My review of the Retevis RT51 and my thoughts on POC radioIf you're not familiar with POC or (Push to talk Over Cellular) I'm sure you have some questions. I'll do my best to answer them. This is my first POC radio so I'm still learning all the ins and outs.
Update Oct 31st 2018:
I've had some more time with this radio and learned some more about it. The radio itself seems to work great. The software however still seems very buggy. GPS tracking is kind of hit or miss. The clock on the radio will only show Beijing time. I've finally been allowed access to the web based management platform. It works but is not laid out very well at all. The dispatch software seems to work OK aside from tracking issues. One big problem is they will only give you one account per radio and you cannot log into the dispatch software without turning off the radio first. On a positive note the price for these is a lot lower than anything I've seen anywhere else. This is also a fairly new radio platform that is bound to get better in time. There's definitely a lot of potential with these but as they stand right now I really can't recommend them, at least for ham use. For business use they would be great, provided they fix the tracking and clock issues.
Some main points of this radio
- Does not require a license
- Does not require a repeater or any additional equipment
- Works on 3G/4G LTE either AT&T or T-Mobile networks
- Requires a $10 annual subscription fee per radio
- Requires a SIM card with data plan, 500Mb is plenty
- Comes with software including a dispatching program
- Includes GPS tracking
- Makes group calls and private calls
What is POC?
POC stands for Push to talk Over Cellular. This means it works over the cell phone network. Those of you that have had a Nextel in the past should be familiar with this. This means your range is only limited to cellular coverage. The downside of this is that if you're in a remote area without cell coverage the radio won't work. The upside is that as long as you have cell coverage you can easily talk anywhere across the country.
So far, Retevis is the only company I know of where you can buy a single radio without having to contact a sales person and get a quote and other information. Of course you need at least two for these radios to be useful. It's nice to know that if you just want to add one radio you can easily do so. It takes some real searching but there are several other companies selling POC radios and service. Before this radio I hadn't heard of POC. It seems to be a fairly new product.
The Future of POC:
It's still hard to say where this particular technology will go.
This was originally marketed by Retevis for HAM radio use. If the right people get interested and get there hands on the software I could see this being very popular in the HAM community. If this gets tied in to Brandmeister it would be a cheaper and simpler solution than having a DMR radio, MMDVM hotspot and Smartphone to essentially do the same thing this radio can do by itself.
Particularly for smaller businesses this would be a much more economical solution than traditional radios or providing cellular devices to employees. The dispatch software works great. You can GPS track every radio and make single or group calls right from your PC with the program installed.
Now that I've explained a little about what this radio is and how it works I'll give my honest opinions of it. I've been using it for about a week and I am really impressed. The audio quality is just as good as DMR. The external antenna increases your cellular range quite a bit. It does require a SIM card but works with a data only plan and uses very minimal data, a 500Mb plan would be plenty. The build quality seems solid. The sound quality and functions are just as good when talking to someone in China over the network. Function wise, it's essentially a digital radio with nationwide range. I'm very excited to see where this technology goes and think it will be well received by the HAM radio community.
Here's what I like about it.
- You don't need any license to operate it.
- There's absolutely no additional equipment needed.
- The reception is fantastic and it works where cell phones don't get a strong enough signal.
- Battery life is great.
What I don't like.
- It requires a subscription to the server for $10 annually.
- It does not have WiFi capability and relies entirely on cellular service.
- You can only talk to radios that are on the same account.
I plan to post more as I delve into the world of POC radio so stay tuned.
You can purchase the RT51 here.
If you have any questions or need help setting up your radio please feel free to contact me.
Here's a video from Denny of us testing the radio.