Plumbers, builders, teachers, security professionals, event managers and many other types of workers have unique communication needs. Often, their jobs require them to be in constant communication with their colleagues. Cell phones are one option, but they aren’t always the right tool for this. Cell phone service creates an added expense for businesses and the necessity of dialing a number every time you want to get in touch can be a hassle, as well.
This is where two-way radios come in. Two-way radios are inexpensive, they don’t require service plans and they are very easy to use. By default, two-way radio broadcasts are public, which is a good thing for businesses because it lets teams collaborate quickly and effectively. But when it’s necessary to send a discreet message, you and your team can communicate via private lines. Set up is typically quick and easy, as well. Software cloning allows businesses to quickly set up an entire fleet of two-way radios. All these advantages help explain why demand for two-way radios is on the rise. According to business analytics firm Market Research Future, the market for two-way radios is expected to register a 10.14% compound annual growth rate in the years leading up to 2025.
The best lightweight two-way radio
Motorola’s CLS1410 weighs half as much as some business two-way radios. Its lightweight design makes it ideal for security applications and other tasks that involve long shifts. Since it sends and receives UHF signals, it performs better indoors compared to VHF two-way radios.
- Small and lightweight. Weighing in at just over five ounces, the CLS1410 is one of the lightest two-way radios we’ve seen.
- 121 private line codes. You can set up private communications with up to 121 other devices.
- 56 business exclusive frequencies. Since you have to have a license to use business frequencies, they don’t get as much interference and they’re also more private.
- Transmissions penetrate walls and other obstacles. UHF two-way radios like this one are ideal for indoor use.
- 18-hour battery. You can use the CLS1410 continuously for almost a full day before it’ll need recharging.
- Hands-free mode. Just switch to VOX (Voice-Operated Transmission) mode when you need to use your hands for something other than communicating.
- Two-year warranty. If you notice a manufacturing defect, you can send it back to Motorola for a refund or replacement within the two-year warranty period.
- Only one watt of transmission power. One-watt two-way radios are fine for close quarters communication. However, if you need to communicate over long distances, you may need more power.
In a nutshell
The CLS1410’s lightweight design is its main advantage over other business two-way radios. Some can measure up to as many as 10 ounces, but this one weighs in at just over five. Another plus is that you can get up to 18 hours of usage time out of a single battery charge.
The business two-way radio with the most exclusive frequencies
More exclusive radio frequencies means more capacity to expand your two-way radio fleet. Capable of broadcasting over 89 business-exclusive radio frequencies, the Motorola RDU4100 offers above-average flexibility in this area. Since only businesses use them, business-exclusive radio frequencies are more secure and allow for clearer communication and less interference compared to public radio frequency bands.
- 89 business exclusive frequencies. The abundance of business exclusive frequencies makes the RDU4100 ideal for large organizations.
- 219 private line codes. You can establish private communications with over 200 devices and switch between any private line of your choice at will.
- Ideal for indoor communications. As a UHF two-way radio, the RDU4100 has the ability to send transmissions through walls and other similar obstacles.
- Four watts of transmission power. It’s four times as powerful as a standard one-watt business two-way radio.
- Battery lasts up to 18.5 hours. The extra large battery capacity is another significant perk.
- Lightweight. The RDU4100 is surprisingly light, given all its feature advantages. It only weighs 8.5 ounces.
- Box includes everything you need to get started. A drop in charger and a swivel belt holster are two of the most useful accessories you’ll find in the box.
- Expensive compared to other two-way radios. If you’re working with a limited budget, you may want to keep shopping. The RDU4100 costs more than twice as much as some two-way radios.
In a nutshell
Business owners that are in need of a large fleet of two-way radios may want to look into Motorola’s RDU4100. Since you can switch between up to 89 business exclusive frequencies, it offers excellent expandability. The four-watt power output rating is an additional bonus. Higher wattage means clearer transmissions, improved range and less interference problems.
The best business two-way radio for long distance communication
Most business two-way radios operate in the UHF frequency band. This makes them ideal for indoor use, but the problem is that their maximum range is somewhat limited. That’s where the Motorola RMV2080 comes in. It’s a VHF two-way radio that comes equipped with 27 exclusive business frequencies, easy-to-use programming software and other features that cater to companies and organizations.
