Boost operating range of walkie-talkies for factory usage

Hi Everyone,

I need help with two way radio communications because I’m a bit lost here. I’m a IT tech working in a windows and doors factory and I’m pretty good at what I do but I don’t know much about walkie-talkies.

A quick summary of the situation: a while ago, my department head bought at Costco about 40x Midland X-Talker T61a walkie-talkies that were on rebate. He knows even less about two-way communication than I do and consulted no one before buying them. He saw that they can go up to 32 miles in range, the price tag and bought them.

They work great indoors between the production managers because the range always stay short. No problem with them.

On the other hand, the forklift drivers and the workers that are present in the satellite buildings around the main plant need to work outside and sometimes need to go to the edge of the 2-3 million sq. ft. property. They all have to talk to various employees and managers that are all sitting or moving in the main building but the signal constantly breaks even if the walkie-talkies are broadcasting at their highest power setting.

I did some research and I submitted my ideas on how to correct the problem. All were rejected because of the price tag involved EXCEPT installing a repeater or something like that because the company doesn’t want to invest in expensive W-Ts that can be dropped on the ground or crushed by the forklifts (yes a lot of the employees are a bit rough with them). Powerful W-Ts that are bolted on the forklifts are also out of the question because they need to stay on the employees belt.

Going back to the repeater, what we will need it to do:

  • installed outside on the roof or inside the main plant if powerful enough
  • relay signal from outside to inside the main plant and vice-versa
  • work with multiple UHF signals ranging from 462.5875 to 462.7250
  • be able to broadcast a clear signal on a 2-3 million sq.ft. property with many obstacles in the way
  • easy to program by a tech that has very little knowledge about W-Ts
  • easily accessible to buy (Amazon, BestBuy, etc)

Specialists and experts, what are your recommendations? What repeater model could I use or what other means could I use to correct this problem without spending a huge amount of money?

Thanks in advance! Cheers.

Hi @informatique. My name is Rob, and I am the sales manager with www.BuyTwoWayRadios.com. This scenario is one that we hear about often in our line of work, so I will be happy to shed some light on the issues you are having, as well as offer some possible solutions.

Unfortunately, a repeater is not going to be your solution in this case, for a few different reasons. The biggest reason is due to the fact that your Midland FRS radio are not repeater-capable radios. Repeaters are also generally not cheap, not readily available from places like Amazon or Best Buy, and not easily programmed by novice radio users. I wish there were a simple “plug and play” solution, but the radios you have will always be very limited in range. All too often, consumers are duped by manufacturers’ range claims, which are always far beyond any realistic range you can expect. They can get away with this by advertising the maximum range under “ideal conditions”, which basically will never happen in a real life scenario. We at Buy Two Way Radios pride ourselves on giving our customers a much more realistic expectation of range. In this case, your radios would likely see a maximum range of about a mile or so over open terrain, and much less than that, as you’ve found, in situations where buildings or other large obstructions are involved.

Back to possible solutions. For a 2-3 million sq ft facility, your options are going to be fairly limited, and none of which are going to be “cheap”. Unfortunately, replacing your current radios entirely is the only real feasible option. Adding a repeater would first require an FCC license, followed by custom programming (by a dealer such as ourselves). The cost of a standard 50 watt business repeater typically runs somewhere in the range of around $2,000, not including antenna, coaxial cable, connectors, etc. Not to mention you would still need to replace the entire fleet of radios with higher-quality business radios that are programmable and compatible with said repeater.

The second option would be to go with a license-free 900 MHz digital radio such as the Motorola DTR600 or DTR700. These radios have proven themselves time and time again to be an excellent option for large facilities such as yours. No repeater would be required, and the combination of range and audio quality is top-notch.

Again, I wish I had a cheaper, simpler solution for you, but it ultimately comes down to the fact that the radios you have are not right for the job, and will need to be replaced one way or another. If you would like to discuss things further, please feel free to contact me directly at 1-800-584-1445 ext. 230. I’ll be happy to help in any way that I can. Thanks!!

Thank you for the quick reply! I believe many eyebrows will go up once they see your answer when I’ll forward it to my bosses.

Cheers!

You also mentioned the repeaters needing to work on multiple frequencies. In general, repeaters are fixed and tuned. the frequency is carefully controlled to remove the transmit frequency from the reciever, and the other way around - otherwise you get a phenomenon called desensitisation - which makes the things effectively deaf! If you need multiple channels, you need multiple repeaters and antenna combiners. Digital radios offer multiple users, groups and facilities. You could buy cheaper digital radios if they get broken often, but you’re probably talking three figure prices per radio.

Hi,

Again, thank you for the replies. I never thought there was so much to know for something as simple as two-way communications.

My bosses will probably go for powerful radios for the employees that need them. To keep them intact, I’ll probably find a way to secure them better than the cheaper ones.

Cheers!

They’ve discovered reliable business comms is far from straightforward. I’ve actually got two sites about a mile from each other but one is shielded by buildings so I’ve got two repeaters and with a modest antenna each end it works perfectly.