Saturday, October 12, 2019

Catastrophe - The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men

With all items packed and ready to go on site to install the Repeater, it was a perfect sunny day with an excellent panoramic view in all directions from the hilltop. The gear was unloaded and installed into the hut in the site at Abbeyknockmoy. The Cavity Filters for the Repeater were given their final tune up and the Repeater was installed and connected to the network without a problem. Almost straight away the signals came through via the network. A pleasing conclusion will be found at the end of this write up.

Great we thought. Job Well Done! We placed the APRS system on air and it came to life as soon as we connected it. Better again.

And then we peered up at the antenna system. Well there were not enough swear words in the dictionary to describe the situation and none of them were repeated twice. The Repeater antenna was totally destroyed and all its components were draping down from the pole.

What was originally this:

was now this - all of the dipoles had sheared off the pole where the clamps holding them to the pole had disintegrated.

Naturally the Repeater is currently disconnected until further notice until we can replace the antenna. Hopefully Radio Structures Ltd will replace the antenna which has only been on site for 1 1/2 years.

A sad end to what could have been a really great day.


The Good news, however, is that a very quick respose was received from Radio Structures LTD who have offered to replace the antenna under a three year No Quibble Warranty which were were unaware of at the time. The replacement antenna was dispatched on Monday the 14th of October, just 3 days after sending an Email on Saturday.The antenna arrived in Galway on Friday the 18th of October.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

New Life For The Galway Analog 70cm Repeater

Our 70cm Repeater was recently removed from its high site in Abbeyknockmoy prior to the installation of a Hytera DMR Repeater. It had been on site for some time and, whilst it proved itself to be an exceptional Repeater, very few made any effort to use it. Coverage was over a colossal distance considering that this was a UHF Repeater. One journey, from just outside of Limerick,  to Claremorris in Co. Mayo, yeilded a Strength 9 signal for the majority of the journey. Why nobody took an interest in this Repeater is difficult to comprehend, as it had a coverage far superior to many 2 metre repeaters around Ireland.

On Examination, Aengus, EI4ABB, noted that there was an accessory plug on the back of the repeater that would make it possible to extract raw unprocessed audio from the receive side and allow encoded audio to be transmitted. This would be perfect for a mode such as D-Star. Just by chance, Aengus had the appropriate circuitry from a project that never saw completion. The perfect opportunity to try to see if it would be compatible. 

Amazingly, Aengus did not have this Repeater on his bench for more than a couple of days before the project took shape and was ready for test. The cavity filters had recently been tuned up in preparation for use with the DMR repeater when it was to be placed on its site in Abbeyknockmoy. these worked well into his own antenna so it was possible to try out the D-Star build.

Steve, EI5DD, was working in his shack on DMR repeaters scheduled for re-location some time in the future. A call was received from Aengus on TG 2722, for assistance with the initial tests. After disconnecting the DMR repeaters, the D-Star Radio was hooked into an antenna and the initial call was made. 

Apart from a bit of feedback from equipment in Aengus's shack, the audio was very good. Obviously this wasn't the completed project, but very promising results were achieved. The Audio was crisp, clear and stable - the system was working. Great potential for this project.

Whilst D-Star is probably the least used digital mode in the Galway area, the opportunity to experiment is available as well as for the other Digital Modes. We have multi mode systems that also encompass D-Star operation which will cater for may forms of experimentation. 

This equipment will run initially as a repeater until we register it on the D-Star network and then its full potential an be realised through the D-Star system. This is really quite remarkable progress as D-Star had only been tested in July through the multi mode Gateway before we followed up with the acquisition of a multi mode Repeater for Galway City in September.

The pictures below show the Kyodo 70cms Repeater gradually nearing completion with its new components for D-Star.  

Finally, everything  installed and covers back on the units ready for further tests. Delighted that the Kyodo Repeater still has a function, and place in the Galway area, as it had a very sensitive receiver and the transmit otput power was more than adequate on UHF operation. As if by magic, a new Repeater was born

Special thanks to Aengus for his time and effort and we look forward to this going on a high location.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Digital Radio Lecture 26th September 2019

There was a good attendance at this Lecture with operators from Galway, Clare, Limerick and Mayo. The PowerPoint presentation covered predominantly DMR and the local Repeater Network. D-Star and Fusion was given time as there are currently facilities in the form of a Repeater and Wires-X gateway for Fusion and a Gateway and Repeater to be set up for D-Star. Basically, all modes were discussed in detail.

