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

The post Digital Voice Balkanization appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

7 Responses to “Digital Voice Balkanization”

  • Harry K7ZOV:

    Too many inflated egos to ever see one standard.. That said maybe someone smarter then me can make a box that listens to all standard and takes a standard FM input and sends out and translate D-Star, Fussion, and all other formats… The technology exists, it just needs someone to do it…. In the meantime we are stuck with junk radio… I for one really am NOT excited about digital radio. Too many things can screw up communications. At least with analog you have a fighting chance of making out communication HDTV also sucks… We have that on cable now. They totally killed analog TV. Weather and other factors and NO TV or picture breaks up or locks up and other really strange things that never were a problem with the old fashion analog RF TV.. I is just me who does not like Digital radio and TV?

  • Goody K3NG:

    Yes, it would be cool if we had one OPEN digital standard. We don’t. I blame ARRL. Seriously. Of all the things people complain about with ARRL, this is one you’ll rarely, if ever hear, but ARRL should have stepped up and led the way in this area. But I digress.

    Now that the horse is out of the barn with three or four active digital systems, what do we do to fix it? The equipment manufacturers aren’t going to change to a standard unless it makes economic sense to them, especially considering they have a lot invested already in their proprietary systems. We need to develop new open system, have our organizations get behind it, and vote with our wallets to get manufacturers to migrate to it.

  • Roger G3XBM:

    All the manufacturers are trying to win and become the standard. A bit like VHS, Betamax and Video 8 some years ago. One will eventually win but it may not be the best.

  • Mike, WV2ZOW:

    Harry: Digital TV is GREAT, for the cable companies. In my area, ALL cable channels are scrambled, so one has to rent a box from the cable company. That’s $10 per month for a $60 box. Then, for a DVR (I remember we used to record programs for free on a $49 device), I have to pay $15 per month to rent a $120 box. Sure, I could buy a TIVO, but then I have to rent the $10 per month “Cable Card”. What could be wrong with another $25 going to the cable company?

  • Bill KD5DPJ:

    Maybe one day some Linux programmers will get heavily involved with Amateur Radio. There has to be a program to write to all those different digital modes Maybe maybe.

  • Dave G0WBX:

    VHS vs Betamax etc “8” years ago? More like 28 years! Where have you been?


    There *are* open digital radio voice standards, one is even an ETSI standard at that, with evertyhing specicfied down to the on-air signaling protocol etc. Also, many manufacturers from various places have been making kit for some years too. What is it? DMR! (It is NOT just Motorola !)

    Some German guys too, have developed a nice piece of kit in the form of a USB/RF dongle, that can handle DMR, D-Dtar (+ Fusion/C4FM soon.)
    It’s already being advertised in Europe for 99 UKP, as a way to generate your own local DMR or D-Star “hot spot”.

    As it’s all “Digital”, once all the relevant details are known, it will in principle be possible to trans-code from one to the other, well, the voice traffic at least. Some of the other network features may not be equivalent with each other. But see below…

    There is also, DMR-plus. A mixture of DMR and D-Star. There are several such repeaters in the UK, but not connected to the rest of the DMR network. Not sure if they are connected to the rest of the D-Star network, as I’m not a D-Star user. Quite how it works “cross system” I don’t know, but bet others do if you ask.

    Another “Open” Digital Voice technology, is of course FreeDV. Works well enough on HF and VHF, though the voice quality is subjectively lower, it is no worse than average SSB, it does the job, and everyone is free to dive in and help etc. A PC is usually needed, but there are working prototype stand-alone DV mic’s and other projects.

    There *are* existing and proven open standards out there, but there are also vested interests in keeping things closed and tie users into one “brand”, as usual. You pay your money, and make your choice.

    Me? I’m on DMR in the UK as G0WBX (DMR ID 2351410) I even helped get our local DMR repeater on air (GB7AV.) I have also played a little bit with FreeDV on HF (on RX, never succeded getting a QSO) sadly not a lot of traffic over hear, and what there is, often gets stomped on by SSTV on 20m. It do not have any D-Star kit, but there is a Fusion repeater nearby, GB3MK, that has truly awful analog FM audio, almost as if they are artificially trying to make digital sound better than it realy is.

    No.. That doesnt happen of course. The TV co’s didnt wreck the analog TV video making it fuzzy, so that the “New” DTV looked better when it came along. No, never happened…


    Dave G0WBX / G8KBV.

  • Noah N4OAH:

    There are digital radio standards, but they are not “ham” standards. Some of the stupidest mistakes made by ham manufactures is in designing proprietary, ham only systems. The only real, true and open standard to date is Project 25, the leading digital radio for law enforcement and slowly being embraced by hams. But most hams won’t be satisfied with simple and effective, has to have all the whistles and bells like DSTAR. Anyway, rant over, the systems to exist but we will never embrace them because they aren’t “ours”

    Long live analog FM!!!

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