Radio 101: A Simple Guide to Public Safety Radio Tech


bandwidthradioI spend my time in the world of software.  When people talk radio technology my eyes tend to glaze over.  With the rapid deployment of Rave Panic Button across the country, I’ve gotten more involved in the radio side of incident responses and realized that I better get a little better understanding of some of the key issues and trends impacting public safety radio.  For those of you that are also a bit in the dark about the relationship between bandwidth and spectrum, or the difference between P25, LTE and 4G here’s a quick overview of my learnings.

Bandwidth is one of the topics I cover in the whitepaper, “Radio 101: A Simple Guide to Public Safety Radio Tech.

In the context of computer networks, bandwidth is usually defined as the amount of data that can be carried over a network in a given amount of time (usually a second).  We usually measure this in millions of bit per second (Megabits or Mbps) or billions of bits per second (Gigabits or Gbps).

Different applications require different bandwidths to operate effectively.

  • Instant messaging conversations take less than 1,000 bits per second (bps);
  • Voice over IP (VoIP) conversations requires 56 kilobits per second (Kbps) to sound smooth and clear.
  • Standard definition video (480p) works at 1 megabit per second (Mbps)\
  • HD video (720p) wants around 4 Mbps
  • HDX (1080p), more than 7 Mbps (Source:

radio101_imageWhen discussing radios, bandwidth has a secondary meaning: the range of frequencies — the difference between the highest-frequency signal component and the lowest-frequency signal component — an electronic signal uses on a given transmission medium.

In this case bandwidth is measured in cycles per second (hertz).  Think of the old televisions that operated on UHF (ultra-high frequency) or VHF (very high frequency) – each channel had its own frequencies in which the specific signal was transmitted. This “band” of frequencies in which a signal is transmitted is the bandwidth licensed by an operator from the government for use in mobile services.

Interested in learning more? Click to download the complete Radio 101: A Simple Guide to Public Safety Radio Tech whitepaper to better understand some of the key issues and trends impacting public safety radio today. For those of you that live in this world and want to add more detail, please feel free to add comments below.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *