Two Way Radios

  • Please note the forum rules were updated today. You may review them by clicking here

Chris Angles

Enthusiast
Jan 24, 2020
2
0
1
Haslet TX
Good evening everyone! I’m trying to figure out what radios are available for long distance communication? Am I forced into a CB, or is there a handheld option that would work to allow me to keep in communication with my family while out chasing?
 

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
597
610
21
54
Menominee, MI
Chris, I’m not aware of any commercially available radios that would fit your needs. Is there a reason you don’t want to use a cell phone for that?
 

Chris Angles

Enthusiast
Jan 24, 2020
2
0
1
Haslet TX
Chris, I’m not aware of any commercially available radios that would fit your needs. Is there a reason you don’t want to use a cell phone for that?
Hey Todd! When we’ve been out, I’ve lost cell service and needed to make a report or notify police. My vehicle has WiFi, so I can WiFi call at times, but our other teams, they don’t have that. We had considered Ham Radios, but was checking to see if anything was out that we could buy off the shelf and use for our team.
 
May 18, 2013
472
411
11
There are satellite phones, but that is expensive, There is HF ham radio, but that requires big antennas, depends on atmospheric conditions, and would require the other end to be actively listening and even then you may not be able to reach them because of where you and they are at. While there are digital messaging modes like APRS and Winlink on ham radio, your ability to get the message into the system may be an issue in the middle of no where.

Your best bet for the money is a cell phone with an external antenna on a carrier with good coverage (ie Verizon or AT&T). I have a Verizon Jet Pack with 2 Wilson external antennas. I have data access probably 98% of the time chasing the southern plains. I can connect my cell phone to the Jet Pack with wifi and make calls. The key is the external antennas. There are also cell boosters.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Paul Lemery
CB, being limited to 4 watts of output (8 on Single Sideband), is only good for a couple miles at best. VHF and UHF ham are good to 30-50 miles, a lot of that dependent on your setup as well as the repeater. The DDC repeater comes to mind as one of the more notable ones that have better than average coverage. I can hear that one on 183 in Oklahoma. I don't know if I could hit it from that distance, as I've never tried. Granted, if you have one of the 110watt commercial radios, you can reach out farther, but it's still line of sight based. It's rare in Oklahoma or Kansas that I've run into a large area where I can't hit a repeater, although I can't say the same about APRS. There's a notable gap in southern Oklahoma where I can't hit a digipeater.

For data, I have a cell booster and added a through the roof NMO mount antenna and, with Verizon, I have to be in a REALLY remote area to not get any kind of data signal.

Unless you're really ranging far out of your area, I do not expect you to have an issue hitting a repeater or getting a data signal with a reputable carrier (Verizon or AT&T). North Texas is well covered both on cell service and ham radio wise.
 
Feb 4, 2020
18
5
1
Cheyenne
The better answer is (I do this for a living) - is it depends.

Option 1 a If you are only doing this locally (city/county), a CB radio (least cost) may work. The people you would want to stay in contact with will need to have a radio and a base antenna installed.The CB band during storms will be limited.

Option 2: Study and obtain your ham license. Chances are there are one or more repeaters in your area that will have widearea coverage. This may be city only or county wide. Mileage varies. You’ll still need to have someone at home (or wherever) that is also licensed.

Option 3: Find a radio shop in your area that owns or can recommend a wide area commercial radio system. Many DMR and NXDN commercial systems are around, but it is a pay service. Can be a monthly charge, air time, or both. Each radio will be billed. Will only work where there is coverage.

Outside of that, you will be limited to what the cell providers in your area has for coverage. If you are really rural, it may be an independent company that has full or limited roaming agreements. Again, you’ll need to see what works where you are.

The cell “boosters” really do not provide much. The key is having a quailityexterbal antenna and a phone that supports a cradle to bring It’s signal to that external, roof (not glass) mount antenna. Local radio shops can help.

a booster will not help to bring in a signal from a tower. Remember, cellphones these day are digital and many people think it works the same as the old analog cells. Boosting a signal (either direction) that has a poor quality signal only increases the bit error rate, thus having an unusable data stream. Sure the full will see full bars, but it’s full bars of junk. Think of it like turning the volume up fully on an am radio station. You might be able to hear some audio, but it’s mostly masked by static and other distant stations.

So if only local, you have options. If you are talking about great distance, cell is your only really cost effective option. Verizon and AT&T have the most roaming agreements and built out infrastruture.