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Digital, Waterproof, GPS - ICOM's Newest Two-Way Radio Makes a Triple Play

ICOM's latest addition to their Land Mobile product line-up, the F3261D series offers several features users have been asking for and promises to be a hot product in the professional-grade two-way radio market.

F3261 in the water
F3261 in the water
Nov. 13, 2012 - PRLog -- On September 7th, 2012 ICOM announced the latest addition to their Land Mobile product line-up, the F3261D series. This new radio offers several features users have been asking for and promises to be a hot product in the professional-grade two-way radio market. Now that we've had a little time to study it we wanted to share what we have learned. Here is a run-down of what we have found.

ICOM has kept the same naming convention for this new 2-way radio as they have used in the past, giving VHF models 3000 names and UHF models 4000 names. The VHF version for their new radio is F3261D, and the UHF version is F4261D. Both radios are the same except for the frequency range. In ICOM's documentation, and in this review, both radios are simply referred to as the “F3261D series”.

Based on a Proven Design
The F3261D series is a professional-grade two-way radio based off ICOM's F3161 series design. As with it's predecessor, the new F3261D series has 512 channels, 128 zones, a full 5 watts of power for both VHF and UHF versions, built-in LTR™ trunking when in analog mode (at no additional cost), a host of signaling functions (2-tone, 5-tone, MDC 1200, and DTMF), and numerous scan capabilities. However, ICOM has added some key enhancements to the new F3261D two-way radio.

Ruggedness & Waterproofing
The F3261D series radio is rated IP67. This rating means it has been tested to withstand temporary immersion in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes, and is “dust tight”. In addition, this radio has been tested to Military Standard 810 (MIL-STD-810) C thru G specifications. Most twoway professional grade radios are tested to pass MIL-STD-810 C thru E and sometimes F. Fewer radios meet the G standard. The G standard is focused on testing to the specific conditions a product (in this case a radio) is likely to encounter during its usage in particular applications. Products meeting the MIL-STD 810-G standard have passed a set of tests more likely to predict the products' actual long-term performance in real-life situations. In short, the F3261D is designed and tested to withstand some of the harshest conditions over the course of it's life.

Built-in GPS
With digital technology comes the ability to provide a host of other functions. Built-in GPS has become a sough after feature in the consumer radio world, now business-grade radios are joining the club. The F3261D series has a model with built-in GPS. The radio's GPS can report your current position to other radios or to dispatch stations. This position reporting can be either at regular intervals, or at pre-programmed time intervals. The Lone Worker and Man Down functions both activate emergency signals if the transceiver is not used or left in a horizontal position for a set duration. Both of these emergency signals can be sent along with GPS position data, as well as short status messages and other data. This type of integration of voice and data is what digital is all about.

Enhanced Audio
For this new radio ICOM has added extra loud audio (800mW). Along with the more powerful audio, the F3261D series also has the new AMBE+2™ vocoder. This vocoder strips out background noise frequencies, making the receiving audio much clearer than a typical radio when used in noisy areas. This makes it a excellent choice for work areas with loud background noise.

Digital & Narrow-Band
ICOM has seen the future and it is digital. Of course the F3261D series can communicate with the analog world, but there is no “analog only” version of this radio. It is a dual band radio, offering either the F3261D digital-VHF version, or the F4261D digital-UHF version. Each channel can be designated as either digital, analog, or mixed-mode operation (both analog and digital). When receiving audio communication, the radio will sense the receiving signal's mode (digital or analog) and automatically communicate in that mode.

The F3261D series not only meets the new 12.5 kHz narrowband standard set by the FCC, it supports 6.25 kHz communications as well. Since the FCC has made it clear they will eventually mandate 6.25kHz narrowbanding, this radio will allow users more flexibility in their migration path to digital, and extend the radio's service life for years to come.

We suspect this is just the beginning of a industry trend. As more manufacturers introduce new digital radios, they may not provide an “analog only version”, and will also incorporate 6.25kHz channel spacing as an option, particularly in higher-end radios.

Trunking Capable
As we stated earlier, the F3261D series is LTR™ ready right out of the box. LTR™ operation is designed to work in analog mode only. Channels can be designated as either LTR™ trunking or conventional (non-trunked). All basic LTR™ functions are available on the radio such as Group, Selective (DTMF call), and direct phone calls. Conventional operation and Talk-Around are both available while you are operating in LTR™ mode by simply pushing a button. The radio has an ATB Ring Back (All Trunk Busy) function that will search for a clear repeater. If all repeaters are busy the ATB function will continue to search until one is available, then it will ring back and transmit once a clear repeater channel is found.

The F3261D series fully supports ICOM's IDAS™ digital conventional and trunking system. IDAS™ is ICOM’s digital land mobile communication system using the NXDN™ common air interface. IDAS™ incorporates both analog and digital communications into an architecture that can include conventional, type-D single-site trunking, or multi-site trunking, to manage communications across a network.

Currently there is no support for Passport™ trunking on the F3261D. However, since the basic design of the radio is the same as the F3161 which does support Passport™, we can speculate that if market demand is great enough ICOM may announce support for Passport™ trunking on this radio at a later date.

Other Extras
The F3261D series has a built-in voice scrambler and surveillance function. The Man Down function is included on the GPS models. It comes with a waterproof 2300mAh battery pack, providing 10.5 hours operation (GPS model), or 12 hours of operation (non-GPS model) under normal usage. The new radio has the same 14-pin connector in use on ICOM's P25 series radios, which purports to enhance the audio output quality when using accessories. The F3261D series comes with a large display (24 character), and your choice of either a simple keypad or full DTMF keypad. In addition, the radio has a 3 year warranty.

We believe the F3261D's robust design make it a good choice for those looking for a digital radio. In particular, it will perform well for those working in noisy locations, needing a waterproof rugged radio, or those looking for integrated GPS capabilities. It addresses the needs of a wide variety of applications such as transportation, utility workers, ambulance services, or police and fire departments not requiring P25 technology. Given all the built-in function of this radio, it could be a less expensive alternative to other radios which require aftermarket add-ons to have all the same functions. Visit http://www.quality2wayradios.com to learn more about the F3261D radio.

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