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A radiotelephone (or radiophone) is a communications system for transmission of speech over radio. Radiotelephone systems are very rarely interconnected with the public switched telephone network, and in some radio services, including GMRS,such interconnection is prohibited. "Radiotelephony" means transmission of sound (audio) by radio, in contrast to radiotelegraphy (transmission of telegraph signals) or video transmission. Where a two-way radio system is arranged for speaking and listening at a mobile station, and where it can be interconnected to the public switched telephone system, the system can provide mobile telephone service.
Telecommunication is the transmission of signs, signals, messages, words, writings, images and sounds or information of any nature by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems. Telecommunication occurs when the exchange of information between communication participants includes the use of technology. It is transmitted either electrically over physical media, such as cables, or via electromagnetic radiation. Such transmission paths are often divided into communication channels which afford the advantages of multiplexing. Since the Latin term communicatio is considered the social process of information exchange, the term telecommunications is often used in its plural form because it involves many different technologies.
Radio is the technology of using radio waves to carry information, such as sound and images, by systematically modulating properties of electromagnetic energy waves transmitted through space, such as their amplitude, frequency, phase, or pulse width. When radio waves strike an electrical conductor, the oscillating fields induce an alternating current in the conductor. The information in the waves can be extracted and transformed back into its original form.
The public switched telephone network (PSTN) is the aggregate of the world's circuit-switched telephone networks that are operated by national, regional, or local telephony operators, providing infrastructure and services for public telecommunication. The PSTN consists of telephone lines, fiber optic cables, microwave transmission links, cellular networks, communications satellites, and undersea telephone cables, all interconnected by switching centers, thus allowing most telephones to communicate with each other. Originally a network of fixed-line analog telephone systems, the PSTN is now almost entirely digital in its core network and includes mobile and other networks, as well as fixed telephones.
The word phone has a long precedent beginning with early US wireless voice systems. The term means voice as opposed to telegraph or Morse code. This would include systems fitting into the category of two-way radio or one-way voice broadcasts such as coastal maritime weather. The term is still popular in the amateur radio community and in US Federal Communications Commission regulations.
Morse code is a character encoding scheme used in telecommunication that encodes text characters as standardized sequences of two different signal durations called dots and dashes or dits and dahs. Morse code is named for Samuel F. B. Morse, an inventor of the telegraph.
Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, describes the use of radio frequency spectrum for purposes of non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, private recreation, radiosport, contesting, and emergency communication. The term "amateur" is used to specify "a duly authorised person interested in radioelectric practice with a purely personal aim and without pecuniary interest;" and to differentiate it from commercial broadcasting, public safety, or professional two-way radio services.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States government created by statute to regulate interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The FCC serves the public in the areas of broadband access, fair competition, radio frequency use, media responsibility, public safety, and homeland security.
A standard landline telephone allows both users to talk and listen simultaneously; effectively there are two open communication channels between the two end-to-end users of the system. In a radiotelephone system, this form of working, known as full-duplex, require a radio system to simultaneously transmit and receive on two separate channels, which both wastes bandwidth and presents some technical challenges. It is, however, the most comfortable method of voice communication for users, and it is currently used in cell phones and was used in the former IMTS.
A landline telephone is a phone that uses a metal wire or optical fiber telephone line for transmission as distinguished from a mobile cellular line, which uses radio waves for transmission. In 2003, the CIA World Factbook reported approximately 1.263 billion main telephone lines worldwide. China had more than any other country at 350 million and the United States was second with 268 million. The United Kingdom had 23.7 million residential fixed home phones.
A communication channel or simply channel refers either to a physical transmission medium such as a wire, or to a logical connection over a multiplexed medium such as a radio channel in telecommunications and computer networking. A channel is used to convey an information signal, for example a digital bit stream, from one or several senders to one or several receivers. A channel has a certain capacity for transmitting information, often measured by its bandwidth in Hz or its data rate in bits per second.
Bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower frequencies in a continuous band of frequencies. It is typically measured in hertz, and depending on context, may specifically refer to passband bandwidth or baseband bandwidth. Passband bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower cutoff frequencies of, for example, a band-pass filter, a communication channel, or a signal spectrum. Baseband bandwidth applies to a low-pass filter or baseband signal; the bandwidth is equal to its upper cutoff frequency.
The most common method of working for radiotelephones is half-duplex, operation, which allows one person to talk and the other to listen alternately. If a single channel is used, both ends take turns to transmit on it. Dual-frequency working splits the communication into two separate channels, but only one is used to transmit at a time.
The user presses a special switch on the transmitter when they wish to talk—this is called the "press-to-talk" switch or PTT. It is usually fitted on the side of the microphone or other obvious position. Users may use a procedural code-word such as "over" to signal that they have finished transmitting.
