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Digital Mobile Radio – Interoperability Arrives

digital mobile radio

I think I may jump into the world of digital mobile radio and hotspots. Thanks to George KJ6VU for whetting my appetite.

Recently, George Zafiropoulos KJ6VU made a wonderful presentation on Cycle25 about Digital Mobile Radio, or DMR. Now, George is a masterful presenter and communicator at the best of times, but the DMR show was something special. To save suspense, you can watch it right now.

For the first time, I am actually excited about moving to digital on the VHF/UHF bands.

Twenty years ago, ham radio started replacing FM with Digital modes for mobile and handheld communications. Unfortunately, competition resulted in non-compatible systems with no common standard. So, we ended up with D-STAR from ICOM and Kenwood, Fusion C4FM from Yaesu, DMR from Europe for commercial users, and P25 for public service.

Depending on where you live, your local radio club probably selected one of D-STAR or Fusion for its first digital repeater, depending on manufacturer’s incentives. For many years, lack of interoperability between digital modes (some proprietary, some at least partially open) has held back our broad adoption of digital voice communications.

Good news. We now have interoperability big time, thanks to do massive availability of cheap hotspots than transcode between the different standards on the fly. In his video, George explains the three main digital modes (D-STAR, FUSION, DMR) and how to use a local hotspot to join the wonderful world of talk groups!

Digital Mobile Radio – Digging Down

So, I am thinking I will buy a low cost DMR handheld, like the AnyTone DM878 or DM868. These are basically the same radio under the hood, with different firmware. But more important are the hotspots like the OpenSpot3 or MMDVM.

Hotspots do two things for you. First, you can connect your simple handheld radio to the entire global digital radio environment over the internet. Second, they transcode your handheld mode (say DMR) into D-STAR, Fusion or other standards. Your more expensive hotspots to the transcoding in hardware, the cheaper ones in firmware.

So, this article is just a taste of what may come, and thanks to George for whetting my appetite.

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