Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Save Analogue FM

Practical Wireless editor Rob Mannion G3XFD has been writing to radio clubs urging members to support a campaign to save analogue radio. However, the radio he wants to save is not ham radio but broadcast FM radio, which has been threatened with closure in the UK forcing users to switch over to the "new" Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) system.

The much vaunted DAB was supposed to re-invigorate the UK's radio industry, provide a raft of new and interesting IP based services to audiences, permit the launch of new national, regional and local radio stations and generate new marketing revenue for radio stations. However, DAB is almost dead on its feet, as users have been reluctant to buy expensive new radios which in many cases offer poorer reception and fewer stations than they can get on FM. If this reminds you of something more amateur radio related you can probably guess where I am going with this.

D-Star was supposed to re-invigorate VHF radio usage, deliver a raft of new, interesting IP based services like text messaging, DPRS and file transfer to users, permit international, national, regional and local contacts and generate new revenue for Icom. However it is struggling to gain acceptance as people have been reluctant to buy expensive new radios that will provide access to fewer repeaters and fewer local contacts than they can get on FM and have been underwhelmed by the new features offered. Nevertheless the creeping D-Starization of the VHF and UHF bands continues, with the regulatory authorities now apparently refusing to allow new analogue repeater proposals whilst fast tracking D-Star applications through the system.

It does not seem to me to be beyond the bounds of possibility for the powers that be to decide at some point that there will be a ham radio digital switchover, that all analogue repeaters should be switched off and sections of the bands previously authorized for analogue FM use will be allocated to digital.

Perhaps we amateurs need our own campaign to Save Analogue Radio before it is too late. If you oppose the D-Starization of the amateur VHF and UHF bands, feel free to use the "No D-Star" logo on your website, your forum avatar and anywhere else that people might see it.
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