Ever heard of UHF and VHF radios and wondered what they mean? Well, you’re not alone! These terms might sound tricky, but they’re just types of radios used in different situations. In this article, we’ll explain what UHF and VHF radios are, how they work, and give tips on which one is right for you.
What are UHF and VHF?
UHF, short for “Ultra High Frequency,” and VHF, short for “Very High Frequency,” are two types of radio frequencies. The UHF low band goes from 378 to 512 Megahertz (MHz) and the high band from 764 to 870 MHz. On the other hand, VHF’s low band ranges from 49 to 108 MHz, and its high band from 169 to 216 MHz.
|Frequency Band||Frequency Range (MHz)|
|Very Low Frequency (VLF)||0.003 - 0.03|
|Low Frequency (LF)||0.03 - 0.3|
|Medium Frequency (MF)||0.3 - 3|
|High Frequency (HF)||3 - 30|
|Very High Frequency (VHF)||30 - 300|
|Ultra-High Frequency (UHF)||300 - 3,000|
|Super High Frequency (SHF)||3,000 - 30,000|
|Extra High Frequency (EHF)||30,000 - 300,000|
What are the main differences between UHF and VHF?
The primary distinction between these different spectrums is the frequency range spectrum. VHF frequencies operate between 30 MHz and 300 MHz and UHF Frequencies are between 300 MHz and 3GHz.
In the UHF band, radio waves travel almost exclusively by line of sight (LOS) propagation and some ground propagation. This means UHF two-way radios operate best in very short distances when two operators are close in proximity to one another, such as in schools, warehouses, and retail stores.
VHF band radio waves operate on lower frequencies but are longer, so they work better for long-range outdoor use in job sites, campgrounds, and farms. Unlike UHF waves, VHF cannot penetrate objects like buildings or other large obstructions.
As a rule of thumb if you’re outdoors, use a VHF radio. If you’re indoors, stick with UHF.
What are UHF radios best used for?
In the two-way radio world, UHF radios are the most popular type. They work well in multiple environments but are best used indoors and in urban areas. UHF radio waves operate at higher frequencies than VHF and their shorter wavelengths mean UHF signals can penetrate steel and concrete with ease making them perfect to use in buildings.
What are the cons of UHF radios?
Due to their strict line-of-sight (LOS) transmission capabilities, UHF radios are limited in their signal range. While they are used outside by public safety first responders, there are limitations if you need to extend your range.
Because they operate on a high frequency and can penetrate objects, they use a lot of power and their battery life can be depleted quickly.
UHF is used by many devices like Cell Phones, WiFi, and FM radio, so it can get a little busy and interference is possible.
Some parts of the UHF band are restricted and will require a license, like a ham radio license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
What are VHF radios best used for?
VHF radios are long-range waves that operate at a lower frequency. They are perfectly suited for long-distance mobile radio communication when in open areas with minimal obstructions. Think of environments like farms, boats, camping, and outdoor construction sites.
VHF radios can tap into repeaters, increasing the strength and distance of their transmission/receiving capabilities. This makes them an ideal choice for emergency situations, which is why organizations like the Coast Guard monitor this band.
What are the cons of VHF radios?
Because a lot of different things use VHF frequencies beyond just radio systems, their signal is commonly interrupted. While their longer wavelength has benefits, it does lend itself to more interference, also called RF noise (radio frequency noise).
VHF radios need antennas that are larger than UHF antennas and can become obstructive.
How can I improve my UHF and VHF radio signal strength?
The most common issue with both radio frequency bands is interference and incorrect usage. If you’re indoors, try to get away from internet routers, TV sets, or other electronic equipment that can muddy the signal. The same goes for VHF radios, but their interference stems from objects like walls and buildings.
Both radio types use antennas, and if you’re experiencing a weak signal, you can consider upgrading your antenna or improving its positioning and height. This might work particularly well for VHF radios.
Which one should I choose?
Ultimately it comes down to your use type, and an important consideration is the environment where you will be using the radio. For long-distance communication, VHF’s superior range makes it the right choice, especially if you’re outdoors. If you’re indoors, stick with UHF because their waves penetrate buildings. UHF radios provide the best all-around option.