The Disadvantages of Radio Communication

By Dennis Hartman

For decades radio communication was the fastest and most technologically advanced means of transmitting information. Today radio has largely been forgotten, both as a hobby and a communications medium. While the benefits of competing technologies like the Internet, satellites and television may be obvious, the disadvantages of radio communication make it suitable only for certain specific tasks.

Range and Signal

One of the biggest disadvantages to radio communication technology is the limited range of a radio signal. Even a powerful radio signal is only capable of reaching receivers within a specific geographic region, requiring that a vast network of radio stations be set up to communicate effectively to a large or spread-out group of receivers. Radio signals are also susceptible to interference from atmospheric conditions and other broadcasts. In addition, it can be hard to receive a clear signal from certain locations, such as areas shielded by mountains. A structure's insulation or electrical interference from other appliances can diminished the effectiveness of an individual radio receiver.

Power Needs

Like most other forms of electronic communication, radio requires the presence of electricity, both at the point of the transmission and the point of reception. While battery-powered radios are common, these power needs are more cumbersome than those of land line telephones, which can operate using electricity already in the lines to make calls even during periods of emergency or power outages. A powerful radio transmitter, such as a regional broadcast station, requires large amounts of electricity at all times to send out its signal.


Finally, radio communication relies on a very limited spectrum of bandwidth frequencies. This is why commercial radio stations sometimes seem to overlap or blend together, and why the Federal Communications Commission strictly regulates the use of all publicly-owned airwaves. Radios require a relatively large amount of bandwidth relative to the amount of date they transmit, leading to more and more air space being allocated for cell phone networks and wireless Internet networks.