[aprssig] OT: Yaesu to release digital amateur radio gear

John Gorkos jgorkos at gmail.com
Mon Jan 9 09:17:19 CST 2012

On Monday, January 09, 2012 10:02:37 AM Amateur Radio WB8NUT wrote:
> Jason, first many of the proprietary chips in our radios use technology
> not developed by Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu and the like, but by those "patent
> trolls" like Texas Instrument, Intel, NSI, etc.
> Even if those proprietary chips were developed by Kenwood, Icom and
> Yaesu on their own, does not mean that they do not infringe on some
> patent owned by another company or "patent troll" as you refer to them
> and could still result in a patent lawsuit.
> The "Open Codec" under development could in fact be in conflict with
> some patent owned by someone else. Don't know until someone looks at it
> since it is "open" and says, "hey, that's my idea, my code, my method,
> etc." and tries to prove it via a court action.
> One has only to look at history. Linux is supposed to be "open" but that
> did not stop Microsoft from obtaining royalty payments from Novell/Suse,
> Linspire and others right? Just because someone has developed something
> independently to try to create an "open standard" does not mean it has
> not infringed on someone's existing patent.
> Duffy
> www.wb8nut.com
(I've treid to send this message twice, but it just disappears into the 
aether.  Hopefully, it comes through this time)

And this is where the FCC has failed the amateur radio community.  D-Star 
should have never been permitted to go on the air, because it violates Section 
97.113(a)(4) of the US Code.  Specifically, the AMBE codec uses a system of 
codes and cyphers to obfuscate (compress) audio that cannot be recieved by the 
average amateur radio operator without specific hardware, which must be 
purchased from a sole-source vendor.  What's more, if you attempt to write a 
software decoder for the AMBE codec, you WILL be sued under the provisions of 
the DMCA by DVSI.  I am aware of no other situation like this in amateur 
radio:  If you built an FM transmitter, then anyone in the world with the 
correct knowledge can build an FM receiver that converts your RF signal into 
something anyone can receive.  Same for SSB, AM, even PSK31 or WSPR.  I can 
think of no other transmission that is legally made on the ham radio bands 
that I can't build a receiver or decoder for legally.

However, AMBE is patent encumbered and for ANYONE to be allowed to legally 
recieve it, you must pay money to DVSI for that privilege.  That is fine with 
me for commercial radio mobile.  I believe it is fundamentally wrong in the 
amateur radio spectrum.  As amateurs, we have essentially auctioned off our OWN 
spectrum to be held hostage by a single company.  What happens if tomorrow 
DVSI decides it's not $20/chip for an AMBE codec, but $200 per chip.  How much 
D-Star equipment is already out there using that spectrum, that is sunk cost? 
What if DVSI charges $2000 per chip?  We still aren't going to immediately 
stop using D-Star.  The wealth/privilege gap will simply grow, and the amateur 
spectrum will continue to fragment.

The ARRL should have been our first line of defense in the US to stop this, and 
they failed.  I personally believe they did this because Icom purchases a 
significant portion of the advertising space in ARRL publications, and the 
League was unwilling to petition the FCC to prevent a sole-source voice 
encoder that is essentially uncrackable encryption to anyone that doesn't pay 
the fee because they were unwilling to risk Icom pulling advertising dollars.
The FCC should have been our second line of defense, but DVSI is based in 
Westford, MA, and at the time had a very powerful Kennedy riding herd on the 
FCC, ensuring no one squealed about defacto encryption in the amateur 

Essentially, D-Star has created a gap between haves and have-nots in the VHF 
and UHF spectrum.  If you want to play, you have to pay.  And I mean HAVE to 
pay.  If you want to play wideband FM, it's possible (and still done, I'm 
told, by "real" amateur radio operators) to build your own FM transceiver.  If 
you want to play D-Star, you MUST pay DVSI.  This addresses your "proprietary 
chip" argument above.  Yes, every radio out there has "proprietary chips."  
Name another system in the amateur radio community that REQUIRES a proprietary 
chip on BOTH ends to have a conversation, and EXCLUDES anyone that doesn't 
have that chip.

I don't have a problem with AMBE.  It's great for Land Mobile Radio, and I 
applaud the effort that DVSI went into in developing it, and they deserve to 
monetize it.  I think D-Star, as a protocol, has some great ideas, and the 
fact that the protocol itself is "open" and well document is also commendable.  
The fact that I'll be arrested and brought up on charges if I reverse-engineer 
the codec so that I can listen to conversations in amateur spectrum in the 
United States is detestable and a perversion of the spirit of amateur radio.

Unfortunately, Yaesu will also be using AMBE, as far as I can tell.  Everyone 
interested in this issue should have read the wikipedia entry on Digital 
Mobile Radio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Mobile_Radio).  While the 
DMR standard does not specify a vocoder, Yaesu, Motorolor, Kenwood, and Icom 
all signed a Memorandum of Understanding that they'd all use AMBE.

I don't see a good way out of this.  Other than waiting for the patents to 
expire (which, by my calculations, will occur in late December of 2017), then 
having someone continue on the AMBE development front, I don't 
think there's much we can do at this point, as amateurs, to raise a stink 
about it.  My choce is to not do business with companies that push what I 
consider to be illegal practices into the Amateur Radio spectrum.  That has 
included Icom, and will now include Yaesu, if they do indeed bring an AMBE-
driven radio to market in the US bands.

John Gorkos
> On 1/9/12 9:40 AM, Jason KG4WSV wrote:
> > What you aren't taking into consideration is the unfortunate trend for
> > IP to be held not by manufacturers but by litigious profiteering
> > patent trolls. A Kenwood radio with a Kenwood custom IC? no big deal;
> > it actually indicates to me that Kenwood is investing in the product
> > line's future. A radio with a codec IC owned by a west Texas patent
> > troll? That's a different animal. I'm not saying that the ABME codec
> > is owned by a patent troll, but tomorrow it could be if it isn't
> > already.
> > 
> > -Jason kg4wsv _______________________________________________ aprssig
> > mailing list aprssig at tapr.org
> > https://www.tapr.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/aprssig
> _______________________________________________
> aprssig mailing list
> aprssig at tapr.org
> https://www.tapr.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/aprssig

More information about the aprssig mailing list