The in-vehicle radios have a better range because they use an external antenna with high gain. They also provide continuity of power as they are hard-wired into the vehicle. However, they are more expensive to purchase (and you will have to install the unit yourself if you don’t know how to do it) and they take up a lot of space on the dash. You may encounter clearance problems in multi-level parking depending on the location of the UHF aerial (the higher, the better).
But how does the UHF work?
The UHF radio will not give you the same range as a mobile, but it is the most cost-effective way to communicate in the outback. All UHF radios have a line-of-sight transmission limit of 8km. However, by using a public repeater station, the range can theoretically be increased to 150km. In densely vegetated areas, the range of most handheld or in-car radios is realistically 3km-5km.
When should I use UHF?
UHF can be used for many things, including contacting other road users like truck drivers and letting them know that they are free to pass (or vice versa) or to learn about road closures ahead. A spotter with a UHF handheld can guide you when reversing your rig in camp. This will save you from shouting over engine noise or ambient noise. They will also be able to warn you about obstacles such as low-lying trees that reversing cameras won’t.
But on what channel?
You can read more about it here, but the short and sweet version is that you use channel 40 to communicate with trucks. Channel 40 is used to communicate with trucks. You can use channel 18 to communicate with RVs, and channel 10 when you are off-road for 4WDs. If you decide to display your name and channel in your vehicle, as many people do, be sure that your UHF radio is on while traveling.
In conclusion, understanding the range of UHF radios and their applications is crucial for effective communication, especially in remote areas and outback environments. While in-vehicle radios with external antennas offer superior range due to their high gain and power continuity, they come with added expenses and installation challenges. The functionality of UHF radios, while not matching that of mobile devices, offers a cost-effective means of communication. The line-of-sight transmission limit of 8km can be extended to 150km using repeater stations, making them valuable tools for those traversing the outback. However, in densely vegetated areas, the practical range remains around 3km-5km. UHF radios prove invaluable for interactions with fellow road users, such as truck drivers and also offer advantages in tasks like guiding vehicle reversing and providing obstacle warnings. Choosing the appropriate channel for communication, such as channel 40 for trucks, channel 18 for RVs, and channel 10 for off-road 4WDs, enhances the efficiency of these radios. Ultimately, UHF radios fill a vital niche in communication, offering connectivity and safety in diverse environments for those who venture beyond the beaten path.
This post was written by Justin Tidd, Director at https://beckerwmsusa.com/ For over 15 years, Becker Communications has been the industry’s leader in increasingly more sophisticated electrical mining communication systems. As they expanded into surface mining, railroads, and tunneling they added wireless communication systems, handheld radios, tagging, and tracking systems, as well as gas monitoring.