D-Star, Echolink, Fusion, DMR Or Just Plain Analog for a Mobile Rig?

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by KC2MPG, Sep 5, 2016.

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  1. KC2MPG

    KC2MPG Ham Member QRZ Page

    First a little background;
    I havent been on the air in almost 8 years so my license expired. I passed the renewal date and had to re-test again. Since coming back to Ham Radio, I see things have changed greatly. Namely the digital revolution. I have been doing as much research online as I can about the various digital modes and their pros and cons. But its still very confusing.
    The only radio I have now it a Yaesu FT-60. I will be buying a mobile rig, hopefully this week. I just cant decide if I should go digital or analog and if digital which type?. I spend allot of time in the car for work which is when I would be on the air. Years ago I had a Kenwood dual band TMV-7 which I loved.
    In doing my research I see there are D-Star repeaters in my area (New York City). There is also EchoLink, Fusion, and DMR. I have been using Echolink with my iPhone which is great fun. Of course there is no investment with equipment going that route. I am thinking D-Star would have more users. The thing is I would hate to go with something like D-Star only to see it phase out in a few years. Another question I have is, would I still have full access to analog repeaters if I went with a digital radio?
  2. NC5P

    NC5P Ham Member QRZ Page

    In your area there are all four modes available. Echolink isn't really digital. It's just a matter of deciding. You may well want to have more than one. My first digital voice mode on ham radio was D-Star, then DMR, then Fusion, finally P25. There is a rig that does all of them, it was functioning at a show in Germany in July so it isn't vaporware:
    Last I heard scheduled to ship late this year. Does DMR, D-Star, Fusion, and P25 on 2m, 220, and 440. All the digital radios also do FM, with the exception of the Motorola SL-7550.
    AJ6AZ and N1XDS like this.
  3. K8JD

    K8JD Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's getting Complicated
    2M fone modes are starting to get as complicated as all the various DIGI modes, with the explosion of different kinds of emission being used.
    When I first got on 2M it was AM, the next time I got back to VHF it was FM on one end and SSB on the other end and AM was gone !
    Now when I scan the old FM bands on 2 and 3/4M I hear a lot of "DIGI" sounds, just like MotoTrbo but I am sure they are several different modes in there. .
  4. WA4SIX

    WA4SIX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I guess I know what my next radio is...

  5. NC5P

    NC5P Ham Member QRZ Page

    At least you are hearing SOMETHING on the ham bands! Digital is breathing new life into our spectrum.
  6. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I just got back from a western USA trip via I-80 with a side trip to Colorado, armed only with my trusty TM-D710, which I have used for years. Over the years, I have accumulated repeater listings for this entire route, as well as for alternative routes I sometimes take via I-70, I-40, and I-10. I carry a laptop with me so I can change repeater programming on the fly. The system has worked very well, and didn't disappoint much on this trip.

    However, it seemed that most of the activity I was hearing was on digital repeaters. I would say it was a tossup between FUSION and DMR, and I think DMR seemed busiest. There was also lots of D-STAR activity. I'm basing this on the sounds of the three modes - I may be mistaken. I think the reason for all this activity is that these digital repeaters tend to be tied into big networks that are busy all the time. There may only be a few people on there, but with worldwide reflectors, it doesn't take much to tie up a lot of repeaters.

    In fairness, in the areas I visited, there were lots of linked analog repeaters, and activity on them was substantial. I really didn't hear much activity on standalone repeaters anywhere. I think you could get by with just programming your radios for the big linked networks, and forget most of the rest.

    I think the D-STAR network is the most developed and supported. However, DMR and FUSION are gaining fast.

    The drawback to DMR right now is that it's essentially monoband. There are no dualband DMR radios. out there. There are a few VHF DMR repeaters, but most are on UHF. The advantage is that a really decent TYT handheld, which actually works very well from inside a vehicle, runs for just slightly over $100. It would be worthwhile to pick one up to experience DMR. I took one on the last trip to Colorado, and found tons of activity.

