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.


S.o.a.I said...

Maybe I'm just getting old and cynical but just like the digital TV conversion here in the States, most of the time things like this have very little to do with new features and more to do with making money.

andrew said...

You might as well call your blog the " I HATE D-STAR BLOG " as you seem to continually hit out at d-star, ok so you dont like it, there are several users in the uk that do. i'd wager if you put d-star users in the uk up against UK APRS users, we would out weigh you 50:1, yet you seem to champion APRS at every opportunity, a mode that has very little UK users, and even less to do with ham radio ??? you dont communicate, you only broadcast ! you use a mobile phone more so than a radio, and as an internet dependant mode, it would fall on its knees if not supported by its WEB backbone. I researched aprs and used it in a helium balloon sstv camera project and it worked very well as a tracking device, for what it does, but thats all it does, sends info from here to there, no communication just a broadcast running on ham freqs. (Yes i know it can be used to spot / broadcast radio related postings). APRS also seems to be held to one main supplier of equipment TINY TRAX or (maybe argent, at a push )but this seems to be ok with you,Yet as to ICOM being the only supplier to push their rigs for d-star this is a problem here, but there are hams writing software to turn analogue rigs into d-star repeaters & hotspots, software used with dv dongles and other hardware to turn an analogue set into a d-star enabled radio. Groups of hams running open radio reflectors (ie not the icom G2) there is a lot happening in d-star with more than just the icom badge.. you just need to open up a little to see it..... Andrew M1DNS

Ps. we got it, you dont like d-star.... I say EACH TO HIS OWN and move on........

Julian said...

Andrew. You are entitled to your opinion and I am grateful to you for taking the time to express it, but you should really get your facts right about APRS before making criticisms. I have frequently exchanged two-way messages with other APRS users, and there are many suppliers of equipment including a British one, Cross Country Wireless. APRS is an open standard and anyone can make equipment or write software for it - no proprietary components or licensing required.

But there is no comparison. APRS is just a digital mode that no-one is forced to use if they don't want to. D-Star is being promoted as the successor to analogue FM and although no-one is being forced to use it *yet*, there are many who do see digital voice as the way forward and I don't think one manufacturer should have a monopoly over something this important. Come back when you can buy D-Star radios made by Yaesu and Kenwood and you might find that I have changed my tune.

I'm not convinced we need digital voice at all, as it just fragments users into two incompatible systems and in parts of the country (such as here) there are few enough people to talk to on 2m already. But if we are going to have it I would prefer to see a fully open system with no proprietary components. The promotion of D-Star by the RSGB and others makes the chances of an alternative, open system evolving and becoming successful less likely - unless the majority refuse to accept D-Star because of the kind of reasons I have articulated.

D-Star hasn't exactly been a runaway success, and the number of people arguing against it on the discussion forums seem to outnumber those who are for it, so perhaps my opinions are not in the minority on this.

Fenris said...

I'm on Julian's side with this one.

D-STAR is expensive, performs poorly, and is proprietary. It isn't suitable as an amateur radio mode for those reasons.

I believe that those that want to *experiment* with digital modes should be allowed to do so, but the use of non-open codecs and protocols should be strongly discouraged.

Anonymous said...

The only way to save analog fm is for hams to use it . The USA has more repeaters than any other country . They are dead . You can drive hundreds of miles and find only yourself giving your callsign .

Anonymous said...

I had to leave another comment . You seem to be afraid of digital D-STAR . I have been into APRS since December 2004 . I have it in my wife's van . Look at the price of the TH-D72A and the TM-D710A . You next add a GPS for the 710 and you have spent more money than you would on a D-STAR ht or mobile . The great thing is the D-STAR ht already has a built in GPS . The people on D-STAR after only one conversation are like your best friends . You feel as though you have known them all of your life . I am selling my TH-D72A . I enjoy the mobile APRS rigs , however the TH-D72A is of no use unless you run your own digi .Chuck N4UED