For cheap, reliable, short distance communication – many people turn to UHF Radio. This video will teach you everything you need to make a purchase decision.
Unlike a mobile phone, UHF radios don’t require a network to function. Communication occurs directly between radio sets, meaning UHF will work absolutely anywhere. Furthermore, communication is free of charge – no network fees!
UHF radios come in a variety of different forms. Hand held units are great for their portability, and lack the need for any installation. These can be powered by disposable or rechargeable batteries – and often pack the same features as a vehicle mounted unit; although at a higher price tag.
Vehicle mounted units have their own sub categories of sizes. There are full DIN sized units to fit straight in the dash, micro units for smaller spaces, and remote face designs with all the controls in the handpiece. Considering where you would like to mount your radio will help you to decide on the right form for you.
While you’re shopping for a UHF, you’ll need to understand the meaning behind some important features. These could include:
- Squelch. Which is often automatic with a manual override. Squelch cuts out white noise and weak signals.
- Scan functions. All radios feature an open scan- which automatically flicks through channels. The scan will stop once a transmission is picked up. Some offer group scan, which scans channels set by the user.
- CTCSS and DCS codes. Setting radios to the same CTCSS code - acts like a sub channel. You will only hear transmissions from other radios set to the same code. DCS performs the same function, on a digital level.
- Duplex mode. This is enabled when using a local repeater to extend range. Otherwise; a UHF operates in simplex mode between units.
- Roger beep. The radio automatically broadcasts a tone once the transmit button is released -to signify the end of transmission.
- Wideband Scanner - or “receive only” channels. Some UHF radio sets include programmable “receive only” channels and scan functions - to listen in on channels outside the 80 channel limit.
- Busy channel lockout. This stops your unit being able to transmit while somebody else is broadcasting - and is useful when CTCSS is enabled.
After considering the features you would like; have a look at the output power of the UHF. This is measured in watts. The maximum legal output power in Australia is 5 watts – while receiver power is generally higher. Purchase the highest wattage you can afford. The more output power you have; the further your signal will broadcast.
Vehicle mounted UHF’s offer the best bang for buck in features and power. Purchasing the antenna for one of these units does come at an extra cost – but allows you to tailor the system to your needs – and achieve a far greater range than most hand held units.
On a handheld radio the antenna is generally fixed. But if you have a vehicle mounted radio – antenna choice and location makes a big difference to range. The higher you can place your antenna, the further your signal will reach. While a roof mounted antenna would provide the best signal, this is not realistic for most users. Instead; a bullbar, or guard mount can be purchased – providing you an easy mounting point.
The second important factor in antenna selection is the gain. This dictates the pattern of the radio waves – and is measured in decibels. A low gain up to 3 decibels radiates in all directions equally – almost like a ball. These perform best in very hilly or heavily forested terrain, and around buildings – but don’t achieve spectacular distance.
A three to 5 or 6 decibel antenna may be classed as medium gain. This hits a good middle ground, radiating in a more oval shape. This achieves reasonable distance while still passing around moderate obstructions.
For excellent distance across flat terrain – a high gain antenna between 6 and 12 decibels is ideal. Radio waves from such an antenna are emitted in a tight, narrow beam. Excellent over long distance - but easily disrupted by terrain, vegetation, and buildings.