- Long distance transmission range. Two-way radios that send and receive VHF (Very High Frequency) transmissions can communicate from much longer distances compared to UHF two-way radios.
- 219 private line codes. You can set up private lines with hundreds of two-way radio devices.
- 27 business exclusive frequencies. These frequencies tend to have less interference because anyone who uses them has to obtain a license.
- HTML-based programming software. The software is easy to use and lets you quickly set up an entire fleet of RMV2080 two-way radios.
- Lightweight. Weighing in at just 8.6 ounces, it won’t exhaust your arm when you use it to communicate.
- Battery lasts up to 15 hours on a single charge. With power save mode off, the batteries will last for about 12 hours.
- Comes with accessories. The box includes a carrying holster with a swivel belt clip and a drop-in charging tray.
- Two watts of transmission power. When it comes to wattage, the RMV2080 is on the low side of the spectrum.
In a nutshell
If you’re involved in construction, logging or some other type of business that keeps your team outside most of the time, Motorola’s RMV2080 makes a lot of sense. Most two-way business radios operate on the UHF spectrum, but this one uses VHF. That means that you can expect better long-range outdoor performance out of it.
The best sounding business two-way radio
Kenwood ProTalk TK-3402U16P
Kenwood made a name for itself in the market for car and home audio systems. The company lives up to its reputation with the Kenwood ProTalk, which sports an extra large speaker driver and five watts of transmission power. If crisp and clear audio is your main priority, this business two-way radio might be worth a closer look.
- High quality 36mm speaker for clear communications. The ProTalk’s large speaker driver is about as big as the speaker drivers used in high quality over-the-ear headphones.
- Five watts of transmission power. Another reason why the ProTalk sounds good is that it’s five times as powerful as some business two-way radios in terms of raw wattage.
- Meets waterproof standards. It has an IP55 ingress protection rating and meets the United States military’s MIL-STD 810 C, D, E, F and G standards.
- Rejects undesired frequencies. You can use the 39 QT (Quiet Talk) tones and 168 DQT (Digital Quiet Talk) tones to reject unwanted transmissions and filter out interference.
- Ideal for indoor use. The ProTalk is a UHF two-way radio, which means that it can send out signals that are capable of penetrating walls.
- Lightweight. Weighing in at just 5.8 ounces, it comes in on the low end of the spectrum when it comes to weight.
- Long-lasting battery. You can expect to get about 12 to 18 hours of use time out of a single charge.
- Expensive compared to other business two-way radios. The ProTalk’s extra large speaker driver and five-watt power capacity likely added to its production costs.
In a nutshell
Few business two-way radios can compete with Kenwood ProTalk when it comes to audio quality. Its extra large, high definition speaker driver and five-watt power rating help it stand above the pack when it comes to communication clarity. The only major downside of the ProTalk is that it’s significantly more expensive than its competitors.
The best low-cost business two-way radio
DeWalt’s DXFRS800 might not have some of the features that other business two-way radios offer, but it is tougher and less expensive than most other devices in its category. The main reason why it’s so rugged is the fact that its plastic shell is encased by a layer of protective rubber. For heavy-duty applications, it may be the best option.
- Inexpensive price. If you need to buy a whole fleet of business radios, the basic yet rugged DeWalt DXFRS800 could be your best option.
- Rugged design protects against dust, water and shocks. The rubber exterior gives the DXFRS800 the ability to survive 2-meter drops.
- Private communications. You can set up as many as 2662 private channels, including 22 pre-programmed channels.
- Hands-free mode. In VOX mode, the microphone turns on automatically when you talk.
- Ideal for indoor environments. Like most business two-way radios, the DXFRS800 sends and receives UHF transmissions, which are capable of penetrating walls and other similar obstacles.
- One battery charge lasts up to 18 hours. You can get as many as 18 hours of usage time (90% standby / 5% talk / 5% listen) out of a single charge.
- Only two watts of transmission power. Despite its rugged construction, the DXFR800 is somewhat weak in comparison to other two-way radios when it comes to wattage.
- Somewhat heavy compared to other two-way radios. It weighs 12.35 ounces, which makes it more than twice as heavy as some business two-way radios.
