A short update on some of the ideas the team are playing around with at the moment. This doesn’t necessarily constitute a commitment, rather a statement of intent, a roadmap if you like. The following steps represent the logical order we plan to progress, that said, it’s quite possible some of the later phases may take place sooner. Our ultimate aim is to have an analog / C4FM based repeater with its own Wires-X room that’s also capable of being accessed (over the internet) via other modes. In other words, the only RF input GB3OA will support directly will either be analogue or C4FM. To access the GB3OA Wires-X room, for example via DMR, other linking / cross modes will be needed. Please note, the team here at GB3OA are still learning about Fusion and all the various linking methods. What you’ll read below represents our current understanding, some of this may well be wrong, if you believe it is, please tell us! Consider this a learning journey, and after all, wasn’t that one of the prime motivations in the amateur radio license? Self learning and
Phase 1 – Replace the repeater hardware
As most are aware, the repeater hardware is now very old, yet thankfully it’s still working fine, it demonstrates just how well made some of the old PMR kit was. But we need to plan for its eventual replacement. Our current system is very bespoke so what we’ve been looking at is what can we obtain ‘off the shelf’ that only needs the minimum amount of configuring and or programming. Many options have been considered, but the current favourite is the Yaesu DR-2XE. If configured correctly this will allow for dual mode operation, so, if you only have analogue gear, fine, use that. If you’re equipped with C4FM capability, you can use its digital side. The repeater will switch automatically between the modes depending on what it’s receiving.
Phase 2 – Wires-X linking
What the above lacks is any form of communication outside of the RF coverage area of the repeater. Fusion affords opportunities for linking through its proprietary system Wires-X. To be able to take advantage of this, we’d also need a Yaesu HRI-200 and an internet connection at the repeater site. We already have internet available on site and we’ve already purchased the HRI-200, so it would seem silly not to take advantage of this capability. What this will give is the opportunity for C4FM users outside of the RF coverage area to connect to the Wires-X GB3OA room and chat to anyone who’s within the RF coverage area of the repeater and anyone else who is also connected to the Wires-X room. Our intention is to arrange for Wires-X to default to the GB3OA room, but if required you can disconnect it and re-connect up somewhere else. After a period of inactivity, the connection would default back to the GB3OA room. This limits the digital access, both locally via RF to C4FM and via the Internet remotely to Yaesu Wires-X only.
Phase 3 – YSF reflector
It’s more than likely, anyone who has been dabbling in the dark arts of digital amateur radio has at some point come across the pi-star (mmdvm) hotspot in one form or another. They really are astonishing little devices and if you haven’t already read about them, we suggest you do so. A good start is on the pi-star site here. Essentially what a hotspot does is give anyone who is not within RF range of a node or repeater the option to use something like a hand held and connect up (using the hotspot) to a myriad of rooms, reflectors and users anywhere in the world. All you need is your radio, the hotspot and an internet connection. These sorts of setup are ideal for those living in places where they’re not allowed to erect aerials. You can still communicate worldwide with the just a hotspot and a handheld. One of the modes that’s supported is C4FM. So if you have a C4FM handheld and a hotspot, you can connect to any Wires-X room, right? Wrong! This is where there is so much confusion. What you will see is that there are many different types of (C4FM) reflector that you can connect to but you need to be aware these are entirely separate to the Wires-X network. Yaesu are very protective of their Wires-X protocol, in other words, a hotspot will never be allowed to connect directly to a Wires-X room. So, in true amateur radio spirit, equivalent (open source) protocols were developed that have similar functionality to Wires-X. Hotspots are allowed to connect with these reflectors. It’s not within the scope of this update to explain all the different types of reflector out there that support C4FM, but for now, we think we’ve found the easiest one to set up, and that’s a YSF reflector. In fact we’ve already done it. It’s GB-SW-Lancs (#01704). It lives on an internet cloud based server. Anyone who has a hotspot can now connect up to the reflector and chat freely. Ideally it’s for those in and around the local south west Lancashire or north Merseyside area (roughly speaking the target coverage area of GB3OA), but we really don’t mind if you’re from further afield! The snag? Like the Wires-X room, this YSF Reflector is isolated. If you have a C4FM capability, and are within the coverage area of GB3OA, you will be able to access GB3OA and its associated Wires-X room using your radio, but not the YSF reflector. For that you’ll need to use your hotspot. So, how to we connect these two things together?
Phase 4 – Bridging
We’re now delving into areas that the team are still collectively getting their heads around. What we need is a way of ‘bridging’ our Wires-X room and YSF reflector together so that everyone will be able to hear and communicate with anyone regardless of how they’re connected (Wires-X or YSF reflector). At the simplest level, we believe this could be achieved by using a duplex hotspot (configured to connect to the YSF reflector), located at the repeater with it’s TX/RX set to the ‘reverse repeat’ frequencies of the repeater. In other words, the bridging is achieved with an RF link. We’re still researching what other methods may be available, ideally a multi-protocol bridge working on a cloud based server would be nice, but so far, we’ve not found anything (yet) that provides that. Given the closed Wires-X protocol, we doubt we will either although there are articles suggesting something can be achieved by a tortuous route of cross connecting with other modes and reflectors. The quest continues! If you have any suggestions please let us know.
Phase 5 – Other modes
As previously stated, the current intention is to allow only RF access via analogue FM or C4FM. But what if you have a DMR or D-Star radio? We’re not precious about how you access the system. At the moment, the whole multi-protocol bridge picture seems to be developing at quite a pace. We will certainly be looking into this, but in the meantime, If you have a hotspot, you can configure it as as DMR to YSF gateway. If you do this, and select the DMR TG to be TG01704 you should emerge into the YSF reflector room while using your DMR radio. Quite neat.
As you’ve probably gathered, all of this is very much a work in progress. We’ll try and keep you updated on any progress. In the meantime, you’re probably likely to see both the YSF reflector and the GB3OA Wires-X room running (although not yet bridged), but please be aware that the Wires-X room will only by running into a radio on a dummy load at the repeater keeper’s QTH for now. The big job of course is to purchase the new repeater hardware and get that installed! Once that’s done, the ultimate goal is to have and RF system that handles analogue and C4FM with remote access to all other modes via some form of cross mode linking.
The GB3OA team.