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Icom IC-905 VK3FS Blog

The new IC-905 VHF to 10 GHz amateur radio

Last Updated on December 19, 2022

New ICOM IC-905 VHF/UHF/uW transceiver

ICOM announced the new IC-905 VHF/UHF/Microwave transceiver at the 2022 Tokyo Ham Fair. It takes the same form factor as the IC-705 which was also announced at the Tokyo Ham Fair in 2019 and shipped during August 2020 here in Australia.

The IC-905 is a multimode transceiver that covers the 144, 430, 1240, 2400 and 5600 MHz bands. It has an optional module CX-10G for the 10 GHz band. The radio also supports FM ATV.

Output power is 10 W on 144 / 430 / 1200 MHz, 2 W on 2400 / 5600 MHz and 0.5 W on 10 GHz

Not much more is known about the IC-905 as of 21/8/22 as there are no details apart from pre-release information on any Icom site although this will change in time.

The video below was published on the official Icom Inc Youtube channel on the weekend of the ham fair.

Icom IC-905

At first look, the IC-905 is a game changer. It highlights Icom’s dominance over the likes of Yaesu and Kenwood. It’s a bold move in a time when there’s lots of spectrum changes as well as technological challenges.

What we know so far

Icom IC-905 price tweet

This translated tweet by hamradio.jp at the December 18 exhibition of IC-905 SHF transceiver at Icom’s Narayama institute indicates a base price for the radio at 400,000 yen which is $4388 AUD as at 19/12. There may be GST applicable to this price too which may see a local price of about $4500.

The optional 10GHz unit for 150,000 yen equates to $1645 AUD. There’s speculation of a Japanese Spring time release, but these numbers are unofficial and will no doubt change closer to the Australian IC-905 release.

Doing the maths, a fully optioned IC-905 station is looking to be in the order of $6000 AUD. You’ll need to add antennas to this too if you don’t already have them. This price may not include GST which will take the price to $6,600 AUD.

Remember, it’s all unofficial until it isn’t.

Evolutionary and Revolutionary

First Impressions

At face value, nice. Icom has certainly lifted the bar with this new SHF radio.

I do like the LAN port to comment the radio into your local network. I suspect WiFi will still be a part of radio. If it’s enabled, that’s going to make a racket on one of the WiFi bands, 13 or 6cm. The LAN port will also hopefully make it a great radio for the VHF UHF contest as most contesting software will become band aware. AS Icom says on the pre-release information… All stated features, appearances, screenshots and specifications may be subject to change without notice.

The launch of the IC-905 does tend to raise more questions than answers. The two big ones are price and availability. If the IC-705‘s path to my shack is anything to go by, I’d say we won’t see this radio in Australia anytime soon. I’d say late 23 early 24 at best, and that’s assuming the shenanigans in the northern hemisphere does not descend into something worse than it is right now.

Industry experts are projecting that the global microchip shortage – which has been hampering supply chains in several industries – will not improve before 2023.

As for the price, well at this stage that’s anyone’s guess. Some bloggers and Youtubers will speculate as per usual, but the price VK amateurs will pay for the IC-905 will be determined by forces beyond Icom’s control. Let’s just say that quality microwave components aren’t cheap.

Is the IC-905 for everyone?

Not really. If you’re planning on only using what comes out of the N connector on the IC-905, then I’d be looking at the IC-9700. Not only will you get a purpose-built radio, you’ll also get much more TX power for what could be around the same price or maybe slightly cheaper. On the other hand, if you want to minimise cable runs for 2, 70 and 23 then this IC-905 is a great option. Who wouldn’t want to swap out 3 runs of RG-8 form factor coax for a LAN cable!

That leaves the inbuilt 2.4 GHz and 5.7 GHz bands. If you hold a standard license in Australia you can use both these bands so it may well be a good investment. Before you race out and buy an IC-905, think about the application for this radio. Take into consideration the terrain surrounding your QTH and who you’re going to talk to. This may be a no-brainer, but the reality is microwave doesn’t go through (or bend over) hills, nor does it go through buildings. Think of your signal as being like light from a torch. If you can see dirt in any particular direction, that’s a far as a microwave signal will go.

The 2.4 GHz and 5.7 GHz bands are WiFi bands

If you live in and around suburbia, the noise from wireless networks is a killer as any microwave operator would tell you. 2.4 GHz or 13cm in some suburbs is unusable due to extremely high levels of RF from wireless LANs. Having said that 2.4 GHz is a little more forgiving when it comes to  ‘getting into microwave’.

