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Class A AIS Transponders and Class B AIS Transponders

AIS Transponders

An Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder, also known as a transceiver, is a location and vessel information reporting system that makes use of Very High Frequency (VHF) digital transmissions. It is installed on boats and vessels to regularly share their location, position, course, and speed with other similarly equipped vessels.

In addition, the AIS system also employs Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) receivers, a channel access method that divides time into slots to prevent interference and ensures efficient communication. Moreover, the data can also be used to avoid collisions and track other vessels, supported by standardised AIS communication protocols for message structures, error checking, and collision avoidance.

Looking for transponders? At Tecomart, we provide many different types of Class A and Class B AIS transponders from a range of brands, including em-trak, Samyung ENC, and ICOM.

Components of AIS Transponders

An AIS transponder integrates multiple components to provide updated and accurate information about the location of a vessel. A VHF transmitter broadcasts the position and course data of the vessel, while two VHF TDMA receivers gather this data from other vessels. A VHF DSC receiver is also included in the system, allowing it to receive distress signals and other safety-related messages. In addition, the system utilises a standard marine electronic communications link to connect with shipboard display and sensor systems. Timing information for an AIS transponder is typically derived from an external Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver.

Choosing An Appropriate AIS Transponder

When choosing an appropriate AIS transponder for your vessel, it is important to consider the features that will best meet your specific needs.

Types of AIS Transponders

AIS transponders are an invaluable tool for both professional and recreational shipping. Their applications can vary greatly, so it is important to select the right type of AIS transponder when choosing one. Professional vessels typically require high-precision tracking data, while recreational vessels may only require basic navigational information. There are mainly two types of AIS transponders available to fit the needs of each type of vessel.

Class A AIS transponders transmit at a higher VHF signal power and more frequently, allowing them to be received by more distant vessels. They are usually installed on large vessels, such as cargo ships and large passenger vessels, due to regulatory requirements.

Meanwhile, Class B AIS transponders transmit at a lower power and at a lower reporting rate than Class A transponders. They are also typically lower in cost.

Our catalogue of transceivers contains different models of Class A & Class B AIS transponders, including:

  • A200 Class A AIS Transceiver IMO SOLAS: The A200 Class A AIS Transceiver IMO SOLAS is designed to be incredibly robust, with advanced components and materials built to withstand the toughest conditions. Its waterproof technology keeps it protected from corrosion, damage and water ingress, even in the harshest of marine environments. It also has a shock-absorbing body that safeguards against vibration and temperature fluctuations.
  • Em-Trak B921: The Em-Trak B921 is a certified Class B AIS Transponder with a 2W CSTDMA power output. It is globally certified by USCG, FCC, Canada, and Europe. The transponder is equipped with an SRT-AIS™ transceiver engine for superior performance and a FLEXI-FIT™ bracket system for easy, secure, and convenient installation. The transponder also comes with an integrated high-performance GPS receiver and antenna (with an option for an external antenna). The device is waterproof, pressure-spray proof, and damp-proof (IPx6 & IPx7), and is ruggedized to protect against vibration, shock, and extreme temperatures.
  • ICOM MA-510TR: The ICOM MA-510TR Class B AIS Transponder offers several benefits for boat owners and navigators. Its 4.3-inch colour TFT LCD screen provides clear visibility and the simplified navigation makes sailing easy, while the navigation to MOB waypoint ensures safe return of people overboard. Additionally, the individual DSC call, USB connectivity, and supplied GPS antenna make it easy to communicate and receive real-time information. The transponder also offers NMEA 2000, NMEA 0183/-HS connectivity and a collision alarm function to improve safety.


It is recommended to get AIS transponders that include at least a GPS antenna to help provide location and navigation capabilities. Some AIS transponders, such as the EM-Trak B923 CLASS B AIS with Splitter also include an antenna splitter, allowing it to share an antenna with the VHF radio.

Compatibility with other equipment

Certain AIS transponders have special features that only work with other equipment from the same brand. For example, tracking features allow ships to save AIS targets of interest with a special icon and name.

Shop AIS Transponders at Tecomart Today

As a leading provider of wholesale marine communication equipment and marine navigation equipment, Tecomart has a longstanding reputation in the field of radio communication. With years of experience and specialisation in providing solutions for both professional and recreational maritime applications, we are the place to shop for Class A and Class B AIS transponders at wholesale prices. Our wide selection of products from leading brands ensures that you are getting the highest quality components and technology available. Furthermore, our commitment to excellence and our unwavering focus on customer satisfaction underscores our expertise and trustworthiness.

Besides our range of world-class AIS transponders, we also carry a wide range of other equipment, such as antenna rotator systems and Handheld Analog / Digital Mobile Radios. Feel free to contact us for more information or request a quote to get started.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Class A & Class B AIS Transponders

A Class B AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponder is a maritime navigation device that transmits vessel information such as position, course, and speed to other ships and coastal AIS receivers. Class B is a smaller, simpler, and less expensive version of Class A AIS transponder designed for recreational boats and smaller commercial vessels.
An AIS transponder operates by acquiring a vessel’s location and movements, either through its GPS or an integrated sensor within the AIS unit. This data, combined with configurable information from the AIS unit such as ship name, destination, and type of cargo, is broadcast repeatedly while also receiving AIS information from other ships. The AIS unit may have its own specific antenna, or the same antenna utilised by the VHF radio for transmission can be split for use.
Class A AIS transponders transmit at higher power and more frequently, making them suitable for larger commercial vessels with demanding navigation needs. Class B transponders are designed for recreational boats and smaller commercial vessels, transmitting at lower power and frequency. The differences in transmission power and frequency cater to the specific needs and regulatory requirements of different types of vessels.
AIS transponders require regular maintenance including checking connections, software updates, and occasional servicing by a qualified technician. Cleaning the transponder and ensuring that connections are secure helps maintain optimal performance. Ultimately, following the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance helps prolong the life of the device and ensures that it functions accurately and efficiently.
The lifespan of an AIS transponder varies but often could go for several years, depending on usage, maintenance, and environmental conditions. Proper care, including following manufacturer maintenance guidelines and protecting the device from extreme conditions, can extend the lifespan. Quality of construction and materials also play a role in determining how long the transponder will effectively function.
Installing and programming an AIS transponder requires careful adherence to the manufacturer’s instructions. Professional installation is often recommended to ensure optimal performance and compliance with regulations. The programming typically includes setting vessel details, and connections must be properly made to other navigation equipment. Ultimately, correct installation and programming are vital for accurate and reliable performance.
Yes, both Class A and Class B transponders can operate together, providing seamless communication between vessels of different sizes and functions. This compatibility is integral to a coherent maritime communication network, allowing various types of vessels to communicate and share information. Also, it ensures safety and facilitates coordination among all vessels on the water.
Class A AIS transponders typically operate at power outputs ranging from 10 to 15W, with a frequency range near 162 MHz and data transmission rates often around several kbps, complying with international standards like IMO SOLAS. In contrast, Class B transponders usually have power outputs in the range of 1 to 5W and reduced data transmission rates, often adhering to regional regulations. These specifications help professionals gauge the transponders' performance and capabilities.
In the realm of maritime navigation, interoperability and compatibility hold significant importance. Interoperability ensures that AIS transponders can communicate effortlessly with various marine communication and navigation equipment, regardless of the manufacturer. Meanwhile, compatibility takes this a step further, offering enhanced features when used with devices from the same brand. For instance, certain transponders might provide specialised tracking features or display functions that work seamlessly with other products from the same line.

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