Deciding on what type of radios you need.
The importance of a good communications system can often make or break you and your group. Deciding on which frequencies you will need and what sort of radios to cover those frequencies is a hard choice, depending on what sort of coverage you need. In this article we will be covering VHF and UHF radios and antennas.
Some common terms.
HF : High Frequency. 3MHZ to 30MHZ. This includes ham radio bands and CB.
VHF: Very High Frequency. 30MHZ to 300MHZ. 2M Amateur Radio (144MHZ – 148MHZ)
UHF: Ultra High Frequency. 300MHZ to 3 GHZ. FRS, GMRS and Amateur radio.
It can be confusing when deciding on which radio you and your group will need, often using a generic term CB to refer to all radios including the inexpensive Baofeng UV-5R radios, which cover 130MHZ to 520MHZ (VHF/UHF).
CB: Citizens Band. Channel designated frequencies from 26.965 to 27.405. HF range.
The VHF and UHF radio's have limited range and depend very much on the antenna system in use, the terrain and the power output of the radio itself.
FRS: Family Radio Service
GMRS: General Mobile Radio Service.
FRS radio's are great little UHF radios for close range communications. They are very limited to range with only ½ (500Mw) power output and fixed antenna system. Most FRS radio manufacturers hype almost impossible radio coverage, so don't believe the hype of 50+ mile coverage from them. If you need more range than just a mile or so, then you will want to look at GMRS or possibly Ham (Amateur) radio.
Which band is right for you.
Both the Amateur Radio service and GMRS require a license and cost more. The trade off is that you have better coverage and you are not limited on the antenna type, so a good multi-band antenna like a Diamond V2000A will extend your range up to 40 miles or more, depending again on terrain and power output as well as the receiving antenna on the other end. By using a high gain antenna with multiple band coverage you can reduce costs and still get a decent signal out.Check latest prices on the Baofeng UV-5R at Amazon
Duplex: Receiving on one frequency and transmitting on another. This is often done in Ham radio and GMRS.
Simplex: Transmitting and receiving on the same frequency.
Extending the range of your radios.
One other method that I have seen to extend the range of FRS radio equipment is to use a police scanner as a receiver. By using a police scanner you can receive one FRS channel and transmit on another in Duplex mode. The benefit of this is that with the police scanner you are not limited to the size of the receiving antenna. You can put it up as high as possible to extend your radio coverage. When two base stations need to communicate over longer distances you can use the scanner to listen on the frequency/ Channel they are transmitting on.
Radio coverage and range.
One of the biggest factors in deciding on which radio service and types of radios are right for you is the range of the service. VHF and UHF coverage is very limited, and if you need nationwide or international coverage then Amateur radio using the HF radio bands may be the way for you to extend your coverage. Whether you are looking for international news coverage or need to communicate long range, the HF bands can provide the coverage you need. If you are just looking for local information then the VHF/UHF bands will be more than adequate. You can get this information using a police scanner or emergency hand crank radio with UHF weather band coverage.
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