Steve, EI5DD, presented the lecture and as can be seen all modern conveniences for presentation, amplified audio with a spacious lecture theatre. The large screens were very sharp and clear making easy work of the display.

The lecture covered the setting up of the network, equipment, locations, coverage from each repeater and operation of same. Subject like Roaming were discussed and how it would be implemented. Apart from DMR, the Yaesu Fusion and D-Star modes were discussed in detail. In short, there will be something for everybody when the last of the equipment is installed. When the network is completed and running it will give plenty of opportunity for all to experiment with Digital Modes. P25 and NXDN can be implemented on an experimental basis or full time if there is a genuine interest locally.

There were 16 present for the lecture from Galway and surrounding counties. As always happens, some could not make it at the last minute but we may be able to do the presentation again sometime if the demand is there.

Special thanks to all that attended this lecture and not forgetting thanks for the use of the facilities in the UCG Insight building.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Review of Two D-Star Radios

D-Star requires resistration with the D-Star system/network before any of the facilities unique to D-Star can be enjoyed. There are online sites but it is easier to register via Icom UK >> Here

It is wise to consult the manuals from the very start as D-Star is unique in many ways so the advice is RTFM! The reason why will become apparent if you do not.

When D-Star was released on the market it was novel and interesting but the audio was not 100% perfect. Naturally there have been many firmware releases and improvements to the D-Star system over the years and it has come a long way since 2004. The AMBE+2 chip is installed in the current equipment releases and this, combined with firmware and software upgrades has brought D-Star audio quality to today's standards. It is impressive.

Programming the Icom radios may be done using the software CD provided by Manufacturer or that provided by RT Systems. Many would recommend the RT Systems program but, of course, it is another extra on which to spend hard earned cash.

Handheld Operation

The ID-51E Plus 2 was chosen as it is the most recent release from Martin Lynch & Sons retailing at £379.95. There is a small "ouch" factor as it is a lot to pay for a handheld but then the Yaesu FT3E Fusion Handheld costs exactly the same. This is the latest generation of hand portable from Icom. The ID-51E Plus 2 is a dual bander and can receive two bands simultaneously.

The output power is 5, 2.5, 1.0. 0.5 a,d 0.1 watts. It is IPX7 waterproof and features built in GPS and has a large 128 x 104 dot matrix display..

There is a micro SD card slot for optional memory which can stor DVR incoming and outgoing message, GPS log and Memory Backup. All the built in CTCSS/DTCS encode and decode facilities for analog FM are included.

This unit features "Terminal ID" and "Access Point" mode.

Access point Mode allows connection to the Internet via a PC or Android device as an access point (gateway). Another D-star radio may then communicate via this system.

Terminal Mode allows the unit to be connected to the Internet using Call sign routing through the Internet Gateway to a destination repeater. There is optional free software to allow this.

RS-MS1A is a free software that allows the unit to be connected to an android device. A number of interesting facilities become available through this software.

 RS-MS1A Features

  •     Send and receive pictures
  •     Send and receive text messaging
  •     Set transceiver's DR functions from the RS-MS1A or a map application
  •     See the location of repeater sites or other D-PRS stations on a map
  •     View and export received history of the transceiver
  •     View detailed data in the transceiver's Repeater list
  •   Import and export the Repeater list and the Call sign list from/to the transceiver

DV Fast Data Mode

By using data in place of voice frames, the ID-51 transfers data 3 times faster (3480 bps) than in conventional DV mode with voice.

DV and FM Repeater Search Function
The repeater search function searches for nearby analogue FM repeaters as well as DV repeaters using the repeater memories and the integrated GPS*.
* To use the repeater search function, the position data of the repeater is required.

Additional Dplus Reflector Link Commands
Dplus reflector link commands are added to the DR function to allow easy multiple repeater connection through the reflector.

