Analogue and digital communications each have their supporters as well as their detractors. Each technology has its plus points as well as its drawbacks, but neither are hugely well understood by the average client. So here’s what we’re going to do; a handy little puff-piece detailing which type of two-way radio is best for your specific needs.
OK, so, first, let’s look at the differences between analogue and digital communications.
Firstly, analogue technology translates information into radio waves in order to convey it over long distances. The more the wave may be compressed, the clearer the signal can ultimately become, and with less noise as well.
Analogue technology records waveforms as they are and translates them that way, as opposed to its digital equivalent, which samples and records waveforms first before transmitting them. However, analogue devices tend to consume much more power.
Analogue radios are also inherently more affordable than their digital counterparts. Digital devices can cost a lot of money and, because they are an emerging technology, new models can potentially be rendered ‘old hat’ within a relatively short span of use, whereas analogue technology requires far less upgrading.
The downside here, however, is that the end for analogue two-way radios is definitely in sight. Digital is clearly going to be the way forward.
Digital technology operates on a very different principal. While analogue translates information into radio waves (as we discussed earlier), digital technology instead translates the same information into a binary format (essentially zeroes and ones). This requires a shared language between the sending and receiving devices; otherwise the signal cannot be decoded.
Digital technology samples analogue waveforms, assigns a set of numbers to them and then records them. Ergo, digital radios are far less likely to be interrupted by signal degradation, outside noise and other interruptions, largely because most noise responses are analogue in nature.
Digital signal processing is almost instant, as digital sampling works at 8000 samples per second. The difference between digital signal processing and analogue is therefore negligible.
Finally, digital devices tend not to draw as much power as analogue devices.
Which one for me?
So, now that’s out of the way – which is right for you?
Ultimately, when it comes to two-way radio usage, analogue radios will serve you well, but not for much longer, it seems.
Start by looking at health and safety concerns. An analogue radio is easy to use, highly durable and totally instantaneous. This is, in short, technology that saves lives. This is one reason that these radios are still employed by everyone from police officers to construction workers the world over. The other reason is cost. Analogue radios are still much cheaper than their digital counterparts.
Digital radios have a much wider signal range and a clearer sound, but, as we said, they can be cost prohibitive.
Overall, if it’s outdoor, manual work (where quick, efficient communication is vital) if cost is an issue, if safety and security are major factors and if reliability is key, an analogue radio is a reasonable choice, but could be slightly short-sighted given the massive improvements made by digital technology in recent years. It may be wiser to simply bite the bullet and spend extra over the short term in order avoid spending considerably more over the long term.
If you want to get a jump on the competition, if you want to be up to date and have your workforce operate the best technology money can buy, then digital is certainly the way forward.
What about hybrids?
A device that covers both grounds is a great choice, provided that it is still easy to use in a crisis and bug free. If you are pushed, then a digital two-way is probably best. The technology has come a long way now and definitely represents the future of two-way communications.
So there you go, that’s our answer.