VHF or UHF Two-Way Radios - Which is Better for You?

Should You Choose VHF or UHF Radios?

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or replacing an existing fleet of two-way radios, you should definitely stop to consider which frequency band is best for your needs and application.

VHF stands for “Very High Frequency” while UHF stands for “Ultra High Frequency”—these are the two most common two-way radio frequency bands for commercial and business radios. They each perform differently in different environments. Ultimately, it’s the shape of the radio waves in each frequency band that makes the real difference.

VHF and UHF Two-Way Radio Basics

Lets start at the beginning with a few important basics…

1.) Both UHF and VHF radios are considered line-of-sight systems. If there is too much “stuff” in between the radios that are trying to communicate, the signals can get degraded or lost alltoghether.

2.) “Stuff” would be things like terrain features, buildings, etc.

3.) Radios use antennas to capture signals, so the higher-up you can get the antenna, the less “stuff” gets in its way—meaning the signal can travel farther with better quality.

4.) UHF frequencies are higher than VHF frequencies—the higher the frequency, the better it is at penetrating “stuff” (such as buildings)…up to a certain point.

5.) In Canada, the VHF frequency spectrum goes from 136 to 174 MHz, and the UHF frequency spectrum goes from 403 to 470 MHz.

VHF versus UHF Comparison

VHF Two-Way Radios:

  • Are ideal for outdoor environments where maximum range is needed and where there are little to no obstructions.
  • Have lower frequency than UHF, so the radio waves can travel farther in unobstructed environments
  • Provide excellent range on flatter terrain but doesn’t work well in buildings.
  • Best suited for outdoor professionals like forestry, Search and Rescue, agriculture, long-haul trucking, mineral exploration, fire departments, etc.

UHF Two-Way Radios:

  • Are ideal for indoor environments or environments with obstructions, like cities.
  • Have higher frequency than VHF, so the radio waves work well inside of buildings and can also offer pretty good range (although the range is not as good as VHF).
  • Best-suited for indoor professionals like facilities staff, warehouses, schools, hotels, retail workers, etc.
  • Generally speaking, UHF two-way radios are ideal when you require coverage both indoors and out. It’s very versatile and is generally the most common frequency choice for business two-way radios or walkie talkies.

Have an Existing Two-Way Radio System?

Is your existing radio system or radio fleet VHF or UHF?
If you have a existing radios that you’re adding to, you will need to determine this prior to buying new radios.

Long story short, the new radios will need to be in the same frequency band as your existing ones—a VHF radio will not be compatible with a UHF radio, and vice versa.

Is your existing radio system digital or analog?
Analog two-way radios are not compatible with digital two-way radios, so you'll need to confirm what you already have to ensure they'll work together.

That being said, all of our DMR digital radios have a dual mode capability, meaning they can also work in an analog mode.

However, if it's a digital system, it is important to determine what format it's using and what brand they are. For example our Hytera DMR radios will be compatible with some versions of Motorola's digital format, but not others.