07 Jan Two Way Radios – How to Choose The Best Walkie-Talkie for Your Business Needs
Two way radios can add thousands of dollars to your bottom line in the first year by saving as much as 5-9% of labor time. Make absolutely sure you select the right radio for your needs the first time.
Walkie-Talkies were introduced into typical business practices decades ago. Technology and battery engineering made them cumbersome and difficult to use in everyday applications. However, 2-way radios were recently made super-affordable, more portable and were given a much improved battery life. Combine these advancements with the ability to save countless labor-hours, cost-free talk time and you have one of the most promising bottom-line tools for just about any business.
The key to getting the most out of your two-way radios is to make absolutely certain you choose the correct model the first time you buy your radios. Many small businesses make the mistake by starting off using Family-FRS radios. Typically, these will work out great for the first month. Invariably however, these radios will begin to lose the battery charge, the clips will break off, the speakers will cease to function after a few drops, and the entire radio will need to be replaced within a relatively short period of time. These FRS radios were simply not designed for regular, daily use. They were manufactured almost as toys, and are meant to be used gently a few times per year. Further, according to FCC guidelines, it is a violation to use FRS radios in a business function.
The proper two-way radio makes all the difference in the world. For the most part, any small to upper-medium sized company can benefit from the use of today’s walkie talkies. The cost will typically range from $120 per radio to about $300 each. Improvements in battery design will get a full day use after an overnight charge for as much as 2-3 years of daily use. Plus, the durability of the radios has improved so much that it is not unheard of for some radios to still work great after 10 years.
There are four basic elements to consider in choosing the right radio for your job:
VHF vs. UHF – The difference between UHF and VHF can be explained with frequency penetration. VHF waves travel about twice the distance of UHF waves on open ground, rolling hills or through foliage. However, VHF waves are very poor at penetrating walls, buildings and rugged terrain. So, if you are working exclusively outdoors with open land, rolling hills or heavy trees, VHF radios are the best. In any other situation, including indoor to outdoor use, UHF radios will be the choice. UHF and VHF radios will not communicate with each other.
Power – If the radios will be used within a single building, or outdoors in less than about 1 mile, then a 1-watt radio will be sufficient. If the 2-way radios will be used to communicate between multiple buildings or for up to 2 miles, then a 2-watt radio should be used. There are 4 and 5 watt radios that will communicate consistently at further distances, but there is a limitation to any radio-to-radio communication. Once exceeded, the only way to proceed is through the use of a repeater.
Channels – If your entire group will always be speaking on the same channel at the same time, o matter how many radios you have, you will only need a 1-channel radio. However if you manage, say, a restaurant and you want the valets to be on one channel and the wait-staff to be on another channel, then you will want a 2-channel capable radio system. This will allow each group to communicate individually, but not talk over each other. For you, as the manager, to be able to communicate with both of the groups you will want a radio that “scans”. This will allow you to speak with either group by switching to the appropriate channel automatically.
Durability – Business radios range anywhere form units that are designed for restaurant and hotel use, to radios for heavy-duty military operations. Review the specifications on each unit to determine the best fit for your needs.
By selecting the proper elements in choosing your initial radios, you will be assured of starting off on the right foot communication-wise. You will gain all of the benefits of having two-way radio communication, but will avoid the common pitfall of having to replace old radios that will not work with what should have been used in the first place.
By Joe Wood