D-Star is an open digital format that originated with the Japanese Amateur Radio League back in 2001 where the protocol and use slowly gained popularity. Today there are thousands of D-Star users and repeaters operating around the world.
But Icom is not the only way to get onto D-Star. Now there are DV Dongles that provides D-Star capabilities when plugged into PC or Mac computers. (Yes there are proprietor issues that affect the codec but honestly I don’t care. Some guys have their shorts in a knot about this but meanwhile I’m on the air enjoying D-Star.)
So what does D-Star do?
D-Star is available on rigs that operate on 2 meters, 440 and 1.2 gigs. Also, D-Star will soon be available for HF.
D-Star works by enclosing a digital signal (kinda like packet) which is transmitted inside a narrowband FM signal. This is why D-Star digital radios also transmit standard FM signals.
One advantage of D-Star is it uses narrowband FM as I said and this means that thanks to the narrower bandwidth there is an inherent advantage that D-Star has over standard FM not to say anything about better utilization of spectrum space.
D-Star allows for direct simplex operation, local repeater operation and the ability to link repeaters or by using reflectors create massive linked networks. D-Star also allows for text to be sent as well as voice and ARES groups are starting to integrate D-Star setups into their public service work.
In order to protect the global D-Star network, it is necessary to register for access to D-Star system. You can operate simplex or via a local repeater without registering but registration (which is easy) is necessary to access the network.
I’ve come across a really good explanation of D-Star and here is the link to the Nifty E-Z Guide to D-Star Operation.
The easy guide is 135 pages and it’s not for those with attention-deficit syndrome but most stuff I’ve seen so far has been written by techno-geeks for whom English is a foreign tongue even if it is the primary language.
D-Star is an emerging new way of doing things and the early adaptors tend to be the tech-guys and they are blazing an amazing trail for us techno-wennies to follow. D-Star isn’t for appliance operators (yet) but is terrific for early adaptors 🙂 and those who want to experiment at the farthest most edge of what’s new in Ham Radio.
BTW you can get into D-Star by purchasing an Icom ID-31A digital 440 rig for under $300. I bought mine at Dayton from Ham Radio Outlet and couldn’t be happier. I’ve got an Icom mobile IC-880D on it’s way from Ham Radio Outlet plus software from the nice folks at RT Systems.
In future posts will talk about hot spots, how repeaters and reflectors work and, in general, how to have fun with D-Star.
Sure there are some issues with D-Star and some guys are going apoplectic because they have to “register” their call signs with someone (sounds like a government plot to me!!) but then again there are still guys who think SSB was a giant step backwards and keep running their AM tube rigs.
D-Star is a bold new step into the future of Amateur Radio.