Advice on purchasing Radio

Hi, first of all, I’m based in England.

I’m looking to purchase some radios that I can use for communicating between me and my second photographer. I currently use some Binatone Action 850 radios, which are meant to be 8km but they aren’t!

I need to be able to communicate about 3 miles (not line of sight) and always wanted to stay license free, but I can’t find a radio that will actually reach, even though the stated range may be 5 miles.

I used a licensed Kenwood radio today (not sure of model) which was absolutely brilliant with range!

This now brings me on to what radios I need to purchase, as I need to ‘upgrade’ as the old binatones are getting worn out now.

License free wise, I was looking at the Motorola XTNiD (Link: ), which is what I am still looking at, but I don’t think I will get a good range. The second option would be to get some licensed radios, such as the Mitex 5 Watt
The thing I like about license free is the fact of being able to link into other license free radios, such as my old ones, or is it better to sacrifice that and get a good range with the Mitex ones (do they look good?)

My mind is torn, and I wont be able to make my mind up until somebody points me what is the right way to go. Or, if you have any other radio suggestions (that are very reasonably priced, such as £200 for two, or available on eBay)

I only use my radios for business use and personal use, but I don’t know much about frequencies, licenses etc. I think one for the UK is £75 for 5 years (not 100% sure)

Many Thanks,

If you are looking for good range in a licence-free business-class radio, maybe also look at the Motorola DTR series.

They are a pure digital radio, meaning that they are 100% clear as long as they are in range of each other, but will not even transmit if out of range. I have tested mine to about 2 kilometers outdoors in a dense residential area, and will soon be putting them to a maximum range test across wide open fields in ideal conditions just to see how far they can potentially go.

(I am not a radio expert, and some of the real experts can chime in, but radio range is more a function of frequency spectrum than anything else. Even the most powerful 5-watt radio is not going to give you more than a mile or two in line-of-sight on VHF/UHF frequencies. On the other hand, good business-class radios have a better chance of putting all their wattage into the signal than cheap FRS radios!)

They are not cheap because they are mil-spec water resistant radios, but are way more solid than any FRS/GMRS radio.

In North America, they broadcast on the unlicenced 900 MHz spectrum, where they rapidly ‘hop’ frequencies, making it almost impossible to monitor with a scanner. In the UK, they work on the similar 2.4 GHz spectrum.

It is important to note that they Motorola ‘channels’ that it uses are not compatible with any other make or model of radio except DTR-series. (This can be a huge advantage in certain areas like for example Walt Disney World where hundreds of FRS radios are all interfering with each other.)

They are not the easiest radios in the world to program and customize. (You can, of course, simply buy the number of radios you need and just turn them on and use them, but there are lots of customization features.)

Motorola doesn’t make it easy to understand how to program them either. (I can always offer advice.)

One interesting feature I just found today when using them in 80 KPH winds is that the mic sensitivity can be adjusted for the ambient noise conditions, and “low” setting sounds like just static in these high wind conditions, but crank the sensitivity down to “medium” and they are clear as a bell again.

You are not going to get reception past line of sight. Take that as a given, because doing it is ‘against the laws of nature’.

The rule of thumb Motorola gives for reliable communications is:

square root of the height of the antenna in feet= miles of range. You do this for both ends (both antennas), and add the results for final range.

So, handie-talkies. Height of antenna, about 5 feet. Square root of 5 = 2.24
Twice that (for both ends) = 4.48 Be generous, call it 4.5 miles (7.24 Kilometers) That’s the MAXIMUM range you can expect, and will get only if there are no obstructions, like trees, buildings, or hills (even little ones) in the way. In real world use, the typical ranges in urban areas run from 1/2 mile to 2 miles. (.8 to 3.2 Km)

Understand that the stated range of radios is a Marketingspeak LIE. They apply only if both radios are on hills, with no obstructions between them. If both ends are standing on 100 foot high hills, with flat ground between them, you might get 10 miles. The MarketingLie™ that says a GMRS handie talkie will get you 32 miles is assuming that both ends are standing on 250 foot hills!

The only way to get longer ranges is to use repeater systems, which are, in fact, STILL line of sight, they just provide a longer line of sight by using a repeater station at high locations where they have a longer line of sight.

Repeater use generally means commercial, and expensive.

