Wireless Connectivity

EF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio Teardown

18 September 2008
The following is an overview of a teardown analysis conducted by IHS Benchmarking.

Overview / Main Features

The EF Johnson 5100 Model III is a VHF-Band portable 2-way radio with full keypad and monochrome LCD for law enforcement and public safety use. It is a Project 25 compliant radio supporting P25 trunked and conventional system protocols with Over-the-Air Rekeying (OTAR) functionality. The EF Johnson 5100 also supports both analog and digital SMARTNET II as well as SmartZone trunking protocols.

EF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio Main ImageEF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio Main Image
Target Market

Law enforcement and public safety agencies.


Received FCC approval in November 2004. Actual release date unknown.

Pricing and Availability

Only one reference pricing was found through a distributor. The top-of-the-line intrinsically safe (Factory Mutual approved) portable radio sells for approximately $1850 at list price without any software configurations or options. However, this price reflects the base cost of the radio hardware. A fully operational EF Johnson radio unit will require software-defined radio protocols which can drive the cost of the final product to over $4000 depending on options selected. Note that these prices likely reflect the upper bound of the true per-unit purchase price for a typical high volume municipal or commercial customer.

Volume Estimations

For the purposes of this teardown analysis, we have assumed a lifetime production volume of 350K-500K units (50K units/year for 7 to 10 years).

As a reminder, teardown volume production assumptions are primarily used for our cost analysis in terms of amortized NRE and tooling costs, especially for custom components specific to the model being analyzed (mechanical components especially). Unless assumed, volumes increment by an order of magnitude. Minor changes in volume (say 1 million vs. 2) rarely have a large net effect on our final analysis.

EF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio - Main PCB TopEF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio - Main PCB Top

Function / Performance

No performance testing was performed on the EF Johnson 5100.

EF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio Cost AnalysisEF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio Cost Analysis

Cost Notes

Unlike with consumer products which feature very high production volumes over short life cycles, such two-way radios have very long lifetimes and are produced in modest volumes. The end result is that the cost structure of these devices is elevated at every level of the supply chain. Low volume production environments present a plethora of cost amortization issues - and typically each vendor in the chain will mark-up their product handsomely to reimburse themselves for these extra costs which include inventory management and holding costs (broken reels of electronic components), set-up and break-down costs for custom component manufacturers (especially if asked to do multiple small runs, and maintain custom tools when idle, etc., set-up and break-down costs for PCB and final assembly, etc.

As a result, it is difficult to produce an accurate assessment of what costs are currently being paid by the manufacturer, but we have factored these elevated costs in various parts of our analysis from electronic components, to custom components and manufacturing costs.

The end result is that even if these radios use fairly common, commodity, off-the-shelf electronic components, the low volumes makes their cost much closer to 'full retail' distributor pricing than to 'tier 1' volume pricing that major producers would enjoy.

EF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio - Main PCB BottomEF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio - Main PCB Bottom

What Is Not Included in our Cost Analysis

The total materials and manufacturing costs reported in this analysis reflect ONLY the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), AND manufacturing with basic test. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the material manufacture of the core device itself - cost of intellectual property, royalties and licensing fees (those not already included into the per component price), software, software loading and test, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only EMS provider and the OEM's margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device and exceptionally in some circumstances the packaging and literature as well.

Manufacturing Notes

Country of Origin / EMS Provider

Based on markings, the unit was assembled in the US. Furthermore, we have assumed that custom mechanicals (plastics, metals, etc.) were sourced in the US.

Country of origin assumptions relate directly to the associated cost of manufacturing, where calculated by iSuppli. In the cases of 'finished' sub-assemblies (such as PCBA), we do not calculate internal manufacturing costs, but rather assess the market price of the finished product in which case country of origin assumptions may or may not have a direct effect on pricing.

Remember also that labor rates are applied directly only to hand inserted components and systems in our bill of materials, and although regional assumptions do, these new rates do not have a direct effect on our modeled calculations of placement costs for automated SMD assembly lines. "Auto inserted components (such as SMT components) placement costs are calculated by an iSuppli algorithm which allocates a cost per component based on the size and pincount of the device. This calculation is affected by country or region of origin as well.

