Hands up if you had a walkie talkie toy as a child? For those of us old enough to remember a time before mobile phones, there was still something magical about being able to talk to someone out in the garden, or even as we moved around, without wires!

Those technologically innocent days may be behind us, but – to give them their real name – two way radios are still going strong. Indeed, for industrial and business purposes, better than ever, with the global market in two way radios expected to double to $15bn by 2020.

Not bad for a technology the US military was using before the Second World War.

In an age when wireless has become synonymous with much more recent technologies like mobile phones, WiFi and Bluetooth, the survival and indeed flourishing of two way radio is a story in itself. According to leading manufacturer Motorola, there is nothing to choose between two way radio and mobile phones in the number of plant operations deploying them as front line communications devices.

Really, I hear you say? Two way radios as popular as mobile phones in industry? How did that happen?

In a word – digital. Today’s modern two way radios have come a long way since the days of simple one or two channel walkie talkies. In the same way that DAB has transformed broadcast radio by vastly increasing the number of channels available, increasing broadcast range and delivering clearer, more reliable audio, so digital technology has done the same for two way radio.

Plus, going digital has allowed two way radios to add dozens of new functions which make handsets more flexible and convenient to use.

So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some examples of this revamped classic of the gadget world. Here are three of the best selling two way radio models currently available on the market.

Kenwood TK3501

As well as being a big name in kitchen appliances, Kenwood has a long and prestigious history in the audio electronics business, especially manufacturing car stereo systems and radios. So, you would expect them to know a thing or two about quality audio, and that is something that shines through in the TK3501.

This model is one of the most popular in what you might call the entry level two way radio category. With handsets available at under £100 a piece and no license to purchase (more about that shortly), the TK3501 is perfect for leisure use and light, small scale industrial use.

The core features of this handset more or less cover the essentials  you will find in any modern two way radio model. It is light and portable but sturdily built, with a tough aluminum chassis that can withstand a few bumps and knocks – no easily cracked plastic cases here. The battery will last up to 20 hours on a single charge, and it has an impressive range of 2km.

Then, of course, there is the audio, which is as crystal clear as you would expect from a company that has made a name manufacturing speakers. It even features a handful of clever digital add ons, such as voice activation (VOX) so you can make a call hands free, and call scrambling to protect against people listening in. This is important because unlicensed radios use a public frequency shared by other unlicensed radio users, who could easily eaves drop if they were in the vicinity. Read more here.

Hytera PD505

A hugely flexible mid-range model, the PD505 boasts the distinct advantage that it can operate in both analogue and digital modes – so you can still connect to old legacy devices while upgrading the whole fleet to digital gradually.

In build, appearance and basic functions, the PD505 is very similar to the TK3501. Controls are stripped down to the bare minimum for straightforward, no frills operability, with no screen and most functions accessible by the push of a single button. Audio is clean and crisp and the range is large enough to cover large industrial sites or university campuses.

What the PD505 adds is more of the clever digital features that keep two way radio punching its weight in the modern tech landscape. These include things like Priority Interrupt and Pseudo Trunking, which involves the smart management of available channels so an urgent call can always be made no matter how busy the network is. It can also multiply available channels using DMO True 2-Slot technology, which makes two call slots from one frequency. Read more here.

Motorola DP4800

The DP4800 is the Rolls Royce of the digital two way radio world, packed with high spec features that showcase the full spectrum of modern two way gadgetary. With a typically robust yet portable chassis, the DP4800 has a look and feel more familiar in the mobile age, with a keypad and screen – not going as far as touch screen just yet.

You take top class audio quality, long battery life, durability and long network range a given. The DP4800 also offers features such as intelligent audio and noise cancelling, which will minimise background noise to give a crisper output, and automatically boost gain on the signal to adjust call volume.

It also boasts a number of intelligent safety features targeted straight at industrial users – Man Down, for example, will detect movements and raise the alarm in the event of an operator falling. Add to that GPS tracking, a function to issue work tickets, dispatching and text messaging, and you have the complete all round for business class wireless communication.

As part of Motorola’s MOTOTRBO series, the DP4800 also offers the next frontier in two way radios evolution. MOTOTRBO software allows compatible devices to be linked up through IP networks, trunked across multiple sites and even integrated with telephone networks. Two way radio’s major limiting factor – its restricted local range – is halfway to being overcome. Read more here.

Want to Learn More?

Two way radio continues to thrive because it fulfils a specific niche unique to the needs of business and industry – to have a completely private communication network that delivers absolutely reliable communication in all circumstances.

At Brentwood Communications, we have watched two way radio evolve over the past 40 years, and it never ceases to amaze us the sheer range of different uses it is put to. We have supplied radios for everything from rock concerts and festivals to schools and universities, heavy industrial plants to hospitals, sports stadiums to retail parks. Two way radio really is an amazingly flexible little gadget – not at all bad for something invented a century ago.

To find out what you can do with a two way radio, why not get in touch with us?