Alfonso Faustino: SharkRF openSpot2: Dream Come True! (K6ASF)

Three major digital HAM networks exist: DMR, System Fusion, and D-STAR. Other digital networks exists, such as, but not limited to P25, but they are not as popular-used as the three aforementioned digital networks, supra.

I prefer hand-held transceivers; hence, I will be restricting the scope of the BLOG to my preferred hand-held transceivers.

When these digital networks came to be, HAM operators were forced to make a decision: Which do I use — DMR, D-STAR, or System Fusion?

One of the contributing factors that might have influenced the decision would be cost.

DMR was the most inexpensive; because, the transceivers were inexpensive compared to D-STAR and System Fusion’s transceivers. You can get a DMR transceiver for under $200; because, of all the abundant manufacturers flooding the market with their DMR transceivers.

Sytem Fusion and D-STAR were more expensive. In order to get into the D-STAR and System Fusion networks, you would expect to pay a minimum of $360 or so.

So, if you wanted to access all three digital HAM networks, you were looking at a pretty high price — approaching $1000 and up.

When I first started using digital networks, I focused on DMR; because, my mentor, N6MVT, is a Motorola guy; hence, I am a Motorola guy; and, Motorola supports DMR; hence; System Fusion and D-STAR were not even on my radar.

For three years straight, I was exclusive to DMR; and, my brand new Motorola XPR 7550e and XPR 7550 (VHF) were my weapons of choice — each unit costing me $700 a piece — not including the CPS and programming software and subscription to MOL to get access to the CPS and various Motorola entitlement keys and certification requirements as a Motorola user.

Of course, if you purchase a DMR transceiver, other than a Motorola transceiver, you don’t need to go through all that I went through as a Motorola owner.

Because of costs, HAM operators were exclusive and committed to their digital networks. You had DMR operators, System Fusion operators, and D-STAR operators; and, the operators seldom crossed digital networks.

One day, in DMR, I was talking to an operator transmitting from Israel. His name was Ben: KC2RXV.

He told me he was also on System Fusion. He told me all about it; so, I purchased the Yaesu FT1XD; and, I really enjoyed System Fusion.

After using both digital networks, Ben recommended the SharkRF openSpot (Blue) to me for easier access to DMR and System Fusion. Blue would act as my own mini repeater for DMR and System Fusion; BUT, equally important, I would be able to access either network with either transceiver.

The Blue had the ability to cross-mode from DMR into System Fusion and vice-versa using only one transceiver– in my case, I can use my Motorola XPR 7550e to get on BOTH DMR and System Fusion; or, I can use my FT1XD to access BOTH System Fusion and DMR — awesome!!!

(SharkRF openSpot (Blue) and openSpot2 are UHF-only; so, your transceiver has to have UHF in its band design.)

The short-coming of the Blue is that it wasn’t wireless; hence, if I wanted to go mobile, I would have to purchase a portable wireless router, tether it to my iPhone hotspot, and connect the Blue to the wireless router in order to access the digital networks while on the road or walking around the city. The Blue was cumbersome and bulky when I took it with me on mobile activities: driving to LA for auditions or walking around the city.

In 2018, SharkRF introduced a new product: openSpot2.

(The openSpot Blue is no longer available to purchase; the openSpot2 replaced the openSpot.)

The openSpot2 did everything the Blue did and more…one of the biggest feature…wireless — it was prepared for mobile activities without the need of having a portable wireless router.

The openSpot2 quickly hooks up to my mobile phone’s hotspot, and the openSpot2 accessed the Wi-Fi network via my mobile phone’s cellular network — the only wire that was needed is USB-C cable that connects the openSpot2 to a portable power source.

Of course you can use the openSpot2 as a home base unit by plugging the USB-C cable to a power outlet. My Blue is now my primary home-base digital network access repeater; and, my openSpot2 is my back-up home-Base digital network repeater; but, its primary purpose is for my mobile operations — traveling to and from LA for my auditions.

The biggest advantage with the openSpot2 is that it eliminates the need to have a digital-specific transceiver. You don’t need to buy three transceivers, thus reducing your digital network access costs. With one transceiver, you can access System Fusion, DMR, and P25.

Unfortunately, the openSpot and openSpot2 do not have the D-STAR cross-mode function, which means, if you wanna access D-STAR you need to purchase an iCOM or Kenwood transceiver, which are dedicated D-STAR-only transceivers.

So, if you wanted to access DMR, System Fusion, and D-STAR, you would need two transceivers and the openSpot2.

For social digital HAM operations, my recommendation is you pair up your openSpot2 with the Ailunce HD1GPS or the Yaesu. Both of these transceivers can cross-mode between their specifically designed digital networks: System Fusion and DMR.

You can end your purchasing activities at this juncture with one of these transceivers jumping between System Fusion, DMR, and P25, via the openSpot2’s cross-mode feature function.

I have three DMR transceivers and one System Fusion transceiver that I use with my openSpot2 to hop around between DMR, P25, and System Fusion:

– Motorola XPR 7550e

– Ailunce HD1GPS

– Yaesu FT1XD

If you decide to go with Yaesu to operate on DMR and System Fusion, make sure you get the Yaesu model that has WiresX built into its firmware.

For D-STAR, I paired up my openSpot2 with the Kenwood TH-D74A.

I enjoy all three digital networks; hence, I purchased the Kenwood TH-D74A to access D-STAR.

All my transceivers have GPS and provisioned for APRS. You might wanna consider these two features when purchasing your transceivers.

All my transceivers are also Super Heterodyne with effective front-end filters to avoid de-sensitization and cross-modulation, which means they can be used in mission-critical ICS-based emergency comms ops.

My Ailunce HD1GPS doesn’t have these two features; hence, I only use it for social HAM comms..

Operators mention they can tell the difference between all three digital networks. Some say DMR sounds better; others say Sytem Fusion and D-STAR sound better.

Here’s a video of all three digital networks — can you tell the difference in quality?

Personally, I can’t tell the difference in quality between all three digital networks — they all sound good to me; and, if you decide to stick with just Sytem Fusion and DMR, you will be very happy with that choice — same is true if you decide to exclusively stay on D-STAR…you will be perfectly happy with just using D-STAR.

Here are some areas you should consider using in the three digital networks:

DMR Talk-groups:

– 91

– 93

System Fusion Room:


D-STAR Reflectors:

– 030C

– 001C

– 014C

So, there you have it…pick up the SharkRF openSpot2, and pick one or two transceivers to access the HAM digital networks.

Check 6!

/s/ Alfonso Faustino (K6ASF)