KC1JMH

DMR: Digital Mobile Radio

At this time, this page is more about radios and the sharing of my programming than the Digital Mobile Radio technology itself. In brief, DMR is a digital form of radio where each repeater has two time slots allowing two conversations to happen simultaneously. I’m lucky to live in an area where DMR is pervasive. The New England Digital Emergency Communications Network oir NEDECN has done a great job blanketing New England, the maritime and parts of Canada with digital radio coverage. They run a weekly New England Wide net at 8 PM every Monday where they share DMR news and answer questions, and they communicate similarly with an e-mail reflector.

Programming a DMR radio is a bit more complicated than an analog radio, requiring the use of Code Plug Software (CPS) that is built for a specific make and model of radio. The software facilitates the creation and correlation of channels, talk groups, repeaters, zones, etc. There are a lot of great resources that go into the finer details on how it works. In the meantime, I hope that my codeplugs will help hams new to DMR get started more quickly.

These codeplugs are wiped of my callsign and DMR ID, you will need your own DMR ID which you can request from https://www.radioid.net/register. BridgeCom has supplied an instructional video on how to acquire that ID: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o73BPhBeMIg

DMR Radios

There are many great handheld DMR radios for all budgets. The Radioddity RD-5R is a great entry into DMR for about $70; even less if it’s on sale. The Radioddity GD-77 and the Tytera TYT MD-380 are very popular; for a little more money you get more memory or more storage for contacts and channels. Then there’s the Anytone AT-878UV; for about $220 you have the storage for all of the amateur operators’ DMR ID numbers, callsigns and even addresses, and it isn’t limited to how many talk group channels per zone. The 878 also adds some nifty features like APRS beaconing and roaming.

There are some great mobile radios as well, by Connect Systems, Anytone, and of course the grand-daddy of DMR, Motorola. I have little personal experience with mobile DMR radios, so I won’t get into them here until I have acquired one.

The Radioddity RD-5R

Radioddity x Baofeng RD-5R DMR Ham Amateur Two Way Radio - Radioddity
Image borrowed from Radioddity

The RD-5R is a neat little DMR starter radio, with a Baofeng face, but the innards of a GD-77; albeit with very limited memory compared to the GD-77. There is just enough memory for some talk groups and a handful of your friends’ callsigns. I recommend going straight to the source, for the best price and any sales. Amazon has the same radio, but with a markup; something I find common with other radios and equipment on Amazon. I went looking for the GD-77, and found a deal I couldn’t pass up. I have since upgraded to a higher-end radio, and handed down this radio to my brother, so I’m no longer updating this codeplug unless asked to do so.

Codeplug Features

  • NEDECN Zones: ME, NH
  • Parrot talk groups, for echo tests, are in their own zone called Polly (Polly want a cracker?), since we have a limit of 16 channels per repeater / zone.
  • Analog repeaters: ME, NH analog repeaters
  • KQ1L linked analog repeater system zone
  • Analog and digital simplex (non-repeater) zone

Buttons

There are two programmable buttons next to the Push To Talk (PTT)

  • Orange (above PTT): FM Radio
  • Moni (below PTT):
    • Short press = Zone Select, use up/down arrows on front to change zone
    • Long press = Digital Monitor, which will monitor all talk groups in the same time slot as the talk group currently selected (there is no dual-watch)

Downloads

For the software to program this radio, go the downloads section of Radioddity’s website. Scroll down to the radio and click on it, and select the newer software and firmware package.

Attached is a copy of my RD-5R code plug with my ID and callsign stripped out. Whoever downloads this just has to load the file and double-click on General Settings, and fill in the Radio Name and Radio ID.

The Anytone AT-D878UV Plus

Anytone AT-D848UV from Ham Radio Outlet

Having broken my analog Baofeng BF-F8HP handheld, a story for another day, I decided it was time to upgrade to the very capable Anytone AT-D878UV Plus; the plus adding Bluetooth. I wanted a more commercial feeling radio, and for my next radio to have APRS built-in. Bluetooth would be nice. I wasn’t really in the market for another DMR radio, but it turned out that Anytone’s offering included the features I wanted with DMR, for a better price than many other radios with a similar feature set. Acquiring this radio would allow me to hand my Radioddity RD-5R down to my brother, and finally get him on the air.

