Digital Voice (DV) for Amateur Radio

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Image result for pictures for yaesu system fusionImage result for pictures for ham DMR

Last updated: 3/16/15 - this is a work in progress, stay tuned for updates!

Digital Voice (DV) is one of the fasted growing segments of Amateur Radio today. These DV modes include technologies such as VoIP, P25, DMR/TRBO, Fusion, NXDN, D-STAR, DPMR etc.

The use of Digital Voice (and data) technologies on the amateur radio bands is coming to a repeater near you very soon! Several Rochester and CNYclubs and repeater owners are in the process of acquiring Yaesu System Fusion repeaters. There are also several D-star repeaters in WNY and a handful of DMR repeaters in the Albany area. We will use this page to help cover some basics on DV and also share local developments as they happen.

Overview of Digital Voice (DV) modes being used for Amateur Radio:

D-STAR -Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio is an open standard digital communication protocol established by the Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL). This protocol was designed for the Amateur Radio Service and ICOM is currently the only major equipment manufacturer making D-STAR gear. See “D-STAR, Digital Voice for VHF/UHF,” CQ VHF magazine, Winter 2006. (D-Star Manufacturers: ICOM, some third party dongle suppliers)
APCO 25 -The Project 25 (P25) radio standard was developed by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO) primarily for the Public Safety Spectrum. A primary goal of this standard is to enable intercommunication between multiple public safety organizations (e.g., fire, police, medical). Although developed primarily for North American public safety services, P25 technology and products are not limited to public safety alone and have also been selected and deployed in other private system application, worldwide. Uses both FMDA and TDMA in different parts of the standard (phase I vs phase II). P25 can be used trunked or non-trunked. (P25 Manufacturers: Kenwood, Motorola, Tait, EF Johnson, Harris, and other smaller suppliers)
DMR -Digital Mobile Radio (MotoTRBO) standard was developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). This standard uses TDMA to allow two communication links simultaneously on a single 12.5-kHz channel. (DMR Manufacturers: Motorola, Hytera, Harris, Connect Systems, Zetron, Vertex Standard, and other smaller suppliers)
DMR Links: http://www.dmr-marc.net/ ,Good DMR news & info: http://www.va3xpr.net/
Interesting DMR blog: http://cwh050.blogspot.com/2013/03/eight-myths-about-dmr-mototrbo.html
System Fusion – System Fusion is a digital communications methodology for voice and data communications, including pictures that was developed by Yaesu.  It utilizes a customized – yet open – standard that utilizes C4FM FDMA – an advanced form of audio frequency shift keying (AFSK).  (Manufacturers: Yaesu)
DPMR –dPMR or digital private mobile radio, is a Common Air Interface (CAI) for digital mobile communications. dPMR is an open, non-proprietary standard that was developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and published under the reference ETSI TS 102 658. This mode is used mainly outside of North America, Europe and Japan are large users. A simplified version of the dPMR protocol intended for license-free applications was also published by ETSI under the reference TS 102 490. dPMR is very similar to NXDN protocol implementation by Kenwood and Icom; both now offer dual-standard equipment (July 2013). (DPMR Manufacturers: Multiple China based manuafacturers )
NXDN –NXDN designed for the (LMR) community; it uses Frequency-Division, Multiple-Access (FDMA) technology in which different communication streams are separated by frequency and run concurrently. The basic NXDN channel is digital and can be either 12.5 kHz or 6.25 kHz wide. 6.25 kHz dual-channel systems can be configured to fit within a 12.5 kHz channel. This effectively doubles the spectrum efficiency compared to an analog FM system occupying a 12.5 kHz channel.(NXDN Manufacturers: ICOM, Kenwood and several other smaller suppliers)

Note: there are several other DV modes not covered in this summary!

Some common Digital Voice (DV) questions:
-Will the digital networks talk to each other?
Not natively – but there are some possibilities in the future for inter-operability
- Is it legal to use these modes on the ham bands?
-YES, and DMR use was clarified by the FCC in 2014
-Will D-Star radios talk “D-Star” with DMR, Fusion or P25 radios?
No
-Will DMR radios talk “DMR” to D-Star, Fusion  or P25 radios?
No
-Will P25 radios talk “P25” to D-Star, Fusion  or DMR Radios?
No
-Will P25 radios talk “P25” to D-Star, Fusion or DMR Radios?
No
-Will all the radios talk conventional “FM” to each other?
YES! ( if properly configured)
-Is there any radio that works in more than one DV mode?
Not presently, but there are one (CS7000) or more presently in development
- Can I listen to Fusion, D-star or Fusion on my digital capable scanner?
No, not at this point. Though there are some manufacturers wiorking on radios that should be out in late 2015. Depending on your scanner you may be able to listen to P25.

(References: The Spectrum Monitor, Jan-2015, CQ Magazine -Mar-Apr-2014, QST-August 2014 and CQ Magazine -Aug-2014, CQ Magazine-Sept 2014, Richmond Amateur Radio Club presentation, and several Digital mode forums)


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Yaesu System Fusion FAQ's


There is quite a bit of discussion of Digital Voice (DV) modes on the local repeaters lately, especially System Fusion. There are several Fusion repeaters in the works here in Upstate NY and all are expected to be on-line before this summer. We found some helpful information from a club that was part of Yaesu’s Beta program and thought that we would share it here. 

