Licensed vs License-Free Radios: Which One Should I Choose?

One of the first questions we hear when advising Perth clients on data radios is:

“What’s the difference between licensed and license-free radios?”

Licensed radios require a license, while license-free radios are ready to use right out of the box. But our clients (and you) already know that.

The real question is:

“Which UHF radio is best for my requirements?”

To help you understand the advantages and drawbacks of both types, let’s dive into the applications of license-free and licensed radios.

Choosing the right UHF radio in Perth

Both licensed and license-free data modems broadcast on very high frequency (VHF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF) bandwidths. And both use radio frequencies to transmit information, from equipment data and I/O commands in telemetry networks to two-way voice communication.

The difference essentially comes down to which frequencies you can use.

ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, regulates radio frequencies and has reserved some for license-free communication.

That means anyone is allowed to broadcast on license-free channels.

On the other hand, licensed radio frequencies provide privacy for data transfers. And because licensed radios can legally operate with more power, you can broadcast securely over a larger area.

License-free radios: Pros and cons

Although the network is not private, there are lots of reasons to use license-free VHF and UHF radios:

  • No licensing costs
  • Can be used immediately
  • Reliable in small areas
  • Lower power consumption

However, license-free radios are limited in ways that could frustrate your operations:

  • Susceptible to overlapping broadcasts
  • Shorter stable broadcast range
  • Not suitable for sensitive information

Where is a license-free radio useful?

License-free radios are perfect for smaller work areas and recreational use. STI Engineering regularly supplies our RF Innovations license-free radios and OEM modules to small-scale telemetry applications in Mining, Utilities, Agriculture, Manufacturing and Transport.

Our low-cost license-free data radios are designed to limit interference and transmit data with high integrity.

 We also offer a frequency-hopping radio modem for the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) frequencies that ACMA and similar overseas regulators reserve for license-free communication in these industries.

Licensed radios: Pros and cons

Purchasing a radio license provides exclusive access to those frequencies, giving your business a more secure, stable network.

There are lots of reasons to consider licensed radios:

  • Private, secure communication
  • No interruptions
  • Communication over a larger area
  • Legally permitted to be more powerful
  • Network stability in remote locations

However, those advantages don’t come for free. ACMA licensing fees vary depending on several factors, including communication points, geographic area, frequency, power, industry and location density.

In short, it’s impossible to provide an accurate cost estimate here.

You can use ACMA’s fee calculator to ballpark licensing costs or contact STI Engineering for advice.

Where is a licensed radio useful?

Because they transmit over longer distances with greater integrity, licensed VHF and UHF radios are ideal for large-area telemetry and SCADA applications in the Mining, Utilities and Transport industries.

For example, STI Engineering’s RF Innovation licensed radios are used in:

  • Complex GPS systems for fleet monitoring
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Transport and logistics communication
  • Fan, pump and pressure control
  • Irrigation systems
  • Large-area automation networks

VHF and UHF radios in Perth

STI Engineering is the local leader with a global presence. Our licensed and license-free radios and OEM modules are the industry standard, used worldwide in Mining, Transport, Utilities, Agriculture and Industrial applications.

When you need expert advice, stable communications and boots-on-the-ground support, you can rely on STI Engineering.