Definitive Two Way Radio Hire Guide, Pros and Cons

As part of many suppliers two way radio services, they offer the option of two way radio hire or rental. This is the process whereby Company A enters into a short or long-term hire or rental contract agreement with Company B.  The two parties agree on the make and model of the two way radio equipment and a daily, weekly or monthly price per radio and ancillary equipment such as chargers, remote speaker microphones (RSM) (or sometimes called fist mics or lapel mics). If a user requires earpieces for their two way radio hire handsets, then they are usually purchased by Company A rather than hired for hygiene purposes.

Licence Free or Licenced Two Way Hire Radios

Licenced two way radios require an Ofcom radio licence to operate within the UK and as such have a greater power output than licence-free two-way radios. 4 Watts for VHF and 5 watts for UHF frequency units.

Licence-free or unlicenced two way radios are technically excluded from this requirement, provided that these radios have a power output limit of 0.5 watts and can only operate on the 446 UHF frequency band. Therefore this type of two way radio is referred to as a PMR446 radio which is a Personal Mobile Radio operating on the 446UHF frequency band. Manufacturers pre-set the frequencies and power output into the two way radios before they are sold.

While some two way radio hire companies do offer licence-free radio equipment for hire, they are typically a product item that is sold rather than hired.

Licenced two way radios do require an Ofcom licence as these radios are programmable within a set frequency range. The VHF range is 136 to 174 MHz and the UHF range is 440 to 470 MHz with 5watts and 4 watts maximum power output respectively. Fortunately, if you choose a reputable two-way radio hire company, they will have an Ofcom hire licence whereby they are allowed to program the two way radios from a list of frequencies as set out by Ofcom.

As part of your hire contract, you will be using Company B’s Ofcom hire frequencies and so you will not need to purchase your own Ofcom business radio licence.

Licenced radios require an Ofcom licence. When hiring two-way radios you will be utilising the hire companies hire licence.

Using Your Own Ofcom Licence frequencies on Hired Two Way Radios

There are many users of two way radios, with an increase of use in built-up areas, especially around industrial areas which means businesses often purchase their own unique Ofcom licence frequency(s) to ensure they have uninterrupted communication in their chosen location.

When hiring two way radios you can provide a copy of your Ofcom licence to Company B so that they can program the details into the hire radios for you to use. In addition, Company B can still add the hire frequencies to the hire radios.

Two Way Radio Hire Frequencies and Channel Allocation

Depending on which make and model of radio you hire, will determine how many channels are available on the radio.

In a basic radio two way radio hire scenario for a team of 6 users split into 3 groups, a typical set-up could be:

  • Channel 1 for Group 1 has a radio frequency assigned to that channel.
  • Channel 2 for Group 2 has a different radio frequency assigned to that channel.
  • Channel 3 for Group 3 has a different radio frequency assigned to that channel.

This means that each group can talk to each other on their channel so they are not disturbing the other groups.

Should a member of one of the other groups, e.g Group 1, require to contact Group 2, then they simply change to channel 2 and talk.

Alternatively, each group could only have access to their channel or perhaps a supervisor within the team could be the only user to have access to all channels.

As you may be realising you can customise the set-up of your hired two way radios to fit your specific requirements. And depending on how many users and groups you have can determine how complicated the set-up needs to be or not be. You can of course have 1000 users on a single channel if that is what you prefer.

It does help if you have a basic understanding of what setup would work best for your team(s) so that the hiring company can set this up for you.

How Do You Know The Two Way Radios Will Provide Coverage To Your Work Area?

If you have reservations regarding the radio coverage for your specific work, then a good two way radio hire company would send out a representative from their company to conduct a site survey whereby they can test the coverage in advance of the hire contract commencing. Note that there may be a cost to conduct a site coverage survey; we would recommend discussing this with the company you choose beforehand

Why Would You Hire A Two Way Radio Rather Than Buy It?

