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UHF vs VHF: How Are They Different?

When you pick up your radio, you want as little disruption to the signal as possible. In order to receive or transmit crystal clear messages from your two-way radio, you will need either a very high frequency (VHF) or ultra-high frequency (UHF) signal.

Different businesses need different frequency ranges depending on the size and location of their operation. There’s not much difference between UHF vs VHF, they both come with distinct pros and cons, and knowing the differences in UHF vs VHF can help you decide which one is best for your needs.

Defining UHF and VHF

Very High Frequency (VHF) – This frequency offers a larger broadcast range, is less expensive, and works great in large areas. In fact, some VHF signals can last up to 100 miles, depending on the location, and still give high-quality audio.

However, they don’t penetrate metal or concrete very well, so if there are a lot of structures nearby, the signal can easily be disrupted. They are commonly used in agriculture, marine communication, and outdoor recreation.

Ultra High Frequency (UHF) – This radio wave is much shorter, making the range smaller. They work great indoors, across buildings, and within urban areas without disruption. They are usually slightly easier to carry because of their smaller antenna and compact design.

Who Uses UHF and VHF Radio Frequency? 

If you look at the frequencies between UHF vs VHF, they’re not much different from each, both are used for commercial communication services.


A VHF radio is perfect for anyone who is working in a wide-open space without a lot of people or structures around. The signal can reach far distances without any problem.

However, because of the popularity of VHF radios, it can be difficult to find a signal that is uninterrupted in some areas.

The following industries rely on VHF radio communications:

  • Farming and Agriculture
  • Road and Bridge Construction
  • Volunteer Public Safety
  • Paging Systems
  • Long-Haul Trucking Services


Because of their ability to penetrate metal, concrete, and densely wooded areas, UHF radios are often used indoors and in crowded areas.

UHF two-way radios are typically used by public safety officials like fire, police, and EMS. They do have a shorter battery life so they will need easy access to a charging station.

The following industries rely on UHF radio communications:

  • Manufacturing, Factories, and Warehouses
  • Hotels, Hospitality, and Retail Stores
  • Building Construction
  • Schools, Dorms, and Education Facilities
  • Healthcare, Hospitals, and Care Homes
  • Casinos, Building Security, and Public Safety Officials.

The Differences Between UHF and VHF Radios

The main difference in UHF vs VHF is range. However, there are additional significant differences between the two that may be overlooked. If you rely on radios to communicate with your team and maintain public safety, you want a signal you can count on.

AntennaUHF antennas length is often short and stubby.This frequency requires a floppy, longer antenna that is at least 4-inches long.
Signal StrengthLow-band usually overlaps with high-band UHF. A high band will offer the least number of disturbances, but it will require a longer antenna.The stronger the signal, the more it can withstand without disruption. Radios that use this frequency will be a better choice for outdoor use.
BudgetRadios that operate on UHF are often more expensive, because they can handle more disruptions.Models that operate on VHF radio frequencies are often more affordable.
DistanceUHF has a shorter overall distance. However, it can maintain its strength while passing through more obstructions in close areas.VHF radios work well across distances but are easily obstructed. If you are working in a wide open space without trees or hills, you can travel for up to 100 miles and maintain communication.
InterferenceUHF performs better when you have a large number of different short-range signals working in the same area.VHF has fewer channels available, which can lead to congestion and interference from other nearby two way radios.
EnvironmentUHF is ideal for indoor environments.VHF is ideal for outdoor environments.
Signal TypeUHF operates between 403-470 megahertz (MHZ frequencies), offering a decent distance while working well inside buildings.The lower the frequency, the farther it can travel. VHF operates between 30-300 megahertz (MHZ). This has excellent distance on flat ground but works very poorly in buildings.
PowerBecause of their higher frequency, UHF radios require more power and must be charged more frequently.The battery life of VHF radios will be significantly longer because they have stricter limits on transmit power and lower frequency.
ApplicationUHF is often used by public safety, medical staff, schools, warehouses, and retail stores.VHF is better suited for outdoor professions like golf courses, marine applications, forestry and oil.

The Advantages of Higher Bandwidth Frequencies 

Choosing a frequency band isn’t about racing to the top, it’s about the optimal radio frequency bands for the job.

There are clear advantages of higher bandwidth frequencies. However, you will only benefit to the extent that your equipment can handle the bandwidth. Any bandwidth over the maximum quality of the medium is wasted.

  • The higher the frequency, the more signal strength you’ll have and the more battery life your radio will require.
  • Higher frequencies have more bandwidth, meaning you can send out more data between devices in less time.
  • The high-frequency UHF broadcasting radio range is less crowded than the lower-frequency VHF band.

FAQs About VHF vs UHF

How do VHF or UHF radio waves travel?
VHF radio waves operate in a band between 30-300 megahertz and travel over a line of sight, making them ideal for long distances with little obstructions. UHF radio signals are between 300 megahertz and 3 gigahertz and are best suited for communications within a one-kilometer radius where there may be more obstacles to travel through.

Can UHF and VHF radios communicate with each other?
The answer to this question is no for most radios. There are some high-end public safety-grade radios that can talk across both bands, but they are not a practical option for most radio users.

How can I improve my signal strength on my VHF or UHF two-way radio?
The best way to improve your signal strength is to improve your antenna. The length of your antenna can make a huge difference in the length of the radio waves.

Frequency Matters in Two-Way Communication

So, UHF vs VHF, which is better?

UHF and VHF are two very different frequencies to choose from. While they both offer advantages, there is no clear winner. Each has specific applications in a specific area.

They complement each other by picking up where another lacks and catering to different industries. So before deciding on UHF vs VHF, access your needs and use this article to determine which option is best suited for you.