In a nutshell
Don’t let the DXFRS800’s low price lead you into thinking that it’s cheaply made. A layer of textured rubber around the casing not only helps you avoid dropping it, but also protects it if it happens to hit the floor anyway. It’s one of the only business two-way radios we’ve seen that comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Buying guide for business two-way radios
There are two different frequency bands to consider: VHF (Very High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency). VHF two-way radios tend to get much better range in wide-open outdoor environments compared to UHF two-way radios. On the other hand, UHF two-way radios are far more suitable for indoor use. UHF transmissions are capable of penetrating walls and other obstructions.
Number of business frequencies
The FCC has set aside an exclusive range of frequencies that only business organizations are authorized to use. Because only businesses are allowed to transmit through these frequency ranges, messages sent through them tend to come in clearer than public frequencies that anyone can access. Keep in mind that some business two-way radios can operate over a larger number of these frequencies than others.
Private line features
In a work environment, sometimes it’s necessary to send a private communication to just one person or a group of people. That’s where private line features come in. Most business-oriented two-way radios let you set up discrete communication channels. The more private lines your two-way supports, the more flexibility you’ll have when you expand your fleet.
Squelch essentially filters out noise. If the signal isn’t strong enough– or if it’s just static caused by interference– squelch blocks it out automatically. Some squelch technologies allow for selective calling, which is a private line feature. XTCSS is the latest selective calling standard.
The more watts your business two-way radio has, the stronger its transmissions will be. Powerful five-watt two-way radios tend to have better range than one, two, three or four-watt two-way radios. However, the quality of the antenna also figures into the equation when it comes to determining range. A four-watt radio with a high-quality antenna may be able to outperform a five-watt radio with a low-quality antenna.
Waterproofing / dustproofing
Your two-way radio’s IP (Ingress Protection) rating will tell you how well it resists dust and water. The highest IP rating you’ll find while shopping for business two-way radios is IP68. Two-way radios that meet that standard are completely protected against dust and can withstand long term water immersion.
Heavier two-way radios tend to have better battery life and more features, but they are also more cumbersome to use and carry. The lightest business two-way radios weigh less than a half a pound, while the heaviest ones weigh a pound or more.
If you’re in the market for inexpensive business two-way radios, you should be able to get decent quality ones if you’re willing to spend around $130 per unit. Just keep in mind that budget business two-way radios typically lack the wattage, range and extra features found in mid-range and high-end devices.
Business two-way radios in the $200 price range tend to have more exclusive business frequencies and meet higher waterproofing standards. They also usually have larger, higher capacity batteries.
Prices for deluxe business two-way radios start at $250. Some are equipped with high-end speaker drivers, robust warranties and other nice-to-have features. They’re often more powerful in terms of wattage than mid-range and budget two-way radios, as well.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What’s the difference between DPLs (Digital Private Lines) and DCG (Digital Channel Guards)?
A: There is no difference, except that the DPL trademark is owned by Motorla and the DCG trademark is owned by General Motors. Both squelch technologies do the same thing: enable selective calling.
Q: UHF vs. VHF: what’s the difference?
A: UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency, whereas VHF stands for Very High Frequency. Both bands have their downsides and upsides. UHF two-way radios are ideal for indoor applications because they generate wall-penetrating signals. VHF two-way radios have a harder time overcoming obstacles, but they have longer range capacities.
Q: I live 25 miles away from where my business is located. Will a 50-mile two-way radio let me stay in touch with my employees?
A: Maybe, but you should keep in mind that you’ll need a straight path between the two devices. The curvature of the earth blocks two-way radio signals. Two-way radio manufacturers advertise the maximum range under optimal conditions. All kinds of factors, including weather, can cause interference.
- You may want to develop some specific terminology to use while communicating with your team over two-way handsets. Sticking to lingo and codewords will both save time and reduce the chance that any potential eavesdroppers will be able to use the information being shared for nefarious purposes.
- Routine radio checks should be a part of your daily operating procedure. These checks not only ensure that everyone’s equipment is still up and running, but also help your team get in the habit of using standard two-way communication practices.
- VHF and UHF radios are not compatible with each other. If your business already has a two-way radio fleet, it may be wise to stick with whatever frequency band you’re currently using when you expand.