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Digital Voice for Amateur Use - Discuss use of digital voice technologies on the amateur radio bands. This is to include technologies such as VoIP, P25, DMR/TRBO, NXDN, D-STAR, etc.

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Old 08-04-2009, 1:23 PM
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Default D-STAR Systems

I'm surprised there is not a running D-STAR thread here on RR site, So let's start one!

At this time there are 12 2m repeaters, 14 70cm repeaters, and 7 1.2 gig repeaters active in Florida. Momentum is gaining. Here is a great link to see all repeater activity in real-time:

D-StarUsers.org Your Source for D-Star Digital Amateur Radio Information!

This is also a great place to learn about it. There are many videos on YouTube as well that can show you what it is all about and how it works. I decided to take the plunge after seeing it in action on a couple of these videos...and after discovering a special sale on the Icom IC-91AD including free software and serial cable. The software helped to get the programming done, otherwise it would have taken a long time with all the layers of callsigns to be entered.

I have not been in range of a repeater yet, but there is activity on the national simplex frequency of 145.6700 in my area. I just made my first QSO this morning. It was a good test as one station was fixed and right on the edge (0 to 1 of 15 bars) and the other station was mobile heading my way (0 to full scale). I had little to no bit errors on the fixed station, but the mobile fading was rough until the station reached 5 bars or so. AMBE Audio quality was just as good as good IMBE P25 if you ask me. The text data message that came in the same time the voice was being transmitted (TDMA) contained drops until the voice quality was 100%. Maybe more error correction is given to voice, I do not know.

I am eager to try repeater operation as it has some fantastic linking features based off of callsigns and node designation in the 8th character of the call field. D-STAR systems keep track of what repeater you are on, so you can target a callsign and it will automatically route the transmission to the station through the IP backbone. So if Alex in NY is listening on a 440 D-STAR repeater and I am on a 2m D-STAR repeater in FL, I can just put his call into the "your call" field and the system will patch us together. He could QSY to another repeater and I would not have to "find him" or call up another link. The backbone system will do all of the work. Cool! There are four layers of callsigns (my call, your call, repeater 1, and repeater 2) that allow you to access different repeaters, bands, stations, and gateways. There is even a "dongle" device you can plug into a USB port on a computer that allows you to access "the network" like a radio would. All you need is a good Internet connection. There is a digital coded squelch feature to close the digital receiver (like a P25 NAC...only 100 codes). There is a callsign to callsign coded squelch feature with a "breakin" signal you can use to ask to join. And the general open digital code to talk to anyone is CQCQCQ in the "your call" field. There is even an instant "emergency" code that will open anything in case of an urgent need to get around all the "filtering". I'm not an expert by any means, but this is what I have found out about D-STAR that sounds like a great protocol to me. I wish amateur radio equipment was more like commercial two-way equipment in user interface and especially on scan, but overall I think D-STAR is promising.

So, what D-STAR systems are in your area and how do you think it works? What are your experiences?

Phil
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Old 08-04-2009, 1:30 PM
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D-Star sounds interesting with a lot of neat features, but personally not my cup of tea. I'm not against progress; I just don't like the way the protocol is being implemented.
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Old 08-04-2009, 1:34 PM
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D-Star sounds interesting with a lot of neat features, but personally not my cup of tea. I'm not against progress; I just don't like the way the protocol is being implemented.
What about it don't you like?

I have heard of one issue where the protocol thinks a station too weak to get a clear callsign read is assumed to be the last well read callsign. That is an issue.

Have you experienced any D-STAR first hand?

Phil
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Old 08-04-2009, 1:51 PM
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I should probably have been more specific; D-Star at the moment seems to be a sole venture. It won't gain much ground until other manufacturers like Yaesu/Vertex, Kenwood, and even Alinco buy into the technology. To me, it's not amateur radio if a lot of people are excluded simply by means of a protocol that isn't widely accepted yet.
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Old 08-04-2009, 2:12 PM
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I should probably have been more specific; D-Star at the moment seems to be a sole venture. It won't gain much ground until other manufacturers like Yaesu/Vertex, Kenwood, and even Alinco buy into the technology. To me, it's not amateur radio if a lot of people are excluded simply by means of a protocol that isn't widely accepted yet.
Being that Motorola has a vested interest in Yaesu/Vertex I highly doubt that they will ever deploy D*. I think they (the rest of the manufacturers) should implement a P25 amateur solution as in SE Florida alone we have 9 or 10 APCO 25 repeaters running in amateur radio spectrum and 2 doing D*.

