Saturday
Aug252012

Tokyo Ham Fair 2012... new Icom D-Star radios!

Being a D-Star aficionado, I have been waiting for this years Tokyo Ham Fair with eager anticipation.

Rumors have been circulating for a few months about Icom possibly announcing a new D-Star radio.  Personally I have been hoping for a D-Star version of the IC-7000 mobile radio... I believe a mobile HF/VHF/UHF D-Star radio would be a killer seller for Icom, especailly if the DV mode worked on HF as it does on the IC-9100.

Others have been wanting a dual band (VHF/UHF) version of the ID-31A hand held radio.

It looks like everyone will be pleased, especially those in areas with access to the 70 MHz band!

 

Icom Inc. have shown a prototype of a new dual band D-STAR handheld radio at the Tokyo Ham Fair 2012 which is being held between August 25th and 26th 2012 in Tokyo.
The ID-51A/E series D-STAR handheld radio is an evolution of Icom’s ID-31A/E UHF D-STAR Handheld and will be capable of both VV / UU 144MHz + 430MHz dual band operation. The ID-51A/E will also include the much praised menu-driven user interface of the ID-31A/E series with a much bigger LCD screen. The ID-51A/E will also feature integrated GPS & D-STAR as well as IPx7 waterproofing, SD-Card slot and slim body found on the ID-31A/E.
Other planned features include
• VV / UU capable 144MHz and 430MHz dual band (Only one DV signal can be received, similar to the manner as the IC-2820H/E2820 series).
• Limited wideband receive for AM/FM broadcast (no bar antenna), 118-137MHz (AM air band), 137- 174MHz and 380-479MHz
• Larger full dot matrix LCD
• Broadcast mode LCD indication (rather than VFO only, station name can be shown)
• Enhanced logging function. The ID-51A/E records frequencies, time, position and other operation related information on the SD Card.
• Improved automatic response function. The radio may be programmed to have an automated response self call sign for unique reply in addition to regular call sign
• Voice recorder function (not the communication logging function but a simple digital voice recorder function which records your voice).
• One touch voice play back function for contest transmissions
• Frequency and mode of operation speech and specific frequency beep function helps blind hams for easier operation.
• Enhanced RX call sign memory records up to 50 past received call signs, which can be exported to micro SD card.
• Increased memory channel for repeater list (750)/ GPS memory (200).
• Approx 10mm taller and 1mm thicker than the ID-31A/E (weight TBA) • 5 Watts output (tx)

Download a Pre-Release PDF here.

 

The IC-7100 is a HF+6m+VHF+UHF all mode compact radio with an innovative slanted touch-screen LCD controller. A first for an Icom transceiver, the IC-7100 is designed to the 70MHz band in European versions where 70MHz is open to Amateur radio enthusiasts. To maintain its commitment to D-STAR, all versions of the IC-7100 will come with standard D-STAR DV mode.

Since the launch of the original IC-706 in 1995, Icom has been leading the market of HF/VHF/UHF multi-band mobile radios. The popularity of vehicular mounted amateur radios may not be as high as the times of the IC-706 series, but the IC-7100 has been carefully designed to reignite Amateurs’ interest in mobile communications and brings digital communication opportunity to a wider range of radio Amateurs.

Planned Features include
• Slanted front separated controller with large touch screen dot matrix LCD (controller cannot be attached to body front)
• Speaker is self contained inside the controller
• Full mode (SSB, CW, AM, FM, RTTY decode) and D-STAR DV
• HF (100W) / 50MHz (100W) / 70MHz (50W) / 144MHz (50W) / 430MHz (35W) (Note: Power may be different according to version. The 70MHz band is available for some versions only)
• Lower current consumption / cooler operation (compared with the IC-7000)
• SWR meter function also works for VHF and UHF bands
• Remote power on / off
• IF DSP for filtering / interference removal / noise reduction
• SD memory card slot, voice recording
• USB Audio In / Out, remote control
• +/- 0.5ppm frequency stability
• 505ch memory channels

Download a Pre-Release PDF here.

 

It appears that Icom is continuing to develop new D-Star radios.  I am sure that the open source D-Star hardware/software development community is helping give Icom confidence with the D-Star mode.  With all the open source D-Star work being done, the most convenient way to talk on D-Star (via RF) still is with an Icom radio.