Other New and Enhanced Functions
GPS position data can be sent simultaneously with the serial data communication
Enhanced D-PRS functions: receiving only Base/Object/Item/Weather formats
Altitude data added to the GPS memories
CI-V commands can be sent through DATA connector
Call sign, repeater list and GPS memory import and export in the CSV format
FEATURES: Retained from the Original ID-51E
D-STAR DV Mode (Digital Voice + Data)
V/V, U/U, V/U Dual watch
The dual watch function simultaneously monitors VHF/VHF, UHF/UHF and VHF/ UHF bands.* * DV/DV, AM/AM, FM-N/FM-N and DV/FM-N mode dual watch is not available.

IPX7 Waterproof Construction
The ID-51E has superior IPX7 waterproof protection (1m depth of water for 30 minutes). It can be used in harsh outdoor environments, and for hiking, mountain biking, touring and mountain sports.

Menu-Driven User Interface
The directional keypad and quick menu button help you with quick and intuitive access to many settings and speeds up the operation. The large full dot-matrix display with easy-to-read characters increases the amount of information.

Independent AM/FM Receiver
FM and AM broadcast stations can be listened to while using the dual watch function to monitor the ham bands.

micro SD Card Slot
When used with a micro SD card (Up to 32GB), various contents including voice memory, DV auto reply message, TX voice message, QSO log, RX history log and GPS log data can be stored. The micro SD card can also be used to update firmware and edit memories.

Integrated GPS Receiver
The current position and altitude are shown on the display and offers a position reporting function in DV mode. The GPS log function logs your position information at regular intervals on the micro SD card.

5W Output Power
Using a highly-efficient PA amplifier, the ID-51E generates 5W of RF output power from this compact body.

Long Lasting Battery Pack
The supplied BP-271 provides up to 4.5 hours* of operating time, and the optional large capacity battery pack, BP-272 provides up to 7.5 hours*. * Typical operation with 1:1:8 duty cycle in DV mode. (Power save ON.)

Being a newcomer to D-Star, it took an absolute age to set the ID-51E Plus up as the manual did require consultation! The supplied battery ran out of just as everything started to work. However, by the time all was set up the operation was perfect. It is true that D-Star has a longer learning curve than any other modes. The manual supplied is 70 + pages long but the full manual is up in the 375+ size. No stone is left unturned and this is an essential but not all at once.

Be assured, one will think DMR is a walk in the park after a day of setting up the D-Star Handheld.Why so difficult? It was designed for Radio Amateurs as opposed to commecrical users. So many litte refinements result in a manual the size of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

The analog side has many new features and is much like any other handheld in operation.

Mobile Operation

Following a request for information on D-Star Radios, two are reviewed in this Post. The Icom ID-5100 Dual Band D-Star transceiver seems to be the unit getting all the favourable reviews and is the most recently released dual band  mobile radio.

The ID-5100 comes in two versions : the Standard model and the Deluxe model.

The Standard model is supplied with a multi-functional microphone and hanger, DC power an controller cables and CS-5100 cloning Software. All this comes to around £574.95 from Martin Lynch & Sons. When the box is opened it will be apparent that the mounting for the display unit is not part of the deal and has to be purchased as an optional extra!

The Deluxe version includes Bluetooth features, mounting equipment, a UT33 Bluetooth unit and VS3 Bluetooth headset. This comes at a more princely sum of £749.95. At this price one does not even have the programming leads!

The ID5100 incorporates all of the core features found in the IC-2820C and incorporates the User friendly technology found in the IC-7100. The radio features a large responsive touch screen and also integrated GPS, Optional Bluetooth connectivity and support for Android Devices.

Before you buy the ID-5100 bear in mind that an optional blue tooth unit, the UT33-A, maybe purchased and costs just £44.00. This is an interesting unit as it opens up a host of facilities as in operation from an Android Tablet or Android phone. Hands free operation is possible via the UT33-A.

Does one need all of the other paraphernalia? Well, yes, because, unlike other manufacturers they don't supply the mobile mounting kit for the head with the radio. Icom's accessories are by no means cheap! Undoubtedly the programming leads will be required at some stage - more expense! Why can't Icom supply all the requisite leads and accessories in the box? You don not get a stand to mount the head in the car or to stand it on the bench.

Whats does it do?

Touch Screen Operation provides quick and smooth operation for setting and editing functions and memories. The Screen is large and easy to read too.

VHF/VHF, VHF/UHF, and UHF/VHF dual receive allows the reception of two bands simultaneously including two channels within a single band.

