Portable radios need towers imagine that
When it comes to two-way radio equipment, portability rules.
With business and industrial customers, sometimes the first wireless phones or radios they think of are cellphones and Nextel phone-radios. One advantage they offer a manager is the ability to call workers anywhere when they wear portable phones or radios on their belts.
But utility crews, towing service drivers and delivery workers spend more time in their vehicles. Their managers like two-way radios mounted in the trucks, out of harm’s way, where they can’t “walk off.” Mobile units have less damage and loss and need less maintenance than portables, which, sooner or later, go flying off the belt to the pavement. And mobile units need no replacement batteries.
For technical reasons, a mobile antenna on a vehicle works better than an antenna on a cellphone or a portable radio. Also, the mobile radio usually has higher power. And vehicles are more likely to be positioned outside where signals exchanged with antenna towers aren’t weakened by passing through walls to reach building interiors. Because all things are not equal, mobile units communicate better and require fewer antenna towers in the area to make them work. Together, those factors cut capital expenditure and maintenance expense for mobile radios.
Why, then, does portability rule?
For business and industrial users: convenience and efficiency. For public safety agencies: operational demands and protection.
For example, as commercial portable prices have fallen, customers who previously wouldn’t have equipped hotel, motel and warehouse workers with them are finding them desirable and cost-effective to use, leading to more sales opportunities for dealers. And the pricier belt-worn portables used by public safety workers serve their need to exit vehicles quickly to enter buildings or engage in footchases.
One manufacturer specializing in portable radios said it is more difficult to make portables than mobiles. “We’re always keeping an eye on the amount of current required to run the microchips a radio needs these days. Packing circuitry into a small box and making it work well means you’ve distinguished yourself to certain extent. Compared to the same functionality in a 12V mobile with more room in the case for shielding and cans, making a portable is a greater challenge,” the company’s marketing manager said.
Some manufacturers simply couldn’t meet the challenge of making a portable that was compact enough and competitively priced (or couldn’t meet it soon enough). Securicor Wireless and ComSpace come to mind.
Twenty years ago, as much as 80% of radio terminal sales were mobiles. Today, an estimated 60% of radio terminal sales are portables.
The trend is clear, but sometimes the signals aren’t. On June 22, the police chief in Greenwood, IN, south of Indianapolis, withdrew his department from a new, county-wide 800MHz digital radio system after six months of use. He had the city’s previous analog system turned back on and returned to service the portable analog radios that his officers previously used.
The 800MHz system’s towers seem to be too far away to reach the new portables reliably. The nearest is about 12 miles away. The police department’s VHF highband analog system’s relatively short tower is right behind police headquarters, giving good coverage to Greenwood but not far beyond. The chief said he was willing to give the 800MHz system another try, but not until the coverage is fixed.
Businesses find two-way radio portability advantageous, and public safety agencies find portability essential. Their requirements are slightly different, which leads to different products and prices.
Don’t be reluctant to deploy portable radio communications. Just be sure the system you use has antenna towers near enough to reach the portables where the people using them are likely to go.