Let's talk about
two way radios and communications. -Fred Stock, www.TaxiCabElectronics.com

MIKE cONTROL hEAD For many years, taxi cabs, police cars, fire trucks, some delivery units were dispatched to their calls by "two way radio". Many still are. Early on, back in the days of vacuum tubes and big bulky steel-cased radios, there was a 45 pound metal box in the trunk of the car, a large thick-as-your-thumb cable that snaked its way to the driver's compartment, and connected to a control head with half a dozen buttons on it, and a microphone hanging on the side.

When the operator keyed up the mike, the little red light would go on, and the headlights would dim! Even earlier, there was a motor-and-generator on the back of the radio box in the boot and when you keyed up you would hear the motor whirrr, turning the generator for the high voltage required, before the tubes had enough juice to actually work! The radios had to be high powered so they could hammer a signal across the county to the base station or another car. Everybody heard everybody else on the channel, or on the bath-tub nearby in the house. Then, after the industry figured out the "private line" system, you'd have to monitor the air channel and wait for the other folks on the channel to finish talking before you could pass your message. They were interesting days. The brand names were Motorola, GE and RCA for the most part. There was so much maintenance you became personal friends with your "radio guy". Tubes burned out quickly. Been there done that!

radio Later the communications industry came up with repeaters. Great idea! Pretty simple too. You know you can stand atop a mountain or tall building and see for a very long way. At the base of the same building, you can only see a couple of blocks... stuff gets in the way! Radio signals work a little better than your eyesight - they go through some structures - but the same principle applies. If you put a strong radio transmitter on a mountain-top, it can broadcast to the entire valley below without things getting in the way nearly as much. Now consider this: you can't turn on two transmitters on the same channel at the same time without causing nasty growling sounds on the air... sounds like a long clearing-your-throat-during-thunder episode.

Nobody on either transmitter gets through. So here's what they did to make the radio systems work very well; They put pairs of radio channels (frequencies) on the mountains. You made a radio call from a small unit - maybe a handheld unit. Your signal may have gotten absorbed by buildings nearby, but up on the mountain, the big transmitter/receiver could clearly hear you. Then it switched on a high powered transmitter on a different channel, (the other half of the pair of frequencies,) which rebroadcast your message in real time to the whole area. Your radio listened to the second channel ("downlink") and transmitted on the first channel ("uplink"). It has worked very well. Further refinements like "trunking" and "encription" and more have made hilltop repeater systems a very successful medium. Police, Fire, many firms use these today. Then came re-regulation and cellular! Yikes!

hex The cellular telephone system is a collection of thousands of repeaters across the USA, Canada, many more. They are connected together by computers which quickly figure out where you are, and which is the best tower to connect you to the phone system. As you move about, it switches you from one tower to another then another. They call that "handoff" and it works very well too. Since the cellular revolution began, many companies have chosen to use tiny relatively inexpensive portable telephones to dispatch and communicate.

This has made the two-way radio systems less busy, but also making the two way business in many places less profitable for the operators of the systems. Many of us who did operate "hilltops" discovered that the laws regarding licenses had suddenly made them much more expensive. Our government discovered they could sell channel space for big bucks, instead of low priced licensing and regulations as before. There are still many radio companies operating, especially in larger markets, but many of us in smaller cities and rural environments have dropped out of the radio business due purely to economics. It's fairly expensive to maintain the test equipment, installation facilities and supplies for that situation. After all, the cost of Cheerios has quadrupled and we still selfishly want to eat! :-) We at Fred Stock Electronics and TaxiCabElectronics.com have dropped our dealerships and no longer sell or maintain two-way radio. We suggest you contact a reputable dealer in your area for quality services, established licenses, proper maintenance service and knowledge of the radio conditions in your area. Available channels and protocols are their business. We advise against buying equipment on line, then trying to make it work where compatible systems do not exist. Reputable brand names include Motorola, Relm, Uniden, Kenwood, Bendix-King, Icom. There are more. Avoid off-shore entries whose reputations and service networks have not been established.

MDT About the same time as cellular, digital dispatching gradually came commonly into being. Many of these systems incorporate a satellite communications method, and perhaps a radio or cellular system as well! Your dispatcher uses a keyboard and computer screen to send messages to your cars. There is a GPS interface (global positioning satellite coordinate system) which allows the dispatcher to see exactly where the vehicles are located on a dynamic map-screen.

myTaxiCloudstuff dispatch and lady

The introduction of mobile on-line devices such as smart phones and tablets has now revolutionized the communications between dispatch and the field units once again. For the cost of an off-the-shelf tablet and a standard computer at the office, you can have a state of the art digital dispatch system, and you can have it operational tomorrow! And wait until you see the cost figures! Check it out: click this link. If that system appeals to you, give then "Promotion Code TCE613" which will get you the best rates and identify you are one of our clients; We have negotiated a special deal for our clients! TCE613