DV Dual Watch. The ID-5100 has simultaneous receive for FM/FM, FM/DV and the capability of monitoring two DV signals. The main band reception will take priority if two signals come in at the same time.

Integrated GPS Receiver allows the transmission of co-ordinates from the built in GPS receiver for the benefit of position reports and also as a handy reference to find Repeaters located in the vicinity after reference to information carried in memories. If you wish to go mobile in "Stealth" mode it is possible to switch this facility off.

Dplus Reflector Linking facilities are added to the DR function to allow easy reflector operation Use Reflector link or unlink to reflector.

UT33 Bluetooth unit is the optional accessory for use with the optional VS-3 Headset and the Optional RS-MS1A Android application (this application is a Free download) The UT-33 has been superseded by the UT-33-A.

Other Features:

Menu Driven user Interface
SD card Slot for voice and data storage
Convenient Memory contents management using CSV data format
Enhanced D-PRS functions with object, position item and weather formats
CS-5100 Cloning Software Supplied
Speech function announces operating frequency, mode, Call sign (DV Mode)
50Wattts output on VHF and UHF bands
AM air band dual watch
DTMF via Mic Keypad or touchscreen

If purchasing this radio and using D-Star for the first time, there will be much cursing and swearing if the manual is not consulted. It is quite amazing how a  few minutes into the manual, things will become clearer. The system is quite user friendly, once the user unfriendly bits have been set up, and the Transceiver is a pleasure to operate.

The Bluetooth connectivity to an Android Tablet or phone makes this a gem to operate. All functions can be clearly seen of the display and the hands-free headset either supplied by Icom or purchased elsewhere is safe to use whilst driving.

Audio quality is excellent on both Digital voice and analog. The transceiver is sensitive and on a par with other brands.  

Indeed, this is the most expensive mode on the market but bear in mind that Icom did all the research in conjunction with the JARL to produce the first Digital Mode for the Amateur Market. It did cost a lot of money to achieve their goal. Many "die-hards" will claim that D-Star is the best of the three popular Digital modes which is debatable.

D-Star Facilities in Galway

The Galway Digital Gateway on 144.850 MHz currently runs D-Star and defaults to DCS 049i which is used extensively by the Northern Ireland operators and consequently has plent of activity. The Reflectors are user selectable but we do ask that when you are finished, as a matter of courtessy, that you will unlink to allow the Gateway back to it's default setting.

The current DMR repeater, EI7RHD, located in Galway City will shortly be substituted with a Multi-mode Repeater allowing operation on DMR D-Star and Yaesu's C4FM. This Repeater will have Citywide coverage and certainly extensive coverage outside of the city also.

At present, a dedicated D-Star Repeater is being constructed which will extend the facility further. This will default to DCS 049i and we ask that, if one selects any other D-Star Reflector, put it back as you found it by unlinking when finished as a matter of courtessy.

If out of range of any of the D-Star facilities in Galway think about the purchase of a personal Hotspot.

Further information about this interesting mode may be gleaned from  >>Here

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

New IRELAND Room Established on Peanut

Following a request by Steve, EI5DD and John, MI0AAZ, an Ireland Room has been established on Peanut, an App written by PA7LIM. There are no other Reflectors, Repeaters, or Gateways linked to this room so activity is exclusive to this room rather than being re-transmitted on multiple RF breakout systems. As always the time from suggestion to getting this system set up was minimal being less than a week - we don't hang around we get things done!

TM7 Internet Radio users will find this a great opportunity and benefit alongside those using Android or Windows Operating Systems. 

Further down the road, it is planned to set up an XLX reflector accessible by D-Star linked to Peanut and also into Talk Group 2724 effectively linking D-Star to DMR and Peanut.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Galway Multimode Digital Repeater

The Galway Digital Radio Group was recently offered a Tait UHF Repeater converted to run Digital Modes using a Pi-Star Repeater Controller. The Repeater will  be substituted for the current DMR system using the call sign, EI7RHD, which covers Galway City thereby freeing up a DMR repeater for relocation to a fifth site or as a replacement if required on one of the existing sites should the need arise. 

