Should I use a dedicated VHF antenna or a VHF splitter?

If the AIS transponder doesn’t have a built-in VHF splitter (i.e. AIT5000), there are 2 options: either install a dedicated VHF antenna for AIS or install an antenna splitter so that the main VHF antenna is used for both VHF radio and AIS.

For those who want to use their existing VHF antenna, then we recommend the use of a certified zero loss VHF antenna splitter such as our SPL1500 and SPL2000. Please do not use a non-zero loss certified VHF antenna splitter. They are inexpensive, but they can destroy your AIS transponder.

For those who want to install a VHF antenna dedicated to AIS, then we recommend a VHF antenna tuned to AIS frequencies. The AIS transmission and reception works on 2 dedicated channels which use the frequencies 161.975 and 162.025 MHz (channel 87B and 88B). VHF frequencies in the maritime environment use frequencies from 156.0 to 162.025 MHz and most VHF antennas are designed to provide maximum gain on channel 16 (156.8 MHz). You can now find antennas on the market dedicated to AIS frequencies such as the HA156 antenna.

These antennas, dedicated to AIS frequencies, offer maximum gain at 162 MHz (which is the centre between the 2 AIS frequencies 161.975 and 162.025 MHz). So if you install a VHF antenna instead of a VHF antenna splitter for your AIS receiver or transponder, then choose an AIS frequency VHF antenna to compensate for the loss due to the installation of the antenna lower down than the main VHF antenna at the top of the mast. The graph below shows how a dedicated AIS frequency antenna (162 MHz) provides a better VSWR and therefore a better transmission and reception.