English radio rules are different, and you’ll have to check to see what’s legally usable there.

Thanks for both of your replies, what do you think about the Mitex radios I mentioned earlier?

It is potentially confusing because of the differences between Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. Let me see if I can clarify it a bit.

Firstly, in general, all two-way radios operate on certain frequency bands. They can be low frequencies such as Ham radio, high frequencies such as CB radios, very high frequencies such as VHF radios (all aviation radios and marine radios around the world operate in this band,) and ultra high frequencies such as UHF radios (military aviation operates on UHF frequencies.)

There are basically two categories of radios that one can buy for a business such as you are talking (depending on the regulations in each country) or for personal use:

#1 - “Public” frequency radios use shared frequencies where every radio on the same frequency can talk to each other. (There are a variety of ‘privacy codes’ and privacy technology that tries to lessen interference from others, but the reality is that every radio in a 10 kilometer radius is trying to share the same 14 or 22 frequencies.)

Canada and the U.S. have assigned certain frequencies in the 462 MHz and 467 MHz (UHF) band for these “public frequency” radios. They are called FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios. FRS radios are designed only for recreational communication. GMRS are potentially more powerful but require a licence in the U.S. (but not in Canada.)

PMR (Private Mobile Radio) is the European version of FRS/GMRS. They use special frequencies in the 446 MHz band, and don’t need a licence.

Legally, you cannot use FRS or GMRS radios in Europe, nor can you use European PMR radios in North America.

All FRS/GMRS (North America) and PMR (Europe) use shared frequencies in the UHF band, and the range of all will be potentially about the same, regardless of advertising. This means realistically about 2 to 4 kilometers in urban areas and possibly a bit more in rural areas with trees, houses and hills in the way. Of course, better quality radios will have a better chance of maximizing their range.

This brings us the the Mitex radios. They operate on a special UHF frequency (449 MHz) in Europe that allows full 5 watts in transmitting power, but requires a licence. One could consider these ‘licenced PMR’ radios.

It is important to note that these ‘licences’ are not really radio licences in the true sense of the word. They don’t require specialized knowledge and passing of tests to get a radio operator licence; they are more of a ‘tax’ to use certain frequencies. Also, because of their higher power levels, regulators need to know who people are and where they live just in case they start ‘cross-talking’ onto private frequencies if something goes wrong with their radios.

#2 - The second category of two-way radios are the commercial-class or business use radios that use special private frequencies assigned to that business in that area. Because they use assigned frequencies, they are guaranteed to be interference-free within their licenced areas. They can be either VHF or UHF, and the retailer will program in the specific frequencies that are assigned to that business. These commercial radios require a special business licence plus an assigned frequency.

The confusing part is comparing a commercial (“business”) radio with a programmed frequency assigned to that business in that area, to a “public” band radio that uses a simple licence fee from the government to operate (such as the Mitex ‘licenced PMR’ radios in the U.K. and all FRS/GMRS radios on GMRS frequencies in the U.S.)

When you browse through the great selection from our forum hosts at buytwowayradios, you will notice they have divided the radios into the public band radios (FRS/GMRS) and the private assigned frequency band radios (business radios.)

Consider for you in the U.K., that PMR is the European version of our FRS/GMRS radios.

With the new technology, there is now another option for public band (shared frequency) radios: FHSS (frequency-hopping, shared spectrum) radios. They operate on the unlicenced 900 MHz band in Canada and the U.S., and the unlicenced 2.4 GHz band in the U.K. They can use hundreds of thousands of radios in one area all sharing the same frequency band because they rapidly ‘hop’ from frequency to frequency in milliseconds. Here in North America, there are two makes right now: Trisquare for a consumer-level FHSS radio and Motorola for a business-class FHSS radio. Neither make will ‘talk’ to the other because they use proprietary pseudo-channels (that aren’t really ‘channels’ because they are not fixed frequencies; they are a hopping algorithm.)

This is why I suggested you also look at the Motorola DTR-series. It is a digital FHSS radio that doesn’t require ANY kind of licence but is built to “business-class” (and mil-spec) standards.

This is a bit of a simplistic summary of course and you need to consult the regulations of your country to learn whether the radios you are looking for can be used for business purposes.

The Mitex radios use a full 5 watts of power so they POTENTIALLY have the longest range of any of the “public frequency” radios, but don’t forget that ALL UHF radios are line-of-sight; good quality radios will work better but none will give you any more than the frequency will allow.