No release date information has been forthcoming as yet. I'm sure that Icom will be presenting these radios for approval with the various countries communications regulatory authorities very soon.

 

Monday
Aug062012

A visit to the VK5RWN D-Star repeater site

On Monday 6th August 2012 I was privileged to be able to visit the VK5RWN D-Star repeater site overlooking Adelaide in South Australia.

 

 I am in the middle of some time away from work and have been spending some of my holiday in Adelaide with my family visiting the in-laws, relaxing, eating good food and watching the London Olympic games!

A few days before I arrived in Adelaide, Ben VK5BB and Matt VK5ZM were able to restore the internet connection to the VK5RWN gateway computer. It turned out there were some incompatibilities between their existing ADSL modem/router and the DSLAM equipment in the telephone exchange.

I had come to Adelaide prepared with D-Star radios, HotSpot modems and laptop PCs running G4KLX ircDDB Gateway software to help me with my much needed daily D-Star "fix".  I can't go more than a few days without being able to key up on D-Star.  Having VK5RWN connected to the internet again is fantastic! The VK5RWN gateway has been getting a real workout since I hit town!

All of the radio/computer/network equipment at VK5RWN runs on DC.  Ben planned a visit to VK5RWN to install a 12V regulator for the newly installed Billion ADSL modem/router... I was VERY eager to visit the site too!

VK5RWN has a full stack of Icom D-Star equipment and the guys at AREG have done a fantastic job with the installation. Particular attention has been paid to site earthing and lightning/surge protection.

VK5RWN A

DD 1299.700 MHz

DV 1273.700 MHz +20Mhz

VK5RWN B

DV 438.400 MHz -5.4Mhz

VK5RWN C

DV 146.9375 MHz -600kHz

 

Three antennas are used... one each for 2m, 70cm and 23cm.  The Yagi is for the Sunday Morning WIA broadcast system.

VK5RWN is located in the North Eastern suburb of Banksia Park in Adelaide and provides excellent coverage to the majority of the Adelaide metropolitan area.  The Southern suburbs do miss out a little though, mainly due to shielding by the Mount Lofty ranges.

More photos of the VK5RWN D-Star repeater site can be found in the gallery.

Many thanks to Ben VK5BB for letting me tag along!

Wednesday
Jul252012

VK5REX 70cm Home Brew D-Star repeater is on the air!

At 0930 on Saturday 21st July 2012 I installed the completed 70cm home brew D-Star repeater at the VK5REX comms site.  It's mounted in the rack beneath the Simoco SRM9000 based home brew 2m D-Star repeater and the IRLP Node 6510 PC and link radio. The home brew repeater is connected to the existing Icom ID-RP2C D-Star controller in place of the Icom ID-RP4000V repeater. No changes were needed to either the ID-RP2C controller or the gateway PC.

While I was on site testing the repeater out, I had it connected to XRF021 B for the Canadian D-Star net. This allowed me to test the repeater out in a real-life high duty cycle situation. The transmit radio was on high power (25W) and got quite warm, but the fan kept the temperature under control.

I decided to connect this repeater directly to the existing duplexer (notch duplexer & cavity filters) without the additional 1 MHz DCI bandpass filter and the 70cm ARR preamp to see how it would perform.   So far so good... the Motorola MCS2000 radio seems every bit as sensitive as the Icom ID-RP4000V + ARR Preamp + DCI filter + duplexer combination.

I hope to perform some proper sensitivity and desense tests soon.  I need to add a discriminator output socket to either the DV Node Adapter or make up an adapter cable to let me listen to the raw discriminator audio output from the MCS2000.

I will update the photo gallery soon... but for now, check out this video I shot on the morning of the installation.

Wednesday
Jul182012

70cm Home Brew D-Star repeater update

My latest home brew D-Star repeater is complete, tested and aligned... ready to be installed at the VK5REX D-Star repeater site!  The plan is for this repeater to act as a stand-in while I remove the existing Icom ID-RP4000V for some service work and modifications.  During the testing phase, the repeater made a few trips up to the VK5REX site where I was testing it as "VK5REX A" and on different frequencies than VK5REX B normally uses.