System Fusion information  (FAQ's) borrowed from the Gloucester County Amateur Radio Club’s website:

What is System Fusion?
System Fusion is a digital communications methodology for voice and data communications, including pictures.  It utilizes a customized – yet open – standard that utilizes C4FM FDMA – an advanced form of audio frequency shift keying (AFSK).

Is it like D-STAR?
It is like D-STAR - in that it is a digital methodology designed by hams, for hams.  Other common digital methodologies used by hams, such as DMR, NXDN and P25, are borrowed from commercial Land Mobile Radio products.  None of these are directly compatible with any of the others.  While there are some proprietary elements to each, they all have published specifications, so that third-party developers can produce hardware and software for each.

D-STAR uses GMSK encoding, different than the C4FM FDMA designs of all but DMR – which uses TDMA.  The networking aspects of System Fusion remains to be unveiled, but it is possible that the linking and networking of an increasing number of repeaters will be implemented in a manner similar to the reflectors that support D-STAR.

Also like D-STAR, the sound of digital voice is similar, although most users feel the clarity and fidelity of System Fusion is an improvement over D-STAR.

The list of comparisons could go on in some lengthy detail, far beyond the scope of this page.  Your personal research is encouraged.

You mentioned that System Fusion is an open standard, but isn’t it just proprietary to Yaesu?
While Yaesu developed System Fusion and continues to expand the product line further, they took steps early on to publish the specifications.  This means that those interested in developing hardware and software independently can do so with the specifications laid out for them.

Already, one company is taking orders for a multi-personality portable, with more being developed by other independent concerns.

Now that the DR-1X is in production, what happens to the beta-version DR-1 that the GCARC has?
Our DR-1 is the result of an opportunity that was cultivated over a year ago.  It has been in constant operation since spring.  Even though the DR-1X is being sold and the repeater is popular, the field trials are still important to Yaesu.  The testing is open-ended and will continue as we submit feedback and product review information, along with upgrade suggestions (which have already been submitted and reflected in the production model).  The long-term goal is to keep this unit, acquire a new DR-1X or keep both, when the opportunity presents.

What radios are System Fusion capable and where can I find them?
Yaesu produces two transceivers, which have been on the market for some time.  The FTM-400DR is a dual-band mobile that features a color screen.  It can display a variety of information regarding frequencies, GPS information, location of other digital stations, plus pictures and more.  The FT-1DR is a dual-band portable that has many of the same features, without the color screen.

Both units can accept the optional camera microphone and be used to transmit pictures.  Also, both support “good old” analog FM communications as well as digital.

These products are available from amateur radio retailers, such as Ham Radio Outlet in nearby New Castle, Delaware.  Currently, there are special pricing promotions in effect.  For more information, visit HRO’s web site – www.hamradio.com.

As mentioned above, Connect Systems will be selling a multi-personality portable – the CS7000.  You can get updates on this product at www.connectsystems.com.

Can I use any 2M FM amplifier if I want more power from the FT-1DR?
If you purchase the portable and want to start using it as a mobile, you’ll be happy to know that any Class C (FM/CW) amplifier with an input in the 5W (or less) range will work just fine.  Many of us have at least one of these at home, so that may make the FT1DR even more attractive - for the budget-conscious ham.  For any mobile use, please configure things so that your eyes can stay on the road.

When someone is using the digital mode on the repeater, I hear sounds like a high-speed modem.  Is there some way to silence that sound?
System Fusion, unlike some other digital voice methodologies, allows state of the art digital C4FM users and legacy analog FM users to share the same repeater.  All recent transceivers have a “tone squelch” or “CTCSS tone decode” option that can be enabled.  When the repeater is used for FM, a tone of 131.8 Hz is transmitted – the same as the one required to access it.  Setting this function on your radio(s) will silence the audio until it receives a signal containing that tone.  That way, you won’t hear the digital signals.

I don’t want to interfere, but if I can’t hear the digital transmissions, how will I know when the repeater is being used?
In addition to listening for the frequency to be clear before transmitting, look at your activity indicator.  It may be a light, meter display or both.

Likewise, the digital transceivers have indicators that let users know if there’s an analog conversation in progress.  Both digital radios can be configured to automatically switch to analog, so that conversation can be heard.

If you haven’t seen or heard anything for a few minutes, it’s a safe bet that the repeater isn’t in use.

Is there a commonly used simplex frequency for digital use, when I don’t want to use the repeater or it’s being used already?
The frequency of 147.525 MHz is the “watering hole” for System Fusion simplex activity in our area(NJ – NYC).  We also encourage any non-repeater WIRES-X Points of Presence in the area to be established there.

Is there a net or roundtable specifically for those of us with System Fusion gear?
While you can operate digitally on the repeater at any time, we will be setting up a weekly roundtable as more and more digital users join in on the fun.  Many times, this happens during “drive time” as the number of digital users increases.  Please note too, that use of the GCARC repeater use is not limited to its members.  All of our repeaters are open.  All we ask is for good amateur practice to be maintained and priority be immediately given for emergency situations and exercises.

