Are Your Campus 2-Way Radios Up to Date?

Campuses that aren’t narrowbanding compliant could find themselves without a license or functioning radios.

New Radio Features Will Help You

Today’s two-way radios are more feature-rich than ever before. Digital radio users have access to features such as GPS, messaging and the Internet.

“All of these new feature sets – which are in the new radios from virtually all the manufacturers that sell in this space – benefit all their customers, including the campuses, because they can do their job better,” Crosby says. “The products are better and more robust and suited with features to accommodate critical communication requirements with campuses and other hospitals and institutions of that ilk.”

For campuses still using analog radios, Crosby notes that all major manufacturers still produce these radios and that they are a cheaper option. But he warns that analog radios often have less coverage and cannot communicate with digital equipment.

“Some of the newer digital radios are backward compatible to analog,” he says. “But if you have a digital system and I have an analog system, I can hear the noise, but I can’t hear you talking.”

Two-way radios are not the only communications equipment that has been updated in recent years. Ted McNaught, president and chief executive officer of the Critical Messaging Association of the Americas, says paging systems are a great choice for hospital, school and university campuses.

RELATED: 6 Requirements Your Radios Should Address

The Clery Act requires that, in the case of an ongoing threat, timely warnings must be issued to the campus community. Pagers, McNaught says, are a great way to get those warnings issued to everyone on campus instantaneously.

“If there is a paging system, and everyone was alerted on a pager … [the pager] is going to receive that [message] whether it’s going to 40,000 or 40 million people. And they are going to receive that instantly,” he explains. 

While the fundamentals of paging technology haven’t changed since its inception, there are some new features McNaught says are worth noting.

“For instance, encryption has become an important component to paging technology, which has been developed over the past five years of because of separate high tech roles in hospitals,” he says.

DAS Improves Building Coverage

One of the challenges faced by campuses of all sizes is ensuring that there are no dead spots in radio coverage on campus. Distributed antenna systems (DAS) are a relatively inexpensive option for expanding a radio footprint, Crosby says.

DAS do not require a campus to build its own network system or manage additional infrastructure. Instead, remote antennas are strategically placed throughout an area that requires additional coverage, and those antennas serve as repeaters. The antennas are connected to a hub that accesses the wireless service provider’s equipment or base station.

“Things can be installed on campuses and in hospitals so if you’re on the ground floor of the boys’ dormitory or down on the laundry room … you could still have coverage,” Crosby says. “DAS and other things are becoming much more sophisticated, and actually a requirement in parts of the country when you build more sophisticated buildings.

“These are problems that can be solved today because the technology is there,” he adds.

Similarly, paging systems can help solve coverage issues. On average, a paging network’s narrowbanding signal is seven times stronger than cellular coverage and won’t be blocked by objects like buildings and trees. This is because, instead of being transferred between cell towers, a paging signal is beamed to a satellite and then to all towers near the pager, so the pager receives redundant signals. Paging messages are also simulcast (for more on paging systems, see “The Benefits of a Paging System”).

“[Hospitals can] deploy their own private system … and put the antenna on top of the hospital,” McNaught explains. “It is going to be able to radiate a signal throughout all the hospital, including the bowels of the building. That system is meant to be used pretty much by any department – whether it is transport, or security or the caregivers.”

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