Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions page.  These FAQ's answer some of the most common questions we are asked.  If there is still a question you have that you don't find on this page, please contact us!  Feel free to e-mail us or call us and we will get an answer to you just as soon as possible.


What does Narrowband Channel Spacing Mean?
What is the toughest, easy to use, low cost handheld two-way radio available to me?
What is the best way to care for my battery on my handheld?
My radio makes chirping, squealing, annoying sounds and is unusable when I am near a hill with towers on it, why does it do that?
Is there anything I can do about problems with paging towers?
What does trunking mean?
Can you tell me more about trunking?
So what does trunking have to do with my radio?
Is there more than one type of trunking?

Q. What does Narrowband Channel Spacing mean?

A. Generally speaking, the FCC used to license channels every 12.5kHz or 15kHz apart. For example, 154.280, 154.295 and 154.310 MHz were three adjacent channels spaced 15kHz (or .015 MHz) apart. Now there are newly available frequencies in between all the old frequencies. Because your old radio was "transmitting" and "listening" to a certain bandwidth that is wider than new radios, your old radio will hear.... and they will hear you...on the new "in between" narrow channels. All radios will HAVE TO BE OPERATING IN THE NARROWBAND MODE by Januaury of 2013 because then it will be ILLEGAL to use an older radio that will interfere with the new channels. You MUST upgrade your current radio to listen to a smaller bandwidth and transmit with a smaller bandwidth per channel or you will be forced to purchase another radio that can operate without interefering with narrow spaced channels.
Q.  What is the toughest, easy to use, low cost handheld two-way radio available to me?
A.  We believe, and the
US Army believes, that it is the handhelds made by ICOM.  They tested all brands, chose ICOM and bought over 22,000 of them ($7.5 million worth).

Q.  What is the best way to care for my battery on my handheld?
A.  Ni-Cad and Ni-MH batteries should typically be re-charged after every use so that you have maximum talk time available.  Alkaline batteries, unless they are the rechargeable type, get used until they are dead and then thrown away.  If Ni-Cad batteries are used only briefly and then recharged again (typical volunteer fire dept use) then they should be discharged to nearly dead once a month to avoid a "memory effect."  It is unnecessary to do this if you use your radio 8 hours or more a day (typical business use or police/sheriff use) and unnecessary with Ni-MH batteries as they have no "memory."  If you are using a slow charger, always make sure that your radio is shut off when recharging overnight or you may not have a fully charged battery by morning (to get you through the next day).  Also, batteries are not meant to be left on the charger for extended periods of time without being used.   If you do, the battery can get warm/hot and can shorten it's useful life.

Q.  My radio makes chirping, squealing, annoying sounds and is unusable when I am near a hill with towers on it, why does it do that?
A.  For some reason the FCC allowed paging transmitters to be licensed in the middle of the VHF business and public safety band. A particularly offensive frequency is 152.600 MHz that often pages (transmits) with 500 or even 1000 watts (or more) of effective radiated power! If you have a VHF frequency close to a paging frequency and you are trying to listen to someone in your company who has a 5 watt handheld and is five miles away, by the time the handheld's signal gets to your radio there is only a fraction of a fraction of a watt available left for your radio too "listen" to.  If you are close to a paging transmitter your radio may get overloaded by the 1000 watt paging transmitter and won't be able to hear the intended signal.

Q.  Is there anything I can do about problems with paging towers?
A.  Maybe!  Some radios have a better "front end" than others, meaning they are better able to discriminate from the wrong signals.  In other words some brands of radios are more selective and filter the "garbage" signals better than others.  Some brands of radios can be sent back to the factory to have better filtering installed.  If the radio's "front end" simply can not be improved enough to rid the problem than sometimes you can install additional filtering external to your radio.  However, this only works if the paging transmitter frequency is far enough away from your frequency.  

