The question we get asked most by schools looking for the best radio for school use.
The most popular question has changed! Previously the most commonly asked question was 'what's the range?' which itself is a tricky question to answer as building construction, amount of glass, density of walls etc all effect radio coverage. We use our years of experience to make the best recommendation of radio to give you the coverage you need and also allow you to test the radios before purchase free of charge to confirm this. Anyway, the big question of the moment is 'can people listen in?'.
Let's go through the different types of radio and the level of privacy they can offer. Firstly, licence free radios (or 446 radios as they are sometimes referred to). Licence free radios work on channels at 446mhz. This part of the spectrum is known as the licence free band. As the name suggests no licence is required to use these channels. Because of this anyone can go in to a high street retailer and buy a set of relatively cheap radios to be used anywhere in the UK without a licence. The main 8 licence free channels are all open, anyone can use them at any time. No one 'owns' or can claim a certain channel to use. A kind of curtesy system is used where if the channel is in use you would move to the next channel until you found a free one. This isn't normally a problem as licence free radios are very low power, they output 0.5w, throw buildings, walls, glass, trees in the way and the coverage you get is down to around 400metres at best. Because anyone can purchase a radio to use licence free channels anyone can hear your radio comms, interrupt you and even talk over you. Not ideal for use in schools. So, unless you're a very remote school with no real population coverage near you we don't normally recommend licence free radios if privacy is important. To summarise licence free radios are not very secure at all, no specialist equipment is required to listen in.
Next up we have licensed radios (analogue). This type of radio is the most popular with our schools for a few reasons that we'll briefly cover. Licensed radios are ten times more powerful than licence free. You get 5w output power instead of 0.5w. As you can imagine this dramatically increases coverage, perfect for medium to large schools sites with multiple buildings. Licensed radios generally are of a better build quality than cheap licence free radios, having die-cast aluminium chassis and robust shells. They're made to last and take some abuse from the user! Now comes privacy, licensed radios require an Ofcom licence. The UK light licence is a great way to get access to high powered radios, it costs just £75 and covers you for as many radios as you need for use anywhere in the UK. It's also renewable every 5 years and when you buy a bundle pack of radios from us we will normally throw the licence in to the deal. Easy eh!? The UK light licence gives you access to 7 channels that can be mixed and matched in your radios in such a way to almost guarantee you won't hear anyone else on your radios, but, there is still a small chance. If someone really wants to hear what you are saying over your school's radios a scanner device can be used to decode the channel information programmed in to the radios and your voice traffic can be heard. This requires a good technical level of radio knowledge and a bit of specialist equipment. Most schools find this a sufficient level of privacy for day to day use in school.
Finally digital radios. Digital or DMR radios offer crystal clear audio, background noise cancellation and nice features like one to one calls and emergency alert calls. Pretty cool. This is mainly because digital radios don't send raw voice over the airwaves they first turn your voice in to data, 1's and 0's. All digital radios we supply also come with encryption enabled as standard (not an additional extra). So your voice isn't now your voice and the data that was your voice is additionally encrypted! Phew! Still with me? Good. There is currently no way to decode encrypted digital radio transmissions, at all. None, not even big brother has the power. The technology does exist to decode un-encrypted digital radio traffic, which requires a great deal of knowledge and some very specialist equipment connected to a computer. Please make sure if you are going to buy digital radios that aren't from us (which obviously you shouldn't be doing!) that encryption is enabled. Some manufacturers call it 'Enhanced Privacy' or 'Call Authentication'. Using our PR-595 in digital mode with encryption turned on we CAN guarantee that your radio voice traffic cannot be listened in to or intercepted. Ask any other radio companies if that can off that promise?
If you want to know more about the levels of privacy offered or radios in general, hit the live chat button in the lower right of your screen or give us a call 01274 911340. We love talking radio and are more than willing to offer you the best impartial advice. We are confident we can find every customer the best radio for use in school.