Portable two-way radios can be a costly investment. From FCC Licensing to radio accessories and overall maintenance, radios can sure be expensive.
We’re going to show you everything that goes into a professional two-way radio so you can know what to expect before you shop around.
When we talk about professional two-way radios, we’re talking about radios used often by police, firefighters, paramedics, TSA, security, and more. These radios are often more expensive due to the build and technology included.
Most professional two-way radios can go for $1000 to a couple thousand with everything public safety needs to operate daily.
There are a lot of factors that can contribute to how much your two-way radio is going to cost, including
- Radio Model
- Replacement accessories
The most widely known brands of professional two-way radios are Motorola, Kenwood, and L3Harris. Other manufactures include BK Technologies, Vertex, and ICOM.
The price you pay for a professional radio will depend on which manufacture you purchase from. A suggestion would be to compare these different manufactures for what they can offer you in a portable radio.
The model of a two-way radio also determines how much you’re going to be spending. For instance, Motorola has a wide range of radios for different uses.
For businesses, Motorola has the Mototrbo series, like the CP200, which is less expensive compared to other two-way radios used by police and fire departments. Business two-way radios can go for around $500.
The more expensive and used two-way radio from Motorola is the APX series and XTS series. These can start at upwards of $1000.
Today, professional two-way radios are equipped with technology that helps public safety in their day-to-day life. This technology includes
- P25 capabilities
- Single vs Multiband
- FCC Licensing
- Digital or Analog
P25 or Project 25 was developed by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) to ensure two-way radios are interoperable and public safety can communicate with one another no matter what radio they use.
P25 is available in two phases: phase 1 and phase 2. To summarize the differences, Phase 2 is more efficient than phase 1. Phase 2 uses TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access), where two independent conversations can share the same channel. Phase 2 also has a longer battery life and is backward compatible that lets phase 1 communicate with phase 2.
Newer professional two-way radios on the market will now include P25 capabilities. P25 radios are more expensive than ones without.
Radio encryption is important, especially with law enforcement agencies, to keep unwanted listeners from tuning in and hearing important conversations. An encryption key is used to enable coded and decoded voice signals on each radio. Each radio must have the same encryption key to recieve transmissions.
Encryption keys are put on each radio and with larger fleets of radios OTAR (over the air rekeying) is used. It’s used on a KMC (Key Management Controller) which loads encryption keys to the radio over the air. These encryption keys can be erased, in the event of a lost radio, or reloaded, like erased encryption keys (this happens when you remove the battery).
You’ll need an encryption key loader from your radio manufacturer to load encryption onto radios.
There is a lot more to encryption and enabling them on radios than we can talk about now. There are some great resources that go in-depth to explain Encryption.
Single Band vs Multi Band
A single band radio only works with one frequency while a multiband receives several frequency bands. Single-band radios are less expensive than multi-band radios.
FCC Licenses are required if you are using a GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radio who uses channels on 462 MHz and 467 MHz. FRS (Family Radio Service) radios, like a walkie-talkie used for hiking, do not require you to get an FCC License.
Having an FCC License gives you your specific frequencies to operate on so you’re not interfering with other businesses, organizations, or agencies.
FCC Licenses cost a fee of $70 and are good for 10 years.
Digital or Analog
Today, radios come in either Analog or Digital. Short answer, the difference between Digital and Analog is the price and advancements.
Analog has been around from the start but with the innovations in technology digital radios have surpassed analog. Digital two-way radios are more expensive than analog because of their better voice quality, range, coverage, and other advanced features.
Many departments are moving away from Analog and moving towards digital two-way radios.
A reason why professional two-way radios are more expensive is that they’re built to withstand any environment. Organizations like police departments need a radio that is going to work in the dangerous and rough environments they encounter.
Radios are often MIL-STD certified which means they go through rigorous testing to see if they’ll withstand any type of environment or accidental drops.
They also can have waterproof ratings which help protect the radio in case it's exposed to rain or high-water levels.
Down the line, you may experience a fault in your two-way radio that may need to be sent to get repaired. Manufacturing defects are usually covered under warranty. If it's not a manufacturing defect or it's out of warranty period, sending it out to get repaired may cost you.
Replacement Two-Way Radio Accessories
Over time, the accessories on your two-way radio will need to be replaced. These accessories only last so long before you need a refresh. Prices of radio accessories vary depending on if it's OEM or an aftermarket OEM comparable manufacturer. OEM prices are slightly higher than an aftermarket accessory.
You can expect to replace your accessories every couple of years or when there’s a decrease in performance or damage.
Replacement two-way radio batteries go for around $50-$100, same with antennas.
Other accessories for your radio include speaker microphones, surveillance its, headsets, belt clips, adapters, chargers, and cases. We can include a specific price here because they do vary.
Two-way radios are complicated to understand, especially for beginners. While training someone on how to use a radio may not cost you money, it’s still costing you time. It’s going to take time for users to understand how to use, proper etiquette, and what everything means on their professional two-way radio.
Take time and train your users properly on the right way to communicate and use a two-way radio.
How Much Will My Two-Way Radio Cost?
For a professional mission-critical two-way radio, with the features talked about above, you’re looking at around $1500 to a couple of thousand dollars.
Professional two-way radios are used by big organizations like law enforcement and fire departments who all require these types of features on their radio like P25.
First Source Wireless is an authorized dealer of communication products from 3M Peltor, Pulse Larsen, Cradle Point, Ops-Core, Motorola, and more. With over 20 years of experience, we’re here to help you improve your team’s communication. Contact us today to talk about your options via firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-991-4569
About the Author
TAYLOR THOMAS is a Marketing Manager at First Source Wireless. With her experience in critical communications, she helped public safety professionals enhance their communication through the help of two-way radios and headsets.