Tait and a Daniels have IP based connectivity in their conventional repeaters and should work pretty much the same as D*.
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Old 08-04-2009, 3:39 PM
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Being that Motorola has a vested interest in Yaesu/Vertex I highly doubt that they will ever deploy D*. I think they (the rest of the manufacturers) should implement a P25 amateur solution as in SE Florida alone we have 9 or 10 APCO 25 repeaters running in amateur radio spectrum and 2 doing D*.

Tait and a Daniels have IP based connectivity in their conventional repeaters and should work pretty much the same as D*.
Hi Mark,

And all 9 of those P25 repeaters are yours, right? (# 10 being Motorola Plantation)

Some day I need to get some P25 VHF/UHF gear. The will is there, but the money is not (at the moment...bad times). I do have all of them programmed into the scanner though. I have to wait till I go down or get a good tropo opening to hear them.

Have you tried D* at all?

Phil
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Old 08-04-2009, 4:12 PM
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It's my belief that D-STAR vs. P25 is a regional thing. In some parts of the country, D-STAR rules the roost while in other parts of the country P25 has more repeaters. I don't think either of them are going away anytime soon.

Other manufacturers can build D-STAR radios, they just choose not to at this time. It's not like Icom is keeping others from building a digital radio. A local ham here is working on building a homebrew/non-Icom D-STAR repeater in his basement. His goal is to have it up on UHF by Christmas. It can happen, and I think it's gonna happen.

Currently I am sticking to D-STAR since it was engineered to be more useful for amateurs and has amateur-specific features such as callsign routing, messages, and readily-accessible data programs such as D-RATS.

I think I'd be more eager to play with P25 for amateur use if I didn't have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get a Motorola P25-capable radio off eBay and then buy a battery and a charger that costs an arm and a leg AND THEN find someone to program it for me. What if I need it reprogrammed in an emergency? I guess I'd be SOL. I would be game if Yaesu made a P25 radio for amateur use.
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Old 08-04-2009, 5:28 PM
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Around here, you're doing good to find someone to talk to on regular ol' FM! Very few area hams have D-Star radios, and few of them bother to use D-Star at all.

There are two D-Star repeaters here, single system - one 2M on 440. They have it linked to the net, but it's a slow / sometimes-flaky connection so there tend to be frequent dropouts on net-connected conversations. Someone starts talking, and after a few seconds they just go away. They also often get a LOT of artifacts and wateriness in the voices, really makes it hard to follow things.

And I just can't make myself like the audio quality in general. Even going simplex, with solid strong signals, the audio sounds so pinched and anemic - very artificial. That goes for any other digital protocol I've heard too - my local PD is switching to Provoice, same deal. They sound *okay*, and are perfectly understandable, but they just don't sound *good*.

Now, I could live with that, but there's one thing that really chaps my hide and makes me turn the radio off. When I'm cruising down the highway listening to a D-Star conversation and I'm right at the threshold of losing the signal, if the decoder isn't able to properly decode what's coming in I'd rather it didn't keep trying - just mute the audio! Instead, I have the volume cranked to hear the conversation (why is the audio level so very low on D-Star transmissions?!?) then I dip into a valley and get BLASTED with a cacophony of full-volume digital noise. This really gets old quick!

And that would be on an Icom ID-800, it may just be how Icom implemented things, I don't know...

Oh yeah - I'm a computer nut, so one other gripe! Why did they not provide for full data on VHF/UHF? I don't mean 56kbps wideband, just give me the option of switching the radio to data-only mode instead of 1200bps alongside 3600bps voice. Let me run 4800bps data! I had my two ID-800s connected to computers, and actually had a PPP connection between the two. Very cool! Astoundingly slow, too. Being able to bump to 4800 bps would at least make things usable over longer ranges than the 1.2GHz stuff. (That's another toy I'd like to have, couple of ID-1s, but good grief for what you get the price is insane!)

I don't mean to sound like I'm bashing D-Star or digital in general, I really want to like a digital protocol. Being able to link things without all the headaches associated with analog systems would be sweet. Being able to more seamlessly handle data traffic is nice too. But my experiences thus far just don't have me cheering for any of them yet.
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Old 08-04-2009, 5:29 PM
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Thumbs up D-STAR is a lot of fun!!!

