Who Uses Portable Two-Way Radios?
The most well-known use of portable radios is for emergency responders.
However, there are several other industries that rely on portable two-way radios:
1. Hospitality – At the front desk, radios communicate with managers and staff. Food service uses a radio to coordinate between room service and catering to keep guests happy.
The housekeeping staff uses radios to request maintenance and report problems that require assistance.
2. Retail Shops and Stores – Many stores use portable two way radio for quick customer service, backroom checks, crowd control, price checks, home delivery, or loss prevention. It makes the store easy to operate.
3. Sports Venues – Safety and security personnel in large arenas use portable two-way radios to communicate because noise and crowds often make other forms of communication worthless.
4. Manufacturing Factory – A mile-long assembly line uses radios to send instant alerts to managers, maintenance, shipping, and engineering on production line problems.
5. Security Station – Any facility with a security staff uses portable two-way radios to communicate, facilitate crowd control, and keep the building secure.
6. Mining and Oil Operations – Cell phone service is almost never available in a mine or on an oil rig. The team in the remote station uses portable radios to communicate with co-workers.
7. Construction and Shipping – Radios allow construction workers to communicate with others on-site to keep jobs safe and on schedule.
8. Event Planning – Events require instant communications access to keep all of the moving parts going as planned. Additionally, using radios can be more reliable in case of emergency.
9. Weather Reports – Weather radios are also known as NWRNs, handheld radios, or portable radios.
7 Advantages to Getting a Portable Two-Way Radio
Nearly any industry can benefit from the use of portable two-way radios. In short, they are easier to use and more reliable than even the smartest smartphone on the market.
Although technology in cell phones has advanced, there are several reasons why portable two-way radio still continues to reign supreme for on-the-job communication.
1. Emergency Communication – Cell service towers and landlines are not reliable. In an emergency or disaster, these are often the first things to go. However, portable radios do not rely on cell phone towers and will continue to work during an emergency.
2. Lightweight – It is designed to be lightweight, durable, and long-lasting. They can handle a bump, drop, or drag and are designed with exceptionally long battery power life.
3. Cost-Effective – With no monthly fees, service contracts, or calling minutes, portable two-way radios cost less than cell phones. Additionally, in most industries employees will share a radio to cut costs even further.
4. Clear Communication – It is designed to offer clear communication in rough, loud, windy, or disastrous conditions where cell phones simply don’t deliver the same quality sound. Some even come with one Bluetooth connection and an enhanced speaker.
5. Easy to Use – The only thing you need to do is push the button and talk. There is no swipe up, unlock, dial a number, scrolling, waiting. It’s the simplest means of communication.
6. Glove-Friendly – Many portable radio users spend their day wearing work gloves, which is impossible for a smartphone touch screen. Radios allow them to use one-button technology to talk, which means no touch screen, no scrolling, and no taking off your gloves every time you need to communicate with your team.
7. Group Access – Portable two-way radio networks can allow one person to call an entire group at the same time without the cumbersome process of orchestrating a conference call or scrolling through a group text. With one push of a button, the entire group gets the same message instantly.
What Devices Are Considered Portable Two Way Radios?
Technically, everything from the toy walkie-talkie you got for Christmas as a child to the dispatch radio in a police cruiser are all considered portable two way radios.
Some portable two-way radios are stationary, others are handheld. Some are professional quality, others are toys.
There are two basic types of portable radios, one for the government and one for everyone else:
P25 (Project 25) radios are specifically used by government and public safety offers throughout North America. The primary goal of P25 is to establish a universal standard of portable two way radios between all agencies.
This project was a collaborative effort between the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International (APCO), the National Association of State Telecommunications Directors (NASTD), the National Communications System (NCS), and it was standardized under the Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA).
2. Walkie Talkies
A walkie-talkie is any portable handheld radio that communicates on radio waves to another radio.
They got their name because by using them you could walk and talk at the same time. Hence, the name “walkie-talkies.” They are powered via batteries and have a receiver, built-in speaker, and antenna.
Two Way Portable Analog vs Digital Radio
Comparing analog and digital radios is a little bit like comparing dial-up internet and broadband. While technically they both provide the same type of service, the results are very different.
Analog radios are less complex than digital but still provide high-quality communication. In some cases, analog actually provides better services when the signal is weak or noisy. However, analog can only handle one conversation at a time on each channel.
Digital radios can include all the technology you find in your smartphone. Simultaneous communication, unit ID, text messaging, GPS, and more can all be embedded into digital portable radios.
The downside to digital radios is they are constantly being updated, and therefore, outdated. Additionally, they cost more to purchase and are more complicated to use
What To Look For While Buying Portable Two-Way Radio
Each portable radio boasts an extreme range and the latest and greatest features.
So, how do you know what to look for when you are at the store?
When are you paying for more than you need?
Here’s a rundown of exactly what to look for while buying portable two-way radios:
1. Audio Quality – The entire purpose of your portable two way radio is to ensure that important calls are loud and clear from the speaker. You want every message to be heard first-time.
To receive the best sound quality, you may want to look at enhancement features like digital noise suppression switch, and speaker performance.
2. Connectivity – You want to make sure your radios will be able to easily connect with one another within the area signal.
Research what networks are available to you and consider analog and digital networks, multimode radios, and even functionality with networks outside of land mobile radios (LMR), such as Wi-Fi and LTE.
3. Safety Features – Safety should always be a top priority. Look for additional safety features like an emergency key, lone worker mode, and man-down sensors.
These features allow a user to receive help even when the injured worker may not be able to make a call.
4. User Experience – A portable radio device is designed to be simple.
Even with the best features, if it’s not intuitive and functional, it will be useless in the field. Voice annunciation, programmable function keys, appropriate accessories, and an ergonomic design all contribute to a better user experience.
5. Quality Build – If you work under rugged conditions, you need a powerful radio that can keep up. Look for a portable radio that can take a beating and still keep functioning as it should.
6. Accessories – Sometimes the right accessories can take a radio from mediocre to indispensable. This may mean extended battery life, audio accessories, AC adapter, headsets, or carry accessories to provide comfort and accessibility.
7. Personalization – You can personalize your radio to make them color-coded, easy to switch, company branded, or easy to spot. Colors and labels can also help indicate different groups, channels, functions, etc., to make managing your team easier.
8. Future Proof – You want to ensure your radio system will integrate easily with both current and future technology. Can your radio evolve as your needs change?
Look for over-the-air programming (OTAP) functionality that allows software updates without sending a technician.
How Much Is a Portable Two-Way Radio?
The cost of a portable two way radio system is in direct proportion to the size and features you are looking for. A small system to use on a family trip outdoors is a low cost compared to a professional or mission-critical system used on the front lines.
- Family Radio System (FRS) – You can find FRS radios at retail stores like Walmart or Target for less than $100. The communication is decent but somewhat unreliable. The equipment is not as durable, and it will likely need to be replaced every few years.
- Commercial Business Two-Way Radios Cost – This is the entry point for commercial use of portable two-way radios. They are reliable and have the essential features you’re looking for to conduct day-to-day business. These will start at around $200 per radio and go up from there.
- Professional Two-Way Radios Cost – A professional portable radio will likely start at $500 per radio. The increased cost is due to better strength, durability, and safety features.
- Mission Critical Two-Way Radios Cost – Mission-critical radios are almost exclusively used in public safety and government organizations and are well over $1000 per radio. Mission-critical radios generally work on P25 networks and are often required for police, fire, and other government security agencies.
FAQs About Portable Two-Way Radios