The two frequency ranges (also called “frequency bands”) used in most two-way radios are VHF (Very High Frequency), and UHF (Ultra High Frequency). We are often asked “Is VHF or UHF better?” Neither is inherently better, they each have strong points and weaknesses.
VHF frequencies can penetrate objects better than UHF. VHF can also travel farther. If a VHF wave and a UHF wave were transmitted over an area without barriers, the VHF wave would travel almost twice as far. “Sign me up for VHF!” you say. Not so fast.
Even though VHF can pass through obstacles better and travel farther, that doesn’t mean it’s always the better choice. “Why?” you ask. It’s because of the difference between how VHF vs UHF signals react around structures. Remember, UHF signals are shorter than VHF, this is important when you’re in or around buildings.
To explain this let’s take an example. Assume you are trying to communicate from one side of a commercial building to the other. In between is a metal wall with a three-foot opening. Radio waves can not pass through metal. The UHF wavelength is roughly one and a half feet wide, the VHF wavelength is roughly five feet wide. The UHF signal (1 1/2 ft) passes through the door easily. However, the VHF signal is reflected since it is wider than the door. As you can see, UHF is better at navigating through the smaller spaces within a building to reach it’s destination. VHF signals are often blocked by metal within the building.
So to sum it up, it’s a trade-off. But the general rule-of-thumb is if you are using the radio primarily outdoors where you will have clear line-of-sight then VHF is a better choice because it’s signal will travel farther. BUT, if you will be using your radio in or around buildings, in urban areas, or heavily wooded areas, then UHF is a better choice because it’s signal will navigate around structures better, not being blocked as easily as VHF. The trade-off you are making is longer distance (VHF), vs avoiding possible “dead spots” in and around structures (UHF).