The Repeater chassis holds two Tait Radios, one for transmit and the other for receive, a Repeater Control unit and an on-board power supply. There is room to house the Duplex Filters. This will fit snugly into the 19 inch rack system currently in use. In addition, there will be an external Raspberry Pi Controller and MMDVM board connected to the Internet. The system has an efficient cooling system to ensure longevity of the transmit P.A and also the power supply.
The Tait Repeater is capable of running 30 watts output on C4FM, D-Star, Slot 1 & 2 DMR, P25 and NXDN. For local purposes the Repeater will run Slot 1 & 2 DMR, C4FM and D-Star. P25 and/or NXDN may be added for experimental purposes if reasonable demand should be evident. The system will act as a Repeater as well as a gateway for all modes

The Fusion system on the Pi-Star behaves in a similar way to the Yaesu Wires-X system accessing with a press of the DX button. The D-Star system will operate as any other D-Star system with all D-Star Reflector systems accessible. DMR will be set up with Time Slot 1 for International use and TG 9 Local operation with Time Slot 2 for Local and UK as well as TG 9 Local operation in keeping with our Hytera systems.

This system, in addition to the Galway Fusion Repeater, the 2 metre Multi mode Gateway and the Galway Wires-X Gateway will ensure that those with C4FM equipment will have plenty of choice and those with D-Star will also be able to link into the system using Repeater or Gateway.

This system will be pressed into service as soon as the Galway Digital Radio Group receive the unit and will not result in any loss of service.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Phase II - EJ7IBD Inishbofin Island DMR On Air

On Sunday the 21st of July EJ7IBD, the Inishbofin DMR Repeater located on the east end of Inishbofin island, was installed and appeared on air making it the first repeater to be established on an offshore Island. This Repeater will cover the western side of Connemara, including the coastal roads. There would be no way of covering this area from the Galway side of the mountains.

The 4-Stack directional antenna system, supplied by Radio Structures Ltd, plus feeder was installed on the mast on Saturday by Des, EI5GT, and Ronan EI8HJ. The antenna was fitted the 10m high tower beaming east towards the mainland. The antenna is solid and will last the weather conditions on the western coastline.

The 4-Stack Vertical Array

View to the Mainland

Steve, EI5DD, sailed out on the Sunday with the Repeater and ancillary equipment. Aengus, EI4ABB, fine tuned the PROCOM Filters into the antenna system before the Repeater was connected. Ronan EI8HJ, and Des EI5GT, set up the Internet prior to connection of the Repeater.

The Repeater CPS was fine tuned, loaded, and interfaced into the Brandmeister System via the Internet. On power up, the repeater came to life and immediately connected into the Brandmeister Network. The initial transmission, on boot-up, did not indicate any feedback into the receiver and no desense was detected.

All systems worked well and the connection showed up on the Brandmeister Dashboard. A Few Calls were made through the system with Ronan EI4KN as our first contact. Final checks were made before increasing the power to 40 watts. A few more Calls were put out to prove that there was no desense with full power output. Finally all the gear was tidied up and the remote GSM switch installed.

The Repeater fitted in well with the Wireless Internet system and didn't take up too much space.

Special thanks to Aengus EI4ABB for his assistance with the Cavity Filter tuning and to Ronan, EI8HJ, and Des, EI5GT, for Their assistance with the Networking and for the use of their mast and hut for the Repeater.

L - R - Des EI5GT, Aengus, EI4ABB,  and Ronan, EI8HJ

The map above shows the coverage of the Inishbofin Repeater bringing in a substantial area of coastal road. The coverage maybe better than illustrated as the worst case scenario was programmed in to obtain the coverage. 

       The combined coverage of EI7RHD - Galway, and EJ7IBD Inishbofin Island

The combined coverage of Inishbofin Island - EJ7IBD and Galway City - EI7RHD are only the beginning. EI7LRD - Loughrea and EI7AKR will follow fairly soon thus completing the Galway DMR Network. Inishbofin and Galway City are the two westerly Repeaters and the addition of Abbeyknockmoy and Loughrea Repeaters will complement the coverage. Uniform coverage with saturation of the majority of the county will be possible along with coverage into neighbouring counties.

Roaming between repeaters will be possible so constant contact with the network will be possible. The Loughrea Repeater will be the next one to be placed on site.  

Monday, July 8, 2019

Castlebar 4 days Walking Festival 2019

Steve EI5DD, and Tom EI2GP, assisted with the communications for the 30 km rambles during the Castlbar International 4 Days walking Festival from the 4th to the 7th of July. We have been assisting with this event since 1992. There were over 260 international ramblers participating. There were twice that number participating in the Road Walks but we were not involved in that section.