    That leaves us with D-STAR and FUSION. The D-STAR network has been around much longer, but FUSION is growing rapidly, and rapid growth makes thing interesting. Frankly, I am angry at Yaesu for introducing another digital protocol instead of doing as Kenwood has now, and joining D-STAR. I am also seeing some signs of 'flameout' after the initial excitement over FUSION, as some D-STAR owners have moved to FUSION, and are now moving on to DMR due to the availability of cheap radios.

    At this point, there are two major D-STAR manufacturers - ICOM and Kenwood. Kenwood doesn't have a mobile announced yet, but they have the shiny new TH-74D HT, which does everything but make coffee, D-STAR and APRS in the same handheld unit. If Kenwood comes out with a D-STAR TM-D710 version, I think it will sell very well.

    Yaesu's rigs are intriguing, too, but they are the sole FUSION maker. D-STAR is an open standard, but FUSION is proprietary.

    So, in other words, it's a real crapshoot right now. My knowledge of history says that cheap almost always wins, and that honor goes to DMR thanks to the Chinese makers. Alinco also has a DMR radio now, I believe. D-STAR continues to be pricey, and FUSION a little less so. YAESU does have the only rig right now that will do analog APRS and a digital voice mode, which would be a consideration for me. Come on Kenwood! ICOM's mobile has a neat feature that will use it's internal GPS to locate the nearest repeater from a database and set you up automatically.

    I, too am excited about the all mode tribander coming out of Europe this fall. It will likely be a gamechanger for those who can afford it, and it looks like it will be the most expensive rig in that market by a wide margin. It will use a built in cellphone modem to update and maintain repeater lists for all the digi modes.

    Right now, I'd probably suggest a good analog radio with a DMR handheld. My second choice right now would be a FUSION dualbander and a DMR handheld - I think you'd find more activity in your travels with that combination.
    N1XDS likes this.
  7. K6CLS

    K6CLS Ham Member QRZ Page

    > D-STAR is an open standard, but FUSION is proprietary.

    Totally not true
  8. N1XDS

    N1XDS QRZ MODERATOR Volunteer Moderator QRZ Page

    Mostly around the states are basically either D-STAR AND DMR/Digital Mobile Radio repeater systems linked around. I own a Icom IC-5100 2/440 analog/digital D-Star radio and a Motorola XPR 7550 UHF for DMR. I've been a user on both digital modes for the past 3 years and love it. I think Motorola DMR has better audio quality than Icom D-Star does but that is my opinion and my two cents. I do think DMR is more used around the states and countries abroad. If you go with DMR you can use either a Motorola XPR/SL radio and a Connect Systems and Hytera as well. For you will need a codeplug you make you're self via Motorola CPS software which you will have to pay $2** something cost and the 25khz entitlement key which is free but you have to take a course to obtain the entitlement key to program 25khz frequencies for analog FM.

    You can always find a Motorola support/dealer in your area and visit the store and see what they recommend for a handheld or mobile if you have a DMR repeater in your area. Some places do rentals which are reasonable priced and some places want a security deposit before they do anything. Also most Motorola dealers do offer programming on Motorola radios of any kinds so that might help you as well.

    D-Star is easy to use and you can hear a lot of people around the world having QSOs with friends, local talk or etc. You can find a D-Star radio on eBay for reasonable price like the ID-51 handheld and the 2820 mobile radio. Sometimes you can find the Icom 880h which is a nice mobile radio to use and some users still use this radio.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2016
  9. K2XT

    K2XT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I bought a TYT HT this spring for DMR. Nice, solid radio, with loud, clear audio. It can be programmed for analog fm as well. The DMR audio always sounded like the op had a closepin on his nose. That, coupled with the fact that it couldn't scan for fm activity when traveling made it useless to me.
    I was never so happy to hand that radio across the table to the postal worker and send it to Okla. I understand it has a new job of helping a storm spotting ham down there. Good riddance. It cost me about $40 overall (loss) which was fair.
    We are all happy now, the new owner, the rig, and me.

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