Procedure words or prowords are words or phrases limited to radio telephone procedure used to facilitate communication by conveying information in a condensed standard verbal format. Prowords are voice versions of the much older prosigns for Morse code first developed in the 1860s for Morse telegraphy, and their meaning is identical. The U.S. military communications manual ACP-125 contains the most formal and perhaps earliest modern (post-WW-II) glossary of procedure words, but its definitions have been adopted by many other organizations, including the United Nations Development Programme, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Rhode Island Department of Emergency Management, Civil Air Patrol, Military Auxiliary Radio System, and others.
Radiotelephones may operate at any frequency where they are licensed to do so, though typically they are used in the various bands between 60 and 900 MHz (25 and 960 MHz in the United States). They may use simple modulation schemes such as AM or FM, or more complex techniques such as digital coding, spread spectrum, and so on. Licensing terms for a given band will usually specify the type of modulation to be used. For example, airband radiotelephones used for air to ground communication between pilots and controllers operates in the VHF band from 118.0 to 136.975 MHz, using amplitude modulation.
Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time. It is also referred to as temporal frequency, which emphasizes the contrast to spatial frequency and angular frequency. The period is the duration of time of one cycle in a repeating event, so the period is the reciprocal of the frequency. For example: if a newborn baby's heart beats at a frequency of 120 times a minute, its period—the time interval between beats—is half a second. Frequency is an important parameter used in science and engineering to specify the rate of oscillatory and vibratory phenomena, such as mechanical vibrations, audio signals (sound), radio waves, and light.
Citizens band radio is, in many countries, a system of short-distance radio communications between individuals typically on a selection of 40 channels within the 27 MHz band. Citizens band is distinct from other personal radio service allocations such as FRS, GMRS, MURS, UHF CB and the Amateur Radio Service. In many countries, CB operation does not require a license, and it may be used for business or personal communications. Like many other two-way radio services, citizens band channels are shared by many users. Only one station may transmit at a time; other stations must listen and wait for the shared channel to be available. It is customary for stations waiting to use a shared channel to broadcast the single word "Break" followed by the channel number, during a lull in the conversation. This informs people using the channel that others are waiting.
In electronics and telecommunications, modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a periodic waveform, called the carrier signal, with a modulating signal that typically contains information to be transmitted. Most radio systems in the 20th century used frequency modulation (FM) or amplitude modulation (AM) for radio broadcast.
Radiotelephone receivers are usually designed to a very high standard, and are usually of the double-conversion superhet design. Likewise, transmitters are carefully designed to avoid unwanted interference and feature power outputs from a few tens of milliwatts to perhaps 50 watts for a mobile unit, up to a couple of hundred watts for a base station. Multiple channels are often provided using a frequency synthesizer.
Receivers usually feature a squelch circuit to cut off the audio output from the receiver when there is no transmission to listen to. This is in contrast to broadcast receivers, which often dispense with this.
Often, on a small network system, there are many mobile units and one main base station. This would be typical for police or taxi services for example. To help direct messages to the correct recipients and avoid irrelevant traffic on the network's being a distraction to other units, a variety of means have been devised to create addressing systems.
The crudest and oldest of these is called CTCSS, or Continuous Tone-Controlled Squelch System. This consists of superimposing a precise very low frequency tone on the audio signal. Only the receiver tuned to this specific tone is able to receive the signal: this receiver shuts off the audio when the tone is not present or is a different frequency. By assigning a unique frequency to each mobile, private channels can be imposed on a public network. However this is only a convenience feature—it does not guarantee privacy.
A more commonly used system is called selective calling or Selcall. This also uses audio tones, but these are not restricted to sub-audio tones and are sent as a short burst in sequence. The receiver will be programmed to respond only to a unique set of tones in a precise sequence, and only then will it open the audio circuits for open-channel conversation with the base station. This system is much more versatile than CTCSS, as relatively few tones yield a far greater number of "addresses". In addition, special features (such as broadcast modes and emergency overrides) can be designed in, using special addresses set aside for the purpose. A mobile unit can also broadcast a Selcall sequence with its unique address to the base, so the user can know before the call is picked up which unit is calling. In practice many selcall systems also have automatic transponding built in, which allows the base station to "interrogate" a mobile even if the operator is not present. Such transponding systems usually have a status code that the user can set to indicate what they are doing. Features like this, while very simple, are one reason why they are very popular with organisations that need to manage a large number of remote mobile units. Selcall is widely used, though is becoming superseded by much more sophisticated digital systems.
Mobile radio telephone systems such as Mobile Telephone Service and Improved Mobile Telephone Service allowed a mobile unit to have a telephone number allowing access from the general telephone network, although some systems required mobile operators to set up calls to mobile stations. Mobile radio telephone systems before the introduction of cellular telephone services suffered from few usable channels, heavy congestion, and very high operating costs.