It would be great if you could rent a couple of licenced PMR radios like the Mitex and the 2.4 GHz FHSS radios like the Motorola, and see if you like the range.

Just don’t be surprised that the licenced PMR at 5 watts doesn’t give you 10 times the range of the unlicenced PMR radios at .5 watts.

Wow, some of that info. went a bit over my head, but it’s good to know. So, will the Mitex be better than the XTNiD? I’m drawn mainly between the two units, with them both potentially having pros and cons. The pros of the Mitex being the (supposedly) increased range, but can’t communicate with other PMR446 radios. The XTNiD having a (probably) low range, but being able to communicate with my old PMR446 radios if need be.

Confused to what is the best solution, but grateful for help!

Many Thanks,

Yeah, I know what you mean. Some of it was over MY head too!

I think you have analyzed the issues correctly: potential range versus cost and compatibility. There is no easy answer. Consider that asking if a 449 MHz radio with a licence would be better than a 446 MHz radio without a licence in the U.K. is identical to us folks asking in these forums from North America what is better: GMRS or FRS.

In some ways, you have more choices than we do: we are not allowed to use FRS for business use; your PMR446 radios can be used for business or personal use. In the U.S., only the licence holder or their immediate family can use GMRS radios, meaning that if a photographer wanted to use it for their business, each person in the business would need their own licence. Your PMR 449 MHz radios use instead what is called a “Simple UK” Business Radio Licence.

You also have industrial-grade choices such as the Motorola XTNiD PMR446 and the Mitex licenced PMR 449 that are considered “business-class” radios that we don’t get here and are built to much higher standards than our consumer-class FRS or GMRS radios. (There are very few military-spec industrial-grade FRS/GMRS radios available for sale in North America. One reason is that the cost of the radio plus the cost of the $80 GMRS licence adds up.)

(Dealers such as buytwowayradios can take many business-class industrial-grade radios and program them to GMRS frequencies though.)

So, as I said, there is no easy answer. Can you rent a couple of business-quality PMR446 and a couple of licenced PMR 449 radios to compare?

Have you thought about simply renting business radios every time you need them? (You don’t need to worry about any licencing; you simply turn them on, turn them off and charge as required. The renting dealer is the one that has the licence required.)

Have you talked to a good two-way radio dealer in the U.K.?

I Have used the Motorola XTNi often for work and hiking in the past and they are a very good 446PMR Radio,proberly one of the best 0.5 watt radios on the market at the moment.In a country area with medium obstructions ground to ground line of sight i got just about 3 miles range and in a built up area nearly 1 and a half miles…I now use the Mitex general UHF Radios for work as i needed a longer range more powerful radio…They operate on 449 MHz so you can’t communicate with other 446PMR users.The 5 watts power makes a big difference though…In a country area with medium obstructions i get over 5 to 6 miles range,ground to ground line of sight and in a built up area,about 3 to 4 miles range average…so there is about twice the range between the Motorola XTNi 0.5 power and the Mitex 5watts power,.Hope this has been of some help to you.

Hi, I found this interesting thread after looking up PMR stuff after a chat with an old friend the other day. He got a couple of Boafeng F8+ VHF/UHF transceivers off ebay (chinese programmable things) and whilst he only intends to have them for emergency/prepper intentions, what he talked about doing seemed naughty to me. He didn’t agree, he just said Ofcom haven’t got time to worry about people who are not harming anyone, and he is probably right, but IF they did, I suspect he could be in some shtuck! I don’t know what the penalties are but probably a fine I would guess. Anyway, what he is doing is programming his new radios to 8 what he called “proper” PMR channels, and another 8 mysterious but apparently also legitimate PMR channels. This, having read this topic, sounds to me like the frequencies someone mentioned earlier. Anyway, the main point of what he is doing is that these radios can transmit at 5W (i think so anyway, could have been 4). His argument is that if he operates on proper PMR channels, he isn’t breaking the law. But I have various sets of PMR radios and they are all 500MW according to the battery pack anyway. And the antenna is fixed (he talked about changing his for a bigger one). Just thought I would mention that plan in case it helps here, IF its legit or if it isn’t but you have a large appetitie for risk like my admittedly nutty mate!