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W0CHP Ham Radio & Tech Musings

Price-Bitching Hams

With the advent of DMR/YSF/D-Star/etc. networks being online and the resulting wonderful hotspots, there has been an onslaught of turnkey, ready-to-use hotspots hitting the market over the past few years. One of the new hot new players in hotspots, is the BridgeCom SkyBridge. The price? Just shy of $300.

That is quite a bit of coin, yes. And the hams out there complaining about the price is absolutely overwhelming.

My answer to them: go to AliFuckBah/AliShitPress, or whatever importer you like, and get one of those shitty ChinaSpots or a ripoff “Engrish” MMDVM_HS board and enjoy the CXO shifting all over the place, and the MMDVM modem chip locking up on you. You get what you pay for.

The point is, the hams complaining about the ~$300 SkyBridge price tag find it outrageous, and are profusely vocal about it. I don’t own a SkyBridge hotspot, however, I find the SkyBridge hotspot and its ~$300 price tag to be a good value. More on that later.

The other thing hams complain about with regard to the SkyBridge hotspot, and other turnkey hotspots out there, is the very fact that it’s turnkey. The purists just love knocking on the turnkey hotspots and the hams that purchase them, instead of hams “building” them. This turnkey notion goes against the ham radio purists' grain of home-brew, DIY, experimentation, etc.

What these purists don’t quite grasp, is that a hotspot is typically “assembled”, vs. “built”. I know very few hams who have actually used a bare board, SMT’ing the required components onto them, programmed the STM32 and ADF7021 chips themselves (let alone, actually write the software for them1), “built” their own SBC (ala Raspberry Pi), etc. etc. Most “builders” (read: assemblers) will buy the MMDVM board already built, and slap it on a host SBC like a Pi.

My point is, assembly != building, and purists need to stop bitching. Because they didn’t “build” their damn AnyTone 878, Icom IC-7300, etc., and if they have a hotspot that they claim they have “built”, 99% of these claims more accurately mean that they were “assembled”. Most hams I know, leverage ready-to-use radios, etc. anyway.

Running a Business and Communicating Value is Hard

I retired from a successful 25+ year corporate career in the discipline(s) of Information Technology. It was a good run, but as a rabid and serial entrepreneur with various side-enterprises over the years, I made the decision to escape from the corporate life in 2019, and I built a wildly-successful small business, embodying one of my (many) life-long passions (completely unrelated to IT, technology, etc.).

Not only does one need to be a master expert in the product/service they offer, they must learn and master business principles in running a business in order to be successful:

  • Finding a target market/niche
  • Creating the need in the market, if one doesn’t exist.
  • If the need in that market already exists, differentiating themselves by;
    • Effectively conveying the value in what they offer
    • Being more innovative and attractive to the target market than the competition
  • And much more, most of which “price-bitching hams” would never understand.

The sellers of turnkey hotspots know, and already do all of these things. And regardless of the price-bitching hams, these sellers are doing it well. Some of the value they (and my own business) are providing is not only a product or service, but their expertise as well. Expertise is not “free” nor “cheap”. This expertise is commonly and unfortunately dismissed by ignorant consumers (I’m looking in the price-bitching hams' directions). Business owners want consumers who appreciate the expertise that goes along with a product or service; we don’t want the consumer who doesn’t. Down the line, that will be the nightmare consumer who is never satisfied. Guaranteed. Same goes for a consumer who doesn’t care to understand value…RUN!

Price vs. Value

But let’s talk about that word value… Consumers commonly group price and value together, as if they share the same definition. However, if they paid close attention in their economics class, they would understand that price and value are distinctly different. For the economics Luddite (and most consumers), let’s breakdown price vs. value from our friends over at Forbes:

The most important distinction between price and value is the fact that price is arbitrary and value is fundamental. For example, consider a person selling gold bars for $5 a piece. The price of those gold bars is, in this instance, $5. It’s an arbitrary amount chosen by the seller for reasons known only to them. Yet, in spite of the fact that those gold bars are priced at $5, their value is so much more. (Source)

Hams who complain about a turnkey hotspot price, are not considering the value; the usefulness of the product (or service) to a customer. Perhaps the value to that specific ham bitching about the price, is lower than another ham’s perceived value. And that’s perfectly OK. However, the price-bitching hams tend to generalize, by stating it’s a flat-out ripoff to everyone. Not so. There is ALWAYS a high value of something, by someone.

