Category Archives: Amateur Radio

DSTAR Tutorial

Greetings! I wrote this DSTAR tutorial and thought others could benefit from it.

I hope everyone finds it useful!

A couple caveats. First, if you’re reading this from another area of Michigan or in another state, check to see which DSTAR repeater is closest to you and register with that repeater. You can consult the dstarinfo.com website repeater list for more help. Second, the examples provided in this tutorial will only work for the greater Grand Rapids, MI area. You’ll need to use the repeater callsigns closest to you, but programing your radios is the exact same procedure.

Each radio has different layouts and menu options. Please consult your manuals for DSTAR menu and layout information.

First, in order to use DSTAR repeaters, you need to register your callsign & have someone approve you. Since all the DSTAR repeaters globally “talk” to each other, you only need to register with one repeater. The closest one is in Grand Rapids and its call is WX8GRR. It’s run by the West Michigan Technical Group. You need to visit this website and follow all the instructions laid out on it to get registered on the DSTAR Network. Remember, once you’ve registered on the Grand Rapids repeater, you’ll never need to register again for any DSTAR repeater in the world.

http://www.wmporn.net/G2.htm

Please read everything on this page carefully & follow all instructions. Once you’ve registered, you’ll need to wait for someone to approve your request. It took a couple weeks for them to approve me. It took 24 hours for them to approve a friend of mine. To find out if your request was approved, visit this site & try logging in.

https://g2.wmporn.net/Dstar.do

 

If you get an error message and you’ve typed in the correct password you created at registration, then your registration is still “Pending.” If you log in & see a “control panel” of information, you’re all set and can proceed with the following tutorial.

Now that you’re registered & have configured your “control panel” online, let’s turn to the radio.

First, DSTAR has 3 modules that you should be aware of. They are Modules A, B, and C. You’ll be using B and C the most. Those refer to amateur bands. Module A is 1.2 GHz. Module B is 440, and Module C is 2 meters.

There are 4 fields of information that are important to DSTAR. They are UR CALL (Your Call), MYCALL, RPT1, and RPT2.

I’m going to use the Grand Rapids DSTAR 2 meter repeater for my example.

First, let’s tune in the repeater. You’ll receive on 147.290 and you’ll transmit on 147.890. Since DSTAR is digital, you don’t need to worry about PL (CTCSS) or DCS (Digital Tone Squelch) tones.

Find those 4 fields I mentioned earlier in your radio settings somewhere.

Oh make sure you set your operating mode to DV or Digital Voice. Each radio probably calls it something different.

MYCALL = Your callsign. Just put in your callsign in the MyCall field & you’ll never need to touch it again unless another ham wants to use your radio.

The UR CALL field should be set to CQCQCQ (there is other information you can put in here and I’ll go over that later).

RPT1 should be filled out with WX8GRR_C

RPT2 should be filled out with WX8GRR_G

The underscore indicates a SPACE. Don’t actually use an Underscore when programing your radio. There are 8 character spaces for these fields & ALL 8 spaces must be used in order for the radio to communicate with the repeater. Since WX8GRR is 6 characters long, you’ll need to insert a blank space in the 7th slot and then C in the 8th. If a repeater’s callsign is 7 characters long, you don’t need to insert a space as the 8th character will be either A, B, or C, depending on the band you’re using. If a repeater callsign is 5 characters long, you’ll need to insert 2 spaces to get to the 8th character spot and fill it with A, B, or C.

Since you’re using the Grand Rapids 2 meter repeater, you’re using module C hence why RPT1 has a C at the end.

The G in RPT2 at the end of the call indicates Gateway. It is common practice to use G in the 8th slot for RPT2. This will allow DSTAR Dongles & DVAPS to hear you on the repeater if anyone with a Dongle is listening.

Once you have those 4 fields of info filled out, give out a call on the repeater! Congrats! You’re all set. Anyone listening to the Grand Rapids DSTAR 2 meter repeater will hear you and DV Dongles that are connected to the repeater as well will be able to communicate with you as well.

Let’s say you want to LINK the Grand Rapids 2 meter repeater to another repeater somewhere in the world. I’ll use the PI1RYS repeater in Amsterdam for this example.

Since you’re using the 2 meter repeater, you don’t need to retune your radio or change the MYCALL, RPT1, and RPT2 fields. The only field you need to change is the URCALL field.

You’ll change it to read PI1RYSBL

PI1RYS is the repeater. The B is for 70cm or 440. And the L stands for LINK.

Once you have this in the URCALL field, key up for a couple seconds and release the PTT. You should get an audio message back saying something like “Remote system linked” or “remote system active”. If you here that, go ahead and change the URCALL field back to CQCQCQ. Once you’ve done that, throw out your call and see if anyone responds. Now anyone tuned into the Grand Rapids 2 meter repeater or the Amsterdam 70cm repeater can hear you, as well as DV Dongles listening on Grand Rapids or Amsterdam.

Once you’re done with the QSO or you get no response, you need to UNLINK the 2 repeaters. This is easy.

