Guide to Digital Two Way Radios

Date Added 04.11.19

Understanding Digital Two Way Radios? 

Digital two way radios are a great solution for building a robust, reliable and future-proofed communications network in any organisation, regardless of size or sector. 

Whether just providing better voice communications, or expanding your communications system with additional safety and efficiency features, digital two way radios offer a plethora of benefits across all aspects of your business. 

At the same time, the modern supply chain has become slicker, quicker and more demanding of efficiency, meaning communication has become the crux of a successful operation. 

From better voice communication quality, higher capacity and wider coverage, a longer life span and wider array of accessories and software, digital two way radios have quickly become the go to option for businesses and organisations looking to optimise the efficiency, productivity and safety of their workforce. 

If you want more information on why you should take your two way radio network digital, read this blog 


Digital vs Analogue: Head-to-head 

Digital Radios Analogue Radios
New technology Traditional technology
Higher efficiency Limited functionality
Longer battery life Very easy to use
Better coverage Few software applications available
Greater functionality  
Excellent audio  



The difference between digital two way radios and analogue radios is akin to the old comparison between terrestrial and digital television. 

While analogue remains well used within some organisations, it is quickly becoming a redundant technology as devices continue their natural evolution towards digital. 

But what are the key differences when it comes to analogue vs digital two way radios? 

  • Analogue radios - The fact that analogue radios have been around for decades and are still being used today is testament to how reliable they have been over the years. These devices have history on their side. However, in today’s digital first world, analogue has developed a plethora of limitations compared to its digital counterpart.

For instance, analogue communications are limited to one simple voice path compared to the simultaneous conversations teams can have at a time with a digital communications system. They are also more susceptible to interference and suffer from a smaller coverage reach. 

  • Digital Two Way Radios - Digital radios use binary numbers 1 or 0 to transmit voice communications (turning them digital) which means that the voice being transmitted is received much clearer. These devices are also capable of identifying background noise in the vicinity of a conversation and can block it out, so only the voice is transmitted. 

Digital two way radios can transmit signals over much greater distances than analogue signals, so allow organisations to communicate over larger areas – potentially even over multiple locations. 

It is also possible to program digital two way radios with intelligent software like Man Down and Lone Worker functionality to further improve the efficiency and safety of employees. 

UHF vs VHF – choosing the right two way radio signal 

Avoiding signal loss when transmitting or receiving voice calls is essential for any business. If employees are struggling to hear messages or instructions coming in over a radio, then the chances of things being misinterpreted increase greatly. 

But avoiding downtime is most important when dealing with communications during emergency situations, when the transmission of clear instructions could be the difference between a situation ending well, or in disaster. 

One of the things to consider when reducing the risk of interference over your digital two-way radio network is what frequency to choose to operate over. 

Should you choose an Ultra High Frequency (UHF) signal or Very High Frequency (VHF) signal? 

  • UHF signal – Because UHF signals operate at the higher end of the frequency range they have the benefit of more easily passing through structures or obstacles. If your employees are working where they are likely to be obstructed – like a building site – UHF could be the best choice. 

  • VHF signal – VHF signals operate on the lower end of the frequency range and, while it can’t pass through obstacles like UHF, its longer wavelength means it is capable of travelling over longer distances. This could be ideal if employees are working in large open spaces.  

Should I use a licensed or unlicensed network for my two way radios? 

Whether you should go with a licensed or unlicensed digital two way radio system depends entirely on the individual needs of your company. For instance, what size of area your business needs to cover or how important secure communication is to you. 

  • Licensed digital two way radio – Buying a radio licence from Ofcom means your business has access to a larger number of frequencies compared to unlicensed radios. A licence would be beneficial if employees are regularly sharing sensitive information over a radio that you don’t want others to listen to. As a licensed radio is more powerful, this means your communication solution will cover a much larger distance. 

  • Unlicensed digital two way radio – Unlicensed radios operate on PMR446 frequencies that are shared by numerous users throughout the EU which means there is no control over who is using them at any one time.  Unlicensed are a low power, cheap communications method for organisations that require a basic solution, operating over a small area with a low number of users. They are particularly popular in the retail and hospitality sector. Along with limited coverage and restricted features it is possible for a third-party to listen into conversations over your network or potentially disrupt them by using the same PMR446 frequency as your company. 

