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UHF or VHF: Which Is Right For You?

UHF or VHF?Customers that are new to business radios are confronted a several confusing options, one of which is the type of frequency to choose: UHF or VHF. These abbreviations make no sense to most people and without some research it is easy to choose a radio that is not right for your situation.

The quick answer is: choose VHF if you plan to only use the radios outdoors and in an area that is relatively free of obstructions, such as buildings. If you plan on using the radio indoors, both indoors and out, or outdoors but around buildings, choose UHF. UHF is the better all around signal and is by far the most popular, so if you are in doubt, choose UHF.

UHF signals don't travel quite as far outdoors as VHF signals, but they do a better job of penetrating wood, steel, and concrete, giving you better range and performance in urban environments and around buildings. VHF signals travel farther, absent obstructions, and tend to "hug" the earth better, providing better performance outdoors or in hilly terrain.

Related Resources
Buyer's Guide - VHF Business Radios
Buyer's Guide - UHF Business Radios
Two Way Radio Basics
MURS: Unlicensed VHF
Radio Compatibility: Which Models Will Work Together
The Two Way Radio Show TWRS-02 - An Introduction to Business Radios
Radio 101 - The difference between UHF and VHF radios

28 thoughts on “UHF or VHF: Which Is Right For You?”

  • Tom

    smoke signals work fine.

  • Colleen Benson

    My team is looking to switch to dual band handheld two way radios. We are thinking Boefang radios. Would you recommend these or another brand that is reasonably priced. Also we are in hilly areas and need something long range. What do you suggest for a base radio?

    • Rick

      Hi Colleen, it depends on what you plan to do with the radios. Is this a business operation or an organization? Do you currently have a license for specific frequencies, or do you plan to use a license free service such as FRS or MURS? If you are in a hilly or mountainous area and need more range, antenna height and location will be more important than the brand or wattage of the radios. This applies to base station, mobile and handheld units. This GMRS Radio Range Chart may help. Although the article was originally written for users of FRS/GMRS handheld radios, the basic principles apply to radio communications in general, not just the GMRS.

      As for choosing Baofengs, a lot of folks use them, and they do have the advantage of low price, hence a low point of entry. However, price alone doesn't make them the best choice. Our advice, don't buy your radios based solely on price. Buy your radios based on functionality, need, compatibility and feasibility as well. Give us a call at 1-800-584-1445 weekdays or visit our live chat and we will be happy to guide you in finding the radios you need.

  • Ed Chernis

    What would be better in the country where there is hills and thick woods
    I am looking for about 8 to 10 moles
    Can you pls help me
    Ed Chernis

  • Terry

    We are currently using UHF radios at our plant and the signals are causing interference with our data acquisition systems. The distances are short but they are inside of a concrete block building with concrete block rooms. Would VHF help with the interference issues, and would they work inside the building?

  • I think your making the right decision with a VHF radio. I think you should stay clear of cobra for professional use, they are great for the beach or in the garden, but other than that kenwood are a great brand and Icom are worth looking at.

  • Anthony I would go with UHF because of all the trees, the vehicle mounted radios will communicate with all the hand helds and vice versa without a tower/repeater depending on the distance. I get about 2 miles on my old kenwood TK353 radio's programmed for GMRS frequencies

  • Anthony Rowland

    I am in the oil business in East Texas and NW Louisiana. Cell phone service has become questionable of late and I am in need of an alternative communication source with my employees. The land in the area is generally covered in mature (15 yr+) pine trees but not much for hills. What would be the preferred band, VHF or UHF? Do the vehicle mounted radios require a stationary tower antenna or will they communicate directly with each other? I have no experience with these radios so please forgive the ignorance.

  • Rick

    It depends on a number of factors, including the ratio of indoor to outdoor use, the type of buildings you are in, how many of them there are around you, where they are and how they are situated. We need more information.

  • Raul Chavez

    i work both indoors and outdoors but im just wanted to will vhf will be good to communicate with each other or uhf will..