In the 8th character spot of the URCALL Field, put a U

So there should be 7 blank spaces with a U in the 8th. Key up for a couple seconds and let go of the PTT. You should hear an audio response saying “Remote System Unlinked” or something like that.

Once you hear that, change the URCALL field back to CQCQCQ & you’re done!

Congrats! You’ve just made an international call via DSTAR repeaters.

There are so many other things you can do like linking to reflectors (those are groups of repeaters linked together via an internet connection), linking to a specific person’s callsign so you can have a semi private QSO, and etc. It would take a long time to write all of that down.

Here are some useful links for DSTAR that can help you that expands on my tutorial.

http://www.dstarinfo.com is a great site to find other repeaters in the world as well as other DSTAR users.

On the same site, there is a DSTAR calculator that’ll tell you how to link to other repeaters, reflectors, perform an echo test, etc. It’ll show you what you need to input into those 4 fields I mentioned from above.

http://www.dstarinfo.com/dstar-web-calculator.aspx

Here’s another website you can use to see DSTAR User activity within the DSTAR netowrk.

DSTAR Users

Just remember, once you’ve linked to a repeater or a reflector, don’t forget to change the URCALL Field back to CQCQCQ. That’s important. And don’t forget to unlink the repeater or reflector once you’re done with your QSO.

I hope this tutorial helps those of you, new or old, to the DSTAR Network or Amateur Radio!

Good luck & 73s!

PS, there is a Michigan state-wide DSTAR net that meets every Monday night at 8 PM on Reflector 24A.

Gov. Snyder Declares Amateur Radio Week

As a ham radio operator, I’m very glad to see statewide recognition for ham radio operators. Ham radio operators, or hams, do a lot of community service projects including, but not limited to, prividing free radio communications for bike-a-thons, marathons, walk-a-thons, etc. Hams also provide emergency communications skills to organizations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, the National Weather Service, and more. They do a lot.

My neighbor approached my dad the other day & asked him what the big mast was for in our yard. My dad told him that, “my son is a ham radio operator.” I walked outside as I heard my dad mention ham radio and explained my antenna system. He shared a story with me about how when he was younger, living in another state, his neighbors had family living in another state. There was some sort of disaster in the city his neighbor’s family lived in. His neighbors tried calling the police & other emergency services but they couldn’t find anything out from them. So his neighbors went to another neighbor who was a ham. They explained the situation and within 8 minutes, the neighbor ham had them communicating with each other to let them know they were ok thanks to another ham operator in the effected city.

That’s a great example of how hams help out people & communities. I’m a SKYWARN spotter, a group of people who are trained & certified storm spotters for their communities. We go out & observe storms & the damage they cause and report conditions to the National Weather Service via Ham Radio.

I also participate in traffic nets – these are people who pass messages along to hams or non-hams alike. Messages can range from wellfare checks to routine messages containing birthday wishes or reminders to renew your amateur license. I don’t remember the year this was performed, but some time ago, there was an experiement done to see how long a message would take to go around the world. A ham sent himself a message that had to go around the world from ham operator to ham operator as a relay. It took the message 16 minutes 30 seconds from time of departure to return back to the originating station! Impressive! That’s the power of ham radio.

I’m also now an ARRL acredited VE (Volunteer Examiner). As a General class license holder, I can administer Technician level exams for new hams. That’s another good way to give back to the community.

When cell phones and the internet don’t work, Ham Radio will. Most people run their radios on batteries tied to solar panels or wind generators. There are a few VHF/UHF repeaters that have emergency power capabilities & some even run exclusively on solar and/or wind power.

There is a lot you can do within the hobby. You don’t have to know how to build anything. You don’t have to learn morse code. You don’t have to have a complicated setup at all. You don’t need a big tower in your yard to operate on a global level. All you need to do is pass a 35 question exam (you need to get 26 answers correct to pass) to earn your first license, the Technician License. That gives you limited HF (High Frequency) access on certain HF bands & frequences & full access to VHF (Very High Frequencies) & UHF (Ultra High Frequencies). The next level up is the General license. Again, you have to pass a 35 question exam, getting 26 correct answers to pass, and that’ll give you access to more frequencies in the HF bands. And the last level is the Extra class, which gives you access to all Amateur frequencies. You have to pass a 50 question exam, getting 37 correct to pass.

Here are some good resources to check out if you’re interested in learning more about ham radio or you want to study. Visit the ARRL website to learn more about the hobby. And visit HamStudy to study for exams and take practice exams. Setting up a FREE account with them will allow you to save your progress and allow you to home in on exam sections that cuase you trouble.

It’s nice seeing hams get recognized from the state government in Michigan. I hope this gets the public’s attention.

When a disaster strikes: manmade or natural or when normal lines of communication don’t work or are intermitent at best, Hams will step up to the challenge & help. That’s what we do.

Thanks for reading! And here’s a copy of the declaration made by Gov. Snyder declaring Amateur Radio Week in Michigan from June 20th – 26th, 2016