D-STAR is a lot fun and quite active here in Alabama too. Here in Calhoun County we have the WB4GNA D-STAR repeater, 2 Meters WB4GNA C 145.300-, 70 Centimeters WB4GNA B 442.425+, 23 Centimeters Voice WB4GNA A 1285.000-, 23 Centimeters Digital Data 1251.000. Also the KJ4JGK D-STAR repeater, which is the Calhoun County EMA/ARES/RACES repeater, 2 Meters KJ4JGK C 145.280-, 70 Centimeters KJ4JGK B 443.350+.

I got into D-STAR just 2 weeks after getting into Amateur Radio back in 2006. Several of us here had been playing with D-STAR simplex before we got the repeaters up.

I was actually able to hit the Tuscaloosa Tall Tower D-STAR repeater from about 100 miles away using only a 7 watt handheld with a 5/8 wave mag-mount antenna before I got a base/mobile station!

D-STAR can be and is a lot of fun but it may not be for everyone and there is nothing wrong with that. But I think it is really cool to be able to have a guy in South Florida talking on a handheld to a guy in Greece also talking on a handheld on a local repeater that is connected to a Gateway!

We've used D-STAR voice and data during weather events and during major FEMA exercises involving the Annis Army Depot in regards to CSEPP. Several of the "high ranking" officials/observers seemed to be quite impressed too.
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Old 08-04-2009, 5:59 PM
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All good comments. I am enjoying the shared experience and viewpoints.

I have to get down to Ft. Lauderdale to try some repeater action out. I have picked up blurbs during tropo conditions from KJ4ARB Tampa on 147.010, but nothing solid enough to listen to yet. Tampa is 140 miles west of me. I will hear Ft. Laud at 90 miles better when the conditions are right. My only simplex contact was short. There is a hamfest in Ft. Pierce on Saturday, so maybe I will get more DV time in there. For now I will enjoy the experience you all bring here.

One final note...We had a local WX alert here and the WX Alert feature worked well on the IC-91AD. (press MR to reset it )

Phil
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Old 08-04-2009, 6:23 PM
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Regarding P25 though; what would amateur's require P25 based systems for??
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Old 08-04-2009, 7:00 PM
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Hi Mark,

And all 9 of those P25 repeaters are yours, right? (# 10 being Motorola Plantation)

Some day I need to get some P25 VHF/UHF gear. The will is there, but the money is not (at the moment...bad times). I do have all of them programmed into the scanner though. I have to wait till I go down or get a good tropo opening to hear them.

Have you tried D* at all?

Phil
Nope...personally I only have 2 in operation. There are 4 in Broward, 2 in Miami, and 3 or 4 in west palm beach. I have been told a number have also been deployed in the Orlando area and Jax has 2 that go very far into GA. You can check the sticky at the top of this forum for additional details.

P25 stuff on ebay is cheap and reliable. I picked up a used xts2500 II last year for under $300 that was in very nice condition. Just have to keep your eyes open as to what is available.

Yep I tried D* once, very complicated to program and I wasn't impressed with the audio. My ears like the IMBE vocoder better. I also like the ability to run mixed mode so analog only users aren't left out of the QSO.
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Old 08-04-2009, 7:05 PM
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I would be game if Yaesu made a P25 radio for amateur use.
All the commercial P25 radios, including Vertex, have the amateur bands in them by default. You can even find them with FPP (Front Panel Programming) so quick changes can be done without a PC or software. You just won't be able to find a true dual-band radio. They would only be single band.

Mark
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Old 08-04-2009, 7:08 PM
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All good comments. I am enjoying the shared experience and viewpoints.

I have to get down to Ft. Lauderdale to try some repeater action out. I have picked up blurbs during tropo conditions from KJ4ARB Tampa on 147.010, but nothing solid enough to listen to yet. Tampa is 140 miles west of me. I will hear Ft. Laud at 90 miles better when the conditions are right. My only simplex contact was short. There is a hamfest in Ft. Pierce on Saturday, so maybe I will get more DV time in there. For now I will enjoy the experience you all bring here.

One final note...We had a local WX alert here and the WX Alert feature worked well on the IC-91AD. (press MR to reset it )

Phil
Try listening to my 147.390 in the morning between 6:30 and 7:30. We have 4 or 5 of us on it like clockwork and it goes clear into BelleGlade and 1/2 way across I-75 during non-band openings.
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Old 08-04-2009, 7:52 PM
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Try listening to my 147.390 in the morning between 6:30 and 7:30. We have 4 or 5 of us on it like clockwork and it goes clear into BelleGlade and 1/2 way across I-75 during non-band openings.
Will do, Mark. I get enough tropo up here to hear it every now and then, I'm sure. XTS2500's for 3 bills, huh? You know how to get all the good deals!