In Australia, there are no repeaters above 23cm. FM is very rarely, if at all used above 23cm, and you’ll be very disappointed with your expensive acquisition if you just put up a verticle antenna and call CQ. It’s just not what happens on the microwave bands in Australia.

The time when the microwave bands are most active is during the VHF UHF Field Days as well as the occasional MADs or Microwave Activity Days when stations go hill-topping to get on the air. Nearly all activity is SSB and horizontally polarised. It’s ironic that here in and around Melbourne, the 9cm 3398.1 MHz band has the most activity. This is the only band missing from the IC-905. As of the time of writing, there is more traffic on 3398.1 MHz than there is on 146.5 Mhz. I suspect the reason for this is NO WiFi noise.

This blog post is to encourage those who want to get into microwave to do so with eyes wide open. Microwave is a lot of fun. You’ll be using and making things you never would have had to, and the skills you’ll learn will strengthen all aspects of your construction ability for the hobby. You’ll get to love semi-rigid coax and SMA connectors. With the right tools, it’s easy, and Minikits will become your favourite shop if it isn’t already.

IC-905 features
IC-905 features

Antennas

As 2.4 and 5.7 GHz are WiFi allocations, there are plenty of antenna choices and availability is high. 2.4 GHz lends itself to grid packs and panels, where as 5.7 GHz likes panels and dishes. Grid packs are not really suitable for this band. Most panel-type antennas are rated to 6 to 8 watts so they’re ideal for the IC-905.

Easy adjustment of antenna elevation is important as some have very narrow beamwidths.

Stability

The IC-9700 has frequency stability issues. It has a 10 MHz netting feature which was/is less than satisfactory. Sure the radio worked well on 2m but 23cm required GPS locking, especially with digital modes. Here’s hoping Icom have learnt from this. The IC-905 is GPS locked but as there’s none in the wild, it’s too early to call. The GPS antenna connects to the RF module. I wonder if one’s included?

IC-905 RF Module

What’s to like about the IC-905?

Icom IC-905 at Japanese Ham Fair 2022

If you’re into microwave, then the IC-905 has some nice features.

The waterfall is essential for finding signals that are not on your frequency. The higher you go in frequency, the more challenging signals can be to find. The waterfall lets you easily see stations on the band when you’re swinging your antenna around. On 10 GHz it’s mandatory as the beam width of the high gain antennas adds to the challenge. Here, a few degrees makes all the difference between hearing a signal and not. I used to use a Yaesu FT-818 as an IF radio but now it seldom gets a go in favour of the IC-705 so the waterfall in the IC-905 is a big-ticket item.

Another win for the IC-905 is the remote RF module. As with microwave best practice, having the source of RF as close as possible to the antenna is a must as losses are great at higher frequencies.

The IC-705 form factor is also a bonus. Anyone familiar with any of the modern Icom radios will be able to drive this radio without too much drama.

IC-905 Application

Mounting the IC-905 RF Module

Portable or home station?

For my purpose, I see the IC-905 as more of a portable installation than a home station installation. Sure it would work well as both. I have a multiband microwave dish with all bands 23cm through to 3cm Mounting the RF module at the base of this antenna in the field would be ideal. At home, the setup would be a little less optimal as my path in some directions is not clear and it would be a pain in the ass to pull down the RF module to take portable. Also, I have different bands on different masts but everyone is different.

Would I buy an IC-905? At this stage (Dec 22) maybe not. The price could well be a little high in comparison to other options currently on the market. Add to the fact that 23cm’s future is a little unknown. If you price an investment in a band as price per QSO, currently this option is not very economical.

So what’s next?

This radio is a stunning example of design and engineering. If it lives up to the hype, it will become a sought-after wireless for anyone wishing to get into SHF. With the RF module separate from the control head, it could open up the possibilities for Icom to move away from the IC-705 form factor and move towards the IC-9700 style of radio as a base station.

But before you put down your hard earnt cash, put the hype aside and ask yourself would you really get value for money from a transceiver like the IC-905? Many will, but some won’t. It may be a big investment, not only in equipment but time as well. As microwave operators, we quite often joke about the cost per QSO when it comes to justifying gear. Watch the video below then go and find a local microwave operator and ask all the questions. There’s no such thing as a silly one.

On a positive note, you’ll have plenty of time to think about this purchase.