USA: FCC Approve Icom M802 Waiver

Earlier this year the FCC invited Icom to submit a waiver to allow the M802 not to be modified to meet the new GMDSS requirements. The good news is that the waiver has been approved and the Icom M802 can once again be sold in the United States.

Published 7 years ago, updated 6 years ago

For those that may not be aware, while the new rules made some sense for commercial vessels, they would have had almost no impact on cruisers. The M802 remains the only affordable Digital Select Calling (DSC) marine radio that will allow cruisers to directly contact commercial vessels.

The approved waiver allows Icom to sell the radio without implementing the latest version of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) new rules for DSC.

The case that made for the waiver was that cruisers needed the M802 as the lowest cost solution allowing them to connect with the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).   All 300-ton commercial vessels maintain a GMDSS watch and no longer monitor the traditional 2182.0kHz as they did prior to January 1999.

Active campaigner Terry Sparks of said:

“During my cruising, I have heard DSC distress calls from the Black Sea, Columbia, off Galapagos, North Pacific South Pacific etc.   The US and other Search and Rescue organizations monitor looking for DSC distress, Urgent, and Safety calls.   I know some cruisers mistakenly purchased Amateur radios during this period as we waited for the waiver to be approved.

“Three things to consider:

1. It is illegal to modify an Amateur radio for Marine channels.

2. Ships at sea are not listening for anything but DSC calls.

3. Far of the shore, the closest help is the best help and they can only be reached by DSC MF/HF radios or via DSC using VHF radios if you can see them.

“If you are deciding on an M802, ham radio or Sat phone, you should read what the FCC states in the waiver section 8:

8. Based on the record before us, we conclude that grant of the requested waiver is in the public interest. The record before us indicates that without the M802, there is no affordable MF/HF DSC radio for vessels not subject to the GMDSS requirements. Use of a DSC radio—even one that does not perform all of the parallel automated procedures required by ITU-R M.493-13—offers important advantages over non-DSC alternatives.

“For example, satellite radios communicate on a one-to-one basis, so distress calls will not be heard by surrounding vessels.   Similarly, non-DSC distress calls likely will not be heard by DSC-equipped vessels, which are required to monitor only the DSC distress channel. Consequently, grant of a waiver will contribute to the safety of vessels in distress”.

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