I had been contemplating the merits of buying a FM Transmitter for my iPod in the US and bringing it over to Germany in the past. I then remembered how much trouble my parents got into, when my Mom bought my brother and me a set of walky-talkies in Spain. Those cheap walky-talkies of course weren’t licensed for use in Germany and my Mom sure didn’t know about these things. Still “ignorance of the law is not an excuse”, thus the trouble, and there were many tears from a then six year old.
Trying to avoid the indignity of seeing a grown man cry, I decided to wait until FM Transmitters would become legal here. And finally they are! Press releases at the beginning and middle of March made it to known that FM Transmitters could now be legally obtained in Europe, though Europe seemed to have shrunk quite a bit.
Belkin announced the availability of its TuneCast II FM-Transmitter to buyers in Europe from May. Europe meaning Switzerland, Iceland and Germany (EUR 39.99).
Griffin made a similar announcement about its iTrip product, but limited availability to Switzerland. It is reported to be available from major retailers there already, however I was unable to verify with Griffin, whether their iTrip would be available outside of Switzerland officially, however it is sold by most of the major retailers, like www.arktis.de and www.gravis.de. So I guess it is safe to say it is all right…
Why the sudden change? As usual: a law, and this time its not to blame, but to thank. There is a new standard for “Band II Low Power Devices” issued by CEPT (European Conferences of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations) that finally made it possible for FM Transmitters to receive a CE certificate and thus be licensed in European countries.
The Belkin TuneCast II will be transmitting in a frequency range of 88.1 to 107.9 MHz, while the iTrip is reported to transmit at 87.9 – 107.9 MHz.
Now with a new CEPT rule, there is hope for the rest of Europe as well, mainly as these rules are very likely to be adopted by the rest of Europe, one nation at a time. It is not until then that you’ll be able to get your iTrip or TuneCast II or whatever in a car legally near you.
With the availability of a long awaited product come copycats, throwing unlicensed and thus illegal hardware on the market. Belkin forwarded me details of a particularly nasty case. A product being sold online called TuneCast II, the only visual differentiator being the lack of a Belkin logo. Now this is nasty and making it difficult for average Joe User to differentiate legal and conforming hardware from illegal.
Thus my advise to you – wait until you can buy it from a major retailer, or a very reputable online source and check the manufacturer website on where you can legally obtain your product. No matter whether it is Belkin, Griffin or someone else’s product.
I am hoping to obtain a FM Transmitter to test around here. Right now I hope that I will be lent one, but with the relatively low cost I might just go out and buy one. I am really curious how they’ll perform around here. There aren’t many empty frequencies in my area, so I am particularly interested to see how well such a device will perform in a densely populated area with loads of public and private radio stations. So stay tuned there should be a review following in the future… (hopefully)