With such "MDT" Mobile Data Terminal systems, your dispatcher has a whole collection of new services. He/she can make the assignment of calls much more efficiently for the customers and the operators. With some systems, the clients can even book their "ride" from their smart phones and even see location and progress of the cab to their With gas going crazy in price, this is a great saving for both company and drivers. That's called "VLS" vehicle locating system. The small computers which go into the car are "MDT's", mobile data terminals as we said. Some systems require a dedicated device which you buy or lease. Others such as our system above, use easily purchased equipment which you may already own. Either way, they may be able to process credit cards, give the driver a GPS map to the client, correspond with base for all kinds of things... how many customers are in the cab, where it is as I said, maybe an alarm for engine problems, a panic button when the bad guy pulls a knife. There is a whole range of computerized communication functions. For instance the base can send messages about the client; "This guy has stiffed us for a fare in the past - collect before you take him home." Also, since the dispatch is on a keyboard, not a microphone, the competition company cannot hear your dispatch on a scanner, and cannot steal your fare. Some MDT's even have a built-in taxi meter! There also is a huge amount of bookkeeping data available instantly to base - all the statistics from the meter, speed of the cab, rate selection on multiple rate meters, miles traveled, gas charges can be keyed in... lots of things. It makes managing the company much easier. Real time data! Only thing is, this can be expensive! Thankfully, this is changing. Up through 2012 it was too costly for most. Really not cost effective for companies with fewer than ten-to-fifteen cabs. (The most reliable company for this kind of service of which I am aware is Mobile Knowledge. Google it. There are competitors too. Google MDT's.) But today, thenks to innovators like MyTaxiCloud.com, youvery reasonable rates. can get into digital dispatch for exceptionally reasonable cost. Give them Promo Code TCE613 as we said when you call. All the data is available at this link.

So, your communication choices have become wider, but at the same time more limited. You can choose a number of different systems for two way radio dispatch. Regular two-way radio ("conventional"), trunking systems (better communications but more costly), cellular telephones (can be cost effective or expensive depending upon local service providers and your company's needs - understand what you are signing!). The MDT's we spoke of a moment ago work well if you can afford them. As we said, with the new system we are promoting, you CAN!

ChildMisbehaving

There are a couple of radio choices you should NOT select; Citizens Band (CB) radios are not legal to use for commercial purposes, and the truckers who use them most are not prone to language fit for the little old lady in the back seat. There is a type of radio available for very little money, called "FRS", family radio service. NOT for commercial purposes, and frequented by children using little yellow or pink "walkie talkie" radios. What will your high-powered businessman in the back seat think if your radio is squawking a giggling 8-year-old child and a little boy making objectionable noises on the air? Bad plan.

 

Droid II The Motorola company and others have provided a "push to talk" service through the telephone mobile systems which can serve smaller companies very well. Your smart phone may already have such a button, (mine does), and perhaps can be set up by your provider to work as a two-way radio with superior features. I have seen a trucker in Los Angeles talking directly to a unit which had been dispatched to a location south of Atlanta by the P-T-T system. Didn't seem possible until recent advances in the systems, but with a computerized transmitter in every kid's hands and every car on the road, and satellite-based communications channels, amazing things are presently possible.

If you choose to use "plain old fashioned two way radio", you should go local. The technician in your local area knows the peculiarities of your city, and the coverage patterns available. Mountains and buildings affect radio as I mentioned. Also, they will be aware of the KINDS of service available there. You should NOT jump on e-Bay or the like, and purchase "walkie talkie radios" for low prices, then take them to the local radio shop and expect them to make them work for you. It doesn't work that way. You almost always will be wasting your money. Go to the radio dealer in your area and tell him what you are trying to accomplish; how big a coverage area, how many units with which you expect to start, and how much growth to expect. Ask him about available repeater services in the area, how much they will cost PER UNIT PER MONTH. Ask about radio costs too: "conventional radios" are the cheapest, but limited to the service they were designed to use. His prices probably are higher than those on e-Bay, but they are the radios he warrantys, they are the right type for the local services, and they will be supported by your radio shop. "Trunking systems" are more expensive, but a very comfortable service for your people. They are computerized radios with several channels available, making your chance of getting a free channel right away much more likely. The computer (in the radio and/or at the hilltop) selects the available channel, and instantly switches your fleet of radios over to the channels best suited. On the next bit of conversation, the computerized selection happens again... which means you may use numerous channels to complete your messages back and forth, and that makes it harder for the competition to intercept and steal your calls. They can't keep up with the conversation which is jumping from channel to channel constantly. Your radios, meanwhile, follow the whole conversation start-to-finish without a break. You pay more for the radios and the services, but the resulting level of communications is exponentially better.

You can also contact your telephone wireless company and ask about the availability and coverage to expect from P-T-T phone systems. Compare the costs to two-way radios before you lay out good money. I know my immediate area after decades of two-way radio service work, both as a provider of service and as a repair technician. I DO NOT know your area, and I would be wrong to try to advise you which system to buy. You must do your homework locally. These website discussions are only intended to arm you with a bit of understanding before you start dialing. Find your local cellular carrier on your cell-phone bill, or go to the endless kiosks at the mall. Ask other people what systems they are using and their level of satisfaction. Find your local two-way-radio dealer in the yellow pages under "Communications Shops", "Two-Way Radio" or "Mobile Radio Services". Ask about kinds of service as I said, costs of services, brand names employed by that dealer, and availability of LOCAL service repair work, and installation-service costs. Good equipment is provided by the following brand names, among others: Motorola, Kenwood, Uniden, Icom, Relm. Always ask about warranties. Be sceptical about newer cheap import brands which have little service or programming available. These are often considered "throw aways" by technicians because we cannot get parts, information or warranty service.

Certainly, no matter what service-type you select, be sure of the coverage area promised by the provider. It's not much good if the system only covers the center of the valley, but fails in the coves, around the mountain, or near the lake when you have calls there. You can also gain a great amount of information if you ask people who already use the system you are considering. The old axiom "ask the man who owns one" applies. Of course there will be one old grouch who will tell you "Heaven is no good because they didn't answer my prayer this morning", but generally if you ask several users of a system, you'll get a reasonable answer about service levels and quality.

Shop Bottom line; We no longer handle two way radios, but you'll find there is someone in your area who does. We do not maintain a shop or the required certification instrumentation any more. Do your homework locally, and ask specific questions before you write a check, and you'll get a good system. After all, every system today is backed up by your cell phones, which virtually everyone has. They tend to work best of them all in emergencies like hurricanes and earthquakes, because there are so many towers and backup power systems in play.

I trust this helps you. -Fred