man out in the mountains using his two-way radio

How to Find a Good Two-Way Radio Frequency

Whether you’re planning on adventures with your best friends or going out for some soul searching, a two-way radio can be your ultimate savior. Not only is it great for the outdoors, but it is also a crucial element for communication in various industries. Industrial and business sectors rely heavily on two-way radios for communication between workers.

All in all, two-way radios are immensely helpful for instant communication, especially in areas where cellular communication network is lost. When you’re out for an adventure you may want to cut yourself off from civilization, but it is good to carry a two-way radio for safety purposes.

Unlike regular networks, two-way radios come with a long range. Thus, you will hardly ever find yourself out of range. On the other hand, beginners may suffer in finding the best frequency for their two-way radios. You need to find one that serves your purpose while providing you with the longest range possible.

The Basic Principle

Radio waves emanating from a two-way radio are parallel. In such parallel-traveling systems, the earth’s curvature can result in problems in wave transmission. The range of a two-way radio is thus defined as the straight distance between two points on the surface of the earth. Mostly, you’ll find the range to be 4-6 miles.

Finding the range of a radio device is quite simple as it only requires a simple formula. The general rule of thumb is that the higher the radio is placed, the longer its range will be. Whatever height you place it, the range will be 3.56 times of that. Note that the height is in meters while the distance is in kilometers.

As is evident, you can greatly increase the range of the radio by placing it further up.

Quick Note

Before finding a suitable frequency, it is important to note a few key points about two-way radios. These are considered to be the most reliable forms of communication. The following two properties separate them from regular modes of wireless communication:

  • Instant Communication

One of the most prominent features of a two-way radio is that they allow you to communicate instantly. All you need to do is press the PTT button and you can relay any message you desire. This is due to the quick wireless technology that has made this device such a phenomenon.

  • Group Communication

These radios allow you to speak to multiple people at the same time without having to repeat your message. You can speak with a thousand people with a single device. You can also set up multiple frequencies to talk to folks from different groups.

What are the Types of Frequencies?

Generally, there are two types of frequencies that you can use for your two-way radio. These are the UHF and VHF. Most often, two-way radios use them together.

  • Ultra High Frequency (UHF)

As the name suggests, this frequency is quite high. On the other hand, the wavelength is quite short. Thus, it can transmit much greater energy. This is generally the rule of thumb with waves. There is a tradeoff between the frequency and the wavelength. 

Typically, the range of UHF is from 400 to 512 MHz while the wavelength can vary from 1 to 5 feet. The most efficient use of this frequency is for close-range communication. At the same time, it cannot penetrate through obstacles. This results in greater distortion and a lower range.

  • Very High Frequency (VHF)

Although the frequency for VHF is still high, it is comparatively lower than UHF. As a result, you will find it to have a greater wavelength. Typically, the values for the frequency range from 130 to 174 MHz while the wavelength can reach 10 meters.

As you might have guessed, the transmitted energy is much lower than UHF, however it has a greater capability of penetrating through obstacles. In addition to this, VHF is least affected by the curvature of the earth. Thus, you get a frequency with a far longer range. 

Finding the Perfect Frequency and Wavelength

Depending on your requirements for the range, you can easily adjust the frequency to either VHF or UHF. Both come with their own advantages and disadvantages. VHF is perfect for broadcasting messages through a long distance. Furthermore, weather interference and obstacles do not affect it to a large extent.

On the other hand, UHF is much better suited for applications where there are multiple devices within close range. It has a much larger bandwidth which ensures minimal interference.

Two-way radios make use of both these waves to eliminate all limitations. UHF offers you with more effective communication whereas VHF is perfect for long-range communication. You can however, control the dominance of one wave over the other.

  • Adjusting UHF

When adjusting UHF, you need to ensure that you do it before you leave the house or any place other than where you are headed. The process is quite simple. Turn the UHF control button. Do so until the frequency pointer reaches above the balanced pointer position. 

The frequency can be set directly from the UHF pointer. Also, you will notice that the VHF reading is lesser than the balanced state.

  • Adjusting VHF

The process is similar to the one for UHF. You might need to adjust the VHF frequency for long-range communication. Simply turn the VHF button on your radio and set the frequency anywhere between 130 and 174 MHz.

Adjusting the frequency automatically adjusts the wavelength. In addition, the UHF also gets automatically balanced. 

Parting Notes

All in all, you need to consider the optimum balance between the UHF and VHF for your application. Apart from that, setting up a frequency is simple. At the same time, try to avoid as many obstacles as you can to ensure that the curvature of the Earth doesn’t interfere with your communication.

Finding the perfect frequency will help you maintain instant communication at all times, whether you’re on a hike or at work.

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