There can be many factors that determine where you want to hire or buy your two way radios.  When buying radios you will need to consider potential radio failures. When that happens you will need to claim your two way radio warranty or pay a supplier get them repaired. To simplify the question we simply need to look at mobile phones. Most of you have likely chosen to get a mobile phone on a monthly contract rather than by the mobile phone outright. It is easier to budget a low monthly cost for an expensive mobile phone than it is to budget the usually high single cost.

Hiring two way radios are no different. An example of this would be:

Motorola DP4401 with a sales price of £400 but with a hire contract price of £5 per week. This is just an estimated hire rate and pricing will vary depending on the equipment and the supplier.

Support for the use of two way radios can be another factor, in terms of the set-up, replacement of faulty equipment etc.

Licence free two way radios use a maximum of 0.5 watts and licenced two-way radios use a maximum of 5 watts

What Two Way Radios Should I Hire?

Coverage Area Required

A key component of two way radio hire is to establish will be the area of use, what buildings are in this area (single storey, or multiple floors) and the geographical formation of the land (i.e Hills). Two way radios on their own can only transmit so far and they can only transmit so high and they cannot transmit through hills. There are solutions for most coverage requirements and equipment add-ons to help facilitate coverage so if your area of use is not a straightforward open area with a few standard buildings situated on site then it may be prudent to request a site survey beforehand.

Two Way Radio Hire Brand

In the first instance, for two way radio hire, you should ideally require a reliable and proven brand such as Motorola Solutions, Hytera, Kenwood, Icom or Entel. In our opinion, these are the industry standard brands with Motorola Solutions products likely to be the most common brand that is offered as a two way radio hire product

Two Way Radio Hire Model

The two way radio hire model will depend on the supplier but will also depend on the user's past two way radio usage history. Because Motorola Solutions products have been the mainstay of the two-way radio industry for such a long time, it is probably that the person who is going to be using the radio has already used a Motorola Solutions two way radio in the past such as a Motorola GP340 (no longer available) or a Motorola DP4400. For this reason, most reputable two way radio suppliers will likely have the Motorola DP4400 radios in stock.

Another factor to consider is the environment in which the radios will be used. For the Construction industry where there is a greater chance of damaging the radio, then a radio without an LCD screen is preferable.

Replacement Cost of Two Way Radio Hire Radios

In an ideal world, you will hire your two way radios, use them and return them in the condition that they were hired to you in. At this point the contract ends, you pay for the time you used the radio equipment and you do not have to pay any more money. However, we do not live in an ideal world and so the chances of damaging, losing or having a two-way radio stolen from your site likely to happen.

At this point, when the contract ends of during the contract you advise of a loss, stolen or damaged incident you may be charged for a replacement radio or charged to repair the radio. This will be an unexpected cost you will have to incur and which is why it is sensible to know the repair and replacement costs and we would advise you to only hire the radio equipment that is right for your job rather than take expensive radio equipment that is an overkill for your requirement.

Are the Two Way Radios Brand New that I Hire?

If you are taking out a long-term two way radio hire, then it is possible to speak with the supplier to discuss taking brand new hire equipment specifically purchased for your hire.

If this is not discussed with the supplier then the equipment will be used equipment but providing you use a reputable company the equipment will be in full working order.

Two way radio hire equipment is serviced and checked upon the receipt back from a hire contract to ensure they are reliable for the next user. This means that the radio cases can be replaced, circuit boards replaced to the point where during the lifetime of a hire radio it could have been entirely replaced.

Think about it like Trigger from Only Fools and Horses stating his broom is the same broom he’s had for 20 years and it’s only had 10 handle replacements and 20 heads replacements.

Our Thoughts

Two way radio hire is a very useful service that can rapidly provide you with a comprehensive, time saving communication solution. Our advise is to manage the hire radios effectively, so you do not lose any or damage any so you only pay the costs of the hire and not the repair or replacement costs. If of course your country doesn't have any radios for hire then you will likely need to consider two way radio exports to solve the problem.