Robert L. Sole; Brent L. Bedford

Abstract: The maritime mobile frequency band supports maritime communications worldwide. Appendix 18 of the ITU Radio Regulations (RR) defines the channels of the maritime mobile service. These channels support a variety of communication functions including: public correspondence, intership, ship-to-coast, coast- to-ship, port operations, calling and various safety purposes. Safety functions include distress, search and rescue, ship movement, navigation (bridge-to-bridge) communications, and maritime safety information broadcasts.

Mariners in the United States and other countries are experiencing interference on channels allocated to the above functions. The Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM) established Special Committee 117 to investigate the interference and determine if the International Electrotechnical (IEC) standard 1097-7 Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)-Part 7: Shipborne VHF Radiotelephone Transmitter and Receiver-Operational and Performance Requirements, Methods of Testing and Required Test Results would be sufficient to protect marine VHF radios from interference.

In support of this effort, NTIA, in coordination with the Coast Guard and RTCM SC-117, undertook a task to perform tests on commercial and recreational grade marine VHF radios to the IEC standard and perform radiated tests in areas where severe cases of interference are occurring. Laboratory testing of the radios to the IEC standard was performed in Boulder, Colorado. The radiated tests were performed in Savannah, Georgia on the Savannah River and on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mariners in both locations have been reporting cases of severe interference in the marine VHF band on the waterways for quite some time now. Some of the channels experiencing the interference are key channels used for safety and bridge-to-bridge communications. The interference is very disruptive to normal operations on the river and is distracting to the radio operators.

The performance of the radios was evaluated using the SINAD histograms and by listening to the radio during the tests. Radios that had histograms which showed a distribution of SINAD measurements to higher values for a greater percentage of time performed better than those radios that had low SINAD values for higher percentages of time. Some radios performed better in Savannah than New Orleans.

Keywords: front-end overload; marine radio testing; marine radio receiver standards; Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS); intermodulation interference

For technical information concerning this report, contact:

Robert L. Sole

To request a reprint of this report, contact:

Ed Drocella, Chief,
Spectrum Engineering and Analysis Division
Office of Spectrum Management
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
(202) 482-1652

Disclaimer: Certain commercial equipment, components, and software may be identified in this report to specify adequately the technical aspects of the reported results. In no case does such identification imply recommendation or endorsement by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, nor does it imply that the equipment or software identified is necessarily the best available for the particular application or uses.

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