So, you’re interested in getting into DMR?
Before we get on how to get going on DMR, let’s start with basic but important information! DMR is a network of digital repeaters; a network that stretches across the world. Users of DMR on those many repeaters have the choice of several TALKGROUPS that are made available for use on those repeaters. Some TALKGROUPS only transmit to local users on the 1 repeater, but there are many TALKGROUPS that talk over a WIDE AREA- e.g., statewide, regional, all of North America and even World Wide!
For DMR to work for everyone, ALL users of the systems MUST follow some guidelines when utilizing wide area talk groups.
CRITICALLY IMPORTANT- National and international talkgroups, and other very wide area groups may be considered CALLING CHANNELS ONLY by their originators. This means that ham operators can put out a call to a specific ham or put out a general call on these talkgroups, and once contact is established, it's reccomended that you move off to another talkgroup that is meant for wide area QSO’s, Like TAC-310 or TAC-311. More on how that works in a second...Practice good operating skills.
When using State Wide and Regional talkgroups, be aware that your transmission is still going out over a large number of repeaters, so lengthy rag-chews are not a good idea on these groups either, but consult the repeater owners and organizers of the network to which your local repeater is connected for guidelines.
If you are not using a LOCAL talkgroup, then your transmission may be going out over many repeaters. TAC-310 and TAC-311 are examples of talkgroups which are PTT-activated and allow QSOs to take place without tying up many unneeded repeaters, causing needless wear and tear on equipment. If you are in a QSO with another ham, why also tie up dozens- possibly hundreds- of repeaters. Move to a group such as TAC-310 so far fewer repeaters will be activated by your QSO.
PTT-activated TALKGROUPS, such as TAC-310 and TAC-311, are talkgroups that even though the repeater offers that talkgroup, the repeater will not transmit any traffic on that talkgroup unless a repeater user local to that repeater presses PTT while tuned to that talkgroup. That activates the group and if you are listening to that repeater will hear the traffic on that talkgroup. There is a time-out timer that will turn the group back off if nobody presses PTT on that group during the timer period.
Now Let's have some fun...
Ok, so to get started you will need the following:
1. A DMR repeater within range
2. A DMR radio
3. A DMR Subscriber ID
4. Programming info for your new DMR radio
Step 1 – DMR Coverage. There are many sources for DMR repeaters throughout North America. Unfortunately there isn’t a unified resource due to various networks and affiliations. The repeaters we list here on this site will be ones that are connected to the Hoosier DMR c-Bridge. Since you’ve found your way here, it’s safe to assume you have a Hoosier DMR repeater close to you. If not, you can visit www.hoosierdmr.net/coverage.html to verify if you’re within range. You’ll need to know it’s RX/TX Frequencies and what Color Code it uses, all of which is available via on this website under the “REPEATERS” tab. This is the information that will need to be programmed into each channel in your radio.
Color Code? What’s a Color Code? To distinguish between adjacent and repeater stations with overlapping coverage, DMR utilizes the concept of Color Code. This is the DMR equivalent to how PL or CTCSS/DPL function on analog repeaters.
Step 2 - A DMR radio.
That is the key to the puzzle. Well, as we stated before, there are many manufacturers out there and many different price ranges. There are two things to remember. First, make sure that your radio is DMR compatible. dPMR is not compatible and neither is NXDN. The best bet for an amateur looking to get into DMR is a Connect Systems radio (http://www.connectsystems.com) or the Tytera MD-380 (www.tyterausa.com). The prices are VERY affordable and they are very good radios to get started. As you become more familiar with the technology and decide that you like it, you may decide to upgrade to a more expensive, feature filled radio, like a Motorola MotoTRBO. Secondly, Make sure you get the correct frequency range; very important! 90% of the DMR network, as well as all the Hoosier DMR repeaters, operate within the 70 CM amateur band. However, there are a handful of repeaters on the east coast and a few scattered here and there that are VHF and even some operating in the 900 MHz spectrum. When buying a radio, please make sure to get the correct band split (403-470 MHz), as some manufacturers make both a high and low split version (Motorola is one of them). Currently, there are no dual band DMR radios available.
Keep in mind that DMR is a commercial digital protocol, so most radios must be programmed with software and a cable. Some radios offer FPP, but it’s still recommended to utilize the software to take advantage of all the features the radios offer. The cost of the software and cable vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Step 3 – A DMR Subscriber ID.
The DMR-MARC organization coordinates worldwide Amateur Radio DMR Subscriber ID’s. You can go here to apply for one. The usual turn-around time is 24 hours.
Step 4 - Now you are ready to program!
In our Codeplug Vault, we offer several different basic codeplugs for different radio manufacturers for you to download. Don’t get overwhelmed. This seems like a lot to take in, but there are several online resources and DMR Elmer’s out there to assist. If you have any issues at all shoot us an email, we are happy to help.