MDC1200 technology is covered under four patents filed in the United States. Motorola took advantage of the initial licensing period to charge significant fees to access this protocol. Because of the price, some companies and manufacturers developed similar options that worked with their systems.
When this technology was first produced, this trait often locked consumers into brand-specific items. If you started with Motorola’s MDC1200 protocol, that was the only thing you would use. The cost of changing out all the radios was simply not feasible.
Third-party MDC1200 technology eventually came out through Cimarron Technologies, Control Signal Corporation, and Midian Electronics.
Although MDC1200 is still shown as an active patent, other companies have used the protocol to support their products since 2008.
MDC1200 in HAM Band?
“MDC” stands for “Motorola Data Communications.” It’s also referred to as MDC1200 or State-Alert. It is a press-to-talk option that sends a data burst that identifies the sending radio. It was first developed in the 1980s to facilitate two-way radio connections across 16 channels for reliable communication.
When operating an MDC1200 radio, you’ll have Radio ID support of four hexadecimal digits. You can use 0001 to DFFF for this purpose, while everything from E000 onward gets reserved for group identification needs.
That means the MDC1200 technology allows for over 57,000 Radio IDs on a single system, with the potential for even more.
All radios equipped with MDC1200 have a DOS feature that filters data bursts from the received audio. Instead of hearing the static or sending data, a short chirp alerts the user to the incoming transmission. Some units don’t make any sounds at all.
Although other long-distance communication options are available, including HAM signals and Select-5, MDC1200 doesn’t have the tone falsing problem of other systems.
It can also cope with lower signal-to-noise rations so that radios receive alerts even when the signal has below-average strength.
The features users can access on these radios depend on the support quality embedded into the product. If you own the Motorola EVX-261, only the ANI encode is available for use. Others might offer selective calling features.
Almost all MDC1200 products are sold and used in North America. It’s a standard option for law enforcement, long-distance trucking, fleet management, and school buses.
How Does MDC1200 Get Picked up by HAM Radios?
The PTT ID encoding features you can find with MDC1200 radios enable the conversations to get picked up in the HAM band. It’s not unusual to see operators using this identification on a 440 repeater to facilitate communication.
Although you’d need to have the device programmed to be in the HAM band, there isn’t anything that typically prohibits the use of the PTT ID.
You would need to identify yourself as a part of an amateur transmission under most circumstances, whether by Morse code or voice.
Since the data is readily available, encryption issues don’t enter the conversation. Most HAMs often use MDC1200 because it seems cool, although the data burst is far from it when it gets translated into an audio representation. That’s why using the radios built for this protocol is a better investment.
It can be helpful as a paging method outside of the HAM protocols if you leave your base on when communicating. Outside of that benefit, MDC1200 in the HAM band tends to be more annoying than innovative.
Best HAM Radios to Use Today
Although you can use handheld HAM radios today without spending a ton of cash, your range is naturally limited with those items. If you invest in a base station, you can often use multiple formats for your communication needs.
The best HAM radios use AM, FM, LW, VHF, Shortwave, and SSB. When there’s enough power coming to the unit, the transmissions can get heard for hundreds of miles.
If you want to get involved with this fun hobby, here are the best HAM radios to start using today.
This HAM radio lets you start listening to the world. It delivers a classic look with modern technology so that you can access whatever transmissions seem appealing.
It’s a sensitive and robust unit, with the 360-degree antenna pulling in the weakest signals for you to analyze.
It automatically filters through the interference on each allowable wavelength for the best possible experience. If you have the space for it, you can connect a shortwave antenna directly to the product.
This unit offers the 12m band, replacing Channel 19/9 with emergency channels one and two.
It’s user-programmable to ensure the product meets your needs, using a rotary switch with an up/down selector to scan the various frequencies.
It has public address features, a roger beep, and a front input for the microphone. It is not a Citizen’s Band radio on the 11m bands, which means you’ll need to pursue your license because of where it operates and the power it uses.
The best feature you’ll find with this HAM radio base station is the automatic zero calibration SWR meter.
It also provides talkback controls, RF output power, and a 40-channel AM/SSB that works from a standard 120v power source.
You’ll need to purchase a coax cable and an antenna separately to ensure that you can operate the product.
It helps to ground it with copper-clad rods and connect it to a pole with no right angles. The size makes it suitable for almost any installation point, including RVs or truck cabs.
■ What Is the History of HAM Radio?
Amateur radio began with the creation of simple wireless sets that appeared at the start of the 20th century. Enthusiasts used the technology to communicate with each other, eventually creating the foundation for numerous advancements in social services, industry, engineering, and science.
HAM radio operators have founded new industries, saved countless lives, and solidified economies.
When you see a disaster movie, the communications protocols used in the film are an accurate representation of what to expect if the circumstances were real.
Once Heinrich Rudolf Hertz proved that radio waves existed in 1888, they were adapted into communication systems in the next few years that followed.
