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Two-Way Radios: Range and Battery Life

Document Number: 244
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Introduction

Two-way industrial radio communication on the jobsite is increasing in popularity. Using two-way radios to communicate in and around industrial sites or buildings saves workers time and is a practical solution for communication, especially in areas where other means of communication are almost impossible.

When choosing a type of radio communication for your workplace, it is important to determine your application as well your surroundings. The most common questions about two-way radios are: Whether to select UHF or VHF radios; what wattage will attain the clearest communication for application; and what range of clear communication can be expected from any given two-way radio.

Range of Two-Way Radios

Hand-held radios can “talk” to each other radio to radio in “line of sight” for up to two miles. In this case both UHF and VHF radios will offer similar range of communication in flat, open areas. The range for two-way radios is determined mainly by the following factors:

Frequency: UHF or VHF. Industrial two-way radios operate on FM business frequencies, in the UHF and VHF bands. Both UHF and VHF offer similar range for communication in open areas for line of sight communications.

  • VHF radios offer excellent communication in open flat terrain, and can also be used in wood structures or structures that are smaller in square footage.
  • UHF radios have better penetration ability; therefore, UHF radios operate better in multilevel, steel and concrete structures. They can operate in structures of greater square ft. than that of a VHF radio.

Power: Identified in watts. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the watts, the better the coverage. In order to determine how many watts your two-way radio should have, you should consider the terrain.

Terrain: Is defined as the area you wish to use these radios—is it flat wide open space, or are there structures such as buildings, dense foliage or hills? Anytime there are obstructions communication can be affected.

Range and Coverage

Flat Ground
No Obstruction

Industrial Sites and Buildings
Multi-Level Structures
VHF 1 watt
Up to 5 miles
150,000 sq. ft.
Up to 8 floors
VHF 2 watt
Up to 6 miles
180,000 sq. ft.
Up to 10 floors
VHF 5 watt
Up to 6 miles
Up to 250,000 sq. ft.
Up to 15 floors
UHF 1 watt
Up to 5 miles
Up to 200,000 sq. ft.
Up to 15 floors
UHF 2 watt
Up to 6 miles
Up to 250,000 sq. ft.
Up to 20 floors
UHF 4 watt
Up to 6 miles
Up to 350,000 sq. ft.
Up to 30 floors

Battery Life and Charging

Rechargeable batteries such as NiMH (nickel metal hydride) and NiCd (nickel cadmium) batteries are often used in two-way industrial radios.

NiCd batteries have an average life span of approximately 18-24 months, and NiMH batteries have an approximate life of 12-18 months.

Manufacturers suggest using a “trickle charge” to fully recharge your batteries. Trickle charging can take 8-12 hours to fully recharge a battery. Because of the amount of time involved with trickle charging, many people opt for Fast-charging. Fast chargers will charge a battery much quicker, however constant fast rate charging can decrease the life span of a rechargeable battery. Fast-charge the batteries only when it is absolutely necessary. Or, if fast-charging cannot be avoided, run the batteries down completely and trickle charge at least once a month.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q. How should I dispose of my used rechargeable batteries?
A. Both used NiCd and NiMH are considered by the EPA as hazardous waste. Proper disposal is advised. You will want to contact your local Hazardous Waste Authority or your local recycling program for proper disposal procedures.
Q. How long can I expect my industrial 2-way radio to last?
A. With proper care, a low-end industrial radio can last between three to four years of use. High-end radios are engineered to last approximately four to five years. Careful handling and care of your radio can ensure you will get an expected service life from your two-way radio.
Q. Do I need to license my two-way radios?
A. According to the FCC, licensing is required on all professional two-way radios. Information on obtaining a license is the responsibility of the end-user, not of the distributor or manufacturer. The licensing forms are included with the radios when purchased. You do not need a license to purchase two-way radios.

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Please Note: The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only. This publication is not a substitute for review of the applicable government regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.
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