After reading on the internet and listening to local chatter, I thought it was appropriate for me as a D-Star user to defend D-star. Here are some of the misconceptions people have regarding this mode.
1. D-Star doesn't work without the internet.
D-Star can operate simplex point-to-point like we use our analogue rigs It can also function with a repeater, re-transmitting signals using a specific frequency pair. Also, here's where the internet comes in, these repeaters and gateways can be linked to the internet to communicate to other D-Star repeaters and gateways around the world.
((what's a gateway?) This is like a linked repeater but only one frequency is used to talk to the internet link. Your audio is not repeated locally, but routed over the internet. Your internet linked QSO partner talks back to you on the same frequency after you release the radios PTT when you have finished talking.)
2. D-Star isn't radio.
This is similar to point number one but I hear it all the time. If I put a analogue and a D-Star radio next to each other and asked you to pick out the D-Star radio you couldn't tell the difference because they both have, a microphone. If you're talking into a microphone connected to a radio with an antenna attached generating RF....then you're using a radio. AKA D-Star. There is a device that connects to your computer that relies solely on the internet, using the PC's microphone and speakers, so this user is not technically using a radio, Firstly there are not a lot of dongle users on the network compared to radio users, Second. If a person is using a dongle he's prob. chatting to someone over a linked repeater or gateway using RF. This device is actually pretty cool when you're travelling, as when away from home you can work your home repeater from your hotel room.
3. D-Star is just too "computery" for me.
I don't want to mess around with computers. I just want to pick up my microphone and start talking to people. I'll bet these same guys, use a computer for logging contacts or maybe controlling their HF rig. You can program your radio! After all you are a ham. However if not, there are plenty of hams that will help you set up your rig.
4. D-Star is proprietary to ICOM.
The only part of D-Star that is proprietary is the digital codec or the digital encoder chip made by DVSI. If you remove the covers of any modern radio you will see custom chip sets used for general radio operation or even DSP on the radios audio output, its all proprietary to that brand of radio. The D-Star format was developed by the Japanese Amateur Radio League as an open standard protocol. This means any radio manufacture can build D-Star radios. Kenwood and Yaesu are now looking to develop their own digital formats, which is unfortunate as these new systems will not be compatible with DSTAR and the infrastructure already in place.
5. D-Star rigs are too expensive. -,
Maybe, with two thoughts.
If Yaesu and Kenwood built D-Star radios, giving ICOM some competition then prices would come down. £450 for a dual band analogue / digital H/H is expensive. However we've been conditioned to think a dual band H/H must cost £80 with all the Baofengs and Wouxons being available,
Consider pricing a Yaesu or Kenwood APRS H/H. Also remember a D-Star radio covers digital and analogue, so it does more. A cheap way to get into D-Star if you own a modern analogue transceiver with a data connector, be it Kenwood, Yaesu, Alinco, or Icom, is to buy a £140 DVRPTR & AMBE board which will interface with your radio to give you access to D-STAR. This is one example of the non ICOM D-Star ideas being created because of D-STAR's open standard.
6. I've heard when D-Star signals gets weak I can't understand a thing.
That is true but in side-by-side test comparisons between an analogue and a D-Star radio with the same power, same antenna and over the same path the D-Star radio was more readable than the analogue radio. The difference is where an analogue signal gets weak it fades into the noise. When a D-Star signal gets weak the audio starts breaking up. Although with D-STAR the audio will be received Q5 down to around SI.
7. Audio on D-Star just sounds strange to me.
Digital audio is compressed, as such it's not a full rounded sound like wideband FM. However after listening to it for a while you learn to appreciate the quiet background levels between words and the overall clarity. Some users of D-Star do sound muffled, but are usually hams using their computers to get on D-Star where their computers have very poor quality microphones. (Think about some of the audio quality you hear over echolink from PC users) I recommend using a good quality USB headset or a quality desk mike whilst using your PC for DSTAR. When using a radio use the standard mike supplied, you'll sound fine or again replace it with a good quality desk mic as you would an analogue radio.
8. This D-Star stuff takes up a lot of bandwidth on the ham bands.
Because the D-Star digital signal is compressed it takes up only 6.25 KHz vs 25 KHz for a wideband FM signal. If some of the dormant analogue repeaters were switched to digital there could be almost 4 times as many frequencies available for the space from one analogue FM signal. I'm not promoting this idea but in densely populated areas where frequency pairs aren't available, this could be a solution.
9. I don't like D-Star because it will replace analogue.
Both formats can and do co-exist. Remember before FM on VHP / UHF there was only AM. Keep this in the back of your mind with regard to D-Star as it grows more popular over time.
Whenever something new comes along we tend to resist change. Then after we use it for a while we wonder how we lived without it. Remember that new thing called the internet? At first it was perceived to be the death of ham radio, but now we have systems that compliment it. APRS ECHOLINK IRLP and now DSTAR.I encourage everyone to learn more about D-Star by talking with a D-Star user or experience it first hand, and not by those that rubbish it when knowing very little or nothing about it. My hope is when you hear derogatory comments about D-Star you'll now know the true facts. The nature of ham radio is learning and experimenting so keep an open mind as fresh ideas come along.
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