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The Marine Radiotelephone Service or HF ship-to-shore operates on shortwave radio frequencies, using single-sideband modulation. The usual method is that a ship calls a shore station, and the shore station's marine operator connects the caller to the public switched telephone network. This service is retained for safety reasons, but in practice has been made obsolete by satellite telephones (particularly INMARSAT) and VoIP telephone and email via satellite internet.
Short wave radio is used because it bounces between the ionosphere and the ground, giving a modest 1,000 watt transmitter (the standard power) a worldwide range.
Most shore stations monitor several frequencies. The frequencies with the longest range are usually near 20 MHz, but the ionospheric weather (propagation) can dramatically change which frequencies work best.
Single-sideband (SSB) is used because the short wave bands are crowded with many users, and SSB permits a single voice channel to use a narrower range of radio frequencies (bandwidth), about 3.5 kHz. In comparison, AM radio uses about 8 kHz, and narrowband (voice or communication-quality) FM uses 9 kHz.
Marine radiotelephony first became common in the 1930s, and was used extensively for communications to ships and aircraft over water. In that time, most long-range aircraft had long-wire antennas that would be let out during a call, and reeled-in afterward. Marine radiotelephony originally used AM mode in the 2-3 MHz region before the transition to SSB and the adoption of various higher frequency bands in addition to the 2 MHz frequencies.
One of the most important uses of marine radiotelephony has been to change ships' itineraries, and to perform other business at sea.
In the United States, since the Communications Act of 1934 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued various commercial "radiotelephone operator" licenses and permits to qualified applicants. These allow them to install, service, and maintain voice-only radio transmitter systems for use on ships and aircraft.(Until deregulation in the 1990s they were also required for commercial domestic radio and television broadcast systems. Because of treaty obligations they are still required for engineers of international shortwave broadcast stations.) The certificate currently issued is the general radiotelephone operator license.
In radio communications, single-sideband modulation (SSB) or single-sideband suppressed-carrier modulation (SSB-SC) is a type of modulation, used to transmit information, such as an audio signal, by radio waves. A refinement of amplitude modulation, it uses transmitter power and bandwidth more efficiently. Amplitude modulation produces an output signal the bandwidth of which is twice the maximum frequency of the original baseband signal. Single-sideband modulation avoids this bandwidth increase, and the power wasted on a carrier, at the cost of increased device complexity and more difficult tuning at the receiver.
In radio communications, a sideband is a band of frequencies higher than or lower than the carrier frequency, containing power as a result of the modulation process. The sidebands carry the information (modulation) transmitted by the signal. The sidebands consist of all the Fourier components of the modulated signal except the carrier. All forms of modulation produce sidebands.
In telecommunications, squelch is a circuit function that acts to suppress the audio output of a receiver in the absence of a sufficiently strong desired input signal. Essentially, squelch is a specialized type of noise gate designed to suppress randomized signals. Squelch is widely used in two-way radios and radio scanners to suppress the sound of channel noise when the radio is not receiving a transmission. Squelch can be opened, which allows all signals entering the receiver to be heard. This can be useful when trying to hear distant or otherwise weak signals, for example in DXing.
A transceiver is a device comprising both a transmitter and a receiver that are combined and share common circuitry or a single housing. When no circuitry is common between transmit and receive functions, the device is a transmitter-receiver. The term originated in the early 1920s. Similar devices include transponders, transverters, and repeaters.
Shortwave radio is radio transmission using shortwave radio frequencies. There is no official definition of the band, but the range always includes all of the high frequency band (HF), and generally extends from 1.7–30 MHz (176.3–10.0 m); from the high end of the medium frequency band (MF) just above the mediumwave AM broadcast band, to the end of the HF band.
A walkie-talkie is a hand-held, portable, two-way radio transceiver. Its development during the Second World War has been variously credited to Donald L. Hings, radio engineer Alfred J. Gross, and engineering teams at Motorola. First used for infantry, similar designs were created for field artillery and tank units, and after the war, walkie-talkies spread to public safety and eventually commercial and jobsite work.
The International Telecommunication Union uses an internationally agreed system for classifying radio frequency signals. Each type of radio emission is classified according to its bandwidth, method of modulation, nature of the modulating signal, and type of information transmitted on the carrier signal. It is based on characteristics of the signal, not on the transmitter used.
A signal strength and readability report is a standardized format for reporting the strength radio signal and the readability (quality) of the radiotelephone (voice) or radiotelegraph signal transmitted by another station as received at the reporting station's location and by their radio station equipment. These report formats are usually designed for only one communications mode or the other, although a few are used for both telegraph and voice communications. All but one of these signal report formats involve the transmission of numbers.
