D-Star On The Cheap

At the first meeting of the Oakville Amateur Radio Club Rod, VE3RHF, and I did a short introduction to the D-Star system.

D-Star is pretty neat as it allows Hams using digital handhelds, mobiles, Dongles and DVAPs to access the D-Star world from just about anywhere.HotspotDiag

Using a handheld or mobile it’s pretty easy to find a nearby D-Star repeater or D-Star hotspot.shapeimage_2

Using a Dongle any computer with Internet access can be turned into a self-contained access point.

Using a DVAP the computer can be accessed via a handheld or mobile rig anywhere with 100 meters or so and if you connect the DVAP to an external antenna, the 10 mW signal can reach outwards of 1,000 meters or so.

One of the complaints about D-Star equipment is it is more expensive than standard FM rigs especially when compared to the equipment coming out of China. However, when it comes to rigs from China, there’s a lot of handhelds that apparently needed replacing and the Chinese companies don’t seem to be overly quick when it comes to customer relations.71rM7NhAntL._SL1500_

Worse yet is the review in the recent QST magazine on the OneTone dual-band rig. Can’t see anybody buying this rig after reading the review which wasn’t positive.

One thing to keep in mind when buying a D-Star rig is it will work on standard FM as well as digital modes so really digital becomes an added feature which does increase the cost but certainly provides a lot of bang for the buck.

But there’s an even cheaper way to get on D-Star. Most (and not all) analogue FM rigs that have 9800-baud capabilities can be configured along with a relatively cheap GMSK node adapter to create a digital hotspot through a computer (or Raspberry Pi) connection.

Hook this up to an external antenna with the rig running 50 watts or so on a simplex frequency and you could provide D-Star coverage across most of Oakville.

D-Star is in its early days. For the appliance operator who just wants to fire up his radio or computer and talk to somebody there’s a world-wide “chat” frequency that’s very active.

For Hams who are living in places where they cannot use an HF rig or put up an external antenna, the DVAP and Dongle will keep them “on the air” and in touch with the world-wide Ham Radio community via D-Star.

But the real value of D-Star will come in the future as groups like our club or ARES groups or other special interest groups find places inside the D-Star network to gather and communicate and have fun.

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