Is VHF or UHF Better for Long Distance?

Long-distance communication is one of the most charming and enduring features of radio.

There’s just something about chatting using this medium that’s so much more enchanting than doing the same with a smartphone.

If aiming for long distance, is VHF or UHF the better choice?

UHF is the better choice for long-distance unless you have an open area, as VHF excels. VHF frequencies are more extended but prone to interferences, while UHF signals can penetrate through obstacles and cross distances well.

This article will explain the differences between VHF and UHF frequencies and recommend which you should use for long distances.

Let’s begin!

What Is VHF?

VHF or UHF - A VHF handheld radio in someone's hand wearing a red jacket and standing outside
VHF, or very high frequency radio waves, are utilized by DAB and FM.

VHF is short for very high frequency and includes radio frequencies between 30 and 300 MHz.

Nearby obstacles, from mountains to hills, easily obstruct these radio waves.

However, VHF radio waves can refract, so whatever their measured distance is, they can usually reach at least 100 feet beyond that, even with interference.

VHF radio bands have many usages. FM radio, which 55 percent of Gen Z listeners in the United States enjoy daily, uses VHF, as does DAB radio.

Further, two-way land mobile radio systems and television broadcasting will use VHF.

This radio frequency aids marine communications, military, businesses, and amateur radio.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection also relies on VHF.

It’s helpful in emergency situations and for long-range communication.

What Is UHF?

UHF radio with neon green display on a black background
UHF, or ultra high frequency radio bands, comes in handy for satellite communication, walkie-talkies, and cordless phones.

Now let’s switch gears and talk about UHF radio.

UHF is short for ultra-high frequency. The qualifiers for UHF radio frequencies must be between 300 MHz and 3 GHz.

In order of frequency range band, it goes VHF, then UHF. There are only two frequency range bands above UHF: super high frequency, or SHF, and extra high frequency, or EHF.

UHF radio waves are not impervious to obstructions by sizable buildings and hills.

However, the radio waves can travel through walls so listeners can access UHF radio indoors.

Like VHF, UHF radio bands are used in many ways.

They include satellite phones, cordless phones, walkie-talkies, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, satellite communication, cell phones, and television broadcasting.

Ham radio operators often use UHF.

It also has many professional applications, especially for communicating within the same building.

For instance, health, manufacturing, construction, warehousing, and security departments can freely interact using UHF frequency range bands even if the personnel is scattered across the building.

VHF vs. UHF: Which Is Better for Long-Distance Communication?

Now that you understand the basics of VHF and UHF, which is the better choice for long-distance?

The answer is generally UHF, but honestly, it depends!

VHF radio works best within 100 miles of the closest radio horizon. However, VHF radio’s electrical equipment tends to work well for longer.

That depends on whether you’re using low-band or high-band VHF.

Low-band VHF is commonly used in basic electronics, such as cordless phones, wireless microphones, and radio-controlled toys.

On the other hand, high-band VHF offers nationwide broadcasting potential with far fewer disruptions.

The lower range of high-band VHF is 169 to 172 MHz, whereas the high range is 174 to 216 MHz.

This higher range is the most optimal high-band VHF. The audio quality is impeccable, and the broadcasting experience is very polished.

It’s no wonder the armed services and the United States government frequently rely on high-band VHF.

As beneficial as VHF can be in some applications, we’d be remiss not to reiterate that line-of-sight radio wave propagation is prone to interference by outdoor landscapes, including mountains and hills.

You’ll recall that radio waves can refract, but only to a certain degree.

VHF signals struggle to penetrate buildings, which is another downside. The metal blocks the waves from getting through.

Coming back around to UHF, these radio waves are smaller than VHF.

The length of the radio waves allows UHF to have a broader range of reception.

Further, although UHF waves are not impervious to interference from outdoor obstructions such as trees and rocks, they can penetrate buildings easier.

When to Use VHF vs. UHF

VHF and UHF each have their upsides and downsides.

When you get into high-band VHF, it offers some of the highest-clarity signals, enough for government entities to rely on it.

However, it’s tough to use indoors, unlike UHF.

So when should you choose one versus the other? Let’s examine.

Will you broadcast outdoors with a clear line of sight and no obstacles, such as tall hills, large rocks, and trees?

It makes much more sense to use VHF.

You’ll get a far-reaching signal and plenty of sonic perfection, especially with access to high-band VHF.

Do you plan to broadcast or communicate via radio indoors?

You must use UHF.

The size of VHF wavelengths makes the indoors impenetrable, whereas UHF waves can get through.

Similarly, UHF can reach wooded areas, urban environments, and clusters of buildings in a way that VHF cannot.

How to Improve the Signal Strength of VHF or UHF

Do you have a two-way radio utilizing UHF or VHF, but the signal comes across as spotty?

If so, how do you strengthen it?

Let’s review some methods.

Get to a Clearer Area

Open field with few trees on a clear, bright day with a blue sky
VHF radio waves perform best in an environment like this.

VHF radio especially needs a nice, broad, preferably outdoor environment for the best reception.

Move to a less obstructed area, which should affect how well the signal comes through.

Find the Source of Interference

Frequencies can interrupt VHF radio, sometimes leading to frequency overlapping.

This occurs when your radio and someone else’s share a frequency. The radio waves collide, and neither gets through prominently.

Without locating the source of the interference, there’s not much you can do about this issue except vacate the area and find another place to use your radio.

Cut Back on the Transmitters

If you’re using UHF or VHF radio with a single transmitter, you shouldn’t have any issues with frequency overlapping.

However, you can create a problem where the frequencies interrupt one another if you have several transmitters in the area.

Reduce the rate of transmitters you use to just one.

Wrapping Up

VHF and UHF each have their uses, but UHF is the better option for long-distance communications.

The length of the wavelengths allows UHF signals to traverse obstacles, and interference from other radio signals and atmospheric conditions impacts UHF less.

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