Professional mobile radio are person-to-person two-way radio voice communications systems which use portable, mobile, base station, and dispatch console radios. PMR radio systems are based on such standards as MPT-1327, TETRA, APCO 25, and DMR which are designed for dedicated use by specific organizations, or standards such as NXDN intended for general commercial use. These systems are used by police, fire, ambulance, and emergency services, and by commercial firms such as taxis and delivery services. Most systems are half-duplex, in which multiple radios share a common radio channel, and only one can transmit at a time. Transceivers are normally in receive mode, the user presses a push-to-talk button on his microphone when he wants to talk, which turns on his transmitter and turns off his receiver. They use channels in the VHF and UHF bands, giving them a limited range, usually 3 to 20 miles depending on terrain. Output power is typically limited to 4 watts. Repeaters installed on tall buildings, hills or mountain peaks are used to increase the range of systems.
A cordless telephone or portable telephone is a telephone in which the handset is portable and communicates with the body of the phone by radio, instead of being attached by a cord. The base station is connected to the telephone network through a telephone line as a corded telephone is, and also serves as a charger to charge the handset's batteries. The range is limited, usually to the same building or some short distance from the base station.
A two-way radio is a radio that can both transmit and receive a signal, unlike a broadcast receiver which only receives content. It is an audio (sound) transceiver designed for bidirectional person-to-person voice communication with other users with similar radios using the same radio frequency (channel). Two-way radios are available in mobile, stationary base and hand-held portable configurations. Hand-held two-way radios are often called walkie-talkies, handie-talkies or hand-helds.
The Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS) was a pre-cellular VHF/UHF radio system that links to the PSTN. IMTS was the radiotelephone equivalent of land dial phone service. It was introduced in 1964 as a replacement to Mobile Telephone Service or MTS and improved on most MTS systems by offering direct-dial rather than connections through a live operator.
FM broadcasting is a method of radio broadcasting using frequency modulation (FM) technology. Invented in 1933 by American engineer Edwin Armstrong, wide-band FM is used worldwide to provide high-fidelity sound over broadcast radio. FM broadcasting is capable of better sound quality than AM broadcasting, the chief competing radio broadcasting technology, so it is used for most music broadcasts. Theoretically wideband AM can offer equally good sound quality, provided the reception conditions are ideal. FM radio stations use the VHF frequencies. The term "FM band" describes the frequency band in a given country which is dedicated to FM broadcasting.
The Mobile Telephone Service (MTS) was a pre-cellular VHF radio system that linked to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). MTS was the radiotelephone equivalent of land dial phone service.
A land mobile radio system (LMRS), also called public land mobile radio or private land mobile radio, is a person-to-person voice communication system consisting of two-way radio transceivers which can be mobile, installed in vehicles, or portable (walkie-talkies). Public land mobile radio systems are made for use exclusively by public safety organizations such as police, fire, and ambulance services, and other governmental organizations, and use special frequencies reserved for these services. Private land mobile radio systems are designed for private commercial use, by firms such as taxis or delivery services. Most systems are half-duplex, with multiple radios sharing a single radio channel, so only one radio can transmit at a time. The transceiver is normally in receiving mode so the user can hear other radios on the channel; when a user wants to talk he presses a push to talk button on his microphone, which turns on his transmitter. They use channels in the VHF or UHF bands giving them a limited range, usually 3 to 20 miles depending on terrain, although repeaters installed on tall buildings, hills or mountain peaks can be used to increase the coverage area. Older systems use AM or FM modulation, while some recent systems use digital modulation allowing them to transmit data as well as sound.
An amateur radio repeater is an electronic device that receives a weak or low-level amateur radio signal and retransmits it at a higher level or higher power, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation. Many repeaters are located on hilltops or on tall buildings as the higher location increases their coverage area, sometimes referred to as the radio horizon, or "footprint". Amateur radio repeaters are similar in concept to those used by public safety entities, businesses, government, military, and more. Amateur radio repeaters may even use commercially packaged repeater systems that have been adjusted to operate within amateur radio frequency bands, but more often amateur repeaters are assembled from receivers, transmitters, controllers, power supplies, antennas, and other components, from various sources.
Selcall is a type of squelch protocol used in radio communications systems, in which transmissions include a brief burst of sequential audio tones. Receivers that are set to respond to the transmitted tone sequence will open their squelch, while others will remain muted.
Mobile radio or mobiles refer to wireless communications systems and devices which are based on radio frequencies(using commonly UHF or VHF frequencies), and where the path of communications is movable on either end. There are a variety of views about what constitutes mobile equipment. For US licensing purposes, mobiles may include hand-carried,, equipment. An obsolete term is radiophone.
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