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Old 10-03-2013, 01:20   #1
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SSB vs HAM

Hello all,

I am about to get into long range comms.
I am unable to figure out what do I need to get, either a Ssb or a Ham radio. That of course is due to lack of experience in this field.

I am trying to figure out which unit suits better..
To suit better means it has to fullfill three needs.
1st; long range voice communication and comunication with other vessels in my proximity(beyond VHF range of course)

2nd: the ability of receiving weather (tied up to a computer to print weather maps)

3rd:the ability to send/receive email.

I looked around in forums here but I could nit find specifics about the subject.
I talked to a number of people around me, but it seems they hace both Ham and Ssb.

I cant afford both, so I have to chose either or, based on pros and cons of each.

Any advice or input from other users?

I appreciate it.

Thank you,

Richard
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Old 10-03-2013, 01:25   #2
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Re: SSB vs HAM

And also if I got either/or, is there any international licence that I will have to carry to be able to clear in other countries?

Thanks again
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Old 10-03-2013, 01:49   #3
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Re: SSB vs HAM

Both meet all your requirements. There are marine SSB radios that can operate on HAM bands legally, so you don't need two radios to do both. You need an amateur license to operate HAM which requires a test, and you need to obtain permission from the country you are in to operate HAM in most cases. For the marine SSB you need a station license and an operators license. In the US there is no test, just money needed for these licenses.

There are several threads with lots of details. The google custom search option under the search tab is the one that works well.

John

Edit: added search link

http://www.google.com/cse?cx=0063947...ssb&gsc.page=1
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Old 10-03-2013, 03:17   #4
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Re: SSB vs HAM

I've just been through this analysis myself, and I came to the conclusion that marine SSB and ham HF have quite different uses, and that both are useful for cruisers far away from land and/or civilization.

Ham radio has a very different procedure of operation. You are allowed to call "CQ" and just chatter with any other licensed amateur about anything in the world (except something commercial) and for as long as you like -- you have a lot of freedom to play around. There is a whole worldwide community of radio amateurs who will be delighted to chew the rag with you. On marine SSB, on the other hand, you are not (theoretically) allowed to call "any station" and just chatter. You are supposed to call a specific station and pass messages having to do with navigation, safety, weather, etc., and then sign off. Of course that rule is honored in the breach, but still the style is different.

You can send emails over both systems -- very small ones, and with sometimes quite a lot of trouble connecting to a land station. It's not "plug and play". With marine SSB it's using SailMail, which costs $250 a year and is for plain text only. But there is no limitation on the subject matter of your messages, so you can carry on business correspondence if you need to. With ham HF, it's using Winlink, which is free, and with which you can send attachments, but you must strictly avoid any kind of commercial correspondence.

Different people you might want to communicate with might have one or the other, so if you are capable of both ham HF and marine SSB you will have better chances of communicating with whom you want to.

There is more bureaucracy involved with operating amateur radio; you will need an "Extra Class" license for reciprocity in CEPT countries (most of Europe) and in some cases you have to apply to the local authorities. I have just been through these exams and for a non-technical person like me they are fairly challenging. Marine SSB is simpler -- a U.S. citizen only needs a limited radiotelephone operator's license which is a pure formality without any test, and you don't need to worry about reciprocity.

Both are a fair amount of trouble and require fairly expensive equipment, so more and more cruisers are opting to just buy a sat phone and leave it at that. Although I inherited a fixed-mount sat phone when I bought my boat, I have never activated it and am not attracted to it as a means of communications. I have opted instead for marine SSB AND amateur HF.

Whether you can do both with one radio is a matter of debate. Some marine SSB transceivers are capable of operating on the ham bands as well as marine, but it seems to be pretty clearly illegal under FCC rules. Apparently many people do it without problems; maybe the rule isn't really intended for private pleasure vessels, I don't know. You'll have to make up your own mind about that.


One last thing: It took me several days of deep immersion to learn the material needed to pass the three ham radio tests. For me, at least, this was highly enjoyable. It opened a whole new world for me. Besides that, a great deal of the material is equally applicable to marine SSB. I highly recommend it.
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Old 10-03-2013, 03:26   #5
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Re: SSB vs HAM

P.S. Another thing about ham radio which could be interesting for cruisers is that it offers a number of non-voice communication modes which require less power and bandwidth and which might be useful over longer distances -- PSK31, in particular, is a very cool digital mode which requires only 31hz of bandwidth and very little power, and allows you to transmit and receive data at about 31 baud -- about as fast as you can type. You need no special equipment to use it -- just a computer with sound card.

