Fall 2009 Issue


D-STAR Action Continues to Grow

By Bob Witte, KØNR


Figure 1. The DStarUsers.org website lists stations that have recently accessed the D-STAR network.

In the amateur radio world D-STAR continues to be a hot topic. In this column I’ll provide visibility to some of the exciting developments happening with D-STAR. The main message here is that the technology continues to evolve, including major involvement from the ham radio community.

The number of D-STAR users continues to increase at a rapid pace. D-STAR registrations (required to use the gateway-based features of D-STAR) are tracked on DStarUsers.org, so we have reliable data on how many individuals are on the system. There were roughly 8000 registered users in April 2009, which grew to over 9200 in three months, representing an annual growth rate of 60%. While still a small percentage of the overall radio amateur population, the growth rate is impressive.

Since most D-STAR repeaters have gateways that connect their users to the internet and other D-STAR systems, we can monitor this information in real time. The DStarUsers.org website shows recently heard stations on the network. For example, figure 1 shows a listing of recent stations present on the D-STAR system with my callsign (KØNR) listed as the fifth most recent station heard. The listing indicates the time heard, the repeater accessed (WØTLM), and the location of the repeater. Notice that the list is international in nature, with stations listed from several different countries.

D-STAR on the Internet

There are some excellent sources of basic information for ham radio operators starting out with D-STAR. One of the challenges is getting your D-STAR transceiver configured correctly so that your signal goes to the right user and repeater. D-STAR has callsign routing built into the protocol, which generally requires you to enter up to four callsigns into your transceiver:

MYCALL: your callsign
URCALL: the callsign of the station you are calling or the default “CQCQCQ” for calling any station
RPT 1: the callsign of your local repeater (if any)
RPT 2: the callsign of the remote repeater (if any)

While this gives you a rough idea of the nature of D-STAR call routing, you’ll need to do a little more homework before trying to access your local D-STAR repeater. For a more complete explanation, see the ARRL Alabama Section website “D-STAR Get-On-The-Air Radio Configuration Guide.” This guide provides an overview of callsign routing to help you program your radio correctly.

Another great source for D-STAR information is the dstarinfo.com website, which offers an online tool called the D-STAR Calculator (figure 2). The D-STAR Calculator lets you specify the type of contact you are trying to make—for example, call a specific user on another D-STAR repeater—and gives you the callsign programming required for your rig. The dstarinfo.com website, sponsored by Georgia D-STAR, has other information to aid in understanding D-STAR operating. Georgia D-STAR also publishes an excellent source of D-STAR news called the “D-STAR Newsletter.”

Amateur Radio Video News (Gary Pearce, KN4AQ) produces some professional videos about amateur radio subjects. The “Digital Voice for Amateur Radio” DVD has a 35-minute section on D-STAR and P-25 (mostly D-STAR). This video is a great introduction to D-STAR and can serve as a presentation for your next club meeting (figure 3). Take a look at the ARVN website and check out the free previews of the various videos.

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