I love this radio. It has great sound quality, great reach with its OEM antenna, the bluetooth works well with my headset and my car stereo, and it just feels solid. The only thing that I feel it fails at is analog APRS. None of the repeaters support digital APRS, and analog APRS is beacon only. This means it can tell your friends where you are and you’ll show up on aprs.fi, but it won’t decode transmissions from others to tell you where they are or let you know that you have a message to be read.

Codeplug Features

  • NEDECN zones: CT, ME, NH, VT
  • Roaming zones: NEDECN (all) – slow!, the individual states above, i95 Corridor
  • Extended Contact database from https://kf5iw.com/contactdb.php
  • Analog APRS configured for standard frequency, located under Simplex (needs callsign and SSID)
  • Analog and DMR Simplex frequencies
  • Analog repeaters: ME, NH
  • FM Broadcast channels
  • Weather channels with scan
  • Marine channels with scan
  • GMRS channels with scan

To Do

  • Add roaming zones
    I need help: the map image on NEDECN website doesn’t show repeater info, telling me which repeaters are along the highways
    • i91 Corridor
    • i93 Corridor
  • Add analog repeaters
    What’s popular in your state?

Buttons

Changing Zones and Channels

Zones are used for DMR repeaters and their talk groups, for groups of analog repeaters, and groups of related simplex frequencies.

To change zones or repeaters, press the up/down rocker button in the center of the front face of the radio. Once a zone is selected, you can change the talkgroup or channel with the larger knob on the top of the radio.

There are five programmable buttons, which can be changed in the software under Public > Optional Setting > Key Function.

Front-facing buttons

  • P1 is under the green softkey, and is the “Main Channel Switch” allowing the operator to change between VFO A and B (top vs bottom)
  • P2 is under the red softkey and will change between VFO and Memory mode

Side Buttons

  • PF1 is right under the Push To Talk (PTT)
    • Quick press = Digital Monitor (On/Off)
      • Press once: Single Time Slot, based on the time slot of the active channel / talk group
      • Press twice: Double Time Slot, basically puts the radio into promiscuous mode which allows you to hear any talk group that the repeater is transmitting
      • Press a third time: Off
    • Long press = FM Broadcast Radio
      • Use the channel dial to the left of the volume to change between preset channels. These are programmed under Public > FM in the CPS
      • Long press again to shut off the music
  • PF2 is below PF1
    • Quick press = Scan a scan list
      • Select a scan list by pressing the green button to open the Menu
      • Scroll to Scan and press the green button again to Select the Scan sub-menu
      • Go down to option 3 “Scan List” with the up/down rocker button and press Select with the green button again
      • Now, scroll to the scan list title you wish to scan and press the green button to Select that item
      • Press Up on the rocker button a couple of times until you highlight “Select Cur List” (it’s closer to the bottom of the lengthy menu), and press the green button
      • A pop-up will appear advising that this scan list has been selected.
      • Only analog channels are in scan lists; it is recommended to use Digital Monitor instead of a scan list for DMR channels
    • Long press = Nuisance Delete
      • Removes a noise channel temporarily from the scan list

Top button

  • PF3 is the blue button on the top
    • Quick press = Power (L-Low, M-Medium, H-High, red T-Turbo)\
    • Long press = Activate Roaming (find the strongest DMR repeater nearby)

Prerequisites

A radio must be using the correct firmware version and band mode, and the codeplug must be updated to include the operator’s callsign and DMR ID number.

Band Mode

This codeplug is built for a radio that was shipped in Commercial European Mode 00000, allowing the radio to fully operate within its hardware capabilities. The operator must be aware of their local regulations and laws dictating use of any given frequency before use with this codeplug.

Firmware

The current version of this codeplug requires firmware and CPS software version 1.21. It is available from BridgeCom Systems here:
https://bridgecomsystems.freshdesk.com/support/solutions/articles/63000105978-anytone-878-878-plus-cps-firmware-and-driver-versions

Personalization

Before writing my codeplug to your radio, you will need to do a few things to make it yours:

  • Replace N0CALL with your DMR ID and Callsign in: Digital > Radio ID List
  • Replcace N0CALL in Analog APRS: Public > APRS
    • Destination Call Sign can be any local APRS I-Gate or left as-is
  • Make sure your radio is set to Commercial European Mode 00000
    • My radio came in this mode and I didn’t know to change it when I started. Newer radios may arrive locked down to the amateur band per FCC import regulations.
    • To change your radio’s band mode: Hold PTT and #1 while booting and set the mode to 0000. Since the codeplug is set to Amateur Mode versus Professional Mode, the VFO is still available.
    • Changing the codeplug’s band mode to match a radio configured for the Amateur US Mode 00007 will erase all channels and zones. Exporting all settings and reimporting them into the cleared codeplug will be required.

