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BLOG: The digital age of two-way radios

Phey Teck Moh | July 4, 2012
Many form factors and features continue to reinvent the humble two-way radio.

Although not obvious to many, enterprise-grade two-way radios today are ubiquitous, and are vital to maintaining smooth operations in many public facilities such as hotels, convention centres, resorts, casinos, theme parks and shopping malls. This is in addition to its already established importance in other environments where there is demand for reliable, secure and instant one-to-many communications, such as manufacturing, transport, construction sites, utilities, mining, public services, as well as oil and gas facilities.

The digital migration currently underway has only made two-way radios even more relevant. Modern two-way radios are now equipped with enhanced capabilities, including location-based services, text messaging and specialised applications, all of which are designed to increase productivity, efficiency, safety and cost for organisations.

Clearly, two-way radios have come a long way since Nikola Tesla's public demonstration of radio in 18931, and the technology is growing ever more relevant today. Here are a few reasons why. 

Dedicated and reliable private network

Two-way radio systems are part of a private radio network that is purpose-built for a specific group of users. Private radio networks are standards-based and have redundancies built into them to ensure availability and reliability at all times. The operational and management control for these networks remain with the owners.

This is not the case with public/cellular networks. For example, many of us have experienced connectivity problems using our cellular phones, especially during high demand periods. This is because millions of users are sharing the same network at any given point in time and imposing varying demands on it, from making a simple call to downloading and sharing videos.

A dedicated private two-way radio network becomes crucial during a public safety emergency, when the public cellular network becomes unable to cope with demand overload. An exclusive purpose-built network for emergency calls and information dispatch thus provides ready access and connectivity for emergency responders and key agencies.

This was the case during the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008, when cellular telephone networks were impacted due to destroyed cell towers. The two-way radio system became a critical means of communication to facilitate collaborative disaster relief efforts by multiple agencies. Similar and more recent examples are the earthquake relief efforts in New Zealand and the tsunami relief efforts in Japan. 

Immediate connectivity for 1:1 and 1: many conversations

The average consumer may think that two-way radios have no relevance left today. Yet, when it comes to clear, immediate and on-demand communications, two-way radios have proven to be trusted and reliable. In comparison, a mobile phone user will require a caller to dial the number and wait to connect.

Two way radios employ push-to-talk (PTT) technology for clear and instant one-to-one or one-to-many communications. This is especially useful in situations requiring command and control, a situation faced by public safety agencies as well as many transport and logistics operations. One example is seaport operator Saigon Newport, which relies on two-way radios to communicate smoothly and coordinate command and control effectively among its 21 talk groups at Vietnam's Tan Cang - Cai Mep International Terminal (TCIT).


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