4 reasons why we need more digital voice modes (not fewer)

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by KJ4RYP, Sep 12, 2014.

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  1. KJ4RYP

    KJ4RYP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Working for a ham radio dealer, I get to hear a lot of perspectives on a lot of topics. By far, one of the strangest concerns I have heard voiced is that the major radio manufacturers can't agree on a standard protocol for digital voice. With Yaesu's introduction of System Fusion a few months ago, some are concerned that these disparate systems will somehow compromise the effectiveness of ham radio. This attitude may be the minority opinion, but I believe it's worth pointing out a few reasons why more digital modes are better than fewer:

    1) For over a century, ham radio has been the hobby for innovators in electronics and communications. But for all of the technologies pioneered by hams, including those in the early digital days like packet, PSK31, and even APRS, we are sadly behind the times on innovating new digital modes and new uses for them. If we hope to one day lead the way again to new and exciting technologies for the industry, we should be fostering an environment of creativity and innovation, not letting a few vocal critics hold us back from change.

    2) The RF spectrum we occupy is becoming increasingly valuable real estate every year, and traditional analog FM on VHF and UHF may not be around indefinitely. Just in the last 10 years, neighboring radio services (like land mobile) have had to squeeze in an ever-growing number of users with a fraction of the bandwidth. As usual, necessity drove innovation to make this possible with things like new trunking or digital protocols and narrower bandwidth hardware. Meanwhile, we're enjoying National Park status on the ham bands, but only so long as the regulators see fit to allow it. If we hope to keep our wide open spaces much longer, continuing to pioneer the innovations related to efficient use of the spectrum certainly makes it easier to justify the existence of the ham radio service.

    3) Having more digital voice modes doesn't necessarily mean incompatibility. For example, with System Fusion, the latest development in the digital voice market, it's been very interesting to see how much effort Yaesu has gone through to facilitate analog and digital in a single system. As an “insider” in the industry, I can also say we're currently seeing significant investments in infrastructure to support several digital modes simultaneously, including System Fusion, P25, DRM, and D-STAR. And the components already exist that would allow the major manufacturers (or accessory manufacturers like DV Dongle or DV MEGA) to make a single radio capable of communicating on any of those four systems, and more. I know it's only a matter of time (and consumer demand) before we see interoperable radios hit the market.

    4) Having more modes means more fun. It's interesting to see how many of our customers that have a standing order for any new D-STAR product are also making a reservations for System Fusion radios. It's not a Ford/Chevy rivalry for them; it's just another mode to experiment with, another tool in the toolbox. From where I sit, it's awesome and energizing to see these guys having so much fun in this hobby of ours by taking advantage of everything it has to offer.

    What do you think, friends? Are you afraid your analog VHF radio will become obsolete? Or do you agree that innovation is an important facet of our hobby?

    Carl Jordan, KJ4RYP
    (866) 535-4442
  2. KC2SIZ

    KC2SIZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I don't have strong opinions on this, but I'll offer just a few thoughts...

    New digital modes do not automatically equate to innovation. If one digital mode is markedly "better" than another, either all around or along some particular dimension, then that is innovation. Not having dabbled much with digital voice modes myself, I can only go by what I've heard second hand in this area, and many seem to think that the field is currently crowded with alternative modes none of which stand out as clearly superior to the others.

    If there was one digital voice mode that was widely embraced and accepted, then more people might be using it and thereby using the valuable spectrum we hope to hold onto. Having a bunch of rival modes is probably turning many hams off and discouraging them from investing money in radios, etc. I know that whenever I've thought about sinking lots of money into, say, a D-Star radio, the thought that pops into my mind is always, "But what if D-Star loses out to P25 or Fusion or whatever".

    Just my two cents.
  3. W5JCK

    W5JCK Ham Member QRZ Page

    How about a digital voice mode that doesn't sound like Stephen Hawking talking under water or a digital voice mode that doesn't require a network engineer to set up or digital voice mode that doesn't require the same brand of radios? Until then, meh...
  4. WW5RM

    WW5RM Guest

    What is this country founded on? There is your answer!

    Competition is good! Proprietary is bad! Just like big government I dont like proprietary anything! Those who own it can dictate what you pay and can do with it! Thus another reason i do not like Icom!

