One of the most common queries the two-way industry receive is regarding the differences between digital two-way radios and analogue.
Analogue two-way radios were the only option for many years and for many years the users of the analogue radios became accustomed to their nuances, what they looked like, how their voices sounded coming out of the radio, the crackling of voices when the signal reception was nearing the end of its range etc.
In 2007, the Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) standard was created, and manufacturers started creating digital two-way radios. To start with the users found the changes difficult to accept, but over time most realised the benefits and began to embrace them, but that doesn’t mean analogue radios are defunct.
Digital Two-Way Radios Vs Analogue Basics
Analogue and Digital two-way radios take the input of the user and then send it as a signal over a radio channel using Ultra High Frequency (UHF) or Very High Frequency (VHF) carrier frequency wave. Analogue and Digital two-way radios programmed in the same way as the transmitting unit will receive the signal and output the information to the receiving user. This means digital to digital or analogue to analogue but not digital to analogue and vice versa.
Increasing The Signal Range of Analogue and Digital Two-Way Radios
Both analogue and digital two-way radios use repeater base stations to increase the signal range of the handheld or ‘fixed radios. The radios transmit to a strategically placed repeater antenna, which then retransmits the signal to increase the area of coverage.
Benefits of Digital Two-Way Radios
You can now see that the basic principles of analogue and digital wo-way radios are the same. They both transmit and receive, and you can boost the signal range using a repeater base station. To understand how you can benefit from digital two-way radios, we need to understand what a digital two-way radio does.
“A digital two-way radio is a two-way radio that can encode the voice and data input into binary packets (ones and zeroes) and transmit them over a radio frequency.”
This is the key feature of digital two-way radios because now the input is converted into a format that can be read by computer software.
Usage Benefits of Digital Two-Way Radios
- Increased Channel Capacity
A standard frequency is 12.5KHz. An analogue radio channel uses the full 12.5KHz frequency to transmit a voice signal. A digital radio essentially splits the 12.5KHz channel frequency into two parts, effectively giving the user 2 channels over 12.5Khz instead of one. These channels can then be used for voice or voice and data.
- Clearer Audio
Digital radios feature real-time audio processing that focuses on speech and reduces any background noise.
- Longer Range
Both digital and analogue two-way radios, with the same power output will transmit over the same distance. The digital radio will remain loud and clear to the end of the covered area. The analogue radio will gradually fade towards the end resulting in a static sound towards the end of the signal range.
- Increased Battery Life
A digital two-way radio transmits the signal on an intermittent stepped change. Analogue radios transmit continuously. Digital two way radios are therefore more efficient so the battery life will be longer
- Security and Privacy
Digital radios can use encryption without degrading the quality of the audio, or the range at which the two-way radio works
Certain digital two-way radios have GPS built into them so they can be located or tracked.
- Other Features
Text messaging and data services, private calling, group calls, and safety features.
Because digital two-way radios can now send the signal with binary packets, it means that software applications on a pc, connected via a receiving ‘fixed’ digital two-way radio can receive the radio transmissions. It then uses the data to provide numerous features when used with suitable software applications:
- Voice recording
- Event logging
- Real-time location tracking with playback
- Text messages
- Lone Working
You can even connect to your existing systems to your digital two-way radio system, such as fire alarm panels, filtration alarms etc. By connecting existing alarms to you can recieve notifcations direct to your radios, allowing operations to run more efficiently and ensure a faster response when necessary.
Analogue Two-way Radios and the Exception to the Rule
While it is easy to see the benefits of digital two-way radios, this is an example where analogue is generally better. The only very minor downside to digital radios is that there is a millisecond delay between the user speaking and the transmission taking place. This is because digital two-way radios encode the input before transmitting. This isn’t something that will be noticed when conducting general communications but in some real-world scenarios this can present a problem.
A construction site has a crane operator, and a banksman conducting a heavy and dangerous lift. The banksman needs to provide instant communication during the lift when he is not visible to the crane driver. As the crane driver moves a large object, any delay in guidance can be the difference between the object moving inches (centimetres) or feet (meters).
Digital Two-Way Radio Benefits Vs Analogue Summary
Digital two-way radios have revolutionised the two-way radio industry and offer a huge range of benefits, along with new system integration options which analogue two-way radios simply cannot compete with. That being said there are still some applications where analogue two-way radios are the preferred choice.