The Marshals Organisers and Medical personnel were issued with PMR 446 radio equipment. The PMR 446 radio equipment allowed the Marshals, Walk Leaders, Medical and First Aid personnel to communicate with each other throughout the 30 Km Rambles over boggy terrain and in the hills. Steve, EI5DD, "Ground Control", was also in touch via the same system and also with Tom EI2GP who was using 2 metre Equipment which had wider coverage to the ground station. It was via the 2 metre system that any additional assistance could be summoned as this would be free of any other traffic. 

There were four different routes:

Day 1 - Letterkeen Loop
Day 2 - Achill Island 
Day 3 - Mulranny
Day 4 - A Scenic "Roady" walk through the Castlbar Countryside

As can be seen, the weather conditions were variable but never severe and any rain was only a light and misty. The conditions for walking were perfect and it was not too hot. There were many different walking terrains making it an interesting walk and provided many challenges walking across bog and hill. .

The APRS map of the 4 days is shown below. The Letterkeen Loop did not show up too well as it was situated well behind hills and out of range of almost everything. Our Communications worked well but there was a contingency plan if additional help were required.

The map below shows the entire travels of EI5DD for the 4 days plus travel to and from the event.

In conclusion, the event was very enjoyable from both our perspective and that of the walkers. Our radio equipment functioned perfectly. The Marshals, First Aid and Medical personnel learned radio procedure very quickly and were really proficient throughout the event. They would put some radio amateurs to shame! The liaison between the two systems was excellent and all equipment worked perfectly. We always try to introduce something new to events in which we participate but this particular event cannot be improved beyond its current format.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

DV-Mega DVStick 30

Operation of Internet Radio has been discussed in the posts about the Inrico TM-7 and the RT-4 Radio. The DV-Mega DVStick 30 offers another system to experience both DMR and D-star Radio by simply plugging the device into a computer and running Blue DV by PA7LIM.  The DV-Mega DVStick 30 is available from CombiTronics for 95 Euro.

The DVMEGA DVstick-30 contains a codec by the manufacturer DVSI, the AMBE-3000©. This is a state-of-the-art codec chip, which supports various encoding systems. The DVstick-30 with suitable software can operate different systems like DMR or D-Star and in the future, may also operate with other systems as the software is developed.

A suitable software for use with the DVstick-30 is Blue DV by PA7LIM. This software is available for many platforms like Windows, some IOS versions (Ipad, Iphone) and Linux, and with suitable hardware (OTG capable) even on Android and IOS. Either the internal mic/speaker system in the computer or an external USB headset may be used. PTT keying is done via button defined by the software.

Before operating the system it is necessary to set up the program with personal details and server details for both DMR and D-Star.

The Set-up Screen is shown below

General Settings:

1) Call sign
2) Com Port
3) Can enter your Lat Lon
D-Star Settings

Change the Default reflector to your preference DCS 049 I is used in Ireland and has a lot of Northern Ireland Activity on it

DMR Settings

1) Your DMR ID
2) DMR Type - we use BM in Ireland      can be set to DMR PLUS
3) DMR Master - BM_IRELAND_2721
4) Password - passw0rd

IF DMR + is selected
1) Master - Phoenix F
2) Default Reflector - 4400 UK calling channel - Phoenix is not used in Ireland

Fusion only works on the receive side at present


1) Tick the AMBE box
2) Select the correct port
3) Select the speed that works best - try the highest first
4) Kill Timer - 3 mins

Click on save and go to the operating Screen

Click on AMBE to select Microphone and Speaker

Select Serial to enable the DVMEGA DVstick-30

Select DMR and the system will default to the BM Server and Reflector selected

Use the slide on the bottom Right hand side for PTT or designate the Space Bar as PTT.

To change Reflector or Talk Group insert the number in the box arrowed. Note that the slider to the right of the Reflector/Talk Group Box selects P for Private Call or G for Group Call.

One of the advantages of this system, is that it is possible to select a Talk Group on screen to sample the activity on it. If there is nothing another can be selected on screen. This makes it easy to find the active Talk Groups without having to go to the trouble of programming the radio and then finding that the Talk Group has little to no activity on it.

