Is DMR The Future of Radio?
When most people think of Amateur Radio today, they think of contacts made on HF, local repeater systems, and occasionally some satellite work. However, there are many things about the hobby that most have never seen. DMR is one of those things.
Despite its relatively short history, DMR is catching on. Like wildfire in the amateur community. With the release of more repeaters and a vast increase in system capacity, it looks like it’s here to stay. In fact, many predict that DMR could be the future of Amateur Radio. Here are a few reasons why:
DMR has a free and open standard. You don’t have to pay a license fee or purchase a proprietary transceiver from a single vendor like Motorola, Icom, Kenwood, or Yaesu. The downside is that you’re limited to using only digital radios that support this standard, but this is an upside because it means you can use any DMR-compatible device — not just ones made by one particular manufacturer.
It’s digital and software-defined.
The new DMR standard and digital technology have been completely developed in software rather than in hardware. This has enabled manufacturers to introduce a wide range of products into the market very quickly and at reasonable prices. This also means that there are many different brands and styles of radio to choose from, which helps ensure that everyone finds a radio that fits their needs.
Member-owned, globally accessible, and interoperable.
Forced to choose one, I would have to say the most significant reason I’ve migrated to DMR is that it is owned and managed by its user base. Amateur Radio is essentially the world’s largest member-owned organization that owns nothing. It’s a service, an activity, a hobby, a lifestyle. As such, we should expect it to be able to adapt to our needs. The days of proprietary closed service offerings fading away as technology and the world of business mature.
The first generation of consumers grew up accustomed to getting what they wanted when and how. The second generation expects much more; there needs to a value derived from their participation in the process. To continue growing and enticing new members into our ranks, we need to adapt our approach and use everything available to make Amateur Radio more accessible and more valuable to our members.
Flexible enough to be anything you want it to be.
Because of this, amateur radio has evolved into multiple variations, mostly by way of digital communication modes. For example, you have AFSK, PACTOR, and so on. When digital modes first appeared on the scene many years ago, they were digital modes that used old-school hardware to send and receive RF signals. The D-STAR system does just that. It takes advantage of 2-meter satellite dishes and hardware originally designed for satellite communications, adapted for terrestrial use.
The primary benefit of D-STAR is that it’s flexible enough to be applied to all kinds of voice applications: two-way voice communications using existing repeaters, two-way voice communications over the internet using D-STAR stations as gateways and protocols such as VoIP, DMR, and C4FM (Digital C4FM) radios. More factual information on DMR can be found right here
Ease of use
Compared to the older technology of FM voice and analog, DMR is a much more modern system. It has a touch screen interface on most hand-held radios, and the system itself is very intuitive and easy to use.
It’s growing like wildfire, and there’s room for anyone.
Ham Radio has been around for over 100 years, but it has always had its specific audience within that time. With the focus on voice-only communication, it was hard to attract many new people who would be interested in becoming Hams. However, with the introduction of DMR and open source software like DMR Plus; the doors are wide open for many new hams to come into this hobby.
It’s the future.
While DMR may seem like an oddball selection for the mainstream; many of us have been working for a long time to bring it to this point. With more and more gateway DMR options coming online every day, that reality is becoming closer.