Another major player might be entering the digital ham radio market – a market known for high tech users and pricey equipment.
Local supporters of D-STAR, the first common digital format for VHF/UHF ham radio, plan to stick with the older, tried-and-true technology.
Dana Underhill and Fran Miele, owners and administrators of D-STAR repeaters in Connecticut, say they have lots of time, money and effort invested in the equipment, and it works fine.
ICOM Radio, the only provider of D-STAR radios and repeaters, may be facing competition from rival Yaesu-Musen, which just separated its amateur radio division from ownership by the Motorola corporation.
Fran Miele, whose callsign is W1FJM, says when a new format comes along, many hams would be willing to buy a new radio and give it a try.
“It is also my guess that the ham community would come up with a way to link the two technologies together,” he said
In a lengthy technical paper, Yaesu labels the D-STAR technology “old fashioned” and no longer used in the lucrative Land Mobile Radio (LMR) industry.
Instead, Yaesu endorses a digital modulation known as “C4FM,” which includes the Motorola MotoTRBO and Vertex Standard brand of radios. It is similar to the popular APCO 25 digital radio used by public safety agencies.
“Compared with the other digital communication types, the service coverage is wider, the transmitted voice quality is better and cleaner, the security performance is more reliable and the battery life is longer,” Yaesu claims in its published statement.
Dana Underhill, KB1AEV, helps to maintain both D-STAR and conventional FM repeaters for the Pioneer Valley Repeater Association.
“My question is, in an already crowded area for frequencies where the two meter band is completely full in Connecticut, where would new systems be able to operate?” he asked.
It’s possible competing digital radios could operate in the 440 MHz band, but probably not on the 220 MHz band, because no other countries have permission to operate there, he said.
Elsewhere in the country, newer digital radio known as “Digital Mobile Radio,” already has a foothold among hams, with equipment mostly provided by Motorola.
In Connecticut, there are six linked D-STAR radio repeaters, mostly in the greater Hartford area and in Westbrook, Mystic and Norwalk.
D-STAR was developed by amateur operators in Japan, and the name is an acronym for “Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio.”
It includes Internet “gateway” connections that allow repeaters to be linked locally, regionally or worldwide, as well all data transfer and GPS features.