Icom Forced Narrow Issue

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#1
This is a "FYI" since I haven't seen this subject mentioned yet.

I've found that programming any new Icom mobile/portable for wide band amateur use is impossible without doing a firmware downgrade, then using the appropriate software for that particular firmware revision. Example: I bought a F3161T with the intent to use it on 2 meters. This model was loaded with firmware revision 4.9 and used software 5.0. I began by building my icf file with several area amateur repeaters. I was careful to select the WB setting per channel and turn off the "Forced Narrow" setting in the "Common" field of the programming software. After cloning this information to the radio I then re-read the radio and noticed that it had defaulted back to the forced narrow setting in the common field. I found this odd because the WB settings per channel still remained in their original WB setting. Little did I know that the firmware had overridden the software's forced narrow setting. I then tried to tag a PO button in order for me to toggle between wide/narrow. That didn't work either. Each time I toggled the button it displayed NARROW. I then did some research into the firmware release notes for various models and identified where specific firmware revisions indicated "Forced Narrow Added". Moreover, I learned that all Icom firmware released after 2010 added forced narrow only. I suspect this caused some problems for public service agencies who bought new radios after 2010 but remained wide band until the end of 2012. To make a long story short, I downgraded my firmware to 4.1 and bought the 4.0 software for a perfect combination. My radio remains Part 90 compliant with the the ability to use 12.5 / 25 kHz per channel as outline in its specifications.
 
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#2
Oh, the fun of narrowbanding. The newer cloning software from other vendors require entering a password protected dealer mode and clicking past a warning message that they will take your next born male child if you program wide band on Part 90 frequencies. It also makes programming weather and interoperable marine VHF that much more fun. It is only going to get worse.

That said, they're designed and marketed primarily as narrow band Part 90 radios, with oversight by their lawyers.

At least they're leaving a programming option to operate in non-Part 90 situations. Thanks for sharing.
 

NZ0J

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#3
I know on the Vertex radios I've programmed, it would default to narrow also, but if I rolled the date on my programming computer back to sometime before 1-1-13, it would accept wideband frequencies.
 

W2GLD

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#4
All new radios shipped will be forced narrow compliant; however, if you contact ICOM Technical Support and advise of your ham radio status, they can unlock WFM for authorized users!
 
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#5
Well it appears you can work around the issue with Kenwood and Vertex through the software. That's great because any of the "bug fixes", etc. will still be maintained. I suspect that can't be done with Icom. Fortunately must of the bug fixes I read about apply mainly to advanced signaling operations which I'll never use. I still have a F3021T V3.2 that remains forced narrowband compliant. I did a quick NZ0J experiment and rolled back my computer to 2009 just to see the results. It was a NO-GO so I'll be mailing it back to the dealer in the near future. The dealer Tech. said he couldn't email me the firmware file for fear that a radio could be "bricked" while under warranty. I do understand. It's really no big deal for me, merely a pain in the rear......... It does make me wonder how many Hams are out there unknowingly operating in the narrow mode. You'd be screaming into the microphone and wondering why your audio sounds like R2D2.
 

W2GLD

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#6
Well it appears you can work around the issue with Kenwood and Vertex through the software. That's great because any of the "bug fixes", etc. will still be maintained. I suspect that can't be done with Icom. Fortunately must of the bug fixes I read about apply mainly to advanced signaling operations which I'll never use. I still have a F3021T V3.2 that remains forced narrowband compliant. I did a quick NZ0J experiment and rolled back my computer to 2009 just to see the results. It was a NO-GO so I'll be mailing it back to the dealer in the near future. The dealer Tech. said he couldn't email me the firmware file for fear that a radio could be "bricked" while under warranty. I do understand. It's really no big deal for me, merely a pain in the rear......... It does make me wonder how many Hams are out there unknowingly operating in the narrow mode. You'd be screaming into the microphone and wondering why your audio sounds like R2D2.
The same is true for ALL of ICOM's products as well... Again, all you need to do is contact the technical support team in Kirkland, WA and request the forced narrow option to be unlocked... Once unlocked, you can update the firmware to your hearts content and it will never again be forced narrow, just know that you cannot use the 20.0 kHz or 25.0 kHz channel bandwidth here in the U.S. with the exception of amateur and GMRS.
 