As far as programming goes, I already got used to it now that I understand it. Software helps because the user interface on the ham maggot gear sucks. That is the only headache I see. Programming a Motowiz radio to really get it to be optimal is not all that easy either (until you get used to all the things you need to do in the software). But what does P25 on amateur bands offer other than digital over analog? It's fun, but what does it do that analog doesn't do? Encryption would be nice, but that's out on amateur bands. I think D-STAR is attractive because of the routing features...like a smartzone omnipoint system in a way. Now if you can make that happen on amateur P25 repeaters, you've got something. It's the big selling point to D-STAR. I am curious though which digital format works better in a mobile environment. My first experience told me D-STAR is not too tolerant towards mobile fading. I would like to see a side by side mobile test of both in a weak signal environment to tell which is better. I have a feeling P25 is. That would be a fun test! I also wonder what will happen with P25 Phase II. Will some of the good IMBE audio be lost? Will it be just like TDMA AMBE?? Will today's P25 systems upgrade to phase II???


Phil
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:19 PM
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Hey there. Here in WI we have a few DSTAR repeaters on the air, i think two are in the Milwaukee area, one is in the Madison area, and we got one here in Wausau on 1.2 GHZ, while i`ve not had any direct experience with DSTAR yet, i just snagged a IC91AD, and am getting the software and cable soon so i can get it programmed up and can start using it. It should be intresting to see just how this goes, i`m looking forward to mabey dabbling a bit with DSTAR, should be fun. N9NRA
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:41 PM
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I don't think d star is going anywhere fast until more support from other then ICOM. Cost is a factor because nobody wants to build the radios until they know how many they will sell. Plus I think since most PS has supported P25 that is going to be the way to go. Don't think we need too many differant systems
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Old 08-04-2009, 11:33 PM
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Regarding P25 though; what would amateur's require P25 based systems for??
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But what does P25 on amateur bands offer other than digital over analog? It's fun, but what does it do that analog doesn't do? Encryption would be nice, but that's out on amateur bands. l
BINGO!!! We have a winner!

P25 unless there's an absolute need to run digital, is useless in amateur radio.

Just my opinion.

BTW, have a read here...
http://forums.qrz.com/showthread.php...ghlight=d-star
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Old 08-05-2009, 12:44 AM
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I believe P25 and D-STAR are becoming extremely competitive these days. It's no secret, though, that I desire D-STAR more than P25 because of its amateur-specific features like callsign routing that P25 doesn't have. I see the battle between D-STAR and P25 as the battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, except they will both be around in some extent forever. They are both similar, they basically try to accomplish the same thing, they both came out around the same time, and one is trying to gobble up a bigger market share than the other as soon as possible. But both will be around for a very, very long time.

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And I just can't make myself like the audio quality in general. Even going simplex, with solid strong signals, the audio sounds so pinched and anemic - very artificial. That goes for any other digital protocol I've heard too - my local PD is switching to Provoice, same deal. They sound *okay*, and are perfectly understandable, but they just don't sound *good*.
Same here. When I first started with D-STAR I thought it sounded like everyone was talking with marbles in their mouths. You get used to it. Since I've been using DV for so long, it annoys me when I hear a little bit of noise on an analog repeater. I listened to a P25 PD/FD trunking system for the first time this past weekend and I thought it sounded like garbage. I thought D-STAR sounded better, but I'll bet they are used to P25 sounding like that, just in the way that I am used to D-STAR sounding like everyone has marbles in their mouths.

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I was actually able to hit the Tuscaloosa Tall Tower D-STAR repeater from about 100 miles away using only a 7 watt handheld with a 5/8 wave mag-mount antenna before I got a base/mobile station!
That's some impressive range. Earlier this year we had some problems with the repeater's hearing. They replaced the cavities and added a preamp and the difference was phenomenal. I've heard reports that users are able to raise the machine 40-50 miles away on their IC-91AD's with the stock antenna. And that's just UHF -- we will have VHF up soon and I expect even better range.