We have spoken with many dealers around the country before we chose the ICOM line.  Every dealer that we spoke to who sold ICOM, along with other lines like Kenwood, Motorola, Vertex-Standard, etc... told us that, in their opinion, ICOM outperforms them all when it comes to the front end of the radio.  Because of our experience, and the experience of our peers, we recommend ICOM radios in a location prone to this annoyance because they simply have a "tighter front end" and are less likely to be overcome by paging signals and other interference.   Of course EVERY radio, no matter how well built, has it's limit.

Q.  What does trunking mean?
A.  Have you ever been in line at a bank with four tellers and you pick the shortest line only to find out that someone in front of you has a complex transaction and takes a long time?  You start to notice people that came in after you that joined a different line, perhaps even a longer line, are getting waited on before you (happens to me every time I go to Home Depot)!  You probably wished that you had chosen one of the other lines right? Nowadays most banks have only one line where everyone waits together for the next available teller.  Everyone is waited on in the order that they came in.   It is much faster and fair for everyone.  That is a trunking system.   Trunking equals efficiency.

Q.  Can you tell me more about trunking?
A.  Trunking was actually invented for telephone companies.  As the demand grew for telephone lines many years ago they realized that a town of 10,000 people does not need 10,000 lines leaving the town to the central office in the next town since not everyone talks on the phone at the same time.  They realized that it would be too costly and time consuming to run a pair of copper wires for all 10,000 people between their central offices.  At that time, with statistics and calculations, they discovered that 1,000 lines would reliably handle 10,000 customers.

Q.  So what does trunking have to do with my radio?
A.  In the not to distant past companies were assigned to a repeater that you shared typically with up to 10 other companies.  Statistics show that the average repeater with 10 customers, each having 10 radios, was in use approximately 20% of the time.  In other words you had a 20% chance of NOT being able to use it when you wanted it.   If somebody else was already using it you had to wait, sometimes 10 minutes or more, until they were finished.  With a trunking system, there is more than one repeater available to you.  Simply by adding a second repeater (each having 10 customers) the odds of both being busy at the same time is reduced to approximately 4%.  Of course if both did happen to be busy, the wait time is GREATLY reduced as well (because you get the first to become available).  The trunking system provider can keep adding repeaters as the need arises.  Trunking is much more efficient for customers, providers and use of the radio spectrum in general.

Q. Is there more than one type of trunking?
A. There are two basic types of trunking, centralized and de-centralized, and there are several varieties of each.   Basically, centralized trunking logic is performed at the tower site and de-centralized logic is performed in the mobile units.  Centralized systems typically take 300 milliseconds from the time you key the microphone until you acquire a channel.  Once you unkey the microphone you may or may not get the same channel (repeater) the next time you go to talk.  Regardless, it always takes 300 milliseconds (typically) to acquire a (new) channel, provided one is available.   De-centralized systems are much slower to acquire a channel, taking up to one second or slightly more. However, with a de-centralized system once the channel is acquired subsequent communication is instantaneous.   Centralized systems are typically located at one tower site because the logic requires the equipment to be physically together.  De-centralized systems are typically located at multiple sites because the logic is in the mobiles and does not require the base equipment to be together. An advantage of de-centralized systems is that if there is a disaster (power outage, lightning strike, hurricane, tornado, etc) at one site you will still be able to access the other tower sites.  If a centralized system is struck by lightning (or hit by another disaster) you may be out of luck for a while! Unfortunately, many people have found this out the hard way!
The biggest thing to watch out for with trunking is a proprietary system.  We recommend a system that is flexible (allows conventional use in addition to being used on the trunking system) and a system that gives you many options for selection of brands of radios.  Most major brands of radios such as ICOM, Kenwood, Motorola, etc... are very flexible and can be used conventionally or accept plug-in trunking boards to allow them to be used on the most common trunking systems.  These radios won't be outdated whereas proprietary equipment will become virtually worthless (a bad investment) if the service provider or the manufacturer fail or if you decide to go to another provider.  Unfortunately, many people have found this out the hard way!


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