Instagram joins Zello, Apple Watch, Sonim, and others who now embed built-in walkie talkie apps into their software or mobile phone devices. We assess the suitability of these walkie talkie options for your business.
History has demonstrated that the inability to embrace change and not being able to take advantage of the benefits afforded by new technological innovation, is usually only to ones detriment. The speed in which an organisation can intelligently integrate the advantages of new technology, purposely built to improve how they achieve their operational objectives, are those organisations who invariably create a strategic competitive advantage for themselves in the long run, by the early adoption, of such technology. The strategic advantages an organisation can create for themselves may include, but are not limited to, new revenue channels, improving team communication efficiency and/or lower operational costs.
So when a new technology arrives which claims to improve the way you do business, anyone who cares about protecting their professional reputation, goes through an internal decision dialogue of asking themselves whether one should "get in first", make mention of the new technology to the boss, and potentially start enjoying the advantages of the new benefits afforded by the new technology; or whether it is safer to "sit back, wait & see".
The two way radio industry is not immune from this human fear of change we all grapple with. When we launched Radio Warehouse 10 years ago as Australia's first online two way radio dealer, we were told by our competitors "you will never sell a two way radio systems online". So we are not entirely surprised that these same voices within our industry, have reacted to the latest advances made in two way radio technology with some resistance.
What's the big change? In 2019, two way radio dealers, can now provide clients a choice on whether their team's radio communication system can operate over a mission critical 4G (LTE) network (just as your personal mobile phone communicates over). Where as in the past, two way radio dealers could only offer walkie talkie systems that broadcast utilising UHF / VHF radio frequencies, whether that was a public C.B frequency, or a private UHF / VHF radio frequency that attracts an ACMA licence fee to utilise.
Whilst Radio Warehouse has been quick to promote the benefits of this new technological change, our industry are regretably talking down the benefits of 4G (LTE) powered two way radio, dispassionately, in the same manner they talked down the benefits of ecommerce we began rolling out to our clients 10 years ago. There are various reasons for the two way radio industry's resistance to 4G (LTE) powered radio, and the primary reason being, in my personal opinion, is that of self-interest. It's important you understand a brief overview of the history of "wide area" communication solutions, that have led up to this technological evolution, so we can empathise to an extend why there is resistance and seperate fact from fiction when weighing up the alternative options.
In the past, if you were a company and wanted a wide-area communication system to stay in communication with your team over large distances, the two way radio industry invested millions into building and maintaining their own UHF / VHF radio trunking networks to address this communication need.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology, a "trunking network" is a simply a radio network that allows an individual's UHF / VHF radio to communicate over an extended distance by connecting to another radio, by first transmitting its message to a centrally located repeater tower, such as an antenna located on the top of 101 Collins Street, which then repeats the radio broadcast over a long-distance to the receiver radios the message was intended for. UHF radio works on a "line of sight basis", so if that repeater antenna is located on the 50th floor, and can "see" 20 kilometers away, it is possible that all radio users who can "see" the repeater tower can stay in touch with one another.
A trunking radio differs to a "simplex" radio, which most of us will be familiar with; those are radios that simply communicate inter-device or radio-to-radio, rather than via a repeater. Those who have purchased a UHF walkie talkies radio will know from first hand experience, that despite the claims made by manufacturers such as Uniden or GME of apparently being able to communicate for "20+ kilometers" or "10+ miles" with such devices, in actual reality, one doesn't enjoy such communication coverage, due to the laws of physics surrounding UHF radio waves, which is caused in summary by all the trees and buildings blocking the radio waves from two handheld portable UHF radios from being able to connect.
So for those organisations in the past that needed a genuine long-distance communication radio system, a trunking network was the two way radio industry's historical option to achieve long-distance, wide-area two way radio communication. However, fast forward to 2019, 4G (LTE) / 5G radio is serious game changing technology that threatens to shake up not only UHF trunking network operators, but both the two way radio manufacturers and their dealers, who remain dependent upon their customers remaining subscribed to their now outdated trunking network technology.
No matter whether you arm your employees with a 5 watt UHF radio to communicate in simplex / direct mode, or you connect your business to a UHF "digital DMR" trunking network such as the Orion network; utlimately, no matter how "advanced" or "large" these UHF "digital radio" networks claim to be, they can not provide a business with either the coverage nor the technological advantages that a 4G / LTE radio network solution can provide. Networks like Optus and Telstra, whom provide 4G/3G coverage to 95-98% of the Australian population, whereas most trunking "digital radio" networks, owned by independent two way radio dealers, typically provide city wide coverage offfering patchy coverage at best, in outdoor areas, only.
Nevertheless, millions of dollars have been invested into these radio trunking networks, when LTE radio was not option for businesses. Given Australian businesses are now waking up and demanding the benefits of 4G powered two way radio, the available "4G Push To Talk Communication" options being rolled out by the existing two way radio manufacturers to satisfy this customer demand, has on the whole been predictably disingenuous.
The vast majority of two way radio manufacturers are not rolling out, genuine 4G powered two way radios, but are instead supplying what are branded as "mission critical smart phones", which have built in "walkie talkie apps" such "Zello" installed, providing a user with push-to-talk (PTT) communication app on their smart phone device.
Zello is of course, not the only "walkie talkie app" available with consumers spoilt for choice. Now Instagram provides "two way radio" functionality similar to how iMessage or WhatsApp can broadcast short voice messages to groups or individuals. Owners of the Apple Watch, will also be familiar with its built in walkie talkie function.