The same applies to D-Star as the system un-links and re-links to the new Reflector when selected selected.

Whilst this is a computer based system, it does provide good access into the D-Star and DMR networks with Yaesu Fusion to follow at some stage. There are plenty of avenues for experimentation here.

The The DV-Mega DVStick 30 does provide a quick and easy way to rapid cycle through,  select and test out Talk Groups and D-Star Reflectors prior to programming them permanently into a radio. The DV Stick also serves a good system to monitor D-Star and DMR Reflectors and Talk Groups.

Basically, if you want to try our D-Star and don't want to take out a mortgage, this is the item for you. At approximately 100 Euro and with the copy of Blue DV for windows this will have you fully functional on DMR and D-Star. The Down side is having to lug around a Laptop and ancilliary bits like a Headset and microphone.

What does the DVMEGA DVstick-30 do and how ?

All digital modes in ham radio require a voice codec (coder/decoder aka vocoder (voice codec)). The purpose of a codec is the transformation of voice into a digital data stream and vice versa, from digital information to analogue voice. During this transformation much happens inside the codec than just an analog/digital conversion. The goal is to reduce the data rate as much as possible, because this will require less bandwidth in the limited radio spectrum. This is achieved by reducing and compressing voice in various ways, on the analog and digital side. These procedures are quite elaborate and hard to develop and therefore well protected by patents.  

Since the digital ham radio systems borrow technology from commercial systems, the codec definitions have been adopted. Although there are free open source codecs available, these free codecs are not compatible with commercial systems because they use different protocols. Every digital radio for D-Star, DMR, P25, C4FM, NXDN etc contains such a codec chip as a component of the radio. All radios need such a a codec chip to transform the digital data into analog and vice versa. This is exactly what the DVMEGA DVstick-30 does.

The benefit of such a 'radio less' application in ham radio is the possibility to stay in touch with the friends at home when traveling without a radio, or where no suitable digital repeaters are nearby. The requirements for the Internet data rate are, thanks to the capable codec chip, quite low, usually an ISDN line with 64 kbps is absolutely sufficient.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Which DMR Radio?

The Galway DMR Network will be up and running shortly giving superb coverage of the county. This network will be primarily using the 70cms band with the exception of the Multi mode Digital Gateway on 2 metres. Consideration should also be given to the fact that there are still Analog Repeaters in existence. 

All of the DMR equipment available can be programmed with analog FM simplex and Repeater channels in addition to the DMR channels. UHF handhelds are available for less then £100.00 from Ebay and many of the Chinese outlets. It is possible to purchase dual band handhelds which will, naturally cost a little more but are probably worth looking into. Even second hand radios are worth looking into provided that they are in good working order.

Bear in mind that handhelds have their limitations! Galway city is well covered by the EI7RHD repeater and the use of High power and the set top antenna will guarantee smooth operation. Low power operation is possible in the City as the Repeater has a good saturation coverage. Connecting the handheld to an external antenna on the mobile is possible. The colinear on the roof of the house will give impressive results. Remember the weak signal handling of Digital Radio will effectively give a greater distance before the signal degrades. Point to point simplex operation is possible on Digital Radio and has often been used on AREN type operations.

Mobile radios running low power, with the ability to run high power of 25 watts or greater, will make life easier whilst driving through the countryside. Roaming facilities are available on some radios and operation similar to Cellular networks is possible. Some handhelds will allow this facility. There are special Linear amplifiers available for use with DMR systems. Be aware of the fact that they have to be designed specifically for use on DMR. Off the shelf Linear amps for Analog FM will >>NOT<< work. Some say that the GPS transmit facility is a great idea, but it is not necessary and wastes battery. In the end it will, undoubtedly, be turned off all the time for this reason.

From a Galway area perspective, the following radios are discussed as most operators have them and Code Plug Programming can be shared around. If you buy an obscure brand of DMR radio the Code Plug will have to be programmed from scratch by you alone!

The following Radios come with good recommendation.

Tytera MD-380 

The Tytera MD-380 is a reasonably priced single band Radio and can be purchased for less than 100 Euro. Many become available on EBay as their owners probably upgrade to dual bander. Code plugs are available locally for this Radio.

The transmit voice quality is very good and very stable without warble. The receive audio quality is also excellent. Programming is easy enough as can be seen from the "Getting Started with DMR". As can be seen, there are very little controls to worry about once the radio is fully programmed.