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#7
Okay, now I understand. The dealer technician I spoke with in California didn't go into detail about how they unlock the narrow function, nor did I ask. The only thing I wanted was an earlier firmware revision which I can do myself and avoid dealing with the post office. This is indeed great news Sir.

With regard to Part 90 narrow band rules, I inhibit the transmit function on any frequency that I'm not authorized to transmit on, including MURS with this particular radio as it's not type accepted for the service, I even take it a step further and password protect my equipment where possible.
 

W2GLD

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#8
Okay, now I understand. The dealer technician I spoke with in California didn't go into detail about how they unlock the narrow function, nor did I ask. The only thing I wanted was an earlier firmware revision which I can do myself and avoid dealing with the post office. This is indeed great news Sir.

With regard to Part 90 narrow band rules, I inhibit the transmit function on any frequency that I'm not authorized to transmit on, including MURS with this particular radio as it's not type accepted for the service, I even take it a step further and password protect my equipment where possible.
First off, you do not want older firmware; you should have version 5.2 or greater and DSP v3.2; anything less that that and you should update, especially the DSP. If you're are Railroad buff, then you want firmware version 4.6.2 and DSP version 3.2.

As far programming your existing radio with its current firmware, you'll be fine as they radio is capable of narrow banding already. For the MURS frequencies, just program them as low power and with the 7.5 kHz bandwidth option. The only thing forced narrow does is lock the radio into narrowband only mode, regardless of what you setup in the cloning software.

As far as getting the changes made to your radio, no need to send it in; just a copy of the cloning file is needed for the change back to wideband FM; once that change is made to the file, you're good to go.

Now, you brought up another point, if your radio was shipped to you prior to December's deadline, then it's already unlocked and future firmware upgrades will NOT take away your wideband abilities; this is different than the way Motorola does things...
 
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#9
Well I've decided to mail both radios back to Ca. My F3161T originally came with revision 5.0 which I purchased shortly after the deadline. As you noted, current firmware is revision 5.2 and here I'am using 4.1 for wide band access. I'll have that corrected too. My F3021T was purchased shortly thereafter and has revision 3.2. I believe the current firmware for it is 3.4. My objective is to have both radios wide band capable with current firmware. I live in a very rural area of Missouri where everything remains analog locally. I'm quite content with just having the proper 2 meter capability reestablished along with narrow receive for NOAA and our local PD/FD. I also steer clear of going into the Dealer Mode, Adjustment Mode, Etc. Too many bricked radio stories out there. I try to keep these complex radios as simple as possible. I still have a F14 and F121 which are peanuts compared to these new models. I found them quite complex to program a decade ago. Not anymore.
 
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#10
As far as getting the changes made to your radio, no need to send it in; just a copy of the cloning file is needed for the change back to wideband FM; once that change is made to the file, you're good to go.
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So do they change some magic bits in this file, and it bypasses the forced narrow function? (and then send you the file back?) What if you edit the file later, will it revert to the broken state? Just curious, because I'm in the market for a F2821 and I don't wanna go down that road if it means I'm going to end up with an unusable radio later on if I decide to make some channel/programming changes.

Thanks,

-Mike
 
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#11
So do they change some magic bits in this file, and it bypasses the forced narrow function? (and then send you the file back?) What if you edit the file later, will it revert to the broken state? Just curious, because I'm in the market for a F2821 and I don't wanna go down that road if it means I'm going to end up with an unusable radio later on if I decide to make some channel/programming changes.

Thanks,

-Mike
I received my F3021T back from the dealer shortly after my last post. It's now wide band capable with the current firmware intact. I've since added/deleted channels, changed key assignments, power levels, etc. with no problems whatsoever. I definitely recommend keeping a copy of the .icf file on a thumb drive just in case of an event you described. So far, no problems here.

Hope this helps.
 
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#12
I received my F3021T back from the dealer shortly after my last post. It's now wide band capable with the current firmware intact. I've since added/deleted channels, changed key assignments, power levels, etc. with no problems whatsoever. I definitely recommend keeping a copy of the .icf file on a thumb drive just in case of an event you described. So far, no problems here.

Hope this helps.
Definitely, that's the kind of thing I wanted to hear. So you sent them the radio and they performed some kind of mod to it?

An unrelated question... when you set power output, is this something that more or less gets baked into the channel programmed into the radio, or can you configure the unit to allow low power from the front panel (via a function key, etc). I apologize if this is a bit of a noobish question, but these rigs are somewhat of a black box to me, its hard to find documentation, etc, on exactly how the programming software works.