Should I buy or hire my digital two way radios? 

Without doubt one of the primary reasons many organisations decide to stick with what they’ve got when it comes to their communication, is the concern of a large capital outlay on new devices and software. 

This need not be the case though because most suppliers of digital two way radios, if not all, offer more flexible options like hiring your radios rather than buying them. 

For some businesses, like those which require communications for just a short time – like for an event – this option of hiring radios offers a best of both world solution. 

They get the enhanced digital comms they need, without the capital spend. 

That’s not to say that for some businesses they wouldn’t be better off buying their radios outright. In some circumstances that could be the exact thing to do. But for others, hiring their digital two way radios makes much more sense when the cost per use doesn’t add up to justify an outright purchase. 

Radio equipment can be hired for either short or long contracts – for example three or five years.  

These options typically include maintenance and the choice to either off-hire at the end of the hire period, or start a new contract with new equipment, in order to keep up with changing technology without a capital spend. 

Whichever way you decide to go, it’s worth talking to your supplier to see what kind of options are available. 

Read our Two Way Radio Hire Blog

Battery life 

It happens to everyone that you reach into your pocket all set to use your mobile device only to find that the battery is about run out. 

For most of us, this is just a matter of inconvenience, for a business however, having their communication network compromised because a battery ran out can be commercially and reputationally damaging if it interrupts their supply chain or disrupts a customer interaction. 

If a radio battery fails during an emergency situation, the consequences could be catastrophic.  

When it comes to battery life of digital two way radio, there are three particularly common reasons that batteries fail or deteriorate quickly: 

  • Poor maintenance
  • Over-charging
  • Temperature

Obviously trying to manage battery health manually is impossible – how are you meant to know the right reconditioning levels? 

Luckily, smart battery maintenance is now a staple of digital two way radio communications and these systems are taking the guesswork out of battery conditioning and maintenance. 

These smart chargers enable operators to visually monitor and evaluate the condition and usage pattern of a device’s battery and adapt the individual usage pattern to ensure a device will be available to use when it is needed. 

Failing to properly maintain the battery of your digital two way radios can cause all kinds of problems for your organisation. 

Which we explain more about in this blog. 

Creating customisable comms for more efficiency and safety 

Whenever talking about two way radios for business it is often the first thought to think purely how the devices will improve voice communications in isolation. 

While it is true that digital two way radios offer an improved voice comms network, they offer many more benefits and can provide a completely customised communication network built specifically around your business’ needs. 

A research report by Hytera examining the uses of digital two way radios in companies found that many were leveraging their devices to also scale their wider efficiency and health and safety procedures. 

When looking at these additional benefits, there are a few obvious things that come to mind: 

  • Adopting phone to radio and radio to phone capability - If you’re an organisation that has an established smartphone network in your business, it can be tempting to stick with it (even if it does have its drawbacks). Maybe you don’t want to make any investment. Maybe the problems aren’t obvious to you yet. With digital two way radios it is possible to adopt these new devices over time and integrate them to your existing phone network. Similarly using Android and iOS apps on your employees’ phones, you can sync your phones to your new two way radios.
  • Personnel tracking and monitoring - Keeping track of where employees are at a given time is a key component of health and safety, particularly when operating within hazardous environments or lone working. By utilising Bluetooth for indoor and GPS applications for outdoor tracking alongside your digital two way radios you can ensure that all employees are accounted for in real time. You can read more about indoor positioning and tracking here
  • Job management - One of the biggest drawbacks when it comes to using smartphones or tablets for communication in the workplace is that they generally only enable one-to-one or limited group communication. If an individual needs to communicate with a team or group of people across teams, they won’t be able to. This is incredibly inefficient during peak periods. Similarly, job ticketing applications, synced to your two way radios through a dispatcher solution, means that jobs can be assigned, accepted and carried out much quicker and more efficiently. Using these systems, employees are able to accept jobs with a single click and spend more time doing work, rather than admin.
  • Rapid response to emergencies - When employees find themselves in distress, especially when working alone or in an isolated area, being able to dispatch help quickly to their exact location is a must. Digital two way radios can be equipped with safety and location software like Man Down and Lone Worker, which emits alarms when employees are in distress, without them having to take direct action. For instance, Man Down functionality sends an alarm to a central controller when a radio is moved into a horizontal position, or stops moving (for instance when an employee falls down and is unable to get up). A control room is then automatically notified of an incident and sent the location of the worker so help can be sent immediately. Similarly, Lone Worker requires an employee to respond to an alarm at set intervals to indicate that they are ok – if the employee doesn’t respond within this time it is clear they are in trouble. 

