As usual, amateur radio gear was conspicuously absent from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) again this year. Icom and Yaesu had no presence and, although Kenwood showed up, their focus was mainly almost exclusively focused on automotive stereo systems. There were a couple of vendors/distributors exhibiting their line cards that included off-the-shelf antennas that you can probably find easier and cheaper on Amazon. I didn’t even see the aftermarket Baofeng battery makers I found last year.
Cobra was on hand with some VHF radios of the marine variety (like the 25-watt, NOAA enabled MR F45 – available now, and the new MR F57 and MR F77 – which will be available this month. They also showcased their rugged hand-held two-way radios like the CXT 545 and their latest in this category: the CXT 645, which claims a 35-mile range on top of the usual features of this type of radio. Another near-miss on ham radio gear was their 11-meter equipment – A/K/A CB radios. In this line, they were showing their new 29 LX BT radio, which allows operators to pair their smart phone to their CB radio, allowing users to make and receive phone calls through the radio without touching their phone. The 29 LX BT featurse one-touch Bluetooth operation, Caller ID with on-radio display and voice announcement of incoming callers, and text-to-speech that enables listening to incoming email messages and responding by voice transcription.
Midland was also present with their usual offerings of FRS/GMRS radios. They also had their line of NOAA weather radio receivers. Although everyone should have an NOAA receiver in their home (especially hams and even more especially so hams involved with SKYWARN), I have weather radios coming out of my ears, so I didn’t linger too long here.
One interesting thing that did catch my attention was a new line of USB-based TV tuners aimed at smart phones and tablets from MyGica. As exciting as the prospect of live TV on my phone with the ATSC tuner is, my mind immediately went to a cleaner solution for mobile SDR listening with the DVB-T tuners.
The non-native-English-speaking booth staff looked at me like I had just sprouted a second head when I asked what kind of chip it had in it or if it would be compatible with SDR software and, unfortunately, this product line hasn’t been brought to the market just yet to get one to try out. MyGica, however, does have a few other pretty nifty products that are already available like their Android-based streaming boxes that “turn any TV into a smart TV, including (in decreasing order of price), the ATV 582, ATV 1200 and ATV 520e as well as a USB TV tuner to get HDTV over-the-air on your desktop or laptop (hello, DIY DVR). Maybe this is the first step into convincing the I-don’t-need-a-radio-because-I-have-a-cell-phone people that their phone is a radio.
While the show was pretty much a bust on scoping out new ham gear, I did also get the chance to sit in on the One-on-One with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler session. While they spent the bulk of the session discussing net neutrality – which pols are already making noise about, they did get around to discussing the upcoming spectrum auction. During this latter portion, Chairman Wheeler’s wireless roots showed through, calling broadcasters – like our low-power pals over at the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance – “disappointing” and indicated that their auction-delaying lawsuit was without merit. Wheeler indicated that the incentive auction will be happening and it will be happening in 2016. He went on to say that the future of the spectrum was in spectrum sharing.
Below is the CEA video of the talk: