In the two-way radio world, there are two types of radios available; analog and digital.
The main difference is the way in which signals are transmitted and received.
An analog radio works by picking up the signal from a transmission site using carrier radio frequency waves. Listeners tune into analog frequency stations on their device. They listen to the electrical radio waves as they are transmitted directly from the radio station to the analog radio. These radios waves are transmitted continuously, without interruption to the sound.
Digital radios work by picking up a processed signal which turns sound into patterns of digits rather than the radio waves which are used for analog transmissions. These digital signals are transmitted via satellite to listeners’ radios by the same technology as is used for digital television signals.
Pros and Cons of Analog Radio:
- Analog radios are relatively inexpensive when compared to digital radios. They are far less complex and easy to use.
- The number of products and accessories offered is much larger and provides for more options.
- Analog systems make good use of bandwidth and are well understood.
- Analog radios are eco-friendly by comparison to digital radios.
- Analog radio waves broadcast a continuous signal, so every tone of a transmission is heard as a complete sound.
- Analog systems use the natural voice, which is a feature preferred by many users.
- Typically only one two-way conversation can occur at a time on each channel.
- Analog systems require hardware receivers and transmitters that are designed to fit the particular transmission.
- No software-driven business applications are available for analog radios.
- Analog radios cannot filter out other noise around the sender.
- There is no privacy on an analog radio.
- Analog radios pick up interference from other transmitting stations.
Pros and Cons of Digital Radio
- Digital radios have greater range than analog.
- Digital and analog voice signals can be combined in the same digital devices.
- Digital signals can be handled by standardized antenna systems and existing infrastructure equipment.
- Digital radios have far more capabilities, such as: voice filtering; direct and group calling; text messaging; call privacy.
- Longer battery life.
- Radio frequency noises can impact the signal received on a digital device.
- First-time users may experience a steep learning curve.
- Digital is currently typically more expensive than analog.
When considering your next fleet radio purchase, it will help to understand which transmission type will suit you best. Assess the level of reception of digital and analog radio signals at the location you intend to use the radio to help ensure you are making the right choice. Keep in mind the United States is moving in favor of digital transmission, which may affect the long-term worth and usability of analog models.