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The Differences Between UHF and VHF Radios

You’ll likely notice that brands such as Hytera portable radios feature walkie-talkies that use either very high frequency (VHF) or ultra-high frequency (UHF) bands if you’re looking for two-way radios for your business or organization. For those unfamiliar with the technicalities of radios, you may not understand what these two different frequencies mean or what they can provide. Here are the differences between UHF and VHF radios to help you make a more informed decision.

What Does UHF and VHF Mean?

As previously stated, UHF stands for “ultra-high frequency,” and VHF stands for “very high frequency.” UHF can range from low bands of 378-512MHz to high bands of 764-870MHz, while VHF features a low band of 49-108MHz and a high band of 169-216MHz. In this context, “MHz” is shorthand for Megahertz, which measures the speed of an electronic device. The speed of your radio determines what frequencies it will be able to tune into. UHF radio waves are smaller and more frequent, creating a wider range of reception, while VHF wavelengths are the opposite, being much longer in length.

Who Uses UHF and VHF?

Public safety officials, such as firefighters, police, and emergency services, typically favor UHF portable radios. They use frequencies between 849Mhz and 869Mhz to communicate. Furthermore, devices such as phones, televisions, and ham radios commonly use UHF radios.

Some other industries that use UHF radios include security officials, construction sites, manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and healthcare—all industries with daily operations that benefit from having a larger band of frequencies to work with.

While UHF radios are certainly pervasive in everyday life, VHF radios are just as common in their appropriate niches. Marine communication typically uses VHF radios, allowing boats and marine personnel to communicate instantly out on the water. This VHF radio is an incredibly important accessory for any boat to have in the event of an emergency when being able to call out to any boats nearby for assistance is crucial. Industry professionals designate Channel 16 as the channel to call in the event of certain emergencies. The smaller range of reception helps boats and ships quickly find frequencies from other boats so they can quickly get in touch with each other.

While public safety officials usually use UHF radios, it’s notable to mention that agencies such as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection choose VHF radios for their daily communications.

Which is Better?

As you’ve likely noticed, we spent plenty of time pointing out which industries or niches use which frequencies. This is because neither frequency type is inherently better than the other. Rather, you want to choose the device that works best for you and your personnel in your specific industry and abide by its communication needs. If you’re purchasing additional radios to expand your existing system of radios, then you’ll want to ensure you get the matching type to ensure you have the same range of frequencies.

You’ve also likely noticed that UHF radios are seemingly the most popular, and that’s just because the major difference between UHF and VHF radios is that UHF radio waves are much smaller and thus provide a wider reception. VHF radios still have their place, though, either as an emergency tool to reach out to others nearby—as is the case with marine emergency protocol—or for small organizations to communicate between members all within the same area.

Are They Compatible With Existing Systems?

Can VHF and UHF radios be compatible with existing radio systems? Yes, though not perfectly so. You’ll be able to communicate between the two if your radios stay within the same frequency band—it just means that if you buy UHF radios, you should make sure that your current system has a UHF operating mode beforehand.

Another compatibility factor is whether your existing systems are digital or analog. Newer systems will typically be digital, while older systems are analog. Analog systems will typically have a much more difficult time syncing up and finding compatible ground with modern portable radios, which is just a sign that your existing radio system is becoming obsolete. Digital systems will typically have an easier time due to the fact they’re much more modern.

Boosting Signal Strength

You’ll need to improve the antenna to improve the range of the two-way radio. The length of a radio’s antenna determines the length of the radio waves, so, appropriately, the smaller wavelengths of UHF radios mean that their antennas are short and stubby. On the other hand, VHF needs large antennae that may not make them as convenient as UHF two-way radios. It should also be noted that VHF radios often pick up interference from other frequencies, which can be exacerbated by boosting the signal. To try and solve this, you’ll need to identify and locate where the interference is coming from.

One issue that occurs no matter which radio you use is frequency overlapping. This is an event where two radios are using the same frequency, and the radio waves interrupt each other, overlapping the transmissions. This typically won’t be an issue if you only have a single transmitter, but if you have more than one, you’ll need to make sure each has enough space between them to prevent an overlapping of each other’s area of effect.

Conclusion

Neither UHF nor VHF radios are a bad choice; it just all comes down to which radio already exists in your workplace and what suits your particular needs. UHF radios are often more popular because of the wider range of reception, so those are often the safer bet to choose from.

Consult with your organization before choosing either radio frequency, or if you need further assistance, our experts at Atlantic Radio are happy to help. We are familiar with the biggest brands in two-way radios, so you can always rely on us for advice when choosing a reliable and apt radio for your industry. Get in contact with us today! Our selection of UHF and VHF brand-name radios will help you keep your comms crystal clear!

The Differences Between UHF and VHF Radios

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