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DMR Radio… Yes, you’re coming in fine. No, it’s not practical.

Anyone involved with ham radio has surely heard of a not-so-new fad called Digital Mobile Radio, or DMR for short. The premise is that it uses less bandwidth and that two people can use the same repeater at the same time using Time Division Multiple Access or TDMS. It operates similarly to regular ham radio in which you can operate on simplex or use a repeater. DMR repeaters are unique in that they’re typically linked to an Internet service which allows them to communicate with other DMR repeaters and personal DMR hotspots. A DMR hotspot is… think of it as a tiny little repeater that has a range of 1/4 of a mile at best. It’s designed to connect to an internet connection thus giving your radio constant access to others using DMR in the world.

Now that I’ve explained the basics, time for the rant.

First of all, most people get involved in ham radio to be able to communicate without infrastructure if the proverbial shit ever hits the fan. Since DMR for the most part relies on the Internet, if some major catastrophic event happens, the Internet won’t be available and thus DMR will be limited to simplex or perhaps a local repeater if power is up. Most people these days buy hotspots and thus have spent about $100 for the radio and $100 for a hotspot all to access the Brandmeister network to talk to anyone all over the world…over the Internet. DMR operates like chat rooms did back in the 90s and early 2000s. There are any number of smartphone and regular web applications that can give the exact same result. Some people even have their hotspots setup to go through their cell phone’s tethered internet connection and use that in their car on their travels. So my question here is simply “why?”.

Continuing, there is a joke about ham radio being a hobby where people use the hobby to talk about the hobby. This is somewhat true in some cases but in DMR, it’s extreme. Listening to any DMR conversation, 99% of the time I’ll bet you’ll hear someone asking how well they’re coming in and discussing what radios and hotspots they use. Even more so are people bitching about how hard it is to program their DMR radios. That aside, you’ll hear conversations about the weather, the participants (generally failing) health, and expressing how proud they are to have talked to someone on the other side of the world… over the Internet.

In conclusion, yes DMR users, we can hear you. In reality, a phone call or any number of mobile or web applications can do the exact same thing… without spending no less than $200 and having two pieces of extra equipment to tote around.