Channel 28

Getting digital with TETRA radio systems

Phil Elwell from Channel 28 looks at the adoption of TETRA radio technology on today’s superyachts for a robust crew communication solution

Phil Elwell from Channel 28 Since leading the introduction of the DMR digital format for crew communications Channel 28 have seen the widespread adoption of the technology within yachting. However, the increased popularity of DMR has caused the swamping of the conventional frequencies in busy ports. Working with different industry bodies Channel 28 is working to increase the understanding of the technology onboard the yacht.

“Clear communication is taken for granted until it is lost,” reports Channel 28’s Project Director Phil Elwell. “Unfortunately, this may be as the captain is manoeuvring the yacht into a mooring. With most vessels in the ports trying to share the 10 recommended ITU frequencies, interference is inevitable, and with digital radios this can be heard as broken or no voice comms.” This is made worse by poor installation – one vessel transmitting at too high a power or centred across two frequencies has the potential to silence an entire port.

As one of the leading suppliers of UHF systems Channel 28 understand that the design and programming of the systems is far more important than the simple supply of the equipment onboard, combined with a good education of the crew as to how their systems operate.

“With the increasing reports of communication loss when entering ports such as Port Vell and Genoa, we are being asked to review and advise on the onboard communications for the safe operation of the vessel,” says Elwell. “Where it is impossible to control the transmissions from other vessels, we can offer some simple solutions to maintain the efficient operation of the yacht.”

After the incident when a yacht in Port Vell was found to be interfering with the main shunting yard in Barcelona, there was a widescale call for radio systems to be ‘legal’, with little understanding of what this actually means. In many cases this was quoted as the use of the 10 ITU frequencies but with little understanding that in many countries (including Spain) some or all of these were not even legal.

Channel 28 TETRA Radio With the increased demand for integration and reliability of crew radio systems, Channel 28 has driven the increase in the specification of TETRA trunked radio systems. TETRA is the technology employed by most European emergency services, based on a pedigree of bomb proof reliability, call management, telephone integration and excellent voice quality. The ability to prioritise calls and callers means that heads of department always have a talk slot.

Until now TETRA was only within the budgets of 120m+ yachts, but the introduction of more competitive base radio units from Motorola have made it a realistic offering for the 60m+ market.

“The voice quality is the best I’ve used and the ability to make duplex private calls replaces the need for crew to carry a radio, phone and pager on their belts,” says the captain of a 70m new build.

A TETRA system is constantly broadcasting a control channel so care must be taken in port to limit the RF power emitting from the vessel in port so as to prevent interference with land-based systems. Channel 28 is an engineering based radio company offering design, installation, training and ongoing support to help crews talk to each other and get the best from their radio system.

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