DMR - Probably A Winner (UK/EU)

I’m not writing this because I’m a DMR user (in fact I use C4FM & DMR for digital ham ops), but my speculation of it inevitably being the UK/EU digital voice winning system is mostly because it has cost and availability in it’s favour, add in the relatively low startup cost (important if you’re stocking up a multiple units for loan radios for group use) per set and some remarkably cheap (by UK radio standards) lowest Tier commercial licenses for non Tier 1 446 restricted operation.

Add into the equation that where there will eventually be DMR tier 1 equipment (digital PMR446 equiv to 446 Tier 1 analogue) that’s affordable and probably superceded analogue 446, and the fact there’s no legal restrictions to prevent Tier 2 users having communication with Tier 1 level analogue/digital users within a multi-config radio setup, it all kind of makes a lot of sense.

From a ham radio point of view, where we are permitted to use DMR Tier 2 spec commercial gear on 2m/70cms and utilise Tier 2 benefits such as gateways and repeaters along with regular analogue FM for (typically) local simplex and repeater ops on 2 & 70, it all just works.

Of course there are other digital systems, but when you factor in that almost uniquely DMR is about the only one where you can hold dual setups and have both a commercial zones setup (for work and non-ham group ops) coexist with zones you’d use containing channelised ham radio operation presets and (on the more premium gear) have multiples of ID’s stored (essentially necessary for dual diverse setups coexisting) and provided your DMR commercial gear is totally factory spec hardware wise (unmodified electronically speaking), it’s still TA compliant (necessary for non-ham usage) if it had a genuine TA certification to start with.

I can’t say I know of any C4FM and DSTAR ham market specific gear which can jump through that number of hoops and be legally dual usage given you have your ham license and commercial license coverage for each use respectively.

Of course, time has a funny way of changing the play field and new ‘teams’ and contenders may appear and compete, but whilst the only other dual use potential (legally operable) contender are a few Chinese DPMR sets (and it’s still questionable if the firmware mods are TA breakers where the TA was genuine), but quite frankly, why would you want to adopt a crippled commercial origin setup to reuse for ham ops when you can more readily buy and set up far less crippled and easily reprogrammed equipment cheaper typically?

Probably, outside of ham use, the nearest best options may be the Motorola 446 units which also are LPD mode devices (LPD radio uses some shared UHF frequency usage within what we use as 70cms in the ham world). Those can be legally (if you’ve the right commercial license) opened to 16 channel PMR446+the LPD mode presets use.

But what does those dual (446/LPD) units no favours for uptake is the fact they are relative expensive here in the UK being high end branded stuff (Motorola usually) where you’re paying more akin to old school PMR disproportionate pricing for very crippled kit - but in fairness, those same ‘Tier1’ (for everyman leisure usage) mode and LPD mode items are built for rugged usage and like anything with certified rugged/resistance design that’s legit, there’s a price premium.

Of course, time will tell but if DMR kit is cheap enough (talking legit certified kit specially) to have taken off in the Ham world, it’s definitely got credentials to be the short range focused simplex replacement for 27mhz CB and quality of equipment wise, makes 27mhz kit look like the junk quality it always was but more so.

■■■■, even your cheapest ‘rugged’ PMR446 analogue sets make CB look like cheap and nasty junk (as were most, a few high end stuff not strictly UK legal aside and the better export market sets).

Need it be a better indication of my thoughts on the matter, that I’ve bought a quantity of legit TA DMR units for non-ham group use and will definitely be purchasing a Tier 2 commercial license to cover their non-ham use when we’re beyond co-vid ■■■■?

And no, they definitely weren’t Baofeng DM-Xs I bought up. I got a really good deal on MD5 Alinco items.

Absoluetely. We have shared this thread in our UK group on Facebook for further exposure and contribution:


Well, I’m OK with that if it helps any.

Although it’s usually good form to mention intention first in case the poster would rather not have his/her posts reproduced elsewhere, rather than after.

But as to the topic - well the scope is there, and way beyond basically ‘it could’ philosophical thinking as it’s usable and highly usable as designed, in and out of commercial scope. Even the AP/Gateway/Node tech isn’t the usual LMR extortionate either, so at least in ham radio terms it’s left the start line with a healthy start, easily could be similarly popular if Tier 1 licensing ever permitted personal or limited noncommercial use of LP nodes or meshes (ie multiple hotspots in a group acting as extenders and relays, to a hotspot with high capacity 4G linking to the net).

