Probably the best commercial radio available to radio amateurs currently is the IC7300. However, its price is still set by market forces: it could still be profitable at a much lower selling price.
Whether prices drop depends on many factors, but there is no doubt that the price is what it is largely because people are still prepared to buy at this price. If the dealers can still make a killing why would they reduce prices? Also, currently there is no real competition.
The rise and rise of FT8
There is no doubt in my mind that FT8 has been phenomenal.
Every day this new digital mode seems to attract more and more people. It works with the briefest of openings and the software needed is free. It takes up about 60Hz only and works with weak signals. On a recent (rare for me) visit to 20m, DX from all over the world was spotted.
Even on 2m VHF, most days I spot signals from all over western Europe under flat conditions even with my omni antenna.
What will the Es season bring on 6m this year with this mode?
ICOM IC7300 – Time for a price drop?
Much to my surprise the price has still to fall, although there are “cracks”: some are now offering the rig with free gifts.
Personally, I can wait. It is a good rig, but to my mind, the dealers have had a very good time and very good profits.
Now is the time to drop the price. Sub £1000 (~$1,300) please – soon.
Geosynchronous amateur satellite?
As you know, we are entering a period which could last very many years when the higher HF bands will not be good for F layer DX. OK, we will have Es to liven things up, but much of the time bands like 10m will seem “dead”.
To the rescue (if successful and this is a big “if”) could come amateur geosynchronous satellites using linear transponders at microwaves. One such is a Qatar satellite that may be launched next year. I say “maybe” as the launch has already been delayed. Geosynchronous satellites stay in the same place, so antennas can be fixed.
A 2.4GHz uplink and 10GHz downlink is quite an investment, but could be worth it if the satellite is a success.
Just how do they do it?
The Banggood portable BF-UV8D retails on eBay for just £14.25 with free shipping to the UK from China. In all honesty, just how can anyone compete?
This is a 5W RF 400-480MHz transceiver and comes complete with charger, back clip, antenna and battery. If I was Yaesu, Icom and Kenwood I’d throw in the towel now. Once the Chinese really wake up, the Japanese manufacturers have no chance of surviving. The Japanese will be driven more and more to niche markets, then die. I cannot see them staying around in the amateur market for too long.
At the moment the Japanese have quality on their side, but the Chinese will soon be as good. At the moment it seems everything, just about, is made in China. Recently I bought some Olympus binoculars – these said “Made in China”. The Chinese seem to be able to make most things at prices that simply cannot be matched.
20 years from now we’ll be living in a very different world.
You can buy a 433MHz module for just over £1 with free shipping from China!!
They make profits too, so how do they do it?
FT817 and FT817ND
These little rigs from Yaesu have basically remained unchanged since 2000. They cover all bands from 160m-70cm (not 4m or 1.25m), all modes, 5W. With transverters, mine have been used from VLF upwards on all available bands. They work well, but I was surprised Yaesu did not do an upgrade in time for the last sunspot peak. Also, I was surprised they had no real competitors. These days there are a few SDR radios around, but the FT817 reigns supreme.
With mine I have worked the world including some great handheld DX. For base station use I recommend the Z817 auto-ATU.
I tried the Elecraft auto ATU but prefer the Z817. I am very happy with the FT817, although the early ones had PA failures with low voltage. This was fixed (I think) in the FT817ND.
New ICOM and Yaesu products at Dayton?
Dayton is often the place where ICOM and Yaesu announce new products. I’d like to see a replacement to the FT817 from Yaesu, but have all but given up hope. Certainly a few years ago they would have released at a time of sunspot peak. As it is, we have years of falling conditions, so not the best “window of opportunity.”