The other really cool mode is not exactly new -- namely, Morse or CW. I didn't realize it before studying for the ham tests, but CW, which like PSK31 uses a very narrow bandwidth, can be heard over much greater distances than voice (or "phone" as it is called) using much less power. I guess few cruisers are going to learn Morse code, and I guess hardly anyone uses it on marine SSB frequencies, but it is very popular among hams. CW also does not require any elaborate equipment -- a $10 key is enough.
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:33   #6
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Re: SSB vs HAM

Dockhead.
Thank you

So, can you cross communicate from ham to ssb. An example is: if I have ham, and another ship is in my vicinity and they have ssb, will I be able to talk to them? Im other words, are the Ssb frequrncies included in the ham spectrum, or they are two different spectrums?

One thing I like about ham is using Morse code. I used to enjoy using it, that and Semaphore, but unfortunately, the latter is obsolete and also a very short range limit...

Thanks again.


Richard
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:40   #7
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Re: SSB vs HAM

John,

Thank you also for your reply.

It seems I will have to get a ships station and operator license no matter what. I have checked the FCC and they cost $160 and $60 respectively. The former lasts only for 10 years but the latter is for life.

Richard
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:06   #8
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Re: SSB vs HAM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Z View Post
Dockhead.
Thank you

So, can you cross communicate from ham to ssb. An example is: if I have ham, and another ship is in my vicinity and they have ssb, will I be able to talk to them? Im other words, are the Ssb frequrncies included in the ham spectrum, or they are two different spectrums?

One thing I like about ham is using Morse code. I used to enjoy using it, that and Semaphore, but unfortunately, the latter is obsolete and also a very short range limit...

Thanks again.


Richard
Ham HF and Marine SSB are different frequency sets. So an unmodified marine SSB set cannot transmit on marine ssb frequencies, and it is certainly prohibited to transmit on marine SSB frequencies using a ham set.

Some marine SSB sets (for example, Icom M802) can be easily "opened up" to transmit on ham frequencies. FCC rules prohibit ham operations on a radio which is used as the ship's primary radio -- as I mentioned before, I don't know whether this rule is universally ignored, or not. If you have a ham license and an "opened up" marine SSB set, you might be able to communicate on both ham and marine SSB frequencies, if you are willing to flaunt that rule.

Morse code is allowed on marine SSB as well as ham. Don't know if anyone will communicate with you in Morse on marine SSB frequencies, or not. But lots and lots of hams still use CW.

The easiest and totally legal way to deal with all of this is to buy both a marine SSB set as well as a ham HF set, and get a ham license as well as a Limited Radiotelephone Operator's license. Then you are definitely 100% legal and good to communicate with anyone. It is legal to share the antenna system between the two sets.

Another factor in this which I forgot to mention is that many of the cruising nets are ham only; others are marine SSB only. Another reason to be able to transmit both.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:14   #9
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Richard Z,

The term HAM is simply a moniker for Amateur Radio. SSB is an abbreviation Single Side Band, which is a mode of communication, like AM, FM, and CW or Continuous Wave (how Morse code is sent).

As for your question of a person or vessel with SSB radio hearing you if you are a HAM, the short answer is yes! Provided they are monitoring the frequency you are operating on, and you are using SSB mode on your radio, it makes no difference if you are using a dedicated marine SSB radio or a HAM radio. The important part is that you know when to use the right frequency and mode of communication.

There are HAM radios available that will fill the role of both VHF and HF SSB in one unit.

The main differences between the two are procedural, depending on how and why you are using your radio to communicate.

It's a worthwhile educational investment to go for your Amateur Radio License. During the process you will learn about radio wave propagation, the applicable physical laws governing how your radio works electronically, and probably how to home build a lot of the equipment you will need. But you certainly don't have to. It's all up to you.

Hope that helps, I apologize if all I did was confuse you.

Tim
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:23   #10
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Actually, Dockhead makes a good point about HAM radios being used on frequencies allocated to other radio "services" (groups of users that operate on specific frequency bands for a specific purpose).

