Digital Voice Balkanization

Digital transmissionWouldn’t it be cool if we had one digital communications format for the VHF/UHF amateur bands with all equipment manufacturers offering compatible products? The basic modulation and transport protocol would be standard with manufacturers and experimenters  able to innovate on top of that basic capability. There would be plenty of room to compete based on special features but all radios would interoperate at a basic level. You know, kind of like analog FM.

Yeah, we don’t have that. 🙁

73, Bob K0NR

Graphic: Adapted from

2 Replies to “Digital Voice Balkanization”

  1. It would be nice but I think this would also hold development. one of the reasons for so many different systems is they keep making better protocols and each having its own subset of advantages.

    Some network well with many nodes and reflectors. some have network limitations but have other advantages in quality and ability to work at poor SN ratios now we can even send data audio and pictures using the same connection and in some cases simultaneously. if we had one single digital format and they all made radios to work with that we would be stuck with that format. some improvements could be introduced with software but but as time and hardware gets faster and better any big improvements would leave old hardware in the dumpster

    The real solution is for ham radio manufactures to make mode agile radios that still offer the features we have all come to take for granted. Connect Systems has come close although very slow at getting promised products to market they are mode agile but nothing offereing many “ham” features like dual band and cross band repeat. no APRS or even VFOs. the lates claim you can program them on the fly but still not as easy as hunting or scanning the band and locking in a found repeater. IKenSu dont seem to want to get to gether on anything Icom is stuck in the Dstar rut. Yaesu Fusion with no other options in sight. Ken-wood who knows what they have in the works but so far only FM at least in what they market and build for Ham radio. If they were smart they would go with a dstar/DMR/C4FM capable line up. with APS and all the other ham toys we all like. who knows even then as new systems com on line we still would be stuck with old outdated radios that are not even half a decade old. just like that ten year old not so smart phone that works great but there is no longer an network supporting it.

  2. David, you make some good points. A strong, entrenched standard can actually slow down innovation. It is important to anticipate continuing improvements in radio technology and not get stuck on today’s standard. However, what we have today are three standards that are not all that different in capability but they are incompatible.

    It would be great to have a radio that can handle all three protocols but no one has delivered on that. Perhaps improved SDR technology will enable that someday.

    Unlike HF radios, these VHF/UHF systems require expensive infrastructure, in the form of networked repeaters. Right now the collective infrastructure investment is split between three digital systems plus analog FM. When we have the next wave of technology improvement, we’ll probably have the 4 legacy systems plus a set of new ones on the air.

    73, Bob K0NR