5.3 Radio transceivers

Radios are a conventional form of communications equipment and very important for immediate voice communication between staff in the field and the base office. In many high-risk situations, emergency radio contact is essential to permit direct immediate communication between staff in the field and the head office for security reasons.

Radio equipment (all systems)-advantages and disadvantages

Advantages Disadvantages
  • No cost for calls
  • Convenient to use
  • Instant communications possible
  • Mobile radios and handsets are portable
  • May use UN frequencies and repeaters
  • Private companies may allow use of their radio systems
  • UN may assist in programming radios
  • Training is necessary
  • Not useful outside mobile/handset coverage
  • Expensive to set up
  • Government licences for frequencies and radios may be required
  • Large antenna space may be required
  • A separate radio room may be required

VHF (Very High Frequency) radio systems

VHF systems are typically used around towns to communicate back to the office. Handsets are available for communication to individuals. VHF is often referred to as a ‘line-of-sight’ radio system. However, in many circumstances, they can communicate much further. Handsets can communicate 5-10 km to a base station, and further with good conditions. Mobile vehicle sets can communicate up to 25 km (or more) from the base station. With a special antenna fitted, VHF base stations can communicate up to 100 km. With the use of a repeater, handsets may operate successfully up to 25 km from a base station. VHF radios must be installed correctly with a battery back-up for when mains or generator power is unavailable.
Advantages Disadvantages
  • For use when close to other users/office/vehicle
  • Can expand coverage area with repeaters
  • Can be used within UN systems
  • New systems can call individuals
  • Cheap to operate
  • UN can assist in programming
  • Must be set up correctly
  • Repeaters must be in secured areas
  • User training is necessary
  • Multiple frequencies are required for calling and talking
  • Government frequency licence required
  • UN-approved radios may be used with the UN system (and repeaters)
  • Programming kit may be required
  • Can be expensive to set up

HF (High Frequency) radio systems

HF radio systems are used for long-range communications, typically over 50 km and as far as to the opposite side of the world. HF radios are usually base stations and vehicle sets. Individual sets are extremely expensive. Base antennas require a lot of space and must be ordered correctly to suit the frequency of operation. These radios use a lot of power and must be correctly installed with a battery back-up for times when mains or generator power is unavailable. Training and experience are necessary to successfully use a HF radio system. However, with properly trained staff, an extensive system can operate very well over a large geographical area.
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Suitable for long-distance communications
  • Can call and talk across international borders
  • Suitable for vehicle and base stations
  • Cheap to operate (licences may be expensive)
  • UN can assist in programming
  • Expensive
  • Voice quality is not so clear
  • User training is necessary
  • Multiple frequencies are required for different times of day
  • Government frequencies licence is required
  • Can be used with UN HF system
  • Not suitable for individual users
  • Programming kit may be required

Other operational considerations:

Radio frequencies

  • Always check on government frequency allocations and regulations.
  • Government regulates the use of radio frequencies, so therefore licences will be required to use both HF and VHF transceivers.
  • It will often be possible to join the UN radio system and use the frequencies allocated to the UN.