Icom recently launched a new two way radio that's a little different from most radios currently on the market today. It's the IP100H IP Advanced Two Way Radio, and it is not what you would typically expect from a two way radio. Sure, it looks like a radio, it acts like a radio, but it's not just a radio, it's more.
Imagine a handheld walkie talkie that's small, lightweight and super durable, with one-to-one communication, privacy and encryption, full duplex capability, and - gasp - virtually unlimited range! Best of all, no license is required!
Well, that daydream is now reality, thanks to Icom, and thanks in even larger part to IP and WiFi technologies that are now a part of our everyday lives. As stated earlier, the IP100H isn't your typical two way radio, it's a wireless LAN radio. It transmits and receives radio signals over a WLAN, or Wireless Local Access Network. In simpler terms, instead of communicating with another radio directly, it communicates to other radios through your existing wireless computer network.
The IP100H is really more of a network device than a radio. Normally a two way radio system uses frequencies to transmit your voice over the air. This radio connects to WiFi just like a cell phone would. It connects to your router using Internet Protocol (IP), it picks up your voice and sends it through the router over your computer network to other radios connected to the system, accomplishing the same thing as a standard two way radio but in vastly different way. Essentially it is really a digital data device.
It's based on technology known as Radio over IP, or RoIP. This is basically the same concept as the internet based telephone system known as Voice over IP, or VoIP. There two primary differences between the two systems. a VoIP phone looks and acts like a regular telephone and is usually wired to your router, like a standard Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) telephone is wired to a jack in a wall. A RoIP system uses a radio that looks and acts like a regular two way radio and connects to the router wirelessly. It's the same concept, just a different application.
What does all this mean? Everything. Since it operates over a wireless network, the IP100H gives you a world of possibilities that regular two way radio systems simply can't deliver without a costly investment in expensive, complicated equipment and a technician who really knows what he or she is doing to set up and maintain it all.
Let's take the most exciting one first, the possibility of range. Handheld two way radios are line-of-sight devices with limited power and range. You can do everything you can to increase the performance of a handheld, but no matter how clear your line-of-sight, how good your battery, how tuned your antenna, no matter what you do with it, you will still have limited range.
The IP100H IP radio system from Icom will work as far as your computer network will go. If you connect two buildings through a virtual Private Network (VPN) or some type of commercial network backbone, you can have radio communications in both buildings without the need of a repeater or other special radio technology to make it happen. This isn't limited to connections between nearby buildings. If your computer network spans across cities, across the entire country, or across the entire globe, as long as you have all of the right equipment in place and as long as your local networks in your two offices can communicate with each other, then your IP100H radios can be configured to communicate with each other wherever you can connect an IP device!
You don't need to buy a license to operate the IP100H radio system. Since it uses your WiFi network, you don't need to go to the FCC to get a repeater license or a simplex license for business radio frequencies. You literally just plug and play. As soon as you get your radios, legally speaking they're good to go. Also, because you can connect all of your offices together just by using VPNs or any existing internet IP technology, there are no repeaters necessary for this system. The bottom line on this one, it's license free, all the way around.
The IP100H is a digital radio, so you get clear sound from anywhere within range. Analog radios are very limited with respect to audio quality, simply because the quality of reception isn't consistent. With analog radios, the further you are from one radio to another, the more background noise you hear and the worse the audible reception gets. With digital radios, it doesn't matter how far apart they are, as long as they are within range, the sound is going to be crystal clear. No white noise, no static. As a digital radio, the audio quality of the IP100H is quite impressive.
This radio features true one-to-one communications, but it also has encryption for extra security, a feature with possibilities of its own. It uses the same encryption methods that are used over IP networks. Unlike an analog radio transmission, this type of transmission is not something that can be picked up over a regular scanner. The encryption makes it a great product for environments where you don't want to risk one of your employees transmitting sensitive information over the air, such as in a medical office or facility. One-to-one communication is nice, and the the built-in encryption is even better.
