Understanding Link Budgets

Understanding Link Budgets in Two-Way Radio Planning.

In communications systems planning for two-way radios, ensuring reliable and effective communication over varying distances and conditions is paramount.

One of the fundamental tools used in planning and optimising such communication systems is the link budget.

A link budget is a comprehensive analysis of all gains and losses that occur as a signal travels from the transmitter to the receiver.

In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of link budgets in the context of two-way radio planning.

What is a Link Budget?

A link budget is essentially a calculation that balances the transmitted power against all the factors that diminish that power as the signal propagates (travels) through the medium (air, buildings, trees, etc), and reaches the receiver.

It provides a systematic approach to assess the feasibility and performance of a communication link under specific conditions.

Components of a Link Budget:

Transmitter Power: The starting point of any link budget analysis is the power output from the transmitter.

This is usually measured in watts (W) or decibels relative to a reference power level (dBm).

Transmission Medium Losses: As the signal travels through the medium (air, space, or cables), it encounters losses due to factors such as free-space path loss, absorption, and scattering.

These losses are typically frequency-dependent and increase with distance.

Antenna Gain: Both the transmitting and receiving antennas contribute to the overall link budget.

Antenna gain refers to the ability of the antennas to focus or concentrate the transmitted energy in a particular direction.

Higher antenna gain helps to compensate for losses in the transmission medium.

Propagation Effects: Various phenomena like multipath propagation, fading, and interference can affect signal strength during transmission.

These effects must be accounted for in the link budget analysis to ensure reliable communication.

Receiver Sensitivity: The sensitivity of the receiver determines the minimum signal strength required for successful demodulation and decoding of the transmitted information. It is usually expressed as a power level in dBm or microvolts (?V).

Calculating the Link Budget: The link budget calculation involves summing up all the gains and losses encountered by the signal along its path. The basic equation for a link budget is:

Received Power=Transmitted Power+Gains?Losses

Received Power=Transmitted Power+Gains?Losses

The received power should ideally exceed the receiver sensitivity for reliable communication to occur. If the received power falls below the receiver sensitivity, the link may experience dropouts or complete loss of communication.

Applications of Link Budgets:

Network Planning: Link budgets are essential tools in the design and optimisation of wireless communication networks, including cellular networks, radio systems, and satellite links.

By accurately predicting signal strength and coverage, engineers can determine the placement of base stations, antennas, and repeaters to achieve desired performance metrics.

Performance Analysis: Link budgets enable engineers to assess the performance of existing communication links and identify potential areas for improvement.

By analyzing factors such as antenna configuration, transmission power, and environmental conditions, adjustments can be made to enhance signal quality and reliability.

Spectrum Management: In crowded frequency bands where multiple users share the spectrum, link budgets help in allocating frequencies and minimising interference. By understanding the propagation characteristics and potential sources of interference, regulators can optimize spectrum usage and mitigate conflicts between different users.


Link budgets play a crucial role in the planning, deployment, and maintenance of two-way radio communication systems.

By accounting for all the factors affecting signal propagation, engineers can ensure reliable and efficient communication over varying distances and conditions.

As technology continues to evolve, the importance of understanding link budgets, and accurate link budget analysis will only grow.