Just over two years ago I purchased an Icom ID-51 Dual Band handheld radio. What was unusual for me about this radio was that it had D Star Capability. This was a mode that had never interested me in the past after all it wasn’t real radio as it depended on repeaters and or internet links to work. However, at that time I was about to move house, had dismantled the shack and taken down my antennas so I thought it would give me some radio interest to occupy my time.
Two years on I still have the Dstar gear, have set up a personal D star private node so I can work within a few Kms distance from my shack when I am portable or mobile and using Dstar has also introduced me to the delights of the Raspberry PI mini computer which I use with my node.
I have also obtained a DMR handheld, DMR equipment generally is much cheaper than Dstar or the Yaesu digital mode Fusion. The problem with DMR as it of course is a commercial mode and was never really designed for the amateur market. Programming DMR rigs is a real nightmare (for me at least) but I am learning.
I am also lucky enough to know a very generous amateur in our local radio club that has loaned me a Yaesu Fusion Rig to try. So now I have all three of the digital modes to hand.
Three modes, three radios- Icom ID 51-Dstar, Radioddity GD-77 DMR and Yaesu FT1D Fusion.
One thing all of these modes have in common is that they rely heavily on the internet. Yes of course you could have simplex QSOs in any of the three -Dstar, DMR or Fusion but generally this is not how these modes are used. Most people are either working through a repeater or a personal node or hotspot all of which use the internet as its backbone.
The three modes are incompatible and at present there are no transceivers that operate more than one of these modes. So, if you want all three you need three rigs! This also has the effect of diluting activity, as some are on one mode, others on another.
Activity wise my Experience is DMR is marginally the most active, followed by Dstar and lastly Fusion.
Whilst as I have written before it is fun to have Crystal clear worldwide contacts from an armchair using a low power handheld it doesn’t have the same magic as working HF or even FM on VHF. These days VHF 2 metres is all but dead in this area, maybe these digital modes are to blame who knows? But using these digital modes tied into the internet I suppose is no more magic than a telephone call! That said I do use these modes from time to time. Who can deny how useful these systems would be for someone who cannot put up antennas of any description but still wants to keep in touch with other amateurs? The problem I believe is that there are newly licenced amateurs who will never progress beyond their DMR handie and experience the fun of the HF bands simply because its so easy!