Last week, I decided to use a software I’ve worked with in the past, called Pi-Star to setup a digital multimode amateur radio repeater. This week I did a bit more research on DSTAR and found some diagrams to hopefully explain things a little better. If you aren’t familiar with what a ham radio repeater does, there is a diagram below.
Basically a repeater listens on one frequency and simultaneously retransmits what it “hears” on another frequency. Typically a repeater is at an elevated location (i.e. a mountain top, tall building, etc), running a high performance antenna system and higher power output.
How does a digital repeater work? It works in much the same way as a regular repeater, however with DSTAR, there is often an internet link via a computer added to the repeater as shown below.
The diagram above is of one digital mode called DSTAR, but most digital modes work similarly in respect to the hardware required. In a DSTAR repeater there is a radio connected to an interface board which is then connected to a computer (usually either a PC or a Raspberry Pi). The computer makes and manages the connections through the internet to other repeaters or reflectors (conference servers). The computer makes these connections based on commands sent over the radio, sent through a remote control application, or sent through a web interface. An example of the Pi-Star web interface for the KC3ESS DSTAR repeater that I help manage is included below.
The dashboard lists the timestamp of the transmission, the target (where the transmission is intended to go), the RPT 1, and RPT 2 callsigns.
The target of a transmission tells the computer what to do, so CQCQCQ means that the transmission is intended for everyone to hear, REF030CL tells the computer to link to reflector 30C, and _______U, tells the computer to unlink from the current connection.
The RPT 1 callsign is the callsign of the repeater/hotspot/reflector that the transmission is being received by and forwarded to the internet from. In this photo the RPT 1 callsign, KC3ESS_B means that the transmission is going through the KC3ESS repeater and the B means a frequency in the UHF 70 centimeter band (420Mhz to 450Mhz). The callsign may also be REF063C which means the transmission is being received over the internet from reflector 63C.
The RPT 2 callsign is the destination callsign. In the photo above we have, KC3ESS_G, which means the destination of the transmission is the internet gateway on the KC3ESS repeater. Essentially that tells the computer connected to the KC3ESS repeater to send the transmission over the internet. If this were set to KC3ESS_B, the transmission would never leave the local KC3ESS repeater.
The target or URCALL field, RPT1 field, & RPT2 field all work together to route the DSTAR transmission to the appropriate location within the DSTAR network.
Photos link to their respective sources.