Why Use VHF/UHF GPS Transponders Instead of Cellular Connected Devices

Often a system decision comes down to cellular vs. VHF/UHF RF communications.

Cellular based GPS transponders and cell phones rely on a public cellular radio networks to connect to the carrier’s network, which then passes the GPS location information to the end user via the Internet.

VHF/UHF radio networks utilize private licensed radio frequencies to communicate.  The radio networks are privately operated, and may be owned and controlled by the system operator.

When trying to decide if dedicated VHF/UHF GPS transponders like the Raveon ATLAS PT or M7-GX transponder is the right choice, or cellular transponder is the right choice, keep these very important points in mind:

  1. You will know where everyone is at all times.  A GPS Transponder operates at all times, with fast update rates, even when cell service is not available. They even operate when a base station is off-line.
  2. Battery Life.  A GPS transponder can run for days on a single charge.  Most cell-phones will operate 8 hours or so when tracking in real-time.
  3. Emergency Assistance.  In an emergency situation, both technologies can be used to summon help.  But if the person is incapable of moving or unconscious, making a call is not possible.  The VHF/UHF GPS transponder will not only continue to send the locations out, but alert that no motion is taking place.
  4. Search and Recovery.  Raveon’s GPS transponders automatically, continuously, and quickly transmit GPS location and status.  Rescue personnel can use a tablet or laptop computer to locate the transponder in real-time, live while searching.  Finding the transponder can take only minutes. No internet connection is needed.
  5. No Voice Communications.   In many situations it is undesirable to have the people being tracked to be able to talk amongst themselves. This could be for training purposes, privacy, or security. Learn more about how the RavTrack system is designed by viewing our asset tracking infographic.
  6. Fast Updates.   Cellular locators get quite expensive unless they are configured for very slow update rates.  Tracking hundreds of vehicles or people requires an advanced channel-access protocol like Raveon’s TDMA protocol. Airtime is free on the VHF and UHF bands.
  7. Log Files.  With fast updates, the system can store GPS data to log files for later review or in case there is an incident, the log can be queried to determine what happened during the incident.
  8. Keep People Honest.  Often GPS tracking is done to monitor behavior to verify that they are following rules and staying within limits and boundaries.  Cell phones will not help in these situations. They can be turned off (The ATLAS PT’s power button can be disabled).
  9. Rugged.  The ATLAS PT is submersible to 1 meter of water, very rugged, and made from aluminum.  Few cellphones can take the abuse the ATLAS PT can.  When people lives are at stake, a rugged, long-life product is important.

Comparison of Features


GPS Transponder PRO

GPS Transponder CON

Cellular GPS

Cellular GPS

Voice Communications

User’s Can’t communicate. Security. Privacy.

Cannot call for help without pressing the ALert Button

Users can chatter amongst themselves.

Users can cheat if they are supposed to be on their own.
Voice comms takes up bandwidth used for GPS tracking.

Battery Life

24-48 hours

8-12 hours

Real-time Tracking


  Limited bandwidth  Excellent


Safety System

Great situational awareness

No voice. Cannot talk to rescue.

User must operate their own private radio network.

Can talk to rescuers

Will not work when out of cell coverage or cellular system is down.

User Cannot Turn Power Off

Always On when needed

Requires charger to shut off.


Users can turn radio off if they don’t want to be tracked.

No Motion Alert

Automatic Transmission if idle to long.

Sometime false alerts when sleeping/resting.


Few cellular transponders have this feature.

Live Tracking by Searcher and Rescue

Rescuers, cadre or commanders can drive right up to the transponder.


Personnel can use voice to help direct searchers to find them

Sometimes difficult to explain location.  Must be within cell service, and probably standing up.

Learn more about the advantages of the RavTrack system by attending our webinar. We work with some of the most successful companies and government agencies, including the FAA. Find out more about our customers.