The Icom IP radio offers all of the key features of a high-end digital radio, without the hefty high-end digital price. You can have one-to-one communications, a phone book of all your contacts, groups, completely digital communications, privacy and encryption, text messaging, and more.
It also provides full duplex operation. Standard analog business radios generally operate as half-duplex devices; they communicate one way at a time. The IP100H is capable of full duplex operation, which means both parties can talk and listen on the radios simultaneously, just like on a telephone. This a huge advantage over the traditional two way radio. You don't have to wait for the other party to finish before you can transmit. You will need a headset to activate this feature on the IP100H, but you can do it. Plus, you don't need a special headset. This works with most existing headsets equipped with a Push-To-Talk (PTT) button. You will need to hold the PTT button down for full-duplex operation, but as long as you hold it, you'll have full duplex communication.
The radio itself is quite small and lightweight, somewhat on par with a Kenwood TK-3230, PKT-23 or a Motorola CLS Series radio, such as the CLS1110 or CLS1410. It features an internal antenna and a very lightweight lithium battery that's good for around 12-17 hours of use. A small, stubby external antenna is included with the IP100H that can be attached to extend the range even further if needed, without adding much to the overall size and weight of the radio itself.
It's compact, it's lightweight, but it's also quite durable. This radio is built to MIL-STD-810-C, D, E, and F, and is also IPX7 waterproof, able to withstand submersion in up to one meter of water for up to thirty minutes. Not that it would happen much in a high rise hotel or office building, but if it did, this radio is ready. No doubt about it, the IP100H is built to last for serious business use.
Setting it up
The IP100H is essentially an IP network device, so setting up and configuring the radio system can be easily handled by almost anyone in IT. Many businesses with multiple offices spread across different locations will likely have an IT tech on staff or will have someone on call to handle the computer network or resolve network problems. That person should be capable of setting up the Icom system quite easily. You don't need a dedicated communications or radio expert to do that for you. These are typical network devices using Internet Protocol (IP) and, once connected to your computer network, can be configured through any web browser.
Of course, this isn't just about connecting a radio to a network, this is a complete radio system, so there are a few other pieces involved. The system consists of two basic components: the IP100H radio and the IP1000C controller. A third component, the IP100FS remote communicator, is a software application that allows someone without a radio to communicate with radio users through a PC. Instead of using the radio directly, a user could turn a PC into a radio that talks through the system. It's an option, and a very cool one at that, but it's not required.
The IP1000C controller
The IP1000C controller is both the heart and brain of the Icom IP radio system. It can be compared to the router on a computer network, which is essentially what it is. This hardware device connects directly to your network and all of the communications between the IP radios are routed through it. When someone talks into an IP100H radio, that transmission is picked up by the wireless router or an access point on the network and goes to the controller, which then routes it out to the IP addresses of all the other IP100H radios that are connected to the network. The configuration for all of the radios is stored on the controller and you connect to this controller through a web browser to configure all of your radios.
There are two versions of the IP1000C controller. One version, the IP1000C-20, supports up to 20 radios, another version, the IP1000C-100, supports up to 100 radios. The entire system is scalable. Need more radios? Add more controllers. It can grow right along with your business.
Cost advantages and ROI
What about the costs of an IP radio system? How do they compare to the costs of traditional two way radios? What is the Return On Investment, or is there one at all?
Like everything else, there are costs to setting up an IP based radio system, and there are some cost advantages as well. Some of the advantages are immediately obvious, so we'll cover those first.
For starters, you don't need any expensive service monitors and there are no residual costs like there are with cell phones and other types of services. RoIP even trumps VoIP in that respect, since a lot of Voice over IP systems are provided by third party companies that install them and maintain the VoIP service for a residual or monthly fee.
Not only does the IP radio system eliminate the monthly fee, it's also easy to grow and expand, limited only by your wi-fi coverage and your business needs. Each radio only uses 150kbps to transmit, so bandwidth consumption across the network is very low. Plus, you don't need a radio guy to add additional radios to your fleet. If you decide that you need to add a new radio, whomever handles your computer network is more than likely quite capable of adding one to this system without even breaking a virtual sweat. It's designed for that.
