Yaesu Digital Voice

Yaesu has been in the news recently for the digital salvo they fired over the bow of the D-STAR ship.  In theory I think this is a great move, and others are praising Yaesu’s announcement.  My concerns with D-STAR’s proprietary AMBE vocoder algorithm and hardware, the essentially one vendor market for D-STAR equipment (Icom), and the relatively dated and unscalable D-STAR protocol are no secret to anyone who reads this blog regularly.  But looking at the Yaesu digital voice whitepaper, it’s somewhat a half-baked initiative, in my opinion, where Yaesu has a new hammer and everything looks like a nail.

Most of the paper focuses on the modulation technique of D-STAR, GMSK, and pits it against Yaesu’s (errr….. Motorola’s)  C4FM.  While better RF and data throughput performance can be had with better modulation techniques, the big issue with D-STAR isn’t its modulation technique, it’s the layer two protocol.  Yaesu doesn’t even mention its layer two protocol and network that would presumably be used, Wires II.

Yaesu’s case for C4FM superiority beyond it being used in commercial networks falls flat.  In the paper there are specifications of selected D-STAR and C4FM radios compared, with some highlighted parameters.  There’s also a graph comparing various modulation techinques, but the big takeaway is D-STAR has a rate of 4800 baud versus 9600 baud for C4FM.  I’ve used the somewhat archiac term of baud rather than kpbs intentionally to illustrate just how lame the comparison is.  Furthermore, while D-STAR is clearly in the crosshairs of Yaesu, there is no mention of D-STAR’s 128kbs data mode or how Yaesu’s solution beats that data rate.

All in all this whitepaper and initiative which some are praising appears to me to be a rather sophomoric effort, and one more concerned with selling retreaded commercial rigs in amateur radio.  Aligning amateur standards with commercial ones isn’t a bad thing especially when secondhand commercial gear can be re-purposed for amateur use, but there needs to be other compelling reasons to adopt a commercial modulation technique. Even with the best layer one modulation technique, if the layer two protocol and the supporting network is badly designed the digital voice standard is doomed for failure.  Yaesu needs to be making a case for its system by explaining the entire network, how it is open and non-proprietary, and how it will scale in the future.  I hope Yaesu does successfully launch a competing digital voice solution, and I hope organizations like ARRL and RSGB get involved and insure that the standard is consistent with the spirit of amateur radio.  Unfortunately to me this new initiative looks like another D-STAR in the making.

(D-STAR is a registered trademark of Icom Incorporated.)


11 thoughts on “Yaesu Digital Voice

  1. Yaesu and Icom need to come to its senses and understand that the what Amateurs want is more than what JARL wants. We’ve bought enough D-Star in this country for us to see features we want.

    Ad features and use bits to mask which features are supported and which are not per the country the radio is sold in.

  2. We may already be drowning in digital standards and protocols. it looks to me like those with an interest in these kinds of digital technologies go all in and try more than one of them. So there are 20,000 D-STAR users but most of these also use IRLP, Echolink, Asterisk, APCO25, etc. and many of them will likely try whatever Yaesu dredges up.

    I don’t think the market for these digital “modes” is expanding much, it’s simply being divided by all the different options.

  3. Now that Yaesu and Motorola are separating, I have to wonder if Yaesu will ever bring a digitlal system to market. On top of that, It will be very tough to compete with D-STAR when Icom has just finished a big infrastructure push by providing free D-STAR repeaters to many areas that did not have D-STAR available and in doing so, increased the sales of Icom D-STAR radios. Even if Yaesu does market their own version of Digital Voice, it will take a lot of money to convince the normally frugal ham community to buy new digital radios unless they are D-STAR compatible as well.

  4. Just to clarify… baud is not archaic, and baud and kbps measure different things.

    “Baud” is the signaling rate, and “bits per second” or “kilobits per second” is the data rate. So if a signaling protocol has 4 discrete states (which can encode two bits per signaling event), and there are 1000 events per second, then the signaling rate is 1000 bauds, but the data rate is 2000 bits per second.

    The wikipedia article for baud cites the source “D. A. Bell (1962). Information Theory; and its Engineering Applications (3rd ed. ed.). New York: Pitman.”

    Also, “retreaded commercial rigs” is not a good metaphor. A retreaded tire is a used tire, for which the tread has worn out and has been replaced. The Yaesu (which is just a BRAND NAME owned by Vertex Standard Inc.) radios are new.

  5. Scruss, there is an effort to create an open source AMBE vocoder replacement, here’s a link: http://www.rowetel.com/blog/?page_id=452 . Good luck getting everyone who is running AMBE to buy new vocoder modules if/when an alternative becomes available….but maybe the next DV system will get it right.

  6. The Yaesu rigs will use P25 modulation.
    P25 radios use DVSI chips, the AMBE 3000. Icom radios use the DVSi chip AMBE 2020.
    So if you hate digital voice because of the proprietary chip, i guess Yaesu wont be for you either.
    the two rigs wont be compatible with each other two radios on the same bands but not able to communicate with each other, ( one of the original moans of the analogue Vs digital complaints) Also unless the yaesu rigs are incredibly cheap the surplus pmr (P25) market is awash with 2nd hand radios.

  7. I agree with some of the comments. But I can say now that I have used DStar for over two years, it works great. Audio quality is wonderful and the ability to link repeaters and reflectors just enhances it. The other thing is that DStar is based upon one’s call making the ability to find a mobile user traveling around the country quite easy.

    The other issue Yaesu is going to face is that DStar already has over 1,500 repeaters in operation and I assume Yaesu is going to have zero. So what are hams going to want to do? Well I can buy one of Yaesu’s expensive digital radios and have no one to talk to for maybe quite awhile, or I can buy a DStar radio and pretty much have someone to talk to right away.

    Also, the JARL digital standard was developed along with all the major manufacturers including Yaesu and Kenwood and maybe a few others. So why did they help develop DStar and then go with something else? Makes no sense.

    What’s next? Kenwood coming out with their own digital “standard”?

    All use proprietary Codecs so that argument goes out the door and I really doubt anyone is going to seriously adopt this so-called open standard Codec being worked on…maybe the HF crowd, but too many manufacturers have now gone down the path of using the AMBE Codecs.

    In summary, I think Yaesu has made a major marketing blunder going down yet another path instead of going with the one (DStar) that already has great worldwide adoption.


  8. We seem to be forgetting about NXDN, also a DMR format, And FDMA, supported by Kenwood and Icom Now.
    Jim KG6MQE

  9. Sounds like we’re having the same discussion again.. Remember pactor forllowed by pactor II, pactor III and pactor IV. The publicly available pactor protocol was copied and poorly implemented in trashy hardware by and for the Ham community. The result: hams saying pactor sucks, and a company, given a black eye by the ham community that didn’t like the quality of the cheap copy-cat products rather than actually supporting the company the real and good prodct, learning their lesson and releasing a proprietary codec in pan Pactors II – IV to eliminate cheap, nearly non-functional copies and serves a radio-based community orders of magnitude greater than amateur radio.

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