FAQs

What is the difference between licensed and PMR446 licence-free two-way radios?

Licensed radios are typically used for business and commercial use and require a dedicated frequency which ensures that only those on that frequency can hear transmissions. In order to access a dedicated frequency, a radio licence granted by Ofcom is required by law. Licensed radios have a larger power output and so offer increased range and coverage. Licensed radios are generally more robust, with clearer audio quality and the conversation more secure. Licensed radios also offer much more functionality than license-free radios, you can make group calls, send text messages and dial up individual users.

Licence-free radios (also called PMR446 radios) are a cheaper alternative to licensed radios and can only have a power output of 0.5 watts giving them a fairly small range. They can be used in the work place and for personal use, ideally where minimal coverage is needed, within small buildings where users are communicating in a close range. Licence-free radios operate on the PMR446 radio frequency, they can be used by anyone within the UK and EU and as the title suggests they need no radio licence.

Will I need a radio licence?

There are two types of two-way radios, licensed radios and licence-free radios (PMR446). Licensed radios require a dedicated frequency and in order to access this frequency, a radio licence granted by Ofcom is required by law. Licences start at £75 for five years. SFL is more than happy to apply on your behalf and offer a managed service in order to maintain your Ofcom licence throughout your radio project.

Licence-free radios (also called PMR446 radios) operate on the PMR446 radio frequency, they can be used by anyone within the UK and EU and as the title suggests they need no radio licence.

How do I go about obtaining a licence through Ofcom?

An application to Ofcom has to be made, the following link takes you to Ofcom’s website http://licensing.ofcom.org.uk/radiocommunication-licences/business-radio/

Alternatively SFL is more than happy to apply on your behalf and offer a managed service in order to maintain your Ofcom licence throughout your radio project.

The application process is usually complete within 20 working days.

Will my two-way radio equipment work with the existing equipment I am using?

Yes, please let us know when you are ordering your equipment if you require it to be compatible with your current equipment. We can then program your new equipment to the same frequencies. This is subject to Ofcom terms and conditions.

I currently have a Motorola branded radio system which is ageing, if I purchase new non-Motorola equipment will it operate with the old system?

Yes it will be fully compatible as it is the frequency and CTCSS that pairs the equipment. We will require a copy of your licence in order to make this happen. Obviously, the new equipment is far more advanced now and some features may be inhibited, however we can discuss this and make you aware of the limitations.

What is the average life of a radio battery?

A radio battery lasts on average 8 – 12 hours depending on whether you are actively transmitting or in ‘stand by’ mode.

My radios don't appear to last as long as they used to?

The battery pack on the handportable has a much shorter life expectancy to the actual radio equipment. In order to maintain optimum performance, we recommend that you replace your battery equipment every 24 months in order to maintain good standby time.

What is the typical range of a two-way radio?

It’s difficult to give a definite answer on this as there are lots of variables which can affect the range of two-way radios. Although many radios claim to have a far reaching range, day-to-day conditions are not usually optimal, objects and the environment get in the way and so a radio’s actual range will be a lot less. Licence free radios have on average a range of 1 to 2 miles although this can be reduced drastically if the signal has to pass through solid objects, for example the thickness and density of objects and buildings will have varying effects on the signal. Licensed radios have a greater range, maybe 3 to 4 miles and this can be increased again when repeaters and antennas are used. It is also possible to have a number of radios talking to one another via an IP connection, which allows different sites in different locations to be linked in a radio network.

What are the benefits of digital as opposed to analogue radios?
  • Digital radios offer greater coverage and clearer audio quality than analogue radios, with no background noise due to noise cancelling capabilities – even in very noisy environments.
  • Due to the way digital radios send their messages it is possible for a whole range of data to be sent including text and email, not possible with analogue radios.
  • Digital radios also have many standard functions such as individual calling, lone worker and GPS, which analogue technology does not have.
  • Digital two-way radios provide a more secure connection than analogue without the loss in voice quality that analogue scrambling can cause.
  • Digital equipment works in both analogue and digital mode. The addition of digital radios to existing analogue systems allows progressive migration to a full digital system.  This allows two-way radios to be upgraded to digital whilst preserving the investment into analogue two-way radios.
  • All digital radios enable a 30-50 percent longer battery life than traditional analog radios because the digital radio transmitter is not constantly on.
  • Digital radios now offer indoor and outdoor GPS functionality at a standard far superior to that available on analogue technology.
  • Digital radios are waterproof as standard (although it is advisable to check this).
  • The cost to purchase or hire digital two way radios is now about the same as the cost of analogue technology.
What is the lone worker function?

The lone worker function sends a response request to a user, for example a security guard patrolling an area at given times. The user is required to respond within a short period of a request otherwise an alarm is activated.
The system must have at least one radio with a screen (usually held by control or a supervisor) so that the radio with the alarm can be identified. By activating the lone worker feature on the radio, a timer within the radio measures inactivity and will automatically send the emergency call described above if the timer is exceeded.

What does man-down mean?

Man-down is a tilt-switch inside the radio that automatically sends an alarm signal if the radio is tipped on its side for more than a pre-set period that can be configured at the time the radio is supplied. The radio usually beeps to warn the user that the alarm signal will be sent if the radio is not positioned upright again.
The purpose of the ‘man-down’ feature is to protect lone workers, so if someone was to fall over incapacitating them, their radio would send out an alarm warning other users or the control centre, who can then send for help.

What is a repeater?

The battery pack on the handportable has a much shorter life expectancy to the actual radio equipment. In order to maintain optimum performance, we recommend that you replace your battery equipment every 24 months in order to maintain good standby time.

Can I try before I commit?

Absolutely, we offer a free one week trial period on equipment, in order for you to assess the equipment in its proposed environment. Please call us for details.

How long will it take to receive my order of two way radio equipment?

If you are hiring the equipment, we generally have over 200 hand-portables ready for dispatch, so long as your order is received prior to 4pm, Monday to Friday, you will receive it the next working day. If you are purchasing equipment we usually ship the equipment so that it is fully charged and with the initial charge up taking 16 hours. The equipment will be dispatched within 48 hours.

Can’t find the answer?

Please fill in this form and we will get back to you as soon as we can (working hours Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm). Alternatively call us on 0151 334 9160.