Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Digital conversion requirements for 2-way radios

There is a lot of confusion on the subject of when it is necessary to switch to digital so we have prepared a brief overview. Current technology would normally dictate switching to digital when mandatory 6.25 kHz channel spacing is required, currently projected to be in 2018, although no specific date has been designated at this time. In general, you can say that analog does not work well at 6.25 kHz, so such a change would require digital technology. There are a couple of other dates you may want to keep in mind. 2013 is when all VHF and UHF 2-way radio users must reduce their operating bandwidth from 25 kHz to 12.5 kHz. This is known as "narrow banding". You can operate in either analog or digital modes, although at reduced bandwidth, digital operation seems to outperform analog. There are some other benefits such as data compatibility (GPS, text messaging, etc.) and longer battery life for portables associated with digital operation. 2011 is another date to remember. That's that date when all manufacturers must offer equipment capable of operating at 6.25 kHz or equivalent (assumed to mean two 6.25 kHz slots operating within a 12.5 kHz bandwidth). This new generation of radios, such as the IDAS offering by ICOM are designed for digital operation. Our guess is that the marketplace and the promotional incentives by manufacturers will result in 6.25 kHz channel spacing becoming the operating standard well in advance of any mandatory date by the FCC.