EF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio - Enclosure DisassemblyEF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio - Enclosure Disassembly

Design for Manufacturing / Device Complexity

Mechanical Design

The EF Johnson 5100 radio has a mechanical components count of 79 which is the lowest among the other three radios that are being analyzed. Notably, the EF Johnson radio is assembled using self-shielding die-cast magnesium rear enclosure which helps in reducing the number of EMI shields on the PCBs.

Overall, the EF Johnson 5100 VHF radio exhibit the universal elongated portable 2-way radio form factor with selection knobs and a large accessible side mounted Push-to-Talk (PTT) button. The added complexity in mechanicals was necessary to meet MIL-Spec and Intrinsically Safe rating.

Electronic Design Complexity

The electronic component count is 1163 which is comparable to the Vertex VX-829 radio. Overall - 1163 would still, in the world of consumer electronics, rival a device such as a high-end handset or PDA.

Component counts have a direct bearing on the overall manufacturing cycle times and costs, and also can increase or decrease overall yields and re-work. Our calculations of manufacturing costs factor counts and more qualitative complexities in the design.

Note that manual labor has a much smaller effect on auto-insertion assembly lines (for the Main PCB, for example), where manufacturing costs are much more capital equipment intensive and driven by these investment costs.

Design Notes

The device consists primarily of a front enclosure, made from injection molded plastic with ESD/EMI coating, a heavy-duty die-cast magnesium main rear enclosure as well as a PCB mounting plate. The device also features a number of silicon seals for weatherproofing around the perimeter and openings. All of these custom moldings and castings add significant cost to the design, but are not inherently complex or time consuming to integrate into the end assembly.

Electronically, this radio, right off the bat, seems to have a lot of high-end logic components (CPLDs from Xilinx specifically), which are in pairs, which appears to result from the fact that this radio operates on two separate bands, and as a result, the design has at the 'CPU' level (as defined by iSuppli) two completely redundant spheres of operation, which is reflected in the BOM in the form of two identical lower level ""Cool Runner" CPLDs from Xilinx (XC2C64-7CP56I), as well as an identical pair of Texas Instruments DSPs (TMS320VC5510AGGWA1), which seem to feed into the core central CPLD (again from Xilinx) and Freescale 32-bit microprocessor (XPC850DECZT50BU) at the heart of this system. The end result is a far more expensive device than comparable 2-way radios operating on single VHF frequency. We are assuming that these deisgn choices are the result of having two separate signal paths and processing.

Here is a summary of the major components used in the EF Johnson 5100 design:

Main PCB


  • CPLD - Xilinx - XCR3256XL-7CS280C
  • Microprocessor - Freescale - XPC850DECZT50BU - Microprocessor
  • CPLD - Xilinx - XC2C64-7CP56I - CoolRunner-II (Qty 1 here - 1 on DSP PCB)

I/O & Interface

  • Transceiver - Maxim - MAX3221EAE - RS-232 Transceiver


  • SRAM - Cypress - CY62167DV30LL-70BVI - SRAM, 16Mb
  • Flash - Spansion - S29PL064J70BAI12x - NOR, 64Mb



  • DSP - Texas Instruments - TMS320VC5509AGHH - Digital Signal Processor (Qty 2)
  • CPLD - Xilinx - XC2C64-7CP56I - CPLD, CoolRunner-II
  • Codec - Texas Instruments - TLV320AIC21I - Dual-Voice Codec


  • Flash - ST Microelectronics - M25P20-VMN6 - NOR, 2Mb



  • Synthesizer - Conexant - CX72301-11 - Frequency Synthesizer
  • IF Digitizer - Analog Devices - AD9864BCPZ - IF Digitizing System

Power Amplifier

  • PAM - Mitsubishi - RA03M8087M - RF MOSFET Power Amplifier Module

EF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio - Box ContentsEF Johnson 5100 VHF Two-Way Radio - Box Contents

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