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Old 03-28-2017, 02:07 PM
AndyH AndyH is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 1
Default Advice needed (Complete beginner)

Hello everyone,

I'm completely new to this radio malarky. We're currently using license free radios, for work however it's been suggested that licensed radios might be better for us. We're a UK based outdoor education company. We work throughout Scotland, in forests, lochs and on hills/mountains.

Basically I'm looking for all and any advice. I'd appreciate it if people can point me to primers or even books to give me a bit of an understanding of the subject.

Thank you so much

Kind Regards
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Old 03-28-2017, 02:51 PM
paulears paulears is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: East Anglia, UK
Posts: 296
Default Re: Advice needed (Complete beginner)

Oddly, books on radio are really uncommon. OFCOM's website do have some useful guidance, but so much really depends on what you need radios to do?

There are books on ham operations that will give you technical information that by and large works in the business radio sector, but the very common questions simply focus on range and reliability. Licence free radios are at the bottom of the performance pile because you share channels with all sorts of people, and the power output is limited - meaning that even outside in the clear, sometimes range is hundreds of metres, not miles. Portable radios are pretty inefficient - their aerial systems mainly, so radio to radio with lots of power is often not much different from low power licence free.

If you want to do the job properly (as in reliable communications, over larger areas) you need to consider things like repeaters. You might find some of the content daunting - but this site explains about repeaters, but is quite technical - repeater-builder.

You take a repeater to a suitable site - usually high, and then your range goes up. There are issues with licensing, but in rural locations most things are possible. If money is a problem, you can buy radios, and then hire in a repeater for specific projects. It's a huge subject. If you have any specific questions - feel free. Scenario based ones are always best - we need to cover this area - link to a map, and we can easily have a look on google, and work out if it's practical, and probably also how best to do it.
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Old 03-29-2017, 04:07 AM
Chickenhawk Chickenhawk is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Canada
Posts: 199
Default Re: Advice needed (Complete beginner)

Read through these forums and you can learn more than any book on the market.

Basically, handheld two-way radios are limited by the laws of physics. This means that, marketing-speak aside, they are ALL limited to line-of-sight. This means that in real world conditions, you are limited to a couple of kilometers range AT BEST. Hills, buildings, trees or inside vehicles will severely limit range even more.

Just so you aren't getting any misinformation or false expectations, it doesn't matter much what band you are using - VHF or UHF - or whether it is licenced or unlicenced; range will be virtually the same. Better radios have better receiver circuitry and better audio output (for greater clarity) but the range will not be much more than your bubble-pack PMR shared frequency radios you can buy in department stores. Handheld-to-handheld range will be much shorter than advertised. If you are transmitting handheld-to-repeater-to-handheld, or base station (with a high antenna) to handheld, you can extend the range quite a bit. It's all about antenna height, and an unobstructed view from one antenna to another.

Incidentally, this is how public services in your community can converse reliably with mobile or handheld two-way radios - they use a system of repeaters scattered throughout an area.

So, unless you want to set up your own repeaters, you are confined to that 1 to 2 kilometers in range. Licenced two-way radio gives you one advantage: your own dedicated frequency with no one to interfere on your frequency when used within your licenced area. This is not inexpensive, in particular if you need a clear dedicated frequency across the country or a wide geographical area. Depending on the laws in your country, you will likely pay a yearly fee for the frequency plus a fee per radio. For a national frequency and a dozen handheld radios, expect that fee to be thousands of pounds.

Plus, you still won't get any better range than a shared-frequency PMR radio.

You can sometimes get commercial-grade PMR radios and this might be an option if you don't mind sharing frequencies with every kid and every drive-through in a 5 kilometer radius.

Motorola also makes a UK model of the DTR radio that broadcasts on the unlicenced 2.4Ghz band. This will give you commercial-grade military-spec radios that will last many years, and there is no way anyone can monitor you. Chance of interference with anyone else is almost nil.

So your choices are business-class radios on your own dedicated frequency if you want to spend the money; PMR radios (equivalent to what we call FRS/GMRS in the U.S.) and share the frequencies with all other PMR users in your area if you don't want to spend the money; or use the Motorola frequency-hopping DTR digital radios if you don't want to buy a licence but want good quality radios. Range will be about the same.

Some users have bought some of the better quality Chinese-made amateur Ham radio and programmed them for PMR frequencies but this is not legal.

Hope this overview helps. We can maybe provide more information as to what you are using them for and what your expectations and needs are for range.
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