The difference between Digital and Analogue two-way radios


The difference between Digital and Analogue Two-Way Radios or ‘Should I go for the digital radio’?

Many of our customers ask when buying new radios or upgrading their existing fleet – should I go for digital radio? Well, we don’t really have a clear answer to this question but we will discuss this matter closely in this blog post to help you navigate towards the right decision. There is no right or wrong answer and it really depends on your needs and budget.

Let’s start by defining the differences between the analogue and digital radios:

Analogue radios operate in the ‘traditional’ analogue mode and are using frequency modulation to transmit the natural voice. The radio signal is stronger when the analogue radios are closer together. This means that when analogue radios are moving towards the end of their coverage they start to lose the signal and transition becomes less clear.

Digital radios operate in a digital mode which means they use a mathematic system represented by binary numbers 1 or 0 to transmit the voice, which becomes digital. The voice transmitted through digital radios is very clear and stays clear even at the end of their coverage area. Being digital, these radios often offer extra additional features. Please note that digital radios CAN work with analogue radios in analogue mode.

Secondly, let’s discuss your communication needs:

When deciding between digital and analogue radios you need to answer a few key questions:

– How large is the area I need to cover?

– How noisy is the environment I work in?

– Do I really need / use additional features to enhance the communication?

– Is this a temporary or permanent solution?

– How large is my budget?

And here is why:

  1. If you need to cover a larger area, digital radios often offer slightly better coverage as they transmit clear voice even at the end of their coverage.
  2. If you are working in very noisy environments you should consider digital radios as these often have a noise cancelling technology and only transmit clear digital voice.
  3. When we buy a new piece of equipment we tend to be impressed with what it can do. For instance, digital radios can offer additional features such as GPS, Text Messaging, Direct Calling, ID calling, Emergency Alarm Functions, Mandown Function, IP connection and many more applications … But the question is – will you really use them? Will you and your colleagues benefit from them? Will you and your colleagues know how to use them? (consider if you are not working with tech-savvy people)
  4. Are you looking for a quick communication solution? Will this radio be just a throwaway item after a year? Or do you need a future-proof solution? If you are looking for a long term communication solution consider going digital.
  5. It is also important to address the question of your budget. The cost of digital radios is considerably smaller than it used to be however, they are still a bit more expensive than analogue radios.

A couple of thoughts to sum this up …

Both analogue and digital radios offer great and instant communication solutions. Digital is slowly taking over the radio communication market as it offers many extra additional features, slightly better coverage, and a clear voice. Digital radios are also becoming more affordable.

Analogue radios however still have a strong presence on the market and new models are still being developed.

If you are looking for long term future-proof solution you should consider going towards the digital. Digital radios can work with your existing fleet in analogue modes if buying a whole new digital radio fleet is too expensive. This is called digital migration, where you have digital radios working in analogue mode until there becomes the time when all radios in the fleet are digital. They can then all be switched to work in digital mode and you have a complete digital radio system.

If you are looking for a simple communication radio and you are conscious of your budget definitely consider the analogue option.