Troubleshooting Tips for Two-Way and Portable Radios

Hey! Let me clue you into the Next Big Thing! Are you ready?
It’s, (insert drum roll here) Handheld Two-Way Radio! Taa-daa! (waves tiny flag) Exciting huh?
If you are mentally backing away right now without making eye contact I can’t say I blame you.
Wireless tech is everywhere these days. Nobody thinks twice about downloading movies to their smart-phone or posting the live output of their drone-cam to their social media account. In fact, unless you’ve spent the last couple of decades living in the interior of Papua New Guinea, you use wireless two-way radios every day.
But, you say, those apps are hip and modern! Handheld two-way radio is old-school. Good maybe for firefighters or NASA but not for us tech-savy Gen-Y ‘ers!
In reality Handheld Radio is even more important and ubiquitous than ever before. In fact according to a recent report in Homeland Security News Wire the worldwide market is on track to exceed sixteen billion dollars in 2017!
Two-way radio provides excellent low cost, high-quality communications service to tens of thousands of commercial and public sector workplaces. However as with any complex system there are many modes of failure. The ability to correctly identify, diagnose and potentially resolve communications issues is a critical skill.
One of the most frequently reported issues with handheld radios is interference. Interference is unwanted radio energy in the same band as your handheld. Sources of interference can be divided into three categories:
• Other nearby radio users
• Incidental sources (Power lines, spark plugs or microwaves)
• Environmental (electrical storms, geomagnetic conditions or sun spots)
Resolving interference can be a simple as tuning to a less busy channel, changing your location or orienting your radio slightly differently.

Range is the next most reported issue. Range is the maximum that your radio can be separated from another and still be able to exchange information effectively. Radio waves radiate like a lightbulb. On a clear night the only thing limiting the range would be the curvature of the earth itself. Why then do you have problems communicating with another radio only a few thousand feet away? The range of a radio signal can be limited by many things, some obstacles (like buildings or other structures) block or absorb or reflect the signal so that it is weakened. Range is also limited by the power that a signal is sent with.
Resolve range issues by increasing power, using a better antenna or changing your location.
Lastly, the best advice is to RTFM (as in Read the Blanking Manual). Know how to use your radio! Mistuning, incorrect settings and incompatible operating modes are frequent causes of performance issues. The User’s Guide or a training video can make your handheld experience tons better.
As with most things, a little common sense and following proper operating procedures go a long way. Before sending your radio in for expensive bench testing or repairs apply these simple troubleshooting tips and save yourself money and time.
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