We readily acknowledge that for personal communication applications, such as a family who may want to stay in touch, whilst exploring a large area, such as a theme park, and don't want to lose contact with each other, walkie talkie apps built into your smart-phone such as Zello, Instagram or an Apple Watch, are often quick, free and easy ways to stay in personal touch. They may, in fact, be perfectly suited.
On the other hand, if you are a business, whose team comprises of a large number of employees who need to stay focused and communicate together to complete the job at hand, ask yourself: is Instagram or another other "walkie talkie app" built into a smart phone, despite how "mission critical" or "rugged" the mobile phone claims to be, the appropriate interface for your team to engage in professional business communication?
Smart phones with walkie talkie apps built into them are unfortunately devices where personal telephone calls, SMS, emails, notifications, games and social media will invariably distract your employees, not only during their lunch breaks, but during the course of doing business. A "mission critical" smart phone with a built-in walkie talkie app, or an Android phone pretending to be a two way radio, is not a genuine 4G two way radio solution.
Thankfully, Japanese manufacturer, Icom have taken a far more intelligent, long-term view on the benefits that 4G (LTE) powered two way radio. Icom have released not a mobile phone with a built-in "walkie talkie app" but rather they have released an LTE radio that functions, as a purpose built, genuine 4G powered two way radio, providing a team with a communication solution that enhances their professional team communication objectives.
Why is Icom's approach the right path forward? We believe that since the invention of two way radio, businesses continue to use two way radio for their teams to communicate, rather than require their employees to communicate over their personal mobile phones, because two way radio by its very design, provides a team, with strictly team based, professional communication functionality. The two way radio manufacturers know this, it has been the technological benefit that has made two way radio an essential team communication tool for a countless range of industries. But are nevertheless rolling out "4G push to talk" "mission critical phones", to ensure they can, in my opinion, squeeze every last dollar out of their prior investments in their existing and outdated commercial UHF radio trunking networks.
A two way radio ensures that, unlike a smart phone with a walkie talkie app, that employees cannot be distracted by social media, personal phone calls or emails, interfering with getting the job done. The Icom IP501H 4G radio not only mitigates the distractions that the smart phone "walkie talkie app" alternatives will hinder your team with, but provides technology advantages that a traditional UHF radio system simply can't provide.
Wait for it.... The Icom IP501H LTE radio system can provide your team with nation-wide 4G/3G communication coverage over the Optus and soon Telstra network; the IP501H ensures your communication remains encrypted over such network backed by Australian privacy and data security laws; unlike a CB radio, your team will enjoy interference free communication without 3rd parties interfering with your team getting the job done; there are no ACMA radio licence fees to pay per channel required (saving an upfront cost of $500-$900 per UHF radio channel otherwise required); there are no licensed UHF frequency availability limitations (many two way radio dealers have purchased them all and charge very high fees to rent them); you do not need to install a repeater; there are built-in options for employees to privately call a manager without the rest of the team being notified, who may be all communicating on the same channel; there are advanced emergency & GPS features; enterprise clients can enjoy virtually an unlimited number of group channels, amongst a whole host of other features and benefits that cannot be easily summarised here, that all operate over a mission critical, nation-wide 4G network.
It should be no surprise that Chinese "copy cat" less than reputable manufacturers such as Baofeng are attempting to roll out "no ongoing monthly fee" "nation wide" alternative radio solutions (who have their servers hosted in, and your organisation's privacy and data "protected" in China). On the other hand, Icom have intelligently embedded their IP radio system into the Australian Amazon Cloud and invested into embedding their own "APN" tunnel directly into the Optus 4G LTE network (no lag = no radio rage quit!). With Telstra compatibility being rolled out in 2019 for the IP501H, there has never been, in our opinion, a more exciting time to take advantage of the benefits LTE radio for your business or government operation.
"The Icom IP501H provides the perfect unification of the technological advantages of 4G (LTE), without forgoing the historical wisdom gained over two way radios proven 60+ year legacy, as a communication solution, purpose built to enhance effective team communication." - Radio Warehouse
Naturally, we invite you to challenge the premise of our argument presented here. So why not challenge us at no cost? We challenge you to ask your employees to install Zello on their smart phones, devices which they likely already own, and after about a week of attempting to communicate as team, you can come to your own conclusion whether a smart-phone or a purpose built two way radio, genuinely promotes team based communication. The answer, we believe, will be self-evident that a two way radio provides such benefit, no matter how "mission critical" or "rugged" the smart phone claims to be, rolled out by an industry with a vested interest to keeping doing business as usual.
For mature businesses who have been through the smart phone trial and error process, we await you to contact us to learn more how the 4G LTE Radio can revolutionise your team's operation. We can offer you a 1 week trial of the LTE radio solution, which we proudly support by stocking an exclusive range of audio accessories for the Icom IP501H LTE radio, such as the LTE Power Mic.
Last but not least, you may be likely asking yourself: "Wait a minute, is this proven technology?" The Icom IP501H has already been deployed in Japan for many years, with documented, world-class proven performance for thousands of demanding Japanese professional business and government team operations. It's fantastic in our opinion, that this advanced Japanese technology has finally made its way here to our Australian shores and Radio Warehouse is proud to supply it for the benefit of Australian business and government teams alike.
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Walkie Talkies & Two Way Radios Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane