Hilux 4x4

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I am not discussing the 29MHz hand-held portable radios here as they are totally impractical for 4x4 usage and their long aerials are cumbersome. They have a very limited operating range and are no longer readily available.

i) Licence Free

The cheapest radios are the so-called “Licence Free” hand-held radios, which have very limited RF output stages, usually somewhere between 50mW & 500mW. Dump the 50mW, they are worthless. The 500mW radios offer an operating range of anywhere between 1 – 3Km, depending upon terrain, irrespective of what their Manufacturers might like to claim on the packaging. Line of sight provides the best range. They are powered by three or four penlight cells and are usually supplied with rechargeable Ni-Cad battery packs and a battery charger. Useful for short-range communication, not all that useful for communication between two or more vehicles except when within a few hundred metres from each other.

Pros: Price

Cons: Not really designed for serious radio Communication, but very useful for low-cost short-range communication..

ii) Pre-Licensed

ICASA (the SA Regulating Authority on Radio Communications equipment) have granted certain Companies permission to sell portable handheld radios that have been pre-licensed, i.e. the fees for the first year are included in the radio’s selling price. These radios have a greater RF output than those mentioned above, being typically 2 Watt units. They are professional radios and are priced at three or four times the price of the licence-free radios. Typical operating range is from 3 – 5 KM, although longer ranges have been reported in good conditions. Again, line of sight works best. The radios are supplied with a Ni-Cad battery pack & a 220V charger, although the chargers can be modified for 12v charging with certain limitations.

Both the above types operate within the UHF frequency range, 450 – 470MHz.

Pros: Better range that the Licence-Free radios

Cons: Possibly price, but you are buying a premium product!

Pictured hereunder is the HYT TC1688 Licence-Free Portable Radio.