There were already amateur wired telegraphers setting up systems in the 19th century. When the “Hertzian Wave” offered the option for wireless telegraphy, the foundation for modern HAM radio was built.
By 1910, there were so many HAM operators communicating with each other globally that their conversations interfered with military transmissions.
After the RMS Titanic sank in 1912, Congress passed the Radio Act that restricted private stations to 200m or shorter wavelengths.
Those shortwave frequencies were considered useless during that time, causing HAM radio operations to drop by nearly 90%.
By 1917, almost all amateur radio came to a halt. Congress even ordered operators to dismantle their equipment, although services were allowed to restart in 1919.
■ The Story of Father Maximilian Kolbe (SP3RN)
When Germany began its occupation of Poland, the Nazi forces arrested Father Maximilian Kolbe. Known as SP3RN, it was thought that the man’s amateur radio activities were leading to espionage opportunities in the country.
The Nazis transferred Kolbe to Auschwitz in 1941. It wasn’t long after that some prisoners escaped the concentration camp. Authorities ordered ten prisoners be killed in retribution for the daring attempt.
Father Kolbe requested that he take the place of one of the condemned men.
On October 10, 1982, Pope John Paul II canonized him as Saint Maimilian Kolbe, Apostle of Consecration to Mary. Kolbe was declared a martyr of charity. He is now considered the Patron saint of all amateur radio operators.
During this era, Congress suspended all amateur radio communications to prevent interference during the conflict.
Since most operators were already serving in the military, the government started the war emergency radio service that would remain in effect until 1945.
Many HAM radio operators converted the surplus radios from the war to amateur use, including the ARC-5.
Beginning in 2006, HAM operators were no longer required to understand Morse code to receive their license.
The tests aren’t as popular in other countries as they once were. As of 2021, only North Korea has an absolute ban on this technology. Several nations limit the frequency bands, power output, and personal activities.
Are There Benefits to Running MDC1200 on a HAM Rig?
There are a couple of ways that MDC1200 runs for amateur radio operators. The experience one receives when using or running across this situation depends on one’s personal perspective. Some people find it annoying, while others feel the positives outweigh whatever negatives they might experience from the process.
The easiest way to incorporate MDC1200 in the HAM band is to run without the PTT-ID. This step eliminates that squelch that some operators don’t like.
Although it is a valuable signaling option that generates complaints, the tones can be somewhat irritating to the ears.
If you want to run MDC1200 in the HAM band, the Data Operated Squelch (DOS) eliminates the most problematic frequencies. You can use the page, call, and check features to your advantage.
Some people set up their systems for post ID, which means the protocol doubles as a courtesy tone.
When using MDC1200, you’ll notice improved audio quality, better rejection, higher sensitivity, and less intermod.
Since MDC passes through most repeaters, decoding steps are possible – and that’s something most operators enjoy having as a feature.
Most repeater owners typically ask you to shut off the signaling. There might be a request to stop using the repeater. Beyond that, the MDC1200 works well for paging and emergencies.
How to Get Your HAM Radio License
Before getting on the air with your HAM radio, you’ll need to be licensed to operate legally. There are also a few rules that you’ll need to get to known.
Unless you’re a foreign government representative, anyone in the United States can hold this license. If you live somewhere else, different rules might apply.
Three different licenses are available for consideration: general, technician, or extra.
|General HAM Radio License:||• When you have this license, you have some operating privileges within the amateur radio bands. |
• You can access global communication options after passing a brief exam.
• You must also pass the technician written test before you earn this certification.
|Technician HAM Radio License:||• This license is the entry-level option that most new HAM radio operators use. |
• It requires one examination that covers 35 questions on radio regulations, operating practices, and general theory.
• It gives you access to all amateur frequencies above 30 MHz.
• Limited HF access is also available for international communication.
|Extra HAM Radio License:||• With this license, you can access all amateur radio operating bands and modes. |
• It’s the most difficult one to learn, requiring a 50-question exam.
• You must also pass all other written exams before qualifying for this option.
Starting on December 29, 2020, the current amateur radio license fees are $35. This price applies to new issues, renewals, and any vanity call signs.
In the past, nothing was collected for a HAM license or vanity issue to amateur operators, which makes this cost a significant change.
The price is a little lower than the $50 that was initially proposed when the government first considered making these changes.
If you prefer a handheld model, the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) might be the better option to pursue. The government dropped the cost of this license from $70 to $35.
All the licensing options for HAM and GMRS last for ten years. They cover your entire family, which means anyone can use the equipment without worrying about getting into trouble.
When you’re looking for a new hobby to try, amateur radio operations could be something to consider.
Whether you prefer MDC1200 in the HAM band or a more straightforward experience, you’ll discover that there’s a lot of fun to be found with this communication tool.
You can make new friends, speak with people from all over the world, and learn a new skill simultaneously!