I attended the Digital Voice forum at the Ft. Wayne Hamfest last month. Mark Thompson, WB9QZB was the moderator as he has been for the last several years. Mark was an early champion of D-STAR and still is though it seemed his excitement for System Fusion is growing.
He acknowledged the rapid acceptance of DMR though he pointed out several times that it was a commercial service that’s been adapted to work in the amateur radio world. He also said something about DMR’s adoption being higher in regions where there are many ham radio operators working in the commercial radio business.
Here in Indiana it’s probably fair to say that D-STAR is dead and while Fusion repeaters have started popping up, the State is blanketed by DMR repeaters. Not that any of that matters much anymore. Everyone, it seems, is using a hotspot these days, repeaters are so 20th century.
Hotspots provide connectivity where repeaters don’t exist and they can be carried along wherever you roam. They also provide autonomy - I can connect to any talk group I want, for as long as I want, without impact to local repeater users.
Being free from local geometry means that users congregate on their favorite talk groups, even when traveling out of region. It’s like always being connected to your friends on the local FM repeater even when one of you goes to California and the other is on a ship near Cartagena.
The BrandMeister system dashboard (global) shows that while there are 858 industrial repeaters on the network at the moment, there are more than 5,000 hotspots, homebrew repeaters, and DVminis connected to the system.
Given the incredibly low-cost of entry, it’s hard to imagine DMR going away anytime soon. While ICOM saw a significant profit potential in bringing digital voice via D-STAR to the amateur service, hobbyists found a way to adapt an existing service in a similar manner for a fraction of the cost.
A tradition hams have carried into the 2nd century of radio.