In addition, the Icom IP100H is completely license free. That's right, no license is required to operate these radios, which is an instant savings and a load off your mind right there.
Of course, there is an initial cost. The advertised MSRP is $500 for each IP100H radio, and the controller is advertised at $1665.00 MSRP. We're selling it for considerably less, however we can't give the exact prices. Icom will not allow dealers to advertise the actual price of Icom digital products such as the IP radio system, therefore we have to price them at the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Contact us for the actual price and you will be happy you did.
The IP100H may not be cheap at full MSRP, but compared to other digital radios, it's still not bad. Remember, the IP100H is a digital quality radio with digital performance and features, so when you consider its rank and feature set against other, stand alone digital radios with comparable qualities, one can't really compare it to the price of a typical analog radio at all.
Consider the other costs of a stand-alone system as well, whether digital or analog. Most applications that extending the range to even attempt Most applications comparable to the abilities of the IP100H system that require repeaters, which cost thousands of dollars on their own. A repeater also needs to be installed, running the cable, installing the antennas, getting everything set up and tested, it all has to be done before that repeater can get on the air. Most likely the work will be outsourced to third parties, and they're going to charge you a lot for that. Oh, and don't forget the FCC license. Your repeater will need one for each business frequency used.
All of that is eliminated with the IP radio system. As mentioned earlier, it uses your existing computer network, and because it is an IP based system, it can be installed by any IT person who already manages or maintains it. This is right in their niche, and it's an easy system to set up.
Considering all of the costs, you're likely to come out way ahead with the IP100H system. Over time you're going to save money, but considering the initial purchase, installation costs and license fees associated with a traditional analog or digital repeater based radio system, chances are you will experience an almost immediate cost savings and Return on Investment with the Icom IP radios.
Integration with existing radios
This all sounds great if you are setting up your first fleet of radios for your operation or organization, but what if you already have radios? Is the IP100H compatible with them or will you have to ditch all of your radios and start over?
This is a different type of radio system, so compatibility will be an issue. If you already have analog or digital radios, they aren't going to talk with the IP100H right out of the box. However, there is a solution. It's the Icom VE-PG3. While it looks very similar to the IP 1000C controller, it's performs a radically different function. The VE-PG3 enables any device on your network to talk to any other device. If you already have an existing fleet of analog or digital radios, The VE-PG3 allows them to connect with the IP radio network and communicate with the IP100H radios.
But it gets even better. We're not just talking about radios. We're talking about any communications device. With the VE-PG3, you can interconnect between IP based (VoIP) phones, analog telephones and cell phones. A telephone can dial into your radio system, a radio user can initiate phone calls, digital and analog radios can communicate with each other, and site-to-multisite communications can be enabled. It's not an inexpensive add-on, to be sure, but it's a very powerful one, and if you need that interoperability, it can be of immeasurable value to your entire communications network.
Consider the many advantages of an IP based Radio such as the Icom IP100H. Range is only limited to the WiFi coverage and can easily be expanded to grow as you need. It offers true digital sound, it's small, lightweight and super durable. It offers one to one communication, private and encrypted communications and full duplex operation. It's easy to set up by almost anyone familiar with typical networking devices and offers central configuration through a web browser. The cost is comparable to a low-end digital radio system, lower than many analog and digital repeater systems and it can be integrated with existing systems using the Icom VE-PG3. Best of all, no license is required.
Imagine the possibilities.
To experience a real world demonstration of the IP100H Advanced IP Radio System in action, watch this short video produced by Icom at Buy Two Way Radios or on our YouTube channel. Once you see it in actual operation, you'll have a better idea of what its all about and how it can work for your business or organization.
For an in-depth discussion, about this radio, listen to The Two Way Radio Show Podcast episode TWRS-82 - The Icom IP100H Advanced Radio System.