These developments support the value of two-way radio across many industries. In this post we will explore some of the specific advantages and disadvantages of two-way radio when compared with cellular systems.
Advantage: New Technology
The advent of smartphones resulted in a short period during which industry leaders were left with an ambiguous choice: is cellular a better technology because of the rapid introduction of new features such as text messaging and GPS, or do the pros of two-way radio still outweigh the cons?
Today, the choice is less ambiguous because two-way radio manufacturers rapidly integrated common cellular features into their products, including location tracking, instant notifications, and a long list of accessories such as headsets and car mounts.
When coupled with well-planned infrastructure, two-way technology’s newest error correction capabilities provide superior voice quality across wider distances, whereas cellular networks still provide spotty service in remote locations. When voice communication is critical, these advances in technology give two-way the advantage.
According to a 2014 report by VDC Research on the benefits of two-way radio versus cellular, annual failure rates of cellular devices are a whopping 18-20% compared to the relatively small 4-8% of rugged two-way radios. The same report estimates a loss of between 60 and 120 minutes of productivity each time a device is damaged, highlighting the problem of downtime due to cellular device failure.
Furthermore, emergencies often leave cell networks vulnerable to systemic overloads, making most smartphones and tablets all but useless when they are needed the most. Not having to deal with network outages makes modern two-way radio a better choice where reliability is the main concern.
Disadvantage: Limited Range
Reliability of two-way radio gradually diminishes outside a certain radius. Although new technology greatly increases this radius, the value of two-way radio still decreases when workers must travel outside of local regions. Therefore, industries which require frequent long-distance travel may find cellular networks a better choice.
Advantage: Lower Lifetime Cost
Two-way radio requires an initial capital investment in order to install the infrastructure needed to relay the radio signals. However, the purchaser owns the complete system outright and does not pay a monthly contract for talk-time minutes or data. As such, large firms can recoup a two-way radio investment in a few months when compared with a comparable cellular deployment.
Furthermore, studies indicate two-way radios break less often, so they provide greater uptime at a lower cost than the cellular alternative.
Smaller businesses who cannot afford the initial capital outlay of buying a two-way system are not shut out from the benefits of two-way radio, however. Many dealers can rent systems on an as-needed basis for very affordable prices, perfect for short term engagements such as a movie production or temporary construction site.
Advantage: Easy Group Communication
Another key advantage of two-way radio is simplified conferencing. All users of a system can hear every broadcast when dialed into a particular channel, which makes coordinating group action much easier than having to call individual employees a la cellular.
A plus is that having all users on the same channel also decreases the chances of any of them abusing the system or “goofing off,” which leads to less loss of productivity.
This simple analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of two-way radio versus cellular leaves the former as the top contender for businesses where the reliability of mission-critical communications is paramount. For these, two-way radio is ultimately more cost-effective and easier to use than cellular, and keeps workers in-touch and productive even in instances where communications networks are unavailable.