The build went according to plan.  I had already tested the MCS2000 radios and DV Node Adapter combination in "Hot Spot" mode and figured out the hardware/software configuration beforehand. There were a few tricky issues that needed to be sorted out in the programming and interfacing of the GMSK DV Node Adapter to the MCS2000 accessory connector.  I found a hardware mod online for a COS/Carrier Detect output, this was a better option than the Motorola Radio Mute function.  I had to change the gain of the DV Node Adapter receive op-amp as well... the discriminator audio going to the GMSK modem chip was a little "hot" and I needed to wind the level back a bit.  The transmit deviation is around the 1.6.-1.8 kHz range.

The biggest job was organising where all the individual components were to be placed in the rack shelf. It was sort of like a real-live version of Tetris.. making sure that everything would fit and would be easy to work on in the future.  Although the DC distribution section is a little crowded, I am very pleased with how it has turned out.

The fan failure alarm box I found on eBay works perfectly.  It was very easy to pull apart, remove the piezo buzzer and wire to the double-pole relay.  A back EMF protection diode was fitted to the relay coil. When the fan stops spinning, the relay energises and this disconnects the power to the transmit radio.

The ID-RP2C interface is mounted on top of the DV Node Adapter box.  I removed the 8-way connector from the interface and fitted a new one on the bottom side of the PCB.  This enabled me to reduce the height needed for the die-cast box to cover the interface.  It's a little bit tight inside the DV Node Adapter box... but everything does fit with just enough room to spare!  The ID-RP2C interface is the bridge that links the DV Node Adapter CMX589 GMSK modem to the Icom ID-RP2C D-Star controller.

I hope to get the new repeater up to the site this coming weekend (21st-22nd July). I'll take some more photos when it's bolted into the rack!

You can find pictures of this home-brew repeater in the photo gallery and I have uploaded a video to YouTube showing the repeater build in more detail.

 

Saturday
Jun302012

Universal Platform For Digital Amateur Radio (UP4DAR)

Back in May 2010, I stumbled across, downloaded and printed out the v0.1 Draft UP4DAR specification.

This document described a flexible hardware/software platform for amateurs wishing to experiment with digital radio protocols.  After reading through this document several times, I contacted the author Denis DL3OCK asking him for more information on the UP4DAR and if there were plans to turn the specification into a physical product.  Denis replied and told me that yes indeed, the plan was to produce the UP4DAR for sale.  

On Monday morning (25th June) I received an email from Denis with an update on the UP4DAR project. It had appeared that the UP4DAR team... DL3OCK, OE2BCL, OE2AIP and DL1BFF had been very busy since I last heard from them and they had presented the UP4DAR platform at the 2012 Friedrichschafen HamFest.

Pictured below is the Universal Platform For Digital Amateur Radio.

 

The latest spec document (draft 0.2) can be downloaded here.

 

The UP4DAR has a dot matrix LCD graphic display and six push buttons for control.  The initial specification document showed a 4x20 character LCD display, there are also some LED indicators on board.

External interface/connections include :-

DC In

Serial (RS232)

USB

Ethernet

RJ45 for a microphone

Speaker out

Line In/Out

6pin Mini DIN to connect to a 9600 baud packet socket on a FM transceiver.

It has a MicroSD socket too!

 

The UP4DAR has two ATMEL microcontrollers... one for handling the physical layer (PHY)... radio interface, software modem operation.  As with the DV-RPTR board, the UP4DAR does not have a CMX589 GMSK modem chip... the modem is software based.  The other microcontroller is for the operating system (OS), which handles the overal functionality of the UP4DAR including user interface (display/keys), AMBE vocoder, USB, Ethernet, NMEA GPS input, etc. The UP4DAR also has an onboard AMBE2020 vocoder, perfect for operation with D-Star!

The firmware/OS is open-source and can be found here.

I've been thinking that the UP4DAR would make an ideal companion to the NW Digital Radio UDR56K-4 radio...  in this instance, the UP4DAR radio modem would not be used.  Instead it would pass the data stream directly to/from the UDR56K-4 via USB or possibly ethernet.    The pair of devices could potentially make for a very nice standalone D-Star radio... or maybe something even better... D-Star at 56k?? Maybe Codec2 could be integrated into the UP4DAR OS as well... 

Check out the UP4DAR website here... it's in German, Google Chrome does a good job at translating it.

A Yahoo group has also been set up as well.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/up4dar/

The choices for D-Star experimentation has never been as varied, comprehensive and exciting... I cannot wait to get my hands on an UP4DAR!