  • Steve

    Thanks to all you experienced radio guys out there. I hv a much better understanding of radios than I did. I'm am going to get a VHF portable radio,hope I'm making right decision. Mainly for woods and keeping up with each other for a survival tool. Going to pak and wrap all the equipment when I get it in and put in my faraday box ............now just need to figure which brand to buy. Looking at Kenwood or Cobra but found these two brands listed below. Really like the functions they offer and price to boot, bot have an external antenna capability for antenna up in a tree or high stand. Any input on these two brands below. Thank you guys bunches.....
    Ever heard of Luiton LT-188h 10w long distance portable 2 way radio?
    Baofeng radios are either of these brands any good? I really appreciate anyone that could inform me about these two brands I really appreciate your help so very much thank you

  • James

    Totally disagree the original post...
    "UHF signals don't travel quite as far outdoors as VHF signals"? without getting into diffracting over hill etc which is only applicable to much longer wavelengths anyway, UHF travels very well for 'line of sight'.
    ..."but they do a better job of penetrating wood, steel, and concrete, giving you better range and performance in urban environments and around buildings"
    The problem with UHF is that it is prone to reflecting instead of penetrating through building etc.
    I have tested handheld radios on both bands going through a block of multiple stone walled houses, the VHF was perfect on low power but UHF even on 5W and 8W didn't get through at all.

  • What would I need to have a somewhat tactical set up to where city or woods I could talk to my brother like a Mile away looking for kind of what our troops can do as far as comms goes

  • Rohit

    Hi, Let me know the TANAPA code of it

  • Rick

    For starters, remove the battery and look for a sticker on the back of the radio with the model number. It may also list the frequency range of the radio. Also, the antenna is usually different between the two bands. Go to the manufacturer web site, download the spec sheet for the radio and compare the antenna for each model with the one on your radio.
    These are two of the easiest visual indicators to determine whether your radio is a UHF or VHF model. There are other ways to determine the band of the radio as well, but they are a little more involved. Searching by FCC ID doesn't always work because the same ID will often be applied to both models.

  • Henna Nurminen
    Henna Nurminen July 30, 2015 at 11:48 am

    I wonder if you can help me with this.. I got a Motorola EP450 (without display) from a garage sale, without the manual. How can I know if it's VHF or UHF?

  • cyril w smith
    cyril w smith May 21, 2015 at 7:20 am

    We have 900 vertex 231,160 and vertex 25watt mobile radios and kenwood repeater 50watt .Frequincy VHS 134-174.Person hijacked the freq and play music and made jokes. What is teh best opsition to go digital or UHF.Please help..

  • Anonymous

    As just mentioned above the UHF and VHF characteristics quite often get confused.
    UHF will always be prone to more attenuation from obstacles compared to VHF. An analogy for this is to think about a car with a stereo turned all the way up and the doors closed. The higher frequencies (analogous to UHF) get attenuated drastically and all you here is the thump of the lower frequencies (analogous to VHF). The smaller the wavelength (the higher the frequency) the more prone to attenuation at a set power output that signal will be unless a resonant frequency of the medium is found.
    The previous comment is 100% correct about the UHF being reflected and bounced around more and this is where the range comes from. VHF is also more prone to noise which can make receiving a signal harder to do.

  • Well the UHF signals don't travel quite as far outdoors as VHF signals, but they do a better job of penetrating wood, steel, and concrete, giving you better range and performance in urban environments and around buildings, its a great news that anyone can be helping use to do with the

  • There seems to be a lot of confusion about the relative propagation properties of VHF and UHF.
    Lower frequencies, such as VHF, will be attenuated less by obstacles, whereas higher frequencies will reflect from obstacles.
    The result of this is that, over a long path, a UHF signal will be scattered off any obstacles, and less of the signal will survive to directly reach a distant receiver.
    In a built-up area, there may be areas where a VHF signal is so severely attenuated by obstacles as to be unreadable, but a UHF signal will scatter and be able to find alternative paths via multiple reflections, thus still producing a useable signal.
    In summary, there would be no difference if there was a clear line of sight. A VHF signal will produce a stronger direct signal, whereas a UHF signal will produce a better indirect signal. The judgement for a potential user to make is which scenario best fits their required usage.

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