Digital Mobile Radio (DMR)

Lately I’ve been playing around with DMR as it seems to be the new game in digital amateur radio.  I was late joining digital radio as I just got my first D-Star radio with the Icom ID-5100A back in July just to find out that all of the D-Star repeaters have gone off the air or I can’t reach them.  I thought about maybe trying Yaesu’s System Fusion (C4FM) because it seems to be pretty cool as well but the adoption seems to be slow.  Here in the Oklahoma City area it seems that DMR is the direction that seems to be winning the digital game.

I recently bought the new TYT MD-380 and installed the newest firmware, MD-380 tools by WH6AV, the full DMR ID database installed and I have to admit that I love it.  All of the local DMR repeaters are connected 24 hours on time slot two on the Brandmeister, OK Central, talk group, 31401.  Time slot one is reserved for connecting to remote repeaters and talk groups.  The remote connections will drop after 15 minutes of local inactivity.  I would like to thank local hams Jesse, KD5JP and Bob, W5RLW for immense help on educating me, my brother (WX5DEL) and my dad (W5QO) in the operation of DMR.

We are teetering on whether we want to go in this direction or not with our own repeater(s). While we love it, we want to make sure that people are willing to adopt the technology.  There is quite the learning curve in the beginning but to me it is worth it. My fear is that like the old Beta-max VCR being the better technology to VHS is that people may not appreciate it.  I am a fan of Linux, and the security, custom-ability.  The problem with Linux is the attitude of the users and their seemingly elitist mentality that nothing is better than the command line.  While I too enjoy it, the reality is that society has gotten use to everything being a large, colorful, button like Apple promotes.  Until Linux users understand this, it will never be accepted widely outside of those that are technology oriented.  That is my fear of DMR.  I hope that more manufacturers take advantage of the open source technology and make equipment more widely available.

On a similar note, I’ve noticed that despite Ibiquity’s in band on channel (IBOC), so called HD Radio, it lacks industry adoption.  It is not that consumers are not interested but rather that manufacturers do not include the technology in new cars.  I am a firm believer that people would love to have HD Radio in their cars if manufacturers would include it. Most people don’t want to spend a lot of money to add it as a feature after the fact.

DMR in the amateur radio service has a huge potential and I really hope it succeeds long term.  I hope that Icom and Yaesu do not try to protect their technology by failing to make equipment that used DMR.  If they are going to do that, then I think if they genuinely wanted to help the consumers, they would make radios that had DMR, D-Star and System Fusion capabilities.  Let the market choose the technology they want. If they build a quality product and make it easier for the consumer to plug and play, I believe people will come.

I think that we are leaning more toward the idea that DMR is here for the long term than the other way around.  The reason is that most hams are by definition technology oriented and as such, more willing to take the time to learn it. If there is an appearance that most people are adopting it, then others will join. Let’s be honest, people are followers as can be proven by political parties spending millions of dollars doing polls on a daily basis.  I personally think that it is worth the time to learn DMR.  After all, D-Star has been out for years, System Fusion has been out for a couple of years and yet, here in the Oklahoma City area, DMR rules the day and yet not one of the major amateur radio manufacturers has even one radio to use.

This is my opinion and I really hope that it pans out this way because it is really a cool technology.

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