Alfonso Faustino: I’m hooked on DMR! (K6ASF)

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Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) was created by a telecommunications entity in Europe for professional and commercial communications and has become the international digital platform for digital communications throughout the world.  Because of its vast coverage, it’s used by many Fortune 500 companies, military, government agencies, law enforcement departments, fire departments, aviation industry, medical industry, transportation, utility companies, and so on.

Motorola chose DMR as its digital network.  They believed in DMR so much, they bought a piece of DMR and created their own flavor called, MotoTRBO (Turbo), and it has specific features just for Motorola and their customer base.

In order to access the DMR network, you will need a DMR transceiver.  Several companies produce DMR transceivers: CS-700, TYT MD-380, TYT MD-390, and TYT MD-2017.  Motorola calls their DMR transceivers, MotoTRBO.

Purchasing the equipment is only one part of the equation — the more important part of the equation is to get the transceivers to RX and TX on DMR; and, that can only happen with the creation of code plugs.  Code plugs are software program that gets created by a programmer or transceiver operator.

For many HAM operators, this is a deal-breaker…many HAM operators don’t want to invest the time, money, and energy to create code plugs, especially when other C4FM digital networks come packaged in the transceivers without any need to create code plugs, like Yaesu’s System Fusion and WiresX transceivers, such as the FT1XDR.

A reason exists that allures other HAM operators to travel the rugged path riddled with mountains, valleys, and the unknown — the reward is the ability to use one of the best and most vast C4FM digital networks in the world — DMR.  HAM operators go through the arduous and time-consuming efforts of creating code plugs to get their transceivers on the DMR; because, of its high quality digital RX and TX features and capabilities.

One of the features that make DMR so advanced is it has the best forward error correction algorithms available at this time: AMBE VoCoder.  AMBE VoCoder was developed by a bunch of super-smart mathematicians and engineers from all over the world: India, Taiwan, Germany, USA, and so on.

They worked on creating digital algorithms, called AMBE VoCoders, to execute forward-correction of errors in the digital voice packets.  The AMBE VoCodor, via its analysis from the algorithms, goes to a list of pre-made digital synthesized voices, and AMBE VoCoders selects the best synthesized voice match for the human operator transmitting over his transceiver.

In other words, my voice going over the DMR is not really my voice — rather, it’s the best synthesized rendering of my voice picked from a list of digital codes that best matches my real voice and gets created in such a way that is effectively and efficiently transferred over the DMR network with the least amount of error.  So, the listener on the other end receiving my transmission, gets to hear a robust, clear, and strong digital rendition of my voice going into his transceiver without drop-outs, background noises, and other types distortion — all this stuff is done at 2450 bits per second — pretty impressive, eh?  Well, I think so.

The AMBE VoCoder is a RX and TX feature that exists not only in the DMR network; but, also in the CPU of the transceivers.  Motorola uses the AMBE VoCoder in their MotoTRBO transceiver’s CPUs.  This technology is used world-wide by all commercial and professional entities: military, department of defense, secret service, race car drivers, aviation, education, medical, corporations, government agencies, law enforcement departments, fire fighting departments, and so on.

Although law enforcement hasn’t used DMR, they use P25, DMR can provide law enforcement with the same type of security and digital encryption as their P25, which is another reason I prefer using DMR; because, as a volunteer personnel with the fire department, police department, and sheriff’s department, I need to understand and use both digital technologies.

In addition to using DMR, I get to meet awesome HAM operators from all over the world that are on the cutting edge of DMR technology on all levels: social, commercial, professional, and security.

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On a social level, HAM operators can make DX contacts with anyone in the world with just a Technician’s license.  Before DMR, if a HAM operator wanted to talk to a person in Europe, that HAM operator had to have a General’s license — not anymore.

To many HAM operator DX purists, digital DX is an abomination to the art and skill of DX operations via antenna propagation.  I had a discussion with a HAM operator in the Nevada area about digital HAM operations; and, he was adamantly against digital HAM operations.

In my personal view, I believe it is important to have both networks for preparations against catastrophes and disasters.  Also, it is in our nature, as HAM operators, to explore and discover new ways of doing stuff; and, digital communications is part of that exploration and discovery.