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We've used D-STAR voice and data during weather events and during major FEMA exercises involving the Annis Army Depot in regards to CSEPP. Several of the "high ranking" officials/observers seemed to be quite impressed too.
D-STAR's opportunity to really shine is in emergency situations (as long as you don't require the use of the internet). I think it was either the Northern Virginia D-STAR Group (Main Page - Northern VA D-STAR Group) or the Arlington Radio Public Service Club (Arlington Radio Public Service Club) that heavily used D-STAR in the Marine Corps Marathon. If they didn't use D-STAR 100%, they came very close to it. I saw a video somewhere about it that really impressed me but I couldn't find it.

The problem with using D-STAR (or even P25) in an emergency situation is the fact that the operators actually have to have a digital radio. I'd say that maybe a quarter of the ARES regulars around here are D-STAR equipped. We've been very fortunate to secure a grant from Iowa Homeland Security to procure a 1.2 GHz digital data system and some D-STAR radios, but the problem is distributing them in times of emergency.

We gave one of the 2820's (with D-STAR chip) to our local NWS office, and the tech coordinator (and ham) for that WFO has been playing with it. I am very stoked about the potential of being able to use D-STAR during SKYWARN events but as it is right now, I am one of only two SKYWARN spotters equipped and trained for D-STAR.

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P25 stuff on ebay is cheap and reliable. I picked up a used xts2500 II last year for under $300 that was in very nice condition. Just have to keep your eyes open as to what is available.

Yep I tried D* once, very complicated to program and I wasn't impressed with the audio. My ears like the IMBE vocoder better. I also like the ability to run mixed mode so analog only users aren't left out of the QSO.
D-STAR radios can be had for dirt cheap as well. Aside from used equipment, you can get on the air with D-STAR on 2 meters with an Icom IC-2200H ($150) and the UT-118 DV chip for anywhere between $150-200. Then you have callsign routing, linking, etc. plus the ability to program your own radio on the fly.

What radio isn't complicated to program these days? It's better than having to take a Motorola or some other commercial-grade radio to a radio shop and have it programmed. Like I said above, I didn't like the sound of D-STAR at first either but I think it's what you're accustomed to because I don't think P25 sounds good.

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Originally Posted by KS4VT View Post
All the commercial P25 radios, including Vertex, have the amateur bands in them by default. You can even find them with FPP (Front Panel Programming) so quick changes can be done without a PC or software. You just won't be able to find a true dual-band radio. They would only be single band.
The only P25 radios I have found on eBay that are FPP are over $1000. I don't know that much about FPP but I hope it's as flexible and easy as an amateur radio to program. I'm assuming the cost of FPP radios on eBay are so high because public safety radios are not allowed to be user-programmable like that (I read that here on RR, don't get on my butt if it's wrong). Since public safety surplus is a big chunk of what's being sold on eBay, there's not many FPP radios available. Maybe when more of them are taken out of service we will see more FPP radios and thus more affordable and competitive.

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Plus I think since most PS has supported P25 that is going to be the way to go. Don't think we need too many differant systems
That is a silly reason to think that P25 will prevail on the amateur bands. We don't need to have interoperability with public safety. They won't talk on our bands and we won't talk on theirs. I don't know why it would prevail simply because police and fire will be using it. Hams will do what they want, and they haven't been known for following a specific protocol or method just because the government does it. If you're talking about just because of the surplus P25 equipment that will be available, that may be true but it's an indirect influence on the market and the same could be said about amateur equipment. Both D-STAR and P25 equipment will become more affordable as more used gear enters the market.

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Originally Posted by K2QI View Post
BINGO!!! We have a winner!

P25 unless there's an absolute need to run digital, is useless in amateur radio.

Just my opinion.

BTW, have a read here...
Is D-Star sole-sourced by ICOM? - QRZ Forums
I totally agree. The JARL engineered D-STAR specifically for amateurs and thus has features like callsign routing, linking, etc. that only makes sense for amateurs to use it. I sincerely think you get more bang out of your buck with D-STAR.

Two forum posts that make a good read: D-STAR VS APCO P-25 for Amateurs and What does D star do that IRLP dosent? - QRZ Forums

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Old 08-05-2009, 10:57 PM
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Well, I had a little more DV airtime on simplex today. Worked well. I like it! At the moment I am out powered. I know there is a sync preamble at the start of the transmission. Any recommendations on a dual band amp with fast switching?

I'm also going to build up some mic and amplified speaker arrangement for mobile use. Is the HM75A a good sounding mic? I do not plan on using the speaker in it...just mic and controls.

Phil

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