Digital Two-way Radios VS Analog Two-way Radios

Digital Two-way Radios VS Analog Two-way Radios

16 Jul. 2016   Information

The analog two-way radio has been around for as long as it has, the ceiling of innovation has been reached. But with the emergence of the digital platform, a new era of radio technology has now arrived. From varying price points and the distinction in sound quality, both technologies have significant differences beyond just their signal types. And even though it offers numerous advantages, the digital radio will not completely replace its analog sibling. The traditional analog radio still has the upper hand for many applications.

Analog Two-way Radio
A traditional two-way radio with an analog signal is not feature rich on its own. Standard analog radios usually offer push-to-talk, scanning, simple group conversations (one-to-many), and limited encryption capabilities.

But the analog two-way radio has a strong history. It has been around long enough for engineers to find ways to enhance its functionality with a number of useful features. Chances are, if you want your analog radio to perform a certain task, someone else has already found a way to make it happen. This could be considered a negative issue for the new digital two-way radios, as they have not been in use long enough for the proper “tinkering time.” However, this will undoubtedly change as the popularity of digital communications devices grows. For example, remember when cellular phones were first introduced? They were all analog in the early days. But as more and more people became dependent on their cell phones, digital devices were introduced, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Digital Two-way Radio
Two-way radios with a digital signal offer all of the same features as analog radios–and more. However, the features of digital radios offered by the leading manufacturers don’t differ all that much.  Some radios promise affordable components, ease of repair, and ease of use, while other manufacturers offer features such as enhanced text messaging, IP connectivity, and ruggedized design for harsh environments. All digital radios enable a 30-50 percent longer battery life than traditional analog radios, because the digital radio transmitter is not constantly on.

Analog Signal VS Digital Signal
Analog: Analog signals have a sinusoidal, or continuous, value. Today’s analog systems use frequency modulation (FM). The frequency modulation produces a continuous wave with the voice signal. By integrating such a simple system into a single chip, the cost of this radio has dramatically reduced. Analog signals are commonly used in many systems today, but the uses for analog signals are declining with the introduction of the more reliable digital signal.

Digital: Digital signals are represented by binary numbers: 1 or 0. The 1 and 0 values can correspond to different discrete voltage values. Any signal that doesn’t quite fit into the scheme is rounded off. By using a binary signal, error correction embedded signaling and control bits are possible in each packet transmitted. A packet contains an assembly of bits. The software contains an algorithm that understands the differences between voice and background noise, and in return, cancels the unwanted background noise and unwanted audio. The wireless digital signal provides the same levels of reliability and control as a wired digital signal.

Advantages VS Disadvantages
Both digital and analog technologies offer many of the same popular features, but their differences set them very far apart. Decide for yourself which technology is the best fit for your situation as we discuss the advantages and disadvantages to both systems.

The advantages of analog two-way systems include:
● Analog systems use the natural voice, which is a feature preferred by many users.
● Because analog has been around longer, the number of products and accessories offered is much larger and provides for more options than does digital.
● Analog systems make good use of bandwidth and are well understood by the general public.

The disadvantages of analog two-way systems include:
● 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. Analog devices can be upgraded with features but not technology.
● No software-driven business applications are available for analog radios.

The advantages of digital two-way systems include:
● More simultaneous talking paths are possible, and information such as unit ID, status buttons, and enhanced text messages can be embedded into a single digital radio channel.
● Bandwidth consumption is reduced.
● Digital signals can be handled by standardized antenna systems and existing infrastructure equipment.
● The digital conversion of a user’s voice reduces external background noises. And the digital technology platform is ideal for reducing environmental noise levels during transmission, such as inside noisy manufacturing and processing plants or outside in windy conditions.
● A number of new software applications are available for use with the digital platform.
● The digital platform provides a migration path that allows for simultaneous use of digital and analog radios.

The disadvantages of digital two-way systems include:
● Digital radios, like all new digital technology, can be somewhat more expensive.
● Due to the additional features and enhanced functionality, a learning curve exists for first-time users.
● Digital signals are intolerant to radio frequency (RF) noises, and in the presence of too much RF noise, the signal can result in an error.

In addition to the various advantages and disadvantages listed above, the sound quality for both analog and digital is very high within their peak performance areas. An analog radio will produce a clear signal—accompanied by the standard white noise—within its peak performance range. Once the signal moves further and further away from the transmit (center) point, the audio will slowly fade out until it is unrecognizable. By contrast, the digital signal will stay strong and clear to the limits of coverage.

The Solution
As for high-end and/or relative complicated requirements and demands, we recommend our customers to upgrade the communications infrastructure using HQT solution, consisting of digital repeaters, digital portable radios, digital mobile radios and dispatch system.

(Source: BearCom)
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