Digital Voice? There is a Clearing in the Mist

Mike McKay N5DU

Mike McKay N5DU

At the May meeting, Mike McKay N5DU gave a good, down to earth, presentation of the various options available to amateur radio operators involving digital voice communications in the VHF and UHF bands (and higher frequency). N5DU focused on developments in Central Mississippi, the coverage area for the Association. Being a practicing attorney, Mike spends his days getting to the heart of the (legal) matter! It showed in his informative talk to those in attendance at the Rankin County EOC / MSU Extension Service auditorium.

“Digital voice gives the amateur a much greater fidelity in the transmission of messages,” said N5DU. But, he added, it tends to be an on or off condition as the digital signal drops out sharply relative to conventional FM analog. The data capabilities are growing with the ability to send pictures and other forms of communication.

Covering Icom DSTAR, Motorola P-25, and Yaesu Fusion implementations, Mike showed the growth and decline of various types of repeater systems in Mississippi. DSTAR, he said, may have peaked in the state, owing to the cost to enter that arena. A recent DSTAR repeater in Central Mississippi, for instance, was struck by lightning. It was replaced by the new Yaesu Fusion DR1X. The rapid increase of Fusion repeaters in the Central Mississippi area has been fueled by the deep-discount program by Yaesu US. The repeater is a 2M or 70cm box with power supply, rudimentary controller, and trickle-charge circuit for a backup battery. It retails for about $1,700 but is available to organizations in the U.S. for $500 under a special application program available at the Yaesu US website, Mike elaborated.

N5DU offered that P-25 has been in the area for awhile and, yes, he and Mike WM5A both have a P-25 HT to work digitally through a Quantar repeater in Rankin County. The site works both P-25 and analog FM separately. It may indeed grow but is commercially-driven, not having the operational nuances that amateur operators like to have (see slides).

Robert KF5IZ showing DR1X

Robert KF5IZ showing DR1X

The punch-line of his talk was that hams in Central Mississippi should seriously consider Yaesu Fusion transceivers. The deep-discount program is clearly making an impact with area clubs acquiring them. More importantly, the Fusion design doesn’t leave the conventional analog FM user out! The various settings on the Fusion DR1X allows for a range of options, including one in which the repeater identifies the input mode as analog or digital and outputs both as analog, keeping the ham with the inexpensive HT in the loop. Of course, the Fusion repeater can be set to just be digital C4FM when the time comes that it’s appropriate to do so.

CMSARA just took delivery of their first one. Robert Errington KF5IZ, CMSARA Trustee, showed the Fusion box and gave a brief overview. Hams in attendance were able to look inside the repeater and discuss it with KF5IZ and N5DU.

CMSARA members discussed various options for a repeater installation location. This is the first Association-owned repeater as CMSARA used repeaters owned by the Rankin EOC along with various others for ARES Nets and other activities. The Association has opportunities to site their Fusion DR1X at several locations which will be determined in the near future.

Mike’s slides are here.


Updated: June 28, 2015 — 12:25 pm