Fusion Repeaters in the Area
So what's all this chatter about Fusion radio in our neck of the woods? Let's begin by identifying that Perry Lindberg VE6NX and Tom Buchanan VE6ARG began about a year ago to talk about the various digital modes that can be used on VHF and UHF. We knew there were some things happening with some hams that they were using some digital modes to communicate between themselves and were intrigued by the possibilities. There are a bunch of them that are being used in Calgary and other places including D-Star which was one of the oldest put out by Icom and DMR which is a Motorola commercial system used by ham radio. All of them with varying degrees of complexity and features.
Then Yaesu Fusion came on the scene and this really intrigued us. Fusion is a proprietary mode by Yaesu that is dedicated to amateur radio only and doesn't share with other services. A couple of Yaesu FTM-3200DR tranceivers were bought and we began to experiment with the features on these simple but very effective radios using simplex between Perry's shack and Toms. The results were astonishing right off the bat. The readibility was superb while operating on the digital mode. Much better than FM even when the signal strengths were very low. In fact a fully readable signal was possible on low power over the 15 Kms distance between the stations. The FM equivalent was noisy and was a typically weak signal and susceptible to noise and fading, but when switching over to Digital narrow, it became perfectly readable. Now that opened our eyes. We continued our experiments and subsequently were able to communicate using signals as low as 100mw which on FM were unreadable. The ease with which the transceivers can switch from digital to analog is amazing. If it hears an analogue FM signal it automatically switches to analog. As soon as it detects a digital signal it switches to that mode. This is called AMS in Yaesu's jargon and is the only digital system to do that so it makes it easy to just drop in a new repeater using the same cans and antennas as the original and upgrade an existing system to digital.
Since that time it seems that Fusion has taken off somewhat in the area. Tom and Perry did a demonstration of how well it all worked with Tom with a handheld Yaesu FT1XD transceiver using 5 watts able to easily communicate with Perry from his QTH on the north side of Lethbridge and Tom inside the LSCO at a club meeting. That seemed to open some eyes for some of the others too. Tom had made a suggestion that we look into retrofitting the VE6CAM repeater while the prices are so low from Yaesu for repeaters, but it was decided that because there is very little activity on CAM, that it wouldn't be used enough to justify the cost and the project was shelved.
Enter, Gary Wheeler, VE6CV. One day Tom got a phone call from Perry to get on a conference call with Gary and discuss whether or not we would be interested in putting a UHF repeater up at a site in the Porcupine Hills. Ross Daul VE6ARS owns the 145.210 repeater up there and was willing to assist in this venture as well. Gary bought the repeater and when it arrived VE6DOK was born as a Fusion repeater on 442.075 + 100.1. The repeater worked very well with reasonable coverage as it stood into Lethbridge. It has had some technical issues, but that is to be expected as with any new venture. We expect to see it back up with full coverage into our area again in the early spring. In the meantime try it on FM and see what kind of coverage it has. It also is fitted with Gary's excellent weather system.
In the meantime, there are now four individuals that use Fusion as a mode here in the area, at least that's what I was led to believe until this past weekend when Mel VE6CU sent me the following note by e-mail..
Happy New Year Tom,
We have installed our fusion repeaters but operating on analog only as it will lock up the controller in digital mode. We have 2 VHF repeaters linked with UHF now and they largely overlap in coverage but we are trying to pick up many of the low spots that are not covered anywhere else.
We are hoping the 3rd repeater to be linked will do a better job of some of the hilly area in the Southwest. One day we may turn on the digital portion but it requires some cash outlay to get the needed hardware to prevent the controller from locking up. We have still got to install the battery and solar systems in our repeaters but that will have to wait for better weather. We have all the equipment, just need the manpower and weather to install it all. We will have 1 repeater completely off grid then the other 2 sites will be on commercial power with solar backup.
We are hoping this year will get us closer to covering the Southern corridor from Medicine Hat to Waterton.
Mel de Winter
So as you can see we have a lot more activity than we ever thought was going to be the case in this area. That's a good thing. We will have at least four repeaters that will operate AMS (Automatic Mode Select) on the air over the next while and that really opens up Fusion in this neck of the woods with reliable communications from the Rockies to the Hat.
Until next time folks,
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