Two Way Radio Features Explained.

Two Way Radio Features on the VX2100

So, you’ve read all about two way radio features… Are you any wiser?

Some information given in two way radio sales brochures is of very little use to the end user.
Technical specifications, industry buzzwords and acronyms are only useful to dealers.

Have you ever read about a two way radio feature and thought, “What the heck does that do?”
We’ll try to explain some of the more common features.

One thing to keep in mind about any feature is – will it benefit you?
A radio packed with features may be impressive, but users can be confused or even intimidated by them. This can cause problems using your radio system.

So, while making decisions on these amazing features… Think “benefits”, not “features”.

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So, onto some two way radio features you may be wondering about…

Accessory Connector:

As it suggests, this is a connector on the radio which allows connection of accessories such as headsets or remote microphones. Nearly all radios heve these.

Battery Saver:

This means that the radio goes into a low power mode after a period of inactivity. It may even automatically reduce transmit power when high power isn’t needed.

Busy Channel Lockout:

This prevents the radio from transmitting when the frequency is already in use. A warning alert may also sound when this happens. This is normally used on “shared” radio systems.

Caller ID:

Lets other users know who is transmitting a message. This can be useful in preventing users abusing the radio system…. They can be identified!

Channel Announcement:

When the channel on the radio is changed, it “speaks” the channel number. This can be useful in low light conditions or if your view of the radio controls is restricted.

Cloning Capable:

Two way radios that are cloning capable can have their configuration easily copied from one radio to another.

Companding:

A digital voice compression method, which improves audio quality on analogue two way radios.
Beware… this feature can vary between manufacturers and can make reception very poor.

Contact List:

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Similar to a mobile phone, thia provides  a “phone book” of contacts. You can use a contact list to select a group or individual (for digital radios, or radios supporting selective call).

Digital/Analog Mixed Mode:

The radio can operate in either analogue and/or digital mode.

Dual  Watch:

A special form of scanning, which allows a radio to monitor two channels at once, even when the radio is in a conversation.

Emergency Mode:

Radios supporting Emergency Mode can send an emergency call at the press of a button.Receiving radios will sound an audible alert. After sending the emergency signal, the transmitting radio can also typically transmit “hands-free” for a number of seconds.

GPS:

Satellite position data can be sent over the radio system.

Intrinsically Safe:

Intrinsically safe (IS) is a strict standard which electronic equipment must meet to be safe for use in explosive atmospheres. Intrinsically safe devices limit any energy releases to prevent fires & explosions occurring in hazardous atmospheres. (Chemicals, gases, etc.)

Keypad Lock:

Keypad lock feature allows allows the user to “Lock” the buttons so that pressing them has no effect. This is useful to prevent buttons being accidentally pressed.

Lone Worker:

In Lone Worker Mode, at preset intervals, the radio will sound an audible alarm  to the user. If the user does not respond by pressing a button, the radio goes into Emergency Mode. (See emergency Mode).

 Low Battery Alert:

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As it implies, the low battery alert feature will alert the user in some way when the battery charge is getting low. This is usually an audible tone. Display models usually also show a special icon in the display when the battery is low.

Man Down:

This means that the radio has a sensor installed which knows whether the radio is upright or not.After a predetermined time of being “laid down”, the radio will sound an alert to the user. If not returned to an upright position, the radio will automatically enter Emergency Mode. (See Emergency Mode).

Manufacturer Warranty:

Strange to mention this as a feature, but the warranty provided may be a deciding factor. Some manufacturers offer longer warranties than others, and some offer extended warranties at a cost.

Military Spec:

This means the radio meets one or more specifications laid down for military use. This can include, standards for tolerance of temperature, vibration, acceleration, shock, and water resistance.

Missed Call Alert:

If a user misses a call, radios supporting this feature will sound a periodic alert.

Monitor:

This feature allows users to temporarily disable any signalling options to check whether a channel is clear before transmitting.

Out-of-Range Alert:

The Out-of Range alert feature lets users know if other radios are within range. The radio will periodically attempt to handshake with other radios. If no handshake occurs, the user is alerted that they are out of range of the system. (This feature can impact significantly on battery life).

Power Select:

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This feature allows users to switch between high and low power modes. Low power mode conserves battery life, but reduces the range of the two way radio. Some radios are able to automatically select the appropriate power level.

Privacy Codes:

Two way radios using privacy codes require all radios to be on the same channel AND privacy code. This is a useful feature  when there are many two way radios on the same channel. It means that users don’t have to listen to chatter not intended for themselves.

Programmable Buttons:

A programmable button is a button on the radio which can be programmed to perform a specific function. (Buttons can have several functions assigned, depending on the mode the radio is in at the time.)

LED Alert:

This means that the radio can be programmed to display a visual alert for programmed conditions.

Range:

Strictly speaking, not a feature, but some suppliers like to quote  the maximum range of their radios. Be aware that the range advertised is always the maximum range that the radio will get under perfect circumstances, so actual real life performance is usually less than that quoted.

Scan:

This allows a two way radio to scan channels for activity. When activity is found, the scanning “locks” onto that channel.

Scan Channel Delete (or Nuisance Delete):

Radios with this feature allow you to remove a specific channel from a scan. This can be useful if you need to perform a scan, but there are channels with activity that you know you are not interested in.

Scrambler:

This feature “garbles” the transmit signal for anyone else who may be listening. Another radio with this feature, set to the same  code will be able to hear the transmission correctly. This feature does not guarantee security, but it does add an extra layer of privacy.

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This allows private calls between individual radios on a shared radio system.

Stun/Kill/Revive:

Stun and Kill allows a radio to be disable over air. Revive restores the disabled radio to full use.

Submersible:

This means that the radio is submersible.
This feature is useful where there is a high risk of dropping the radio into water, not for using your radio underwater!

Text Messaging:

Allows you to send text messages to other two way radios on the same system. (This feature is only really available on digital radios.)

Timeout Timer:

The timeout timer feature is intended to prevent accidental transmissions and to save battery life. If the transmit button is held for too long, the radio will automatically stop transmitting.

Transmit Inhibit:

This function disables transmitter from use. (Normally used on shared systems.)

UHF:

Two way radios supporting UHF frequencies will operate on frequencies in the 450 Mhz – 470 Mhz band. UHF hand portable radios tend to be more popular than VHF because they offer better range inside structures.

VHF:

Two way radios supporting VHF frequencies will typically operate on frequencies in the 148 Mhz – 174 Mhz band. VHF radios work best when used outdoors.

Vibrate Alert:

Two way radios with the vibrate alert feature have the ability to vibrate to alert the user that they are receiving a message.

VOX:

Radios supporting the “Voice Activated Transmit” (VOX) feature allow the two way radio to be used “hands-free”. The radio will automatically transmit when speech is detected.

There are many more two way radio features with modern equipment.

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By: Nick Allison. Nick's been in the two way radio industry for more years than he wants to admit. He has seen numerous initiatives come and go, but thinks there will always be a need for basic voice only two way radio comms.