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UKW radio (marine radio) on yachts: New digital data exchange system VDES is coming

VHF radio (marine radio) has been one of the most important communication means on yachts for many years. This will continue to be the case in the future, because the radio is clearly superior to mobile radio, especially in maritime emergencies or when logging on at marinas. However, certain channels are to be used exclusively for VDES in the future. SeaHelp spoke about the upcoming changes with yacht electronics specialist Werner Ober.

Through the 2015 and 2019 World Radiocommunication Conferences of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), it was determined that the conditions should be created to introduce a new digital data exchange system on VHF channels (VHF Data Exchange System, or VDES for short).

“It was decided that certain VHF channels of Annex 18 of the Radio Regulations should be used exclusively for VDES in the future”, says yacht electronics specialist Werner Ober, who runs a company of the same name in Lustenau.

The new digital data exchange system VDES is on the rise

This would affect channels 24, 84, 25, 85, 26, 86, 27 and 28; important to know: these channels may then no longer be used for analog voice transmission. “Germany, Holland and Belgium have already adopted the directive and have set a deadline of January 1, 2024 for vessels flying the relevant flag to make the switch. At the European level, the necessary conversions should already be completed by January 1, 2023”, says Werner Ober.

Work on VDES has been going on “for a long time,” said Ernst Cerny of the Austrian telecommunications authority, but in Austria “nothing will probably change here for a while longer.” However, it is “particularly in Germany, Holland and Belgium to follow the development closely”, because: some channels would be converted to digital in the ATIS range, and also the frequencies of RX & TX would be moved.

Sport skippers should inform themselves carefully, because certain channels should soon no longer be able to be used for analog voice transmissions

As a result, channels 25, 25, 26 84 85 & 86 should then no longer be available on the device when ATIS is in operation, says Werner Ober. These channels are then not likely to be used in the affected countries (which have already implemented VDES), even in normal operation, the yacht electronics professional said.

In addition, channels 2019, 2020, 2078 and 2078 would only be allowed to be used for reception in all ATIS modes; transmitting would then only be allowed with a private license. In addition, channels 27 and 28 would have to be completely removed from the international frequency band in all ATIS modes. The same would apply to channel 96 (private channel in Belgium).

The timing of when individual countries will implement VDES is not yet known

As additional voice channels would be added, channels 1027 and 1028, Werner Ober said. Channel 31 (Holland) would be renamed “Marina” and would now also be the new Belgian private channel. Its use as a private channel in Holland also remains unchanged with the new names, he adds.

The yacht electronics specialist advises all sports skippers, especially if they are traveling Holland, Germany and Belgium, to find out in advance exactly what the current status of the implementation of the regulations is in the region concerned.

The exact point in time when the individual countries will implement VDES is not known, says Werner Ober. Currently, “various information” is circulating about this, he added.

Information and advice:

Specialist for consulting and installation of yacht electronics is the company WERNER OBER GmbH & Co KG – Yachtelektronik.


Werner Ober GmbH & Co KG
Yacht electronics
Reichsstrasse 38
6890 Lustenau | Austria

Tel: +43 (0)5577 824 19

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