But just like the WiFi hotspot situation in the UK, you can’t legally make your AP public access intentionally unless it’s a licensed item (and such setups cost a lot more than your average CE type approved AP/Hotspot device, and licensing isn’t exactly attractive enough to encourage doing it right). In fact, if (WiFi context) you did a straw count of those with unsecured AP’s and published Guest Access info listed how legal it was, they’d not have a clue. That’s one of my biggest issues with license-exempt/free radio, the ignorance it attracts about use of.

And quite frankly, if anything will take time to evolve, it’ll be relaxing of Tier 1 for noncommercial linking/relay - and that’ll be because people simply don’t care about the written scope of responsibility they automatically are bound by through use, so like happened with CB, it took a long time to see any relaxation of license schedule - and that only happened because most radio licenses had to be revised to accommodate CEPT guest operations. It certainly wasn’t, in CB, a reward for good behaviour.

So whilst I’m positive about DMR having the scope, realistically, to be the next ‘CB’ level access radio for leisure digital voice mode use along with clear reasoning for it being a weapon of choice for trunked/relayed commercial use as a more advanced 446 system, I don’t for see the government being very proactive about it encouragement/incentives wise, which given the glut of equipment out there, is a crying shame.

Think about how much, if it had been encouraged rather than swept under the carpet in favour of a very crippled dPMR based expensive and shoddy value system, how much use and value it could have brought to both complement POC/IP ‘radio’ as a long range (relatively speaking) radio system in parallel that didn’t need network availability to function. The only real alternatives IP based were a few communicator apps exploiting ad-hoc WiFi and Bluetooth DV and those were and are nowhere near robust enough (although it’s not impossible to make them more solid players on short range ad-hoc/mesh levels).

And given that DMR also supports both common and high encryption modes, and it is viable to integrate into cellular devices and virtual audio crosslink between IP and DMR on the same phone (I use such a device when I need cellular and DMR both present, now I’ve ridded the crippled Chinese fake DMR PTT embedded feature and patched in a modded proper DMR compliant PTT app with crosslinked audio scope). Of course, that scope exists and due as much to blinkered perception as how many suitable devices amongst the few so hardware equipped simply don’t meet any applicable TA for either system and are infested with shoddy PTT radio software. Boxchip and the Rangefinder series radio hybrids being the only real valid contenders if internal crosslinking was added to the PTT software.

So it’s a case of easily possible, virtually a no-brainer cost wise, and leisure market gear would only need a predefined flexible code plug or codeplugs and a brain dead complexity programming app (CPS bare minimal condensed) to make it a really off the shelf leisure system.

But what’s really interesting is how little interest the opens source developers into radio have shown beyond proof of concept alternative CPS design. At best we have OpenGD77 which is a total firmware and CPS bit of engineering that’s ham radio focused heavily, and some piece meal proof of concept utils that serve more as basic tools for Linux because Linux isn’t supported by mainstream CPS software. There are some folks doing DMR focused open-source tool development, but due to circumstances and a great lack of understanding of the underpinnings of DV radio, it’s the bravest live on the edge ‘hackers’ of radio who are proactive and even then it’s for very specific examples of hardware.

Now a good thing (it may even encourage usage of DMR) would be a CPS that was to CPS what RockBox was to open source digital audio players. Now that’s something I’d support, contribute to and encourage.

After all, an EZ common CPS (taking RT Systems common template paid software items as a benchmark, and the Anytone CPS for ease of use basis) and a shared accessible radio id database much like us hams have, and that’s all the basics covered - because PI-Star can be configured for 446 relay, given suitable reflectors and master network server, so even the nodes part of wide usage is already out there as a lot use Pi-Star software or forks of and mostly open source F/W for the DVM radio modules.

So it’s up to us to make it happen and get the government to see what’s already going to as useful for many User Services as a great leisure radio use system, and the future could be very bright indeed for DMR or an evolution of it UK focused (mind you I believe a UK specific fork of DMR would be a bad thing).