Looking for radio equipment on a tight budget?

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Every project runs on a limited budget, regardless of the industry. And as vital as two-way radio equipment is to a project’s success, sometimes business owners choose to roll the dice and buy a less-than-professional solution.

This could range from going online and buying used equipment to going to a big-box electronics store and buying something that (sort of, kind of) looks like it will do the job.  Taking a chance like this comes with its fair share of risks, and we’ll get into a few of them now.

Buying Uncertified Radio Equipment

Figure 1 – Label on a certified radio

It is illegal to operate two-way radios in Canada that do not have a technical acceptance certificate. So now you’re thinking to yourself, “but how do I know that my radio is certified?” Good question.

In Figure 1, you’ll see the number “IC: 282D-431001” in the center-left of the label. This is the ISED certification number and it tells you that the radio has been certified for use in Canada (with appropriate frequency licenses which are the subject of another blog post). You can use this number to verify certification on ISED’s Radio Equipment Search webpage.

Figure 2 – Label on a non-certified radio

If your radio is not certified, then this number won’t appear. In Figure 2 you will notice the lack of an “IC” number. It is not sufficient that an FCC number appears (the FCC is the radio licensing and regulatory body in the United States), the radio MUST be certified by an appropriate Canadian certifying body and carry the “IC” number.

What can make this situation murky is that a radio having a similar model number to one that you know is certified is not a guarantee that both radios are certified.  . Figure 3 is a photo of the label of a certified radio. Now, take a closer look at the model number.

Figure 3 – Another certified radio

Figure 2 shows a Kenwood TK-3312, but so does Figure 3. How can one radio be certified but not the other? Closer inspection reveals another part of the model number. Figure 2 actually shows a TK-3312-1 while Figure 3 shows a TK-3312-2. This subtle difference could indicate that the radios have slightly different hardware components, frequency fidelity, or any other specification. The main point is the TK-3312-1 was never tested in Canada by an authorized certification body.

So how can you avoid using uncertified radios? The easiest way to only purchase radios from reputable, manufacturer-authorized, radio dealers in Canada. These dealerships are required, by Canadian law, to adhere to all government regulations.  They are responsible for ensuring any radio or accessory sold is appropriately certified.

Avoid the temptation to purchase cheaper radios from online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon. There are few controls (if any) over the products sold on these sites. You may be able to save a few dollars on the hardware, but you will find it difficult to find expert technical services for your uncertified radio. Factor in the time spent returning them and sourcing certified radio equipment, as well as any downtime while your crews wait for their radios get to the site, and the costs far outweigh any potential savings.

You Get Little, or No, Technical Support

You may save money when you buy the cheapest possible radio equipment, but what’s your plan for keeping it in good condition?

If you work in any of Alberta’s heavy industries, your radios are going to get dirty and damaged.  If you buy a discount solution, odds are that the radio equipment won’t stand up to the wear and tear a professional solution is designed to.

And, because Murphy’s Law always has its say, they’ll fail you when your team needs them most – either midway through a project or just before one starts up.  If you’ve purchased a discount solution there’s no guarantee your original provider will have the parts they need, or the expertise required, to repair them.  You may end up being forced to start over and find new radio equipment. Worst of all, you may be stuck with radios you can’t use or return.

When you buy professional and commercial grade radio equipment from authorized suppliers, you do it with the knowledge that, if you need radio repairs, they can support you.  They have access to the spare parts your equipment needs to perform optimally. Just as importantly, they have the technical staff on hand to actually repair radio equipment when it comes in.

If you’re in a rush and you need a replacement immediately, these dealerships can also equip you with a rental radio while your equipment is in for service.

Interference Could Be an Issue 

The bulk of Canada’s radio-frequency (RF) is regulated by the federal government, and you need to purchase a license if you want to conduct radio communications.  Having this license ensures that you will have access to the frequencies you need and serves as a safeguard against interference from other companies using two-way radios nearby.  Click here for more information on the benefits of having a license provides.

If you don’t buy professional or commercial grade radio equipment and choose instead to buy ‘off the shelf’ or from a discount, online distributor, you may get lucky and have open frequencies pre-programmed in them.  Open frequencies don’t require licenses; anyone can use them.  This will feel like a great deal until somebody else starts using those same frequencies near your job site.  Once that starts, you’ll be dealing with interference from a nearby operation whose communications have nothing to do with your job, and they’ll be hearing your communications, too.  That level of irrelevant chatter can slow down communications and the pace of work on your project.  And that’s just one way things could go wrong.

You could end up with radios that have somebody else’s licensed frequencies programmed into them.  This can happen when a provider doesn’t bother to check (with ISED) if anyone is using them. If you cause interference with someone else’s communications by using their licensed frequencies, the Canadian government can force you to cease all communications until you have your own license.  If you ignore that order, you can face monetary fines as high as $10 million dollars for a first-time offense.  That’s the second way things can go wrong.

The third is simpler than, but potentially as frustrating as, the first two:   You get radios with no frequencies programmed into them at all.  If you don’t have the equipment and skill set, you won’t be able to program them yourselves or determine if they are already being used.  You may be able to take them to an authorized dealership, but there’s no guarantee they support the discount two-way radio you purchased.

In this scenario, you’re stuck (once again) with a hunk of plastic that you can’t use for anything.

Getting Started

The value that professional and commercial grade radio equipment provides comes at a higher price point than the discount option, no question.  And while there are several safeguards that the price point will offer, it still may be beyond what your project budget can afford.

Fortunately, buying radios isn’t your only option.  You can also rent radio equipment from dealerships like Tridon Communications.  We’ll set you up with the equipment that fits your project’s needs, help you obtain a frequency license, and program the gear to your specifications.

If you want to start a conversation about renting radio equipment, or you have questions about the difference between professional or commercial radios and the cheaper options, just Contact Us.  Our Account Managers and Service Technicians are here to help.

 

Tridon is a full solution Telecom Systems Integrator with CSA certification and licensed by APEGA.  Our Engineering, Service and Tower Divisions collaborate with customers to build engineered solutions including communications systems design, tower inspections, and co-location, wireless broadband, fiber optic cabling, site security, and two-way radio communication.

 

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