Being an enthusiast for bands above 50 MHz, I suppose I should weigh in on the new IC-905 from Icom. The street price for the basic unit is ~$3500, with various options and accessories at additional cost.
Let’s be clear about one thing, this radio is one impressive piece of technology. There is no other radio on the market that comes close to covering these VHF/UHF/SHF bands: 144, 430, 1200, 2400, and 5600 MHz (and optional 10 GHz). I won’t mention all of the features and specs covered here. I really appreciate that Icom is investing in equipment for VHF and higher, as evidenced by the IC-9700 and this radio.
I focus on VHF/UHF for SOTA with 144 MHz always carrying the load in terms of making radio contacts. Lately, I have put more effort into 432 MHz and 1.2 GHz. I’ve also been trying to get out of the FM rut and work more SSB and CW on those bands. I really should get going on a portable digital station for FT8 and other modes. I have a good collection of gear to choose from, ranging from basic 5-watt FM handhelds to an IC-705 and an IC-9700. OK, the IC-9700 is a bit large to drag up most summits but I have taken it on some easy hikes and drive-up summits. Joyce/K0JJW and I also have a pair of Alinco triband handheld radios (DJ-G7T) that have 1.2 GHz FM. These radios are popular with SOTA enthusiasts due to their affordability and compact size.
What does the IC-905 offer for SOTA? Well, obviously it is a reasonable way to get on 5 or 6 bands with all modes. However, I already have the IC-705 that covers 144 and 432 MHz (and 50 MHz). Having CW/SSB on 1.2 GHz is very attractive to me but 2.4 GHz and 5.6 GHz are rarely used for SOTA. Sure, maybe the introduction of the IC-905 will change that. Maybe, but probably not. Someone commented in an online forum that you better buy two IC-905s and loan one out so you have someone to work. For my interests, I would much rather have a VHF/UHF-only variant of the IC-705 that covers the 50, 144, 440, and 1200 MHz bands. But I have come to accept the fact that radio manufacturers don’t develop radios just for me.
The other option is to use the IC-905 to get on the higher bands from my home station. I am in the process of building a VHF+ station at our cabin in the mountains, which is in a good VHF/UHF location. Honestly, my focus is on getting a tower up with good size Yagi antennas for 50 MHz and 144 MHz. Although I have operated a lot on these bands, it has usually been from portable and rover stations, during one of the VHF contests, or as a SOTA activation. I am looking forward to having an effective permanent station on the two most popular VHF bands. I am debating how much effort to put into the 430 MHz and 1200 MHz bands at the new station, and 2400 and 5600 MHz are not currently in my plans. Besides, the IC-9700 has me covered for 144, 430, and 1200 MHz. So right now, I don’t see the IC-905 being part of the home station, but that could certainly change with time.
What about the price? $3500 is a serious piece of change but probably not unreasonable for what this radio can do. Some people have said it is worth it and some think it is way too expensive. Price is always an issue, but for me it probably doesn’t matter that much. For the most part, I am saying the radio doesn’t fit a need I have. OK, if the price were a lot lower (like $1500), it would affect my point of view. But at that price, Icom would be leaving money on the table with the folks that really want to get on 2.4, 5.6 and 10 GHz.
So my conclusion is that I probably won’t be buying an IC-905 at this time, but things can always change.
What are your thoughts?
73 Bob K0NR