Farmers are increasingly choosing to use two-way radio for farms, instead of mobile phones for a number of reasons:
1) Higher reliability than mobile phones in sparse rural areas due to poor phone coverage.
2) More rugged design of two-way radio handsets. Models from Hytera & Tait for example can survive being dropped on the hard ground, or even into water.
A handheld radio that we would recommend for farmers is the Entel DX482, which is IP68 rated. This means that it can withstand being dropped in water, so is perfect for outside work activities.
3) Time saving because you just press transmit & talk, rather than having to dial a number & wait for connection. Great for emergency situations, & a safety feature.
4) Cheap to run, as you have no call charges to pay, and your employees can’t make private calls, costing you money & lost time. For handheld only use, a 5 year Ofcom licence can be obtained, for only £75.
The licence allows use of a number of shared frequencies, and is not area dependent. This means that you can use the handheld radios throughout the UK, without being restricted to a particular set geographic area.
5) ‘Lone Worker’ features from manufacturers such as Vertex-Standard allow safety monitoring of workers, which helps farming safety.
6) Range can be extended worldwide through the use of repeaters, and other modern IP technology, so distance now no object for modern two-way radio for farms.
Radio Migration from Legacy Systems
Many farmers already have existing radio systems that have been in place for many years.
Unless the system is less than five years old, then it is likely to be what is known as ‘Analogue’.
Even if the system is newer than five years, it could still be analogue, rather than Digital, as the price of analogue until recently was quite a bit less than Digital.
These days, in 2021, the price difference between the older Analogue radios, and the newer Digital radios has narrowed, and we would recommend Digital.
The reasons for us recommending farmers start to migrate their existing Analogue radios to Digital include:-
- Better coverage at the fringes of transmission range.
- The voice quality stays great at the fringes of coverage, and does not suffer interference.
- Battery life of handheld radios is better, compared to analogue handheld radios.
- Digital radios are harder to eavesdrop on.
You can keep your existing Analogue system, and gradually replace the radios with the more modern digital system, using what are known as ‘Migration Radios’.
These two-way radio for farms, such as the Hytera PD415 handhelds, are capable of operating in both Digital & Analogue modes.
Therefore you can could for example communicate in digital mode between two PD415 radios, whilst also being able to communicate with your older analogue radios as well (in Analogue).
These ‘Migration Radios’ , such as the Hytera PD415 offer farmers the choice to avoid a large initial expense of a new Digital System. Instead, farmers can gradually replace their existing Analogue radio system over time.
Repeaters are devices that boost communication range.
Repeaters receive a weak signal and retransmit it, improving two way radio for farms.
By retransmitting the signal at a higher power, further range is enabled.
Another reason to use repeaters, is obstacles.
Obstacles include both natural and manmade structures.
Examples of natural obstacles include hills and mountains.
Examples of mademade obstacles include buildings and bridges.
Obstacles matter to radio signals.
Basically they block or attenuate radio signals.
Attenuation means reduces the power of the signal.
Reducing the power of the signal, reduces communications range.
A classic use of a radio repeater is to overcome a hill.
Hills will block radio signals above 30 MHz.
Radio signals above 30Mhz are normally known as ‘line of sight’.
The term ‘line of sight’ is slightly misleading, as signals will pass through a building.
Therefore you don’t actually have to be able to see a clear path between transmitting and receiving radio.
However hills block radio waves, so a hilltop repeater overcomes this.
Placing a repeater on a hill allows signals to be received from one side of the hill, and boosted to both sides of the hill.
This is because the repeater antenna is physically above the top of the hill.
Why VHF isnt always best for Farmers
VHF is short for Very High Frequency, and refers to the range of frequencies within the electromagnetic spectrum.
The frequencies classed as VHF range between 30 MegaHertz, up to 300 MegaHertz.
MegaHertz btw is a million Hertz, and is useually written as MHz.
Many farmers with existing systems are operating on VHF.
This is the case for a few reasons:-
The first reason is that traditionally VHF equipment was cheaper than UHF equipment to purchase.
Therefore farmers who have had systems for many years, may have gone VHF for this reason.
A second reason for the popular choice of VHF among farmers is theoretical range considerations.
In open countryside, without signal reducing objects in the way, VHF radio signals should travel further.
I say should because thats the theory based on physics, but not necessarily the real life experience.
Buildings are one type of physical object that can block radio signals from reaching their required destination.
Buildings can either totally block the signal, or reduce the signal level, therefore reducing communication range.
Metal buildings can be a particular problem, and from my experience, especially at VHF frequencies.
Wavelength is the inverse of the radio frequency.
What this means is that a frequency of 160 MHz will have a longer Wavelength than a radio frequency of 460 MHz.
A longer Wavelength (lower frequency) will have a harder time fitting into small spaces (im not making this up btw).
The longer wavelength at VHF compared to UHF (Ultra High Frequency), sometimes prevents communication in small areas of buildings.
Why not use an in-building Repeater
You could use a device called a repeater inside the building, to improve coverage, but why.
What we have found from experience, is that the additional expense of an in-building repeater, can be avoided through careful antenna optimisation and choice of frequency.
UHF in our experience actually performs better for farmers with metal buildings, as the smaller wavelength can get through doors and around internal objects better than VHF.
UHF in theory won’t go as far as VHF, but it very much depends on where on the farm you need to communicate with.
Rather than just buying an off the shelf solution, we tailor our solutions to meet you communication requirements.
In the real world UHF may be better, especially if you mainly wish to use handheld radios.
Get in touch for bespoke help with your two-way radio for farms.
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