides secure conversation via WLAN security protocols (WPA-PSK and WPA-PSK2). The system is licence-free.

Another alternative is the Icom LTE Radio System which is also license-free. Using the LTE/4G network, the system gives you mobile phone coverage but with Push-to-Talk two-way radio communications. With the custom ICOM sim card, users benefit from a closed private network and you can simply turn on and use, no installation required. There is even a Hybrid radio called the IP730D Series that can provide nationwide coverage over the LTE network as well as conventional VHF/UHF professional radio mode to work locally.

Both systems have many benefits, but we see them providing further choice alongside analogue and digital radio systems. There are solid reasons for customers to move towards these new technologies including no licence fee, encrypted communication and excellent audio quality.

Both systems can be used like a traditional radio system with individual and group calling. All of this is done by allocating each individual hand portable a personality on the system. It’s a direct replacement to radio systems with increased capacity but using different technology.

In terms of installation, the system can be so much simpler. To put communications in a building you would traditionally use a distributed antenna system, maybe including a lift shaft to get full coverage. The process is much simpler, the IP Advanced Radio System uses wireless access points around the building and the LTE Radio System uses pre-existing telephone signal masts that are installed throughout the country.

Two-Way Radio Buyers Guide

9. What features do I need on a two-way radio?
Two-way radios can be purchased with a variety of functions and features … Here are just a few that you may want to consider.

Security features?
Many features can be installed or programmed into a two-way radio. The 'Emergency Call' or 'man down' feature enables the radio user to notify all other radios on the same channel immediately. For example, suppose the radio users should become injured, trapped or in danger. In that case, a simple push of a button will call everyone, and the microphone on the radio is automatically activated for a brief period so the users can call out a message.

Selectable Power
Good-quality radio units allow you to switch between high and low power modes. Low power reduces the range of your two-way radio, but it extends the battery's life and vice versa. Some radios also let you program the power mode on individual channels so some channels can use low power, while others use high power.

Headsets, spare Batteries, cases, belt clips and speaker microphones are often necessary. Check out our range of two-way radio accessories to find the accessories you are looking for.

If your organisation operates multiple shifts, you might want to consider a six-way rapid charger like the Icom BC-214 and have staff share radios. To allow seamless operation, why not invest in extra batteries.

A warranty is mandatory, but it is also a guarantee of peace of mind when purchasing a radio so that the dealer and manufacturer can back up what they are saying regarding product quality and build. Icom UK's business radios (radio body only) come with a two-year parts and labour warranty.

10. What will it cost?
OK, the big question…unfortunately, that is the one question we cannot answer, but your local Icom business radio dealer can. Often you will find that the radios you need are much more affordable than some you might have first looked at. Icom has a comprehensive range at all price levels while still having the same quality, and you could consider spreading the immediate cost by leasing rather than outright purchase.

11. Do I need a licence for a two-way radio for my business?
You do. You will need a radio licence to operate your two-way radios. This is issued by the Government Agency, Ofcom. Licensed frequencies are allocated on a case-by-case basis. You can get your dealer to program them into your radio.

Get your local dealer to help with the licence application. They will advise on the best way to apply to get the channel you need.

If you wish to use your radios all over the UK and are not based in one fixed location, you can apply for a Business Radio Simple UK licence, which is £75 and renewable every five years.

More information about this subject can be found by clicking on the following link: ‘Getting the Right Two Way Business Radio Licence’.

12. Where can I find more information about a two-way radio scheme?
As mentioned earlier, it is always a good idea to take advice from your Icom business radio dealer. He can help you analyse your operational needs and recommend the features you do and don’t need. He can also guide you through the complicated task of getting a business radio licence from OFCOM.

For further information, you can visit the following web pages:

Icom UK PMR Private Mobile Radio where you will find information about our range of analogue two-way radios.
Icom UK Digital Two Way Radio where you will find information about our range of digital two-way radios.
Icom IP Advanced Radio System where you will find information about two-way radios that operate on an IP/WLAN network.
Icom LTE/PoC Radio System where you will find information about our market-leading LTE two-way radio solution.

Alternatively, contact our sales team on 01227 741741 or for assistance.

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