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D-Star, Fusion, DMR – Which do you choose?

Uploading my codeplug to my D578 in the car

When I first got licensed, I was looking at all of the radios out there trying ti decide which digital radio format I would purchase. Let’s face it, Analog is great, but all of 2m/70cm radios out there are analog capable. I wanted to pick a digital protocol that I could also use, but which one?

My Elmer was beating me over the head with “Buy an Icom, it is must better quality than a Chinese radio!” Some of the other hams I had spoken to had their preferences, but the majority of the older crew all said pretty much the same thing – Buy a Japanese Radio, not a Chinese radio. One guy went as far as to tell me if I got anything short of Motorola, Kenwood, or Icom that I was not a real Ham operator…. Really?!

Instead of listening to everyone else, I decided to take a pragmatic approach and study my area. First, I looked at my area on Repeaterbook and discovered – There was only a couple Fusion or D-STAR repeaters within driving distance, with nothing really close to me. DMR was spread over the entire County.

The more I started to look into DMR, the more I became convinced that Fusion and D-Star both would come with some serious limitations for me. Now that opinion has become that Fusion and D-Star are dying.

DMR is open protocol that any manufacturer can adopt, so it shouldn’t matter what brand of radio you are using as long as it is designed to work with DMR. Honestly, if Icom made the ID-52A in a DMR radio, I would scoop it up, but that is not likely to happen as long as they cling to the fading hope that D-Star will rule the world.

Something that I did not take into account when choosing DMR is that DMR Simplex is amazing! While I am able to use Analog frequencies for simplex just fine, the person you are talking to starts to drown into the noise as they get to edge of your signal propagation. With DMR running simplex, you get a little better range due to only using a bandwidth of 12.5kHz compared to the 25kHz of analog. Much like narrowing a flashlight beamwill carry the beam further, the same is true with a radio frequency.

This is an excellent video that demonstrates the difference between DMR and Analog Simplex

I will likely be exploring the DMR networks for the next several years, but the possibilities are really fascinating once you dig in and play with it. Having a hotspot at home to use on DMR is pretty cool, but being able to bounce repeaters around the city to connect all over the world is such a wonderful reality.

While there are a lot of DMR capable radios out there, I chose the AnyTone 878UVIII Plus for my HT. After having such a good experience with that radio, I went ahead and put a AnyTony 578 in my vehicle as well. The codeplug that I developed for the 878 can easily be exported and then imported into the codeplug for 578, so both radios are running with the same settings.

There is still a lot left for me to explore with the functionality of these radios, but I wanted to share my thoughts for those who are looking at getting a radio and trying to decide between the different standards available.

So, in summary, I would say that I am very glad that I chose to go against the advice of the older Hams that tried to get me to adopt Fusion or D-Star; those protocols are pretty much useless where I live. None of those that warned me against DMR even owns a DMR radio, so I am not sure why they have such strong opinions.

Do your own Research and make the choice for what works best for you; you’ll be grateful you did.