Digital mobile radio (DMR) was created to replace analog wireless radio systems, essentially providing two-way radio users with a system that would cost less to operate, provide clearer audio quality, and serve as a secure and more stable communications medium.
While you can get DMR equipment from different brands within different price ranges, users can expect excellent audio output, a stable flow of communication regardless of location or weather conditions, long-lasting battery life, and accurate GPS tracking whenever necessary. So, what exactly do people need to know about DMR, how does it work, and how extensively is it being used?
What Is DMR?
DMR is an international open digital radio system that has been in use since 2005.
It enables users to share a single network without being confined by the limitations posed by analog radio systems such as poor audio quality, sensitivity to external factors such as fluctuating temperatures, and a higher cost of maintenance.
As a mode of communication, DMR is easier to use and maintain than older systems, and the equipment for it has the added benefit of costing less to purchase. Users can also create in-house or in-organization communications networks using equipment made by different brands.
Key Facts About DMR
- Operating standards for DMR radios are defined by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).
- DMR is a popular choice for amateur radio users because of its reliability, ease of set-up and use, and overall quality of transmissions.
- It is the communication medium of choice in remote areas as it offers consistent service quality regardless of relevant working conditions.
- Regardless of their location, the majority of DMR users can listen to a single broadcast without being interrupted by other radio traffic.
- Some of the better-known DMR radio equipment manufacturers include Motorola, Hytera, Tait Communications, Selex, Icom, and Kenwood.
- Since DMR is an open digital channel for communications, all manufacturers find other ways to make their devices unique. Hytera and Motorola Solutions, for example, offer enhanced data safety, an easy-to-navigate features menu, accurate GPS, and also allows for the smooth transition between analog and digital transmission systems.
What Can You Do With DMR Radio?
These are the most common uses for DMR radio:
- Voice communications
- Information sharing and channels
- Text messaging
- IP data services
- Remote monitoring
- Emergency calls
- Radio check
- Unified channel
- Emergency alarm
How Do I Get Started With a DMR Radio?
Setting up your DMR radio system is an easy process:
- Check if a DMR repeater covers your area.
- Acquire a unique subscriber ID through a free registrar like www.radioid.net; in most cases, you can get it for free.
- Get a DMR radio along with the programming software and accessory devices.
- Program your DMR radio following the specifications and standards set by ETSI
How Do DMR Radios Work?
DMR radios work on the principle of Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA.)
In this setup, users may share a frequency by dividing the signal into different time slots. Users can opt to use either slot one (1) or two (2) to use the channel. This mechanism is called Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA).
Are There Encryption Protocols for DMR Radio?
All DMR Radio manufacturers incorporate over-the-air encryption into their systems to ensure channel security, essentially protecting these against unauthorized access whenever the equipment is in use.
Anti-interception measures are seen as an advantage for DMR radio users as these ensure the security of communications done through the system. Data safety protocols are well-defined for standard usage, ensuring that any data cannot be tapped for either malicious or illegal purposes.
One particular brand that is maximizing over-the-air encryption is Hytera. Those using its equipment are assured of secure transmissions thanks to comprehensive safety protocols embedded in its core DMR technology.
Do You Need a License for DMR Radio?
Licensing depends on the tier in which a DMR radio was designed. Currently, there are three system tiers for DMR radio, two of which were released in 2005 and the third in 2012. Below is a quick summary, but for details, refer to how to get a ham radio license article we’ve recently published.
Tier I Licence
Radios under this tier are license-free. These are primarily the European PMR446 band. Products designed within this tier are not meant for non-establishment/commercial use, thus repeaters may not be used in operation with these radios.
Note that the license-free allocation accorded to a Tier I device may not be used outside of the European Union. Some Asian manufacturers, particularly those in China, claim to sell Tier I DMR equipment, but these have since been marked as mislabelled.
Who can use Tier I? Individuals who do not need wide or extensive coverage, such as retailers using devices in-house or mobile radio enthusiasts.
Tier II Licence
DMR radios in this category are licensed conventional radio systems, as well as devices operating in PMR frequency bands ranging from 66 to 960 MHz.
Who can use Tier II? Individuals who use a base station in repeating and those who need advanced technology for voice features and navigation.
Tier III Licence
This covers licensed DMR radios used for trunking operations. Devices in this tier operate on a frequency of 66 to 960 MHz.
Who can use Tier III? Organizations that wish to move from logic radio trunked systems as well as those who want to use an efficient voice and data solution together with trunking.
What is the Operational Range for DMR Radios?
DMR radios fall within the RF range of 30 MHz to 1 GHz, though a few modifications to the 2016 DMR guidelines allow for operation within frequencies as low as 66 MHz.
However, the standard operating range for DMRs lies within the 12.5 kHz channel spacing, the frequency most commonly used worldwide in land mobile frequency bands.
Frequencies in DMR Radios can either be classified as very high frequency (VHF) ranging from 30 to 300 MHz or ultra-high frequency (UHF) which falls from 300 MHz to 1 GHz (1000 MHz).
How Does the ETSI Regulate DMR Usage?
ETSI provides the range of frequencies, modulation, and general coverage of all DMR radios. As a result, DMR radio use is regulated under its standards for air interface protocol, voice services, as well as protocols for data and trunking.
Companies involved in manufacturing or selling mobile or handheld DMR ham radios, mobiles, and other related products are mandated to ensure that these are compliant with such standards.
These standards are not static, however. ETSI periodically issues updates regarding these standards and these will apply to any equipment made for use anywhere in the world; including, but not limited to product safety, services, channel security, both VHF and UHF frequencies, and any other related features.
Is DMR Still Relevant Despite Other Modern Modes of Communication?
Absolutely. DMR radio is a communication channel that continues to serve a variety of purposes. While there are other ways to communicate such as mobile telephony and messaging apps, DMR radio is still a reliable way to transmit information especially in situations where standard telephony and online communication channels are either absent or unavailable due to various factors.