I know this first-hand, because in my successful business, we have mechanisms that we’ve developed, to immediately disqualify the consumers who don’t want to understand the value in what we provide to them. This allows us to focus on and target the motivated, savvy, and value-oriented client. And it’s a formula that has worked wonders for my business. Their is a market for my business, and where there isn’t, we create it. And folks get excited and happy to work with us because we have become experts at conveying the value to them. Meanwhile, the “price-shoppers” are disqualified and we spend little-to-no time with them. At the same token, there are some “in-between” consumers who don’t understand value, and are willing to have us convey our value to them. These are also motivated consumers – they want to learn about value. But hams making blanket “rip-off” statements and dismissing the value of a turnkey hotspot altogether, are precisely the people my business is very successful at disqualifying and filtering out. My wife and I frequently use a quote when filtering out the price shoppers who don’t care to understand value, because there is ALWAYS someone right behind them who do:

Some Will, Some Won’t, So What, Next! ~ Neville (“Nev”) Wilshire

I hope that BridgeCom thinks of that quote too, when they see the “Price-Bitching Hams” doing their thing.

All of this also applies to small businesses selling turnkey hotspots, like BridgeCom. They could give a rat’s ass if a subset of hams think their turnkey hotspots are “overpriced”. BridgeCom, another very successful small business like mine, knows the value of their hotspots, and they know there are plenty of hams out there, who find high value in their products and are willing to pay for them. In fact, BridgeCom can hardly keep their hotspots in stock, so there certainly IS a market for them, and BridgeCom is hopefully laughing on their way to the bank. Bravo, BridgeCom.

Considering Use-Cases and Resources to Drive Value

These price-bitching hams also don’t care to consider the resources it takes businesses like BridgeCom to create, provide expertise, procure and support, market and sell these turnkey hotspots. They don’t care to appreciate that BridgeCom is a nice little mom-and-pop shop, and we hams should be so fortunate to still have places like BridgeCom around. That’s their problem and they need to stop attempting to make it everyone else’s; they all look like ignorant fools tying to propagate their ignorance.

Now let’s talk about use cases, where hams may find high value in a SkyBridge hotspot, even at the ~$300 price point:

  • Blind / Disabled hams. Ham radio is a hobby that is very popular with blind and disabled hams. A turnkey hotspot is a wonderful way to get a disabled person on the air quickly, and to help them to enjoy the hobby frustration-free.
  • Hams who need solid, and friendly support for their hotspot (try to find good community support for a hotspot, without some asshole like me in the group. Good luck!).
  • Hams who just want to get on the air quickly and start QSO’ing. Some hams simply don’t want to “build”/assemble things, and that is perfectly OK! Get off your high horses, and accept that not everyone needs to be a home-brewer to drink and enjoy beer.
  • Hams who are still learning, and need a “jump-start” or a starting point to begin their foray into the wonderful hobby.
  • Hams who use turnkey equipment as an example platform to get ideas for their own future projects.
  • Hams who love supporting small, domestic businesses.

This is a very small list of use cases, where a ham could find high value in a ~$300 hotspot.

It sure would be nice if hams out there considered both the value, and the use cases of “expensive” turnkey hotspots; and realize that there is indeed a strong market for them. The fact that my business is is absolutely thriving, as well as BridgeCom’s products flying off the shelves proves that there’s always a use case, a market, and a good value to someone. Especially in the challenging business and economic climate of 2020.

Still Don’t Care to Understand the Value? No Problem! Just Fuck Right Off, Then.

Just because it’s “too expensive” for you, doesn’t mean it has little value to others. So shut up, any enjoy your unreliable little $50 hotspot with its uncalibratable/uncorrectable(sp?) 5+% Bit Error Rates, making you unintelligible to other hams. Bottom line: some value-oriented hams don’t care about your flawed perception of value. We can’t hear you on the air with your junk anyway.

I can’t say I didn’t try to educate you on value.


  1. Jonathan Naylor, G4KLX, is ia rare exception. Not only being one of the friendliest and fun hams I know, he’s one of the smartest; and he’s endlessly contributed to our wonderful hobby by writing the MMDVVM (and hosts of other) code which powers almost all hotspots out there. He’s a living legend. Add Andy, CA6JAU, to this rare exception list, too. He’s the man responsible for the very popular MMDVM_HS firmware code. ↩︎