Lack of standardization holding back amateur digital communications

Via Twitter, I recently found out that Yaesu had introduced a new digital communication system—called System Fusion—at the ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference in Seattle, WA. When I asked KE9V, the guy who posted this announcement to Twitter whether or not Fusion was going to be more than a niche product, he replied, “I think it’s a long-shot at best. ICOM has dumped a lot of cash in D-STAR and now years later it’s just catching on. Tough road.”

Compounding the fact that Yaesu is late to the party is the fact that the radios are probably going to cost an arm and a leg, just like the D-STAR radios. Call me an old fart—and I have been called that and worse—but I just don’t see where the digital features are worth the extra bucks. (I would be happy to be convinced otherwise, though. Please feel free to comment on this below.)

Wouldn’t it have been nice if Yaesu and Icom, and maybe even Kenwood, had gotten together and developed a digital communication standard that both companies could support? Not only would have it made it more palatable to invest in such a radio, I bet those radios and repeaters would cost less than the current D-STAR and Fusion offerings. That’s just what happens when companies adopt standards.

As Bob, K0NR, tweeted, “File this under ‘missed opportunity.'” I agree.

p.s. I wanted to include a picture of the system, but the Yaesu website doesn’t yet have any yet on their website. There is, however, a YouTube video of the DCC meeting at which Yaesu introduced the product.

Comments

  1. Elwood Downey, WB0OEW says:

    I feel just the opposite. I think it is great to have innovation and let the market decide.

    Cell phones are going through the same process. The first ones were analog, then CDMA, then TDMA, then GSM, then LTE and on and on. Yes, while things are progressing phones become obsolete, others support multiple standards if they want to be popular, the carriers need to decide when to shut off old standards, etc etc and certainly all this does add to cost and complexity. But the alternative is some authority just decrees one “standard” and then that’s it, the end of innovation.

    • Adopting established standards has always proven more successful for both consumers and manufacturers. By the way GSM was established several years before CDMA came on the scene.

  2. I don’t understand the appeal of “please give us $$$$ so you can buy a radio that only communicates (in digital mode) with our radios.” If you have to switch to analog to interoperate, why spend the extra money? Using a standard digital mode may not be interesting to your engineers, it’s certainly compelling to your customers. Too bad it will never happen.

    KC2TCK

  3. Dave, N8SBE says:

    Check out http://freedv.org/. This is run by Bruce Perens, and is working on getting an open, non-patented digital voice standard (Codec 2) out there for use by all. There is activity using FreeDV now on 14.236 MHz. Just download the program and plug the speaker jack into your sound board input (mic or line) on your computer and you can listen in, A little more work hooking up your speaker or line out to your radio microphone jack, and you are on the air using digital voice.

    To see examples of Yaseu’s digital offerings, just look in any recent QST. I doubt that they will get any widespread use, and likely will end up as a niche product, just like Icom’s D-STAR. The come across as YAINS (Yet Another Incompatible Non-Standard).

    The ham community values open standards, and protocols surrounded by a patent thicket just simply don’t cut it, no matter how much marketing energy is put into it by the various manufacturers involved.

    Please support the FreeDV project (there’s a PayPal “Donate $10″ button). In the meantime, if you want to experiment with digital voice on UHF, there are plenty of surplus MotoTRBO (DRM) radios that show up at the hamfests. Hook up with someone that knows these radios and which ones can be easily re-purposed to the ham bands. 430 and 900 MHz equipment abounds. In SE Michigan there are many repeaters running DRM on both 430 and 900 MHz bands.

    73,

    — Dave, N8SBE

    • I’ve been meaning to check out and blog about FreeDV. I’ll have to download the software and give it a go. Thanks for the reminder, Dave.

  4. How standards work in the real world…

    http://www.brickolore.com/2011/08/standards.html

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