Tuesday, June 29, 2010

D-Star illegal in France

Steve, GW7AAV, was quick off the mark to post about the announcement yesterday on the website of DR@F, the French association of amateur digital mode operators, that D-Star has been ruled illegal in France. The reasons for the ruling, if I understand correctly, are that D-Star permits a radio to be connected to the internet (which is apparently illegal in France) and that it breaches rules prohibiting encrypted communications on grounds of national security because parts of the patented proprietary AMBE codec are undisclosed.

The group is appealing for all European amateurs to sign a petition to the European Parliament against the ban. No doubt this will have as much of an effect as the two petitions to the British Parliament to get interference-causing internet-over-mains-wiring devices banned. Issues like this illustrate what a hopeless idea the European Union really is as it attempts to harmonize things between member states while countries (especially France, which started the EU but implemented only the directives that suited it) stick tenaciously to their own different rules and regulations when they want to.

I'm not sure if it is true that French amateurs are not permitted to connect radios to the internet, as if it were, Echolink nodes and APRS gateways would also not be permitted, and a quick check of some relevant websites show several of each with F callsigns currently operating. As for the argument that transmissions are encrypted, whilst the closed and proprietary nature of the codec does prevent someone from designing their own decoder, the chips (and indeed D-Star radios) are readily obtainable allowing anyone who wishes to do so to monitor communications.

I am not, as regular readers know, a fan of D-Star, but this looks to me a bit like the result someone who is also anti D-Star trying to abuse their position to get it made illegal in France. I hope our French comrades are successful in getting this ban lifted.


LY2SS said...

This is the case when authorities don't like close source software hihi

Richard said...

Hello Julian

This is very old news - what appears to be new is the association (all associations - radio clubs for instance - have to be registered and have legal status and obligations in France) DR@F whom I have never heard of before. The official organisation which represents Radio Amateurs in France is REF-Union which is the equivalent of the RSGB.

France is the poor man of Europe when it comes to RA privileges: no we cannot (officially) connect a radio to the Internet so no D-Star, no Echolink gateways etc - to the extent that these exist, they are operating outside the law. Neither do we have 500 Khz, 60M. 4M or 3.4 Ghz. We only have 40 Khz of Topband (1810-1850); we do not yet have the extension to 40M (!) nor can we operate below 50.2 Mhz on the 6 metre band thus losing out on most of the juicy DX.

The fact that we do not have D-Star is but a small matter amidst all this... and there are still other restrictions that I won't bore you with. All the committee of DR@F are Class 1 & 2 licensees although I presume that the main lobbying group will be Class 3 licensees (F0xxx) who only have restricted privileges on 2M and are perhaps looking to D-Star to enable them to make worldwide 'contacts'.

Yes, D-Star would be nice but, for me, it is low on the list of things to be addressed so that French Radio Amateurs might have the same rights and privileges as the rest of Europe.

73 de Richard F5VJD

Theodore said...

Say what you wish about this, but it shows that once again, the French are not shy about going their own way.
The French are not slaves to political correctness to the extent that english speaking countries are, and are of course perfectly entitled to make their own laws.
Ham radio is a hobby, and as such we are operating at the sufferance of the society in which we reside.

The frequency resources we are allocated are not ours by divine right, but as so many people today seem to think, we always want more, more, more.
My personal opinion is that D* is an abomination which is only a dragging anchor to innovation in ham radio.
The issue of D* is commonly confused with digital modes in general.
Very few people would have problems with an open source digital VHF/UHF system, it is the proprietory/closed nature of the system which is fundementally flawed.
As for bringing a petition for ICOM before the EU, perhaps it is not wise to show the beaurocrats where they may find significant spectrum to sell, taking it from a hobby which many ordinary citizens do not even know exist.
Do you think the electoral backlash would be great, I don't.

sv3auw said...

Hello Julian!
I do agree with "Theodore".
We are RADIO-AMATEURS and our experiments have to do with RADIO-WAVES!
From start to the end. From the transmitter to the front end of the receiver!
Not with an intermediate of hundreds of miles of cable!
We are investigating the propagation of the Ionosphere not the interconnection of nodes and ISPs!
Last but not least, D* is encrypted and you(or me or anybody else) have to buy the decoder.
This certain one, violates the central core of Radioamateurism!
Experimenting and FREE spread of knowledge!
Thank you for your time.

Clive said...

I do wonder why people say DSTAR is closed and proprietary. You can buy the chips from DVSI for a small cost (round £25)and build any project you like. Yaesu is about to release something based on P25, guess who supplies the chips? Yes, DVSI. So I guess Yaesu are supplying a closed system as well. 2E0BSL

Fake Dan Lyons said...

Development of Codec2 has progressed to the point that D-STAR will soon be unnecessary for French Radio Amateurs. We are currently testing a version that encodes good quality voice in a 1.1 kHz HF communication. Much narrower than D-STAR, Motorola, etc. And it's free and fully disclosed, and of course Open Source.

A GMSK version is also in early development for VHF/UHF.

This will, however, require authorization of additional modulations. Perhaps the open nature of the system will allay the objections of ARCEP.

Bruce Perens K6BP