    To respond to KC2SIZ ......You sound like the rest of the D-Star people i know! But with that kind of reasoning or thinking one could say we should all be running CW only! Look at all the different modes we have or had before digital voice. So why limit US to one type of digital voice mode? I agree with KJ4RYP! We need the field left open and not limited to a proprietary controlled mode or type!

    Free Enterprise is one reason why this country is so great and prospered for so long! I say you can keep the change and leave it the way it is!

    de WW5RM
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 12, 2014
  5. WJ6R

    WJ6R Ham Member QRZ Page

    We have open source where any developer can make a snap in DLL for DM 780 and only put the MODEm code in.. to this day, not one if 3rd party authors has done this. They can just give us the DLL with no source code.

    So if the mode becomes popular, and source is not GPL or the author does not provide us a licence, we cant add it to DM.

    In the case of JT65/9. Joe Taylor gave us permission to use his source, but the time to convert it is massive and development cost $$$$.

    right now, the modes most used are CW, RTTY, PSK and JT65/9.

    The rest are either used for Emcomm or for Maritime.
  6. K4CLT

    K4CLT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I will have to agree that having more modes= having more fun. I want to experience it all because you never know where the next idea will lead.

    Carl- I completely agree with your points on paragraph 4! It is all about tools in the toolbox. Everyone should open their minds and give it all a try. You shouldn't think that because you try D-Star or Mototrbo someone is going to say you are less of an Amateur Radio Op or that you have FORESAKEN pounding brass. It simply means that you are open to communicating in new ways. When you boil it down- that what the forefathers of wireless communication were doing in the beginning. They were experimenting with new ways of communicating.

    In my field we have all types of computer systems communicating with our computer system. People a lot smarter than me have figured out how to make them "talk" and pass tons of data between them even though our operating system platforms might be completely different than one of customers' platforms.

    My question is when are we going to see the fruition of the integration and inter-operability of all digital systems like D-Star, Motortrbo, P25, and the likes?
    One where I could talk into my local Mototrbo repeater and come out on the Dstar Reflector REF01 or use my ID-51 D-Star radio to talk on the local Yaesu Fusion or Wires System repeaters.
    It would be nice to have a way to cross integrate all the digital systems.
  7. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    The ham radio market place will drive the innovation hams vote with their bucs. Well remember the time when AM was the dominate mode on 2 meters 440 more or less a waste land in fact so was the upper 2 mhz of 2 meters. Things change repeaters came into play and now I can sit here and listen to a local 440 repeater that is on a link system that covers a portion of Pa NJ De NY Md and as such gives a new dimension to the hobby. What may have required a tower and beam antenna now can provide similar coverage with an inexpensive handheld radio and new hams I hear on system doing just that is the proof.
  8. KU8L

    KU8L Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am not sure what DV you have heard, but after 50+ years in radio, I was stunned by the quality and lack of background noise when I first heard FreeDV mrunning on HF. Sure it cut in and out with QSB, but when it was locked, it sounded great. BTW, I remember when the AM guys all complained about the way everyone sounded on SSB.....another loser mode...wink!
    Just MHO.

  9. KE8DI

    KE8DI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Last I checked these non CW modes can be used to communicate with two amateurs with different brand radios. I am not upgrading my VHF/UHF radios at this point because what if the local amateur radio club decides to go digital from a different brand than what I purchase. Now I am blocked from the local repeater and unable to communicate in the case of an emergency where most of our sykwarn etc activity takes place.

    It would be great if we as hams could innovate and create these modes and allow the manufacturers to compete on features, and price as they do now instead of trying to "win the market" with a proprietary system.

    We can also be of public service in helping to create a standard for these modes, because these same issues have popped up with the various trunk systems out there. As economies of scale bring more inter-department and inter-municipal cooperation agreements and central dispatch facilities, not having common radio modes has forced some of them to revert back to FM or strong arm each other into adopting "their" protocol.

    Then again, I work mostly CW and QRP so what do I know?
  10. ND6M

    ND6M Ham Member QRZ Page

    what do I think????

    I think that BOTH of your (only) two choices basicly suck.

    the FACT is, the only reason all this is happening is to SELL more radios.

    why else would you have included 866 535 4442 in your "Amateur" viewpoint?
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