Thanks,

-Mike
 
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#13
Definitely, that's the kind of thing I wanted to hear. So you sent them the radio and they performed some kind of mod to it?

An unrelated question... when you set power output, is this something that more or less gets baked into the channel programmed into the radio, or can you configure the unit to allow low power from the front panel (via a function key, etc). I apologize if this is a bit of a noobish question, but these rigs are somewhat of a black box to me, its hard to find documentation, etc, on exactly how the programming software works.

Thanks,

-Mike
Yes, I sent it to an authorized Icom dealer where I purchased it, free of labor charge, minus postage.

With regard to programming, the parameters of everything you asked is software defined. Another words, you can assign a high/low function to any PO button of your choice. The help file within the software is very informative, addresses each programming parameter, and is your source documentation for programming. These are very flexible radios once you have all channels and the parameters set for your specific needs. While programming, I also recommend that you enable the "Transmit Inhibit" function per each frequency/channel you enter in which you are not licensed to use. In my case it's everything except 2 meter amateur.
 

wa1nic

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#14
in the past 48 hours I contacted both the "antenna farm" and also ICOM regarding WFM on the newer F3021 and F5021.

The response from Antennafarm ... "I'm sorry, not aware of any trick....but if you find out please let me know"


The response from ICOM ... "Any new Landmobile radio including the F3020 and F5020 series will not do Wide band anymore. We are not aware of any mods that will allow this.

Thank you,
Harry Dhawan
Land Mobile Technical Support Representative
ICOM America, Inc.
12421 Willows Road NE
Kirkland, WA 98034"

So, it sounds like they wont do WFM any more.

Rick

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#15
in the past 48 hours I contacted both the "antenna farm" and also ICOM regarding WFM on the newer F3021 and F5021.

The response from Antennafarm ... "I'm sorry, not aware of any trick....but if you find out please let me know"


The response from ICOM ... "Any new Landmobile radio including the F3020 and F5020 series will not do Wide band anymore. We are not aware of any mods that will allow this.

Thank you,
Harry Dhawan
Land Mobile Technical Support Representative
ICOM America, Inc.
12421 Willows Road NE
Kirkland, WA 98034"

So, it sounds like they wont do WFM any more.

Rick

WA1NIC
It sounds like according to reply #2 that you can disarm it by going into dealer mode on the radio. Have you tried that?
 

wa1nic

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#16
I havnt tried anything because I don't have one of the new versions. I have several of the older ones and was about to buy one of each of the new ones. I need them for a commercial channel but I also like to be able to use them on ham bands so I dont need to carry two different radios.

I don't see anything in #2 that implies that you can get there via dealer mode. The guy who owns "the antenna farm" I believe is a ham, and I would think if there was a way that he would know it.
 
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#17
I havnt tried anything because I don't have one of the new versions. I have several of the older ones and was about to buy one of each of the new ones. I need them for a commercial channel but I also like to be able to use them on ham bands so I dont need to carry two different radios.

I don't see anything in #2 that implies that you can get there via dealer mode. The guy who owns "the antenna farm" I believe is a ham, and I would think if there was a way that he would know it.
I haven't seen Jeatock around here lately but he knows his stuff. Anyone can get into the dealer mode by holding down certain buttons while powering on the radio and entering the password. There is a default password that will probably do the trick. It's worth a try.
 

wa1nic

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#18
The dealer mode password can be set in software, which I already have.

However, it wont let you add anything that you cant add with the programming software.

I don't believe that W/NFM is even in the option list for dealer mode via the front panel. I think it on my older radios (which have WFM capability) , it will retain the bandwidth mode that you were in when you start adding a new channel via front panel.

If anyone knows something for certain that ICOM isnt mentioning, I would love to hear it. The guy at "The Antenna Farm" prolly would love to know as well.
 
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#19
Dealer mode, RESERVE Maker mode, etc. will get you no where. Been there, tried that. I suspect it's either a ICF file or firmware tweak performed at the dealer level. I sent my F3021 back to Surplus Radio where I purchased it. They did it for free. Action Communications was willing to do it for $35.00 which it reasonable since I didn't buy it through them. The portable and mobile versions of this radio are indeed wide/narrow capable. The emission specifications clearly indicate this.

Beware that the newly released F1000/2000 series portables are NOT wide band capable. This is also indicated in the emission specifications.
 
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