I’ve been monitoring developments in the amateur radio world for quite a while now, eager to keep abreast of the latest trends as the world dashes headlong down the slippery road of technological advancement. Most of the action seemed to me to be happening in the digital domain.
Digital voice is where most of the commercial and military world is headed, so I zeroed in on DMR as an emerging amateur radio mode.
D Star has been operating in this space for quite a while now but the proprietary nature of this venture has many sitting on the sidelines. One of the reasons is probably because of the high price of the hardware needed.
Being an open source computer fan for many years now, I became aware of a new mode that is gathering pace world-wide: DMR-MARC.
DMR-MARC is an all-digital group of over 500 DMR-MARC repeaters in 48 countries with 33036 registered users. And both lists are growing all the time. In Australia there are repeaters in NSW, VIC, WA, QLD, with the latest in the ACT currently being commissioned as I write. These repeaters operate on the 70cm band.
My friend Wallace, VK4CBW, also became interested in this fast-growing mode. He decided to take the plunge and imported two DMR hand-held transceivers from a factory in China. The brand is Vitai, which neither of us had heard of before.
When they arrived, we were very pleased with the quality of construction.
The Chinese make excellent rigs these days.
The first thing we had to do was to register as a DMR user. This we did through the DMR-MARC web site and it wasn’t long before we received our new ID numbers.
Now it was time to sample the marvels of digital voice communications. We began by working simplex between us; what quality! And our conversations were private too; no other user could listen to our conversations.
It was now time for me to try for some DX. For this, I discovered that most operators monitor a very useful web page, which acts as a control centre for VK operators: it allows us to see who is working on the various channels or talk groups.
All I had to do now was to select the talk group of interest and hit the PTT button on my hand-held and I would be up and away.
So far I have worked stations in Malta, South Africa and Finland, all with 4 Watts from a hand-held transceiver!