What industries do digital two way radios work best in? 


Hospitals and healthcare providers offer an essential service and no matter what size the organisation, they are often fast paced and stressful environments. Communication between staff in all departments is key to ensuring patients don’t suffer. 

Digital two way radios can help connect communications across all departments (security, porters, maintenance, management and emergency evacuations) to ensure that messages get to the people they need to, in real time, and that signal coverage remains high across the entire hospital area. 


Manufacturing environments are a hive of activity with employees working quickly across multiple areas and sometimes across multiple locations. Smartphones and tablets are not conducive to this kind of environment, not only because they don’t provide the level of reliable voice comms needed, but because the devices themselves are not robust enough to survive being used in a manufacturing environment. 

Workers here need a solid communication device which can survive being dropped or knocked, is water proof and operates as effectively around heavy, loud, machinery than it does within quiet areas. 

If communication fails at any point during the supply chain, work is disrupted, and commercial interests could be damaged. 


Being trusted within providing students with a safe learning environment is the first job of any school. However, when things do go wrong being able to communicate effectively to ensure problems are dealt with quickly and students are protected is essential. 

Digital two way radios can be an effective means of enabling communication within schools because they allow inter-departmental communication, but they can also be integrated with internal alarm systems – like fire alarms and panic buttons – to ensure any evacuation procedures are carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Even when not being used in emergency situations, two way radios ensure the smooth running of school operations. 


From receiving and confirming stock items into a store, communicating between the front and back of store and even communicating across locations, digital two way radios offer the necessary level of communications needed to make operations run smoothly. 

Whether this is ensuring instant communications between staff across a shop floor, helping provide customer experience by reducing waiting times or even helping reduce instances of theft and improving overall reactions to security issues. 

Combining a network of digital two way radio devices with a bespoke selection of software and accessories ensures your retail staff can communicate as they need to serve your customers better. 

Facilities Management 

Facilities management covers a wide spectrum of responsibilities but central to successful management is the capability of staff, managers and co-ordinators to communicate effectively across individuals, teams and departments. 

Because “facilities” is such a broad term it introduces a broad range of communication challenges. 

Whether it is issues with communication “black spots”, high levels of traffic passing through devices, handsets not being rugged enough to survive the environment or general issues with sound quality there are many challenges to overcome with facilities management communication. 

But by introducing digital two way radios into facilities management you can help your staff and organisations stay safe and improve communication. 

Whether this is introducing priority communication channels, using systems like Lone Worker or Man Down or GPS tracking, digital two way radios offer any number of benefits to create a rounded communication network for your facilities team. 

Where security of information is required or discreet communication is required, the use of audio accessories will provide the solution. 

Future proof your organisation’s comms with digital two way radios 

Whether or not you have already adopted digital two way radios in your business or organisation, there is no getting away from the fact that communication as a whole is shifting unstoppably towards digital. 

At the same time, regulations relating to communication, security and data privacy are putting more pressure on those organisations still relying on analogue devices to make the switch to the more secure nature of digital two way radios. 

However, along with improving and protecting your business’ immediate future, switching to digital two way radios also protects your business long into the future by promoting unified communication strategies that can connect anyone in your organisation’s supply chain. 

The scalability and adaptability of dual mode two way radios means you can start small and essentially phase out your analogue devices over time – rather than switching all at once – and you can also use your digital two-way radios, accessories and software to adapt how you communicate around the needs of your business, rather than adapting your business around your communication.