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Author Topic:   DSC Radio: MMSI Programming
jimh posted 07-09-2006 10:03 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I finally got around to programming my DSC radio with my Marine Mobile Service Identifier (MMSI). I registered on the BoatUS website.

Now, if I ever happen to go boating with another boater who has a DSC radio and an MMSI, we can test my radio to see if it actually responds to requests for DSC calls!

The programming of MMSI data into the radio was extremely awkward. I do not anticipate making much use of this feature. The user interface for this function is absolutely horrible on my radio (ICOM IC-M402), and I anticipate that in the future I will probably upgrade to a better radio, probably a Class-D DSC radio. The Class-D radios tend to have a user interface that allows you to actually make use of the DSC Selective calling features without pushing a million keys and key-combinations. In fact, this is one of the requirements for the Class-D rating: it has to be easy to use.

Next step is to connect the radio to a dummy load and push the DISTRESS button to find out what happens next!

Chuck Tribolet posted 07-10-2006 10:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
The Icom's I've looked at have had abysmal user interfaces.
The Standard Horizons seem to be much better. They have
an "address book" that you can program your bud's MMSI's


Moe posted 07-10-2006 01:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Now just how hard is this if you [read the manual]?
jimh posted 07-10-2006 07:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Programming the MMSI into an ICOM radio is not terribly hard if you read the manual , but this is precisely the point of my complaint about the terrible user interface: you have to read the manual in order to accomplish just about anything with the radio.

In terms of operating electronic equipment, I guess I have much higher expectations, and those are probably developed from years of operating electronic equipment with extremely elegant user interfaces. I've spend a lot of time sitting in front of very sophisticated electronic devices and operating them, so I think I know what constitutes a good user interface versus a poor one. For example, consider the Quantel Paint Box. It was a marvel of user interface, designed for use by an operator who was an artist and accustomed to holding a brush in their hand. Everything was done with strokes of the brush (stylus and graphics tablet).

I have a wrist watch with a date window, and today I noticed it was a day off due to June having only 30 days. I had to advance the date window one day. It was not necessary for me to find the manual to figure out how to do this because the user interface is rather straightforward; just about anyone who has owned a watch could figure it out. This is exactly the opposite of the ICOM radio user interface. It is so complicated and non-intuitive that in order to make any adjustment to it you must read the manual.

The requirements for Class-D DSC radios include a stipulation that it must only take a few minutes for the operator to learn how to use the radio. I have owned this ICOM for three years and I still have to locate the owner's manual when I want to do anything more than change the channel or increase the volume. ICOM makes nice radios, but their control system is awkward.

I walked up to a UNIDEN Class-D DSC radio on the shelf at a local marine store yesterday and without reading a single word of the instruction manual I figured out how to navigation to the MMSI programming function and could have programmed the radio. That is a good user interface.

WT posted 07-10-2006 08:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
I have the same ICOM radio. I agree that its user interface is not user friendly.

Setting up the GPS interface caused me some brain damage as well.


daveweight posted 07-11-2006 04:05 AM ET (US)     Profile for daveweight  Send Email to daveweight     
I have just taken a VHF DSC one day operators course here in the UK (a requirement) to operate maritime VHF. Given a choice between a DSC distress call and a PTT Mayday, I know which I would prefer to be doing.
Chuck Tribolet posted 07-11-2006 10:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
For a one time event like programming the MMSI, I don't have
a problem with Reading The Fine Manual. But the everyday
stuff on the Icom's takes way too much work. I posted
a comparison here a while back. For example, to receive
a DSC call from a bud, on the SH radios the radio rings, you
pick up the mike and talk. On the Icoms, you have to jump
through some hoops. Ditto for answering a position request.
Ditto for making a DSC call.


cwolf posted 07-12-2006 12:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for cwolf  Send Email to cwolf     
Recently installed the Standard Horizon PS 1000. It took about one minute to read manual and input the number. Only problem is I believe you get two opportunities to input your number correctly before it's permanently programmed. They also have very knowledgeable tech support staff that instantly knew what color wires I needed to use for hooking it up to the Garmin GPS unit. I have yet to confirm it works with another DSC party but I do see the GPS numbers showing up on the mic. Great VHF for the money with easy to use controls.
bluewaterpirate posted 07-12-2006 02:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
If you see the numbers the DSC funstionality is working.


where2 posted 07-13-2006 11:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Cwolf's comments about the Standard Horizon interface is one of the reasons my next VHF will be a PS1000. After I received my SH CP180i chart plotter, I downloaded the PS1000 owners manual to read up on this DSC function and the abilities of the PS1000 radio. The PS1000 appears to do everything I could ever want my DSC equipped VHF to do at a price my wife even liked. When are we going to start a MMSI # registry for the CW Members?
jimh posted 07-14-2006 12:03 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I believe that the reason a DSC radio is only allowed to be programmed with an MMSI twice by the user is due to the regulations imposed by the governing body of DSC radios (whose precise name or aegis I cannot recall at the moment). The notion is that a radio should not be re-programmed nilly-willy, so you get two chances at it, then it is back to the maker for a reset. This prevents people from changing the MMSI of the radio capriciously.
davej14 posted 07-18-2006 07:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
Do you know how long an FCC license is valid? Years ago (like 25+) I had an FCC license to operate the VHF on my sailboat. At that time I believe it was required. Now I want to get an MMSI number. Should I call the FCC for one or just go online with Boat US?

Regarding the SH radios, my PS1000 was very simple to install and is intuitive to use. Anyone looking to buy should check on the PS2000. The price has come down considerably AND they are being offered with the RAM+ mic included. I think the difference is now only about $50.00 so if I did it again I would now opt for the class D PS2000.

Chuck Tribolet posted 07-19-2006 12:03 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
As long as you are staying in the US, just get the Boat US

IIRC, FCC Marine station licenses are good for 10 years.


jimh posted 07-19-2006 09:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
You can get a lot of useful information about the FCC regulations for use of radios aboard ships from the FCC website and the page "Ship Radio Stations."

Chuck is correct--a ship station license has a term of ten years. The fee is $155.

By the way, I could not find the fee schedule on the website, but I did call the FCC on the telephone and a representative gave me the information. If there is a link to the fee schedule somewhere, I'd love to see it!

jimh posted 07-19-2006 09:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Finally found the fee schedule:

The Ship Radio Service is on page 13 of 43.

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