Our Digital World

We live in a digital world. No doubt about that. Amateur radio is no exception. I am accustomed to Yaesu’s Fusion. It is basically a digital version of analog. It works the same pretty much, with a few exceptions, but for the most part once you know what the digital modes are, you can just flip between them.

My club, the W5HRC Hurst Amateur Radio Club, has invested in Fusion. We now have two of the Yaesu DR-1X repeaters. One has been in testing for about 9 months, just trying to interface it with different controllers and other methods of control. We have had decent success with them, but with the poor documentation on Yaesu’s end, a lot of what we have done is trial and error.

I like Fusion, and hopefully Yaesu will continue to build the technology out to everything they say they it can and will do. Time will tell on that part. The radios are solid, full featured, and occasionally a little quirky, but for about 99.9% of the time, no issues at all.

I recently stepped in to DMR. I was once one of the DMR nay-sayers that thought it was just outdated and a wannabe amateur radio standard. I was completely ignorant of the technology and was part of the crowd that essentially shunned it.

Three weeks ago at one of our weekly club meetups, I asked Jason, KC5HWB, about DMR. I was interested in learning about other technologies than just Fusion, including DMR and even D-Star. There I go again poking at D-Star, when it is a solid standard also that I know nothing about. I know better than to do that. Jason was our only resident DMR using member at the time, so he essentially gave an impromptu lecture on how DMR worked.

Talk groups, time slots, subscriber ID’s, Nationwide, Metro, WWe? This was all new. I decided I would invest a bit into some DMR equipment to see what it is all about. I purchased a Tytera MD380 HT from him.

As the president of the Hurst Amateur Radio Club, one of the most important things I push is elmering. License all that you want, but if the current amateur radio generation fail to elmer the new generation, the new generation will leave, and amateur radio will eventually die as an art. I have been a HAM for sixteen years at the time of this post, but even seasoned and experienced hams need to be elmered by those who know.

I say this because Jason has been my elmer in the DMR world for the past few weeks. He has been very patient with me. I am trying to absorb as much information as I can, so I can eventually elmer newcomers to digital, whether that is DMR, D-Star, Fusion, P25, etc.

OK, now all of that said, amateur radio digital is VERY polarized. You are either a Fusion, DMR, or D-Star person, me included until recently. Not much wiggle room for anything else. The more I learn about each of the digital technologies, the more I understand that they are not so much competitors, but designed for different types of use.

Guys on Fusion talk about how Fusion is the best and should be the standard. Guys on DMR talk about how DMR is the best and should be the standard. Same goes with D-Star I would imagine.

In a high level overview, Fusion seems to be an Echolink type of system that is backwards compatible with analog FM. DMR is for interlinking. All DMR repeaters are linked and when you key one, you key them all. They each serve a purpose, and I think there is enough room for them all, depending on what you are going to use it for.

All this said, I enjoy both Fusion and DMR. I might try D-Star one day, but right now it is just so expensive, it is out of my price range and there are no D-Star repeaters local that I can hit without being on 45 watts ERP. Fusion is not exactly cheap also, but it is cheaper than D-Star. DMR on the other hand is relatively cheap. The Tytera radio I purchased was $170 for everything needed including programming cable and software. A comparable Fusion HT sells for nothing less than $279 plus cables and programming software. Long term, cost will be the ultimate decider of what digital standard will reign supreme and which ones will eventually fade away. I love digital in amateur radio, and I hope it does not go away.

By the way, my DMR subscriber ID is 3148261 and I like DFW Metro and Statewide during drivetime and North America during the day.