Changelog

Changelog: Oct 28, 2020

  • Updated firmware to 1.21 (make sure your CPS version matches!)
    • Firmware changelog and download: https://powerwerx.com/help/firmware-anytone-d878uv
    • Hold blue top button and PTT while powering on to put radio into firmware download mode
    • Tools menu > Firmware and Icon Update
  • Fixed incorrect receive CTCSS from ME Analog > Buckfield ME 146.88: 88.5 rx, 100 tx
  • Changed Warrent VT channels to UHF 449.475 -5 CC5 per NEDECN bulletin 20200901
  • Updated (Extended) Contact database from https://kf5iw.com/contactdb.php
    • contacts_ALL_20201028150301.csv
    • Users will need to populate their own Friends List
  • Analog APRS
    • Disabled Fixed Location Beacon (no longer will transmit the programmed LAT/LON)
    • Disabled APRS Tx Tone (no more blown eardrums)
    • Set transmit and prewave to 60

Downloads

Download the CPS and Firmware from BridgeCom

Troubleshooting

Band Mode

Some additional configuration may be required on the radio. I have received some feedback that folks may be having trouble using the code plug due to new radios producing a Band Mode Error. Their radio was in “Europe Band Mode”, or they cannot use the VFO because it’s in “Commercial Mode.” The mode is configured in the radio’s firmware, not the codeplug.

You will need to change your radio to “European Mode 00000” to use this codeplug. Some radios may come from the factory or store in a locked mode or set for a different region to be able to be imported. According to BridgCcom, one can boot the radio holding PTT and #1 to access the menu to change the radio’s Work Mode. Turn the channel dial to change modes, once in this menu.
https://www.bridgecomsystems.com/pages/at-d878uv-faq

Unable to read/write from radio

If radio stops read/writing after working just prior, reseat the USB cable in the computer, or move the cord to another USB port. Double-check the COM port setting (probably the last one in the list), and try again.

Roaming doesn’t change repeaters / zones

The roaming feature doesn’t roam, it simply identifies what DMR repeater zone to tune to.

More codeplugs

Other radio model codeplugs are also available from the New England Digital Emergency Communication Network, as well as from other local hams if one is to ask.

Programming your own codeplug

DMR, originally intended for set-and-forget commercial use, is an exercise in redundancy. The easiest way I found to create a code plug is to enter enough information to export and manipulate more easily in Microsoft Excel. I’d create the talk groups you’ll be using on local repeaters into the Contacts list, and matching Rx (receive) Groups for each talk group. You should add some local hams’ private callsigns which you can retrieve from radioid.net.

Next, begin entering some channels into the software. You’ll be entering a channel for each talk group on each repeater; each channel will include a talk group, receive group, frequency, color code and time slot for a given repeater. I entered two full repeaters, 16 talk groups each for a total of 32 channels. Yay redundancy!

Now you can export the channel list with enough data and formatting to go by to manipulate it easily in Excel. I simply copy/pasted a whole section of talk groups or channels for a repeater several times, and did a quick fill of the new sections with the new zone name, repeater frequency and code. Be sure to redo the number column using “fill series” and import the Excel file to the Channels list. Otherwise you’ll get an error. If you encounter an import error, hit Continue, or the application will crash and lose anything unsaved.

Once the channels are imported, go to your zones (one zone for each repeater, labeled by location), and select the group of channels / talk groups you want in that respective zone.

You can export your Contacts list to quickly bulk add in new contacts, like we do with the channels. Again, make sure the number row on the far left remains sequential. Note that if you change the order of the contacts, your zones will need to be rebuilt; as you’ll have channels for one repeater listed in another repeater’s zone.

I hope this helps. It’s a lot to get into, but once you wrap your mind around it it’s not too bad.