Tytera MD-390 UV

The Tytera MD-390 UV is a dual band radio with very good quality TX/RX audio and as easy to operate as the MD-380. This model may have GPS facilities but the addition of GPS only adds to the cost - buy one without GPS!

This radio is easy to program. It will cost a little more for the dual band facility but is still good value for money.

There are other Tytera Dual Band Handhelds and these would be equally as easy to program.

Anytone 868 UV/878UV

The Anytone 868 UV is an excellent radio with good quality audio on Transmit and Receive. It is easy enough to program and operate. There are code plugs available locally. This radio retails for approx £139.00  and is good value for money.

The Anytone 878 UV is almost the same as the Anytone 868 UV but has the addition of GPS and Roaming facilities. It will cost £179.00. It hardly seems worth paying extra for the GPS version but it is the more recent model. It has since been updated to have blue tooth headset compatibility. It will cost more as a result. The display is different but with recent firmware updates, the Anytone 868 UV will look exactly the same. 

Both Radios come with the accessories shown. Both radios have exactly the same feel and operation. Both Radios come highly recommended.

Linear Amp 2- 5 watts > 25 - 40 Watts

It is possible to increase the power out put by adding a liner amplifier in line. The B-Tech A lead is supplied to plug into the Speaker mic socket on the side of the handheld. Plug the Speaker Mic into the front of the unit and connect the mobile antenna to the output and a lead from the handheld antenna socket to the Linear amp. A comrprehensive review may be found  >>HERE

Be sure to state which set the liner is going to be used with. Some sets have a different configuration of the Speaker Mic plug. Aengus EI4ABB uses one of these and reports excellent results whilst mobile. 

Tbe B-Tech Linear amp is suitable for Fusion and D-Star modes,  so it would be a useful addition. The linear amplifier retails for around £100.00 but surf the Internet for a good price.

Tytera MD-9600

The Tytera MD-9600 VHF - UHF mobile transceiver operates in both Analog FM and DMR mode in the bands 136 - 174 MHz and 420 - 480 MHz. RF transmit power  is between 46 - 50 Watts. This Set has been reviewed in an earlier post. The Audio Quality is excellent on both Transmit and Receive. It is easy enough to program and if one has a Tytera Dual Band Handheld the program from the handheld can be pulled across into the MD9600 Code Plug with ease.
This Radio is easy to program and use. The MD 9600 retails around £239.00 and is ideal for mobile operation. There is a GPS option but this is really a waste of money. A more detailed review of this radio may be found >>HERE

Motorola DM4600 Series Mobile Radio

The Motorola MOTOTRBO™ DM4600 was designed for the commercial radio market being ETSI DMR Standard Compliant and delivering really high class audio on both transmit and receive. It is packed with features, many of which one would not use in the general day to day amateur use. There are two versions available which operate on either UHF or VHF with either a high power 45 watt version or low power 25 watt version. The DM4600 may be programmed on both DMR and Analog FM. Whilst these transceivers and their accessories do not come cheap, they are well worth the money. It is unlikely that one would need to try any other radio after purchasing the DM4600.

There is a comprehensive review of the Motorola DM 4600 >> HERE

Prices of this set can vary amongst suppliers but may be around £470.00 on average. Whilst the CPS Software seems to be complex, this radio is very easy to program  one a little experience has been gained with other radios.

Whilst this is only a small selection of popular radios, these are the systems widely used in Galway. There will be a lecture and workshop on CPS programming held in the Autumn. Code plug clinics would be considered to ensure everyone gets good value from their Radio. 


If you don't have a DMR Repeater or Gateway system within you locality, consider a Hotspot. There are many available such as the Shark RF openspot 1 or Openspot 2.  

The Openspot systems are very easy to set up and use. The DVMega is another alternative. Both systems allow all Digital Modes to be operated and are the equivalent of a personal Multi mode Gateway.

In conclusion, one does not have to spend huge sums of money to get started and maybe the Mono band UHF handheld will be sufficient to 'dip the toe into the water'. Having tried the system with an inexpensive system, decisions can be made as to whether DMR is for you.

Outlined in this post are Radios in use locally. There are many more but from a starters point of view, those listed will have you on the air quickly. So many choices!