On March 25th, 2011 the FCC put into action a regulation that requires all radio manufactures to produce only Class D VHF radios.
Class D marine radios have a dedicated receiver for DSC transmissions on channel 70. This dedicated receiver assures that the VHF user will not be able to miss a DSC transmission on channel 70 even if the user is transmitting on another channel. This decision was made in part to ensure that all emergency transmissions are received.
Due to the new regulation many popular VHF marine radio models are no longer being produced and will be replaced by newer models.
Also if you already have a Class C VHF radio you do NOT need to upgrade. This new regulation only ensures that radios manufactured after March 25th are Class D.
If you are looking for a replacement VHF radio that is in line with the new regulations you can visit our fixed mount VHF marine radio page. All of the radios that we offer are compliant with the new FCC regulations.
More info: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtDsc
The VHF antenna is a critical piece of equipment that directly effects how far you will be able to transmit and receive VHF radio signals.
When choosing a VHF antenna for your boat there are a few things you should consider.
- What kind of boat you are going to mount the antenna? (sailboat, commercial vessel, powerboat, etc.)
- How far you want to be able to broadcast a signal?
- What type of water are you going to be navigating? (ocean, smaller lakes, rivers)
- Where on your boat can you mount the antenna?
When choosing an antenna you will want to choose the longest antenna you can feasibly install on your boat. The length of the VHF antenna will effect the distance that you are able transmit a signal.
You will also want to consider how much DB Gain your antenna should have. Gain refers to how focused an antenna’s signal is. The higher the gain of the antenna the further you will be able to broadcast a signal, however, the higher the gain of the antenna the narrower the signal path will be. The VHF antenna broadcasts a horizontal signal pattern so choosing the antenna with the highest db gain is not always the best choice. For example a 9db antenna might not be a good choice for a sailboat that is often heeled over as much of the antenna signal would be broadcast into the sky.
Additionally you will want to consider what quality of antenna to install. Shakespeare VHF antennas are high quality and have been made by a proven manufacture for years. Also Digital VHF antenna makes a good product that will outlast tough conditions.
Most newer VHF marine radios are being equipped with a technology called Digital Selective Calling or DSC. DSC was created to be a faster, more efficient, and more accurate way to communicate information in an emergency situation. DSC uses channel 70 as its hailing channel and communicates a boats MMSI information and exact location (if connected to a GPS) to the Coast Guard and other vessels. If you receive a DSC emergency call your radio’s digital display will show the location of the caller and automatically switch your radio to channel 16 for future voice communication.
DSC is available in both handheld VHF radio models and in fixed mount models. An example of a fixed mount radio that has DSC capability is the Icom 422 while a hand held model is the Standard Horizon HX471.
DSC is a feature you will want to have on your next radio as it drastically reduces the time needed to send a emergency signals and can save your life!
The Icom 304 fixed mount VHF radio is Icom’s base marine radio. The radio is a great choice for any boater who wants to add the safety features of a marine radio to their boat. The radio features a large LCD screen and a powerful audio amp to enable clear communication. This model is submersible and its compact design is ideal for mounting on a boat with limited space. The Icom 304 is also equipped with DSC which enables the user to transmit or receive a boats digital position information in the case of an emergency. The radio also has a tri-watch function that allows the user to monitor channel 16 and another channel (possibly 9) while using a different channel to call. This is a great radio with lots of value for an affordable price.
The Icom M34 is a great choice for the boater who wants to monitor radio communication while traveling the ship or doesn’t have the space to mount a stationary VHF radio. The standout feature of the M34 hand held radio is that it floats! This is a great feature as it doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to know that the possibility of a portable radio going overboard is reality. The Icom M34 marine radio also has other great features such as Tri-Watch, which enables the user to monitor transmissions from three different channels. Using this feature you can monitor the emergency channels 9 and 16 while receiving transmissions from another vessel. The radios battery is rated for 10 hours and it is programed to receive NOAA weather alerts. Overall the Icom M34 is a great choice for a safe, affordable, and portable VHF radio.