When trying to buy or rent two-way radios, the ads or retailers may say that you can talk for more than 30 miles with them. But this number is not realistic at all. If you see any previous users of the two-way radios, you’ll see how disappointed they are with those fake ads.
In reality, radio signals can only travel a few miles, depending on some factors. Let’s get to know all about these two-way radios in detail.
Two-Way Radio Range
Usually, the most common two-way radio used for business purposes has 1 to 1.5 miles of standard coverage if there’s no obstruction. This distance can be covered with UHF radios with 4 watts or VHF radios with 5 watts.
In some cases, the range can get higher than 1.5 miles, but consider that as a bonus. But it shouldn’t be counted as standard as you need to take precautions considering the lowest value. Usually, these business radios are used for different occasions and job sites that don’t have larger areas, so these radios can easily do their jobs without interruptions.
However, some retailers can offer your low-range two-way radios, saying they have a higher range between 10 and 36 miles! But that’s just not possible with two-way radios, as there are a lot of factors that affect the distance.
You can extend the range of your two-way radios to a few more miles by following some tricks and tips. And, if you want to use something for an even longer range, you’ll need to use alternative technologies for that.
Factors Affecting the Range of Two-Way Radio
The main factors affecting the radio signal range are:
Power on the radio can control the range of the radio. Usually this power is calculated in watts, and for the most handheld business two-way radios, the signal is broadcast at 1 to 5 watts. The higher the wattage power, the stronger the signal will be and the further it can travel.
Since radio waves always travel in straight lines, the signals can travel on earth up to the horizon line and then go straight to space. It happens because the earth is round, and that’s why you need to consider the curvature while determining the range. However, frequencies below 2 megahertz can follow the curvature of the earth as the atmosphere reflects them.
Also, when there are any obstructions between the straight traveling path of the radio signal, some of the waves can be reflected, some will bend, or some will travel straight. This can make the signal wave much weaker, and the traveling range will be decreased.
For two-way radios, signals can be of two types: VHF(Very High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency). Both of these types have their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, high-frequency UHF can pass through and around solid obstacles like concrete, glass, and metal easily, but this signal can’t travel far.
On the other hand, low frequency VHF can travel much farther, but they can move around or pass through solid obstacles. And, as a general rule, it can be said that the lower the frequency, the longer the traveling distance for any radio signal.
Obstructions and Terrain
Solid objects are culprits that can block radio signals, just like they can block most things. And among them, metal is your archenemy if you want long-range radio communication. Even though other solid objects might let signals pass more or less, the metal will only give a full blockage.
Also, the terrain you’re on will determine how far the signals can travel. If it’s hilly terrain, then it’s better to have any hope regarding long radio signals. Just like the metal, hills won’t let the radio signal pass to the receiver radio. However, other non-metal solid objects will weaken the signal, so the traveling distance will be shortened, not fully blocked.
The part of the radio that converts electrical signals to radio signals on one radio and vice versa in other radios is called an antenna. If your radio doesn’t have an antenna, it’s totally useless. That’s why it’s one of the most critical components of the radio. The quality, type, and height of the antenna control the overall range of the signal.
If the antenna of two radios is at 6 feet above the ground with no obstructions between, the signal can be fully recovered within 4 to 6 miles.
The higher on the ground the radio or its antenna is, the stronger the signals will be and the farther you can communicate. There is a formula that gives the distance to the horizon for a specific antenna height. The formula is,
Horizon in kilometers = 3.569 times the square root of the antenna height in meters.
Tips to Increase Range
You can follow these tips to enhance the signal for a longer two-way radio range:
- Try to go to a higher ground because it can more easily grab weak signals in higher locations, and also the range will increase when there are fewer obstacles.
- Mount the antenna as high as possible and use whip antennas, not the short ones.
- Charge the battery whenever possible, as the signals will be weaker if the battery charge is lower.
- If your radio has several power modes, you’ll need to set it to the high power mode to increase the range.
- You can use the repeater service available in that area, as they can receive your weak signal and send a stronger version of it to a farther destination.
Alternative Solutions to Long-Range Communication
- Mobile Radios: These radios usually have 3 or 4 times longer range than a handheld radio. So, it’s a better solution in emergencies.
- WLAN Radios: As these radios communicate via wireless internet connection, the range is only limited by the computer network.
- LTE Radios: They’re almost the same as mobile radios, as they communicate via cellular networks. If there is no cell coverage in a remote area, this radio won’t work.
- Satellite Radios: For global communication, these radios are perfect as they communicate through satellites in space.
Every day newer technologies are coming to solve the problem regarding the range of radio signals. And if you hire a bulk amount of radios from a provider, sometimes they offer higher range and repeater service to enhance your experience.