What about networking or some way to link to other System Fusion users and repeaters?
As Yaesu rounded out the product line, they introduced WIRES-X as a high-speed way of interconnecting repeaters and users.  WIRES-X has been on-line in Japan for some time.  Recently, units have become available in North America and the list of users is regularly being updated.  Already, some members of the GCARC and other area clubs have purchased these units and set up nodes.

This aspect of digital communications is exciting and developing rapidly.  Those of us with WIRES-X can talk, exchange messages and pictures.  An impromptu demo of this technology was performed at the Hamfest.

Interestingly, certain analog FM transceivers can be used with WIRES-X, allowing you to communicate verbally with other hams on the network.  While you won’t get the clarity and other benefits of being digital, it is a way for you to join the fun.

I understand that my callsign is sent as a part of every transmission.  Does that mean I don’t need to verbally ID?
As with D-STAR and all other digital voice methodologies we use in amateur radio, your call is sent with each transmission.  The receiving radios will display this (and other) information, so you don’t “need” to verbally ID in order to comply with regulations.  However – as a courtesy to others – it is good idea to ID as you normally would.  This keeps you in practice for non-digital voice modes and keeps others from having to look at their radio displays – especially when driving.

Some of these new terms and abbreviations are making my brain hurt, plus I have other questions.  Where can I get the answers?
Along with the web sites mentioned and other resources that are searchable on the Infobahn, you are welcome to ask them via email.  Contact Cory Sickles – WA3UVV <at> ARRL.NET.  Plus, there are reviews of System Fusion and/or its components in QST (August 2014) and CQ (August 2014 & September 2014)

Additions to this list will be made as time progresses.  Please enjoy the Gloucester County Amateur Radio Club’s resources and give System Fusion a try!

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Some DV Links:
DMR-DMARC info: http://www.dmr-marc.net/
Some good DMR info from VA3XPR: http://www.va3xpr.net/
Interesting DMR blog: http://cwh050.blogspot.com/2013/03/eight-myths-about-dmr-mototrbo.html
System Fusion introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNjgHUhhMmA
System Fusion information web site:  http://www.systemfusioninfo.com/
System Fusion HELP files: http://hamoperator.com/Hamoperator/Fusion_Help.html
D-star info: http://www.dstarinfo.com/home.aspx
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Some DV mode statistics:
(as of 1/20/15)
A query of the DMR database at dmr-marc.net turns up the following:
DMR repeaters worldwide: (1058)
DMR IDs issued: (12,151)

D-star:
(1147) D-StarPlus Gateways worldwide
(2738) D-Star Voice Repeaters worldwide
(225) D-star Data Modules worldwide
(38,724) D-Star Registered US Trust users.

Fusion:
- (497) Fusion Repeaters in USA as of 5/28/15, note; was (262) as of 3/16/15 (from Repeater Book) .......and growing very quickly!

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Known Upstate NY Digital Voice Repeaters: (please send us your updates!)

List of some Upstate NY Fusion repeaters:

K2RSY  147.27, Auburn NY, +0.600 PL 71.9, Cayuga County
KD2CDY 146.640, Clay PL131.8, Onondaga County (as of 3/7/16)
K2ALS  146.700 pl 100hz Gloversville NY, Fulton County ARES EC (Auto Mode)
KC2VER 145.31, Syracuse NY, -0.600, Onondaga County
W2CM 147.21, Syracuse NY, +0.600, PL 103.5, Onondaga County
W2XRX  145.2900 Canadice NY,  -0.600 PL110.9, Ontario County
WN8Z 147.39 Fulton, NY  +0.600 PL103.5, Oswego County
W2IT 444.900, Rochester NY, PL=110.9, - on the air now? Monroe County
W2ES0 Lancaster, NY, 147.255,PL= 107.2 Hz., Erie County
WB2ELW/R2 Hamburg, NY, 147.090,PL= 151.4 Hz., Erie County
WA2EMO 444.750, Arcadia NY, PL 110.9, Wayne County
N2TY 145.170 - Troy NY  , PL 127.3 - Rensselaer County

Google maps list of Fusion Repeaters:
https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=zwXuF4cLI8eg.kgv3zfUkw-P4
See the latest NY State Fusion repeater list on Repeater Book:  https://www.repeaterbook.com/repeaters/FeatureSearch.php?type=YSF&state_id=36&band=%25

List of some Upstate NY D-star repeaters:
KD2HVC, Stanley, New York B, SIARC, 444.300 +5.00
KB2VZS, Fairport, New York, 444.800 +5.0000
K2BWK Hemlock, New York A 443.5000 +5.0000
K2BWK Hemlock, New York B 147.3750 +0.600
KD2FET Batavia, New York A 145.6700 +0.0000
KD2FET Batavia, New York B 444.9625 +5.0000
KD2FET Batavia, New York C 145.6700 +0.0000

List of some Upstate NY DMR repeaters:
N2LBT, Inlet, New York, 147.530 -0.600
N2JTI, Austerlitz New York, 445.1875 

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