Lots of us enjoy snooping on what model smartphone other people are using when we are sat on a bus, in a cafe or in a long meeting at work. But if you ever bother to check out the devices people in uniform, or those wearing a hard hat, are carrying as they work, you will notice something different.
What are those strange-looking things with an antenna sticking out of the top? That will be a two way radio, a type of wireless communications technology that predates the mobile phone by more than half a century. But forget age – law enforcement, emergency services, construction workers, events organisers, security personnel and many, many more still swear by them.
So how, in an age when the smartphone has taken over the world, has something as 20th century as the two-way radio survived and indeed thrived?
The simple answer is, in certain circumstances, for certain types of use, two way radio still beats mobile hands down. Mobile phones, as suggested by their name, are great for allowing people to talk to each other over large distances, much like the traditional landline telephone. The added bonus is you can roam (more or less) where you want and still talk.
By contrast, two way radio creates local networks over a specific area. Instead of using masts to transmit signals, two way radios connect directly to one another. They have a specific operational range, different for each model, which determines the geographical span of the network.
How is this an advantage, you ask? Well, by cutting out the masts, two way radio delivers much clearer, cleaner audio. Mobile might let you move about, but we all know what signal drop-out is like. With two way radio, while you remain in the network area, it just doesn’t happen.
In addition, you can specify exclusive use of radio frequencies for your network within that area, so you get no interference from other users. And you can also use two way radio in places where you will never get a mobile signal – deep underground, for example, or out at sea, or just way out in the countryside.
In other words, if you really need communications to be 100 per cent reliable at all times – when dealing with safety and security with large crowds, for example, or coordinating responses in an emergency situation – two way radio is a much safer bet than mobile.
Modern two way radios are not a million miles away from offering the same functionality as mobile phones, anyway. Take the Hytera PD685, for example. Hytera even apes the classic design of early Nokia phones, the 12-key dialling pad with green-to-call and red-to-hang-up buttons. The PD685 has a colour screen you can use to send and receive text messages. It has a contact book you can scroll through to make private calls with a single press.
Ok, so we might not be talking apps and integrated cameras like on smartphones. But the modern digital two way radio has a few tricks of its own up its sleeve. The PD685 will let you make group calls, to the whole network or to specific groups, just as easily as it will one-to-one calls. Unlike mobile, it is designed for team communications. It also encrypts all calls for privacy and security.
We all know what happens when we drop a smartphone, or spill a glass of water on it. The PD685 is built for tough environments, with a rugged smash-proof casing and certified water and dust resistance. If you are working on a construction site or around heavy machinery, you would be more confident of your handheld radio lasting the distance than your smartphone.
We’re never going to turn back the tide on how mobile phones have transformed modern life. But they are not the only wireless communication option out there. Reliable, resilient and readily deployed in all locations, two way radio remains the business choice for mission-critical communications.
Brentwood Communications has been supplying two way radio to business users for the past 40 years. To find out more, please visit www.brentwoodradios.co.uk.