If you get into studying all this, you will learn what you are allowed to do, and when. Point is, you'll be doing yourself a HUGE favor by doing some investigation.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:38   #11
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Re: SSB vs HAM

Quote:
Originally Posted by nolandinsight View Post
As for your question of a person or vessel with SSB radio hearing you if you are a HAM, the short answer is yes! Provided they are monitoring the frequency you are operating on, and you are using SSB mode on your radio, it makes no difference if you are using a dedicated marine SSB radio or a HAM radio. The important part is that you know when to use the right frequency and mode of communication.
Hear, yes, but you will not be able to transmit on ham bands on an unmodified marine SSB set, and vice versa.



Quote:
Originally Posted by nolandinsight View Post
There are HAM radios available that will fill the role of both VHF and HF SSB in one unit.

The main differences between the two are procedural, depending on how and why you are using your radio to communicate.
It is illegal to use a ham radio for marine SSB or VHF communications. Whether or not you choose to obey that is up to you. But this rule (unlike the rule against using a ship's primary radio for ham use) does have a sound logical basis -- marine HF radios are subject to strict standards on spurious emissions and other parameters; ham radios are hardly subject to any rules at all.

So I for one bought a real marine SSB radio (an Icom M802) to use for marine SSB communications. Real marine SSB radios are available at nearly any price point.
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:46   #12
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For a full time cruiser, it is probably worthwhile to have both an amateur license for ham bands, and the marine licenses for the marine SSB frequencies, along with appropriate radio(s) for each.

That said, unless you need to conduct business for financial gain for yourself or others, almost everything a cruiser would need an HF radio for could be handled on ham bands with a ham radio. You would NOT have HF DSC capability, and you would not be able to transmit as a participant in any cruiser nets that occur on the marine SSB bands - but those are few and may not apply to your needs.

If your sole interest is voice and email communication, you will be fine with a marine SSB set alone opened for ham bands. If you want to go beyond that, a ham transceiver will add a great deal more flexibility. Some cruisers do everything with a ham transceiver opened up for marine bands too, but use of that ham radio to transmit on marine ssb frequencies is against regulations but often honored in the breach.

Chip
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:11   #13
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Re: SSB vs HAM

Thankns all

Thats what i was afraid of. Having to have both. I was thinling about getting a Ham license, but it looks like now its a must.

I will be visiting a local HAM club and ceck tjings out, and I guess the decision regarding equipement set up will have to be made later...

Richard
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Old 10-03-2013, 22:38   #14
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Re: SSB vs HAM

The equipment choice is pretty easy these days.

Icom M802. Its type accepted/approved for marine SSB and it can also be used on HAM frequency's if the user has a HAM license.

I would probably go with the SGC-230 tuner rather then the Icom tuner but I have no experience with the Icom having used my SGC for a number of years.

Regards

Marc Hall
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KC6OXP, Amateur Extra Class.
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Old 10-03-2013, 23:22   #15
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Re: SSB vs HAM

The easy answer is to get a good HAM/SSB capable radio. I have an ICOM710RT that has worked very well for 14 years. I have worked on a lot of HAM/SSB equipment on a lot of cruising boats. As others have said - most of the big name companies offer good basic and advanced radio rigs.

There is no difference in the installation of a HAM or SSB rig - just make sure you get a Marine rig if you are going to use it on a boat.

Spend the time to get a HAM license - there are many online FREE courses that make it very easy to get the necessary HAM license. I went from not being able to spell HAM to an EXTRA license in less than six weeks by using the ARRL online courses.

HAM advantages:

Much more e-mail capacity using the WinLink 2000 system.

Many HAM nets have free phone patches for non-business calls - we used to talk to our parents, via phone patch and their home phone, and other family members several times a week from all over the Sea of CorteZ and Western Mexico.

Lots of cool and very useful Maritime HAM nets

I have found absolutely no reason during the last 15 years of cruising to regret spending the time and few extra dollars to get my HAM licenses.

A caution -several folks who responded to your initial inquiry provided poor or inaccurate information about HAM issues. This is a typical problem with technical HAM information. Check the credentials of anyone giving you HAM advice.

KI9NG
Ham Extra operator since 1999
HAM and SSB NET operator on five different nets
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