There are two major formats for two-way radios. They are Ultra High
Frequency (UHF) radio and Very High Frequency (VHF) radio. Neither
frequency band is inherently better than the other. They each have
their pluses and minuses. Both formats are effective ways to
communicate with another person. But how do you decide which one
will fit your needs? Let's go over the key components of both
frequencies to help you decide.
UHF equipment operates between the frequencies of 300 MHz and
3000 MHz. Until recently, it wasn't widely used. Now, the UHF radio
frequency is used for GPS, Bluetooth, cordless phones, and WiFi.
There are more available channels with UHF so in more populated
areas UHF may be less likely to have interference from other
systems. If you are in an area where population is thin, VHF should
work fine for you. Not too long ago the FCC also opened up a new
VHF frequency called MURS that is so far not heavily used in most areas.
There's more about MURS below in the VHF section. If you are in an
area where interference from other radios may be an issue, UHF
transmitters and receivers could be your best choice unless you use
a MURS VHF radio. UHF is better at penetrating physical barriers
like walls, buildings, and rugged landscape. Anything that obstructs
a radio wave, will weaken a radio signal. UHF lessens that effect.
Though it may not travel as far, UHF radio waves will penetrate
obstacles better than VHF.
To highlight the differences in indoor range, below is an excerpt
from a brochure of a leading two-way radio maker on the predicted
range of one of their lines of handheld VHF and UHF two-way radios:
"Coverage estimates: At full power, line-of-sight, no
obstructions the range is approximately 4+ miles. Indoor coverage at
VHF is approximately 270,000 sq ft and 300,000 sq ft at UHF. Expect
about 20 floors vertical coverage at VHF and up to 30 floors at UHF.
Note: Range and coverage are estimates and are not guaranteed."
VHF waves are not very good at penetrating walls, buildings and
rugged landscape. Therefore range will be significantly reduced for
VHF radios in these environments. That may not necessarily be a
problem if the range needed is only a few hundred feet. You can also
add an external antenna to an indoor VHF base station that will
reduce or eliminate this problem.
One of the downsides to UHF is that the FCC requires you to get a
license to operate in these frequencies. Although many frequencies
in the VHF business band also require a license. If you choose a
radio in the VHF MURS frequencies you can operate it without a
license. UHF equipment is usually more expensive. The components
need to be finely tuned and are more expensive to construct. This
does not mean it's necessarily better, just more expensive.
The advantage of UHF transmission is the physically short wave
that is produced by the high frequency. That means the antenna on
the radio can be shorter than an equivalent VHF radio.
VHF equipment operates between the frequencies of 30 MHz and 300
MHz. FM radio, two-way radios, and television broadcasts operate in
Both UHF and VHF radios are prone to line of sight factors, but
VHF a little more so. The waves make it through trees and rugged
landscapes, but not as well as UHF frequencies do. However, if a VHF
wave and a UHF wave were transmitted over an area without barriers,
the VHF wave would travel almost twice as far. This makes VHF easier
to broadcast over a long range. If you are working mostly outdoors,
a VHF radio is probably the best choice, especially if you are using
a base station radio indoors and you add the external antenna.
VHF radios also have a smaller number of available frequencies.
Interference with other radios could be more likely to be a problem.
However, the FCC recently made this less of a problem when they
opened up the MURS frequencies. The 150 MHz frequency is a Citizens
Band radio spectrum that is called the MURS service. MURS stands for
Multi-Use Radio Service. This service is for use in the United
States and Canada. It is a low power, short range service in the VHF
150 MHz Citizens Band radio spectrum. There are 5 channels in the
MURS frequencies with 38 privacy codes under each one that enable
you to only pick up conversations on your code. The FCC does not
require users of products for MURS to be licensed.
With MURS you can add a larger or external antenna to improve
range. If you want to put an antenna on top of your house or
business, you can do it with MURS. Some antenna manufacturers claim
an external antenna can increase the effective radiated power of a
transmitter by a factor of 4. These MURS intercoms can transmit up
to four miles, and perhaps more with an external antenna depending
on the terrain.
One benefit of VHF wireless radios is that battery life is almost
always better than for similar UHF units. For handheld radios this
is a plus.
In summary, if you are planning on
using your two-way radios
mainly inside buildings, then UHF is likely the best solution for
you. If you are mainly using your two-way radios for communication
outside, then VHF would be a good choice. Either radio technology
can work for you if you don't really have a long range to cover. In
that case you may want to choose VHF MURS since no license is required.
Here at IntercomsOnline.com we have all sorts of two way radio equipment in UHF and VHF frequencies. We have more than just handheld radios. We also have base station intercoms, wireless call boxes, customer service call buttons, and wireless PA systems that work with two way radios. Give us a call and let us help you find what you are looking for.