All MMSI Were The Borogoves…

by Tim on April 22, 2008

(With apologies to Lewis Carroll.)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All MMSI were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

I’ve written lots (here and here, particularly) about MMSI—the Marine Mobile Service Identity numbers programmed into our DSC radios and AIS transceivers.

I’m also waiting eagerly for news about FCC approval for Class B AIS in the United States.

But right this minute, I’ve got a new VHF radio to install aboard Two Lucky Fish; it’s a Raymarine Ray49 with two-way NMEA messaging, which should allow incoming DSC calls (such as distress calls) to appear directly on my chartplotter. Recall my disappointment when I confirmed that my Ray54 could not send position data to my chartplotter.

So I’m going to hook it up, and I’m going to program it with my BoatUS-provided MMSI number.

Or am I?

This Ray49 radio, like my Ray54, only allows you to program a MMSI number once. Then you’ve got to return it to Raymarine to reset it.

My concern: what if the FCC approves Class B AIS, but insists they be programmed with FCC-issued MMSI numbers that adhere to ITU guidelines? Will I need to abandon my BoatUS MMSI and get a new one from the FCC?

It ain’t the paperwork that bugs me. It’s the dang one-time-only MMSI programming on my Raymarine VHF radios!

So I admit it: I’m once again confused about MMSI numbers, with just enough information to make me a danger to myself and others. Maybe there’s no problem. Maybe I’ve misunderstood. Maybe I should just relax.

But heck, maybe THIS is the issue keeping the FCC from approving Class B AIS devices! Maybe they’re flummoxed by the prospect of conducting a wholesale data-integrity sweep of the existing MMSI databases for US vessels, but they’re simultaneously unwilling to allow AIS receivers to use (possibly noncompliant?) BoatUS MMSI numbers. That could be a really tough spot for the FCC.

Call it the Jabberwocky Problem.

It’s all just speculation, though. I don’t KNOW any of this. Anyone?

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