Personally, I know the way to operate my HAM transceiver to make an analog DX contact; so, for me, that’s the important thing — it’s kinda like the multiplication table and doing math without a calculator; you gotta know it; and, once you can do math without a calculator, then it’s okay to learn to use a calculator; and, for me, this is like making a DX contact via the DMR.

One of the many things I like about the DMR network is the level of sophisticated HAM operators.  Since DMR wasn’t intended for HAM operations, it is not user-friendly; hence, the inference I like to make about HAM operators using DMR is that they are more on the edge of HAM technology; because, they are constantly finding ways and new equipment to make DMR easier to use and obtain and send out more information throughout the DMR network.

Because it is so difficult to set up your transceiver to use DMR, HAM operators really have to understand DMR in order to get their transceivers to work; and, through this level of understanding that new ideas spawn, such as, Brandmeister and Shark’s Open Spot, to help out the rest of the the HAM operators using DMR.

DMR uses the concept of Talk Group IDs; and, these Talk Group IDs are directly associated to the DMR repeater.  After the user creates his code plug and writes it to his transceiver, he is rewarded with instant and reliable global access to the Talk Groups in his code plug.  Unlike System Fusion and WiresX, no extra steps are needed to enter a Talk Group — as long as the operator can access the DMR repeater in his code plug, he has reliable access to the Talk Group in his code plug.

DMR is a larger and more robust global network — it has been around longer than System Fusion and WiresX; and, in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is more accessible to me.

As I mentioned earlier, DMR is a professional and commercial network not designed for the amateur HAM operator; so, there isn’t a lot of front-end user features like System Fusion and WiresX.  All the features in DMR are all in the technology of RX and TX, which excels over System Fusion and WiresX.

For example, System Fusion and WiresX set up a list of Rooms for the end-user: HAM operator.  Rooms are the counter-part of DMR’s Talk Groups. Operators go through the list of Rooms and click Enter to connect to a Room and start a conversation in that Room with other operators.  The operative word here is connect.  Many times, like today, 6-July-2017, while walking around San Francisco, I could not connect to WiresX after connecting to a System Fusion repeater in San Francisco; hence, I could not get a list of rooms to enter — unlike DMR’s Talk Groups, as long as I can access a DMR repeater, I’m in the Talk Group ready to rock-n-roll.

With DMR’s Talk Groups, I don’t need to set up another connection route — the moment I make contact with the DMR repeater, I’m immediately connected to the Talk Group in my code plug — no extra connection path is necessary in DMR.

Yaesu System Fusion provides a real nice GPS feature for their HAM operator consumer base:  GPS TX. With the GPS setting set to On, the operator’s GPS information gets sent to the person of whom he is speaking; this is a useful feature; because, I can only imagine the useful importance of this information during a search -and-rescue operation.  DMR has this information; but, a code-plug needs to be created in order to activate this future; and, as far as I know, no one has created this type of GPS TX code plug.

Another front-end feature Yaesu provides with System Fusion is displaying the operator’s call-sign on the screen.  With DMR, only the HAM operator’s Radio ID Number shows up.  If I wanna know his name, I gotta ask for it or cross-reference the Radio ID Number to the DMR-MARC database.


If I want to see the name and call-sign of the HAM operator I’m talking to in real-time, I have to access the Brandmeister Hose-line, which is an additional step and an additional piece of equipment I have to carry around: mobile phone, laptop, or personal computer.

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So, if you are more interested in out-of-the-box instant access to a digital network coupled with front-end user features, then Yaesu System Fusion and WiresX might be the network for you; and, if you are more interested in state-of-the-art advanced TX and RX technical features, like AMBE VoCoders and noise cancellation, and the highly customizable open-source programming, then the DMR network might be for you.

At this time, I prefer the DMR network — it is globally accepted, works directly by connecting to a repeater (no extra connections routes), vastly available anywhere in the world, reliable, high-quality in TX and RX, and is home to some very sophisticated HAM operators from whom I can learn a great deal.

Check 6!

/s/ Alfonso Faustino (K6ASF)

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