FUSION is a Yaesu sponsored digital amateur radio system that is gaining ground in the UK due to a proliferation of FUSION repeaters that are replacing existing FM repeaters and running in 'dual-mode' which means FM analogue users can continue using the repeater as before, but the repeater also accepts C4FM digital signals.
It;s an inspired way of getting a foothold into a crowded repeater market because olf FM repeaters tend to be better sited than newer digital repeaters, and since analgue users can continue unaffected the spread of Fusion repeaters is assured.
Depending on the setup - FM users on channel can block the sound of digital by setting a CTCSS receive code. Some dual mode repeaters don't transmit digital. Fusion radios in auto-FM mode will switch from digital to FM and back as required.
I mentioned visiting the coverage area of GB7SJ (Northwich) a 'Dual-Mode' FUSION repeater. When the repeater keeper called me from Spain using both FM and digital repeater modes. The small bar to the left of DN shows the 'automode' function is on and appears next to FM too.
The audio actually sounded warmer with more bass response in digital form and of course, no hiss. The radio also displayed both the repeater callsign and the call of Stuart who was /Paella although Stuart was not using an RF device - in marked contrast to me standing by the side of my motorcycle on the Warrington Road 4m north of Northwich. (note to self, do not pull over on the wrong side of the road, facing downhill, in a narrow layby, when there is a blind corner in front of you).
GB7SJ is connected some of the time to the WIRES-X reflector by Yaesu FCS001-55 (room 55) see below.
Every FUSION repeater in digital or analogue mode has an ID NUMBER and can host a ROOM which has an additional ID NUMBER and NAME. Connecting to this ROOM puts you in voice contact with other connected stations 'in the room'. Digital users have on screen menus to find and connect with rooms (which since repeaters are linked by the WIRES-X network can be hosted on rooms worldwide).
Analogue mode repeater users remarkably can also connect, using DTFM codes to send the ID of the room. The web has lists of rooms, locations and their ID code.
There is a Wires-X box available from Yaesu that links an FM radio(with a data port) to the Wires-X system and rooms. Amateurs are buying this and setting up a low power hotspot in their homes, using a low power FM H/T to access. Digital inclusivity.
There are also number of UK based simplex fusion gateways in digital mode on 144.8125, 144.825, 144.8375, 144.8500, 144.8625, 431.075, 431.0875, 431.1000, 431.11250, 431.1250, 431.1375, 431.1500, 434.0500, 434.4875, and 434.5125 MHz (Information from M0SGS ) just tune to them and be in FM-auto or DN mode.
When in range of a Fusion node or repeater, if it is connected (and not all are) to the internet by WIRES-X then the WIRES-X function is activated by holding [Dx] and successful connection is when the large X top left of the screen stops blinking.
In the UK currently you need to tune to the Node or Repeater before pressing [Dx] but the system also allows in due course for a nationally agreed frequency to be monitored by nodes and repeaters in addition to their own meaning pressing [Dx] will not only find the nearest access point, but tune the radio to it, too! This would make mobile working much simpler but will require nodes and repeaters to have a futher NOV. For the future.
To explore WIRES-X I took the great personal sacrifice of visiting
...to find the node run by M0AUT ( MB6DR 144.8125 MHz ). Coverage from the promenade was patchy but improved towards the north shore. Without WIRES-X enabled I was picking up activity. Note this is directly from the transmitting station.
Holding [WIRES-X] connected me digitally to the node. See the 'X' top left which flashes when trying to connect.
It's not a colour screen, it's a highly reflective one (and a very bright day) and a pain to photograph. Notice I was already connected to a ROOM with the name ---AMERICA-LINK- the 50 is the number of Nodes or Repeaters in the room at the time. Looking this room up on www.yaesu.com you find:
|AMERICA-LINK-||21080||046||REPEATER LINKING||Beaumont||Texas||USA||(Analog / Digital) WIRES-X Repeater|
Giving a room ID and DTMF number. Column 3 is the Nodes and Repeaters count. Column 4 is called 'room name' but isn't really, then comes 'City', 'State', 'Country' and 'Comment' showing that this room is hosted by a dual mode repeater. The information put into the final box is highly variable.
In order to connect to a room via a reflector (and a DV4mini) the room has also to be connected to the same reflector/room (they are separate entities). I don't know if ---AMERICA-LINK- is connected to a reflector, but ALABAMA-LINK ID 21568 is connected to FSC002-02 for example.
-----UK-NET-HUB- is room ID 27721 I'm not clear if there is an attached FCS reflector room. The Blackpool gateway that I used is ID 28752 -FUSION-DMR-LINK is a UK room ID 27753 and links to BrandMeister TalkGroup 4420
You can list rooms by pressing [ENT] over the room name. This gives you a search, the ability to list ALL and there are some 'C' room-memories that you can program with frequently used rooms.
Once connected to a room you can speak with other occupants. There can be a bit of switching delay between TX and RX.
However rooms can also host files. Long pressing [ENT] opens a file area which gives the option to upload or download audio, text or images.
I noticed that although data and audio can co-exist. I could not make a menu selection whilst the radio was playing audio. I guess it was busy.
I did try and download images (two formats are supported 320x240 (QVGA)- about one ninth the resolution of a PAL TV screen, or 160x120 QQVGA) which I didn't expect to be able to view. I did expect them to arrive on my SD card. The download process terminated with an error message however. Maybe the software did try and display them? Maybe the signal didn't hold up consistently enough? I also saw garbled characters on screen at times, supporting this possibility, and suggesting that the error correction does not apply to data transfer?
It should be possible to load the SD card with compatible photos even if you lack the Yaesu camera mic. However there are more variables than just size. On my SD photos go into the folder PHOTO, are JPGs and have the file names starting with H, followed by the 5 character GM ID (found in the SET menu) and then a six digit serial starting at 000001. I don't know if the GM ID is supposed to be 'secret' so I haven't included it here. I assume it is unique to each radio, although how they would achieve that if so, I am unsure about.
The images must be 320x240 or 160x120 but I don't know how compressed they need to be to display (I suspect, quite a lot). I have loaded the following three images on my SD and we shall see if when I am next in WIRES-X range, they can be uploaded. The first 160x120, the second two 320x240. Feel free to download and try them.
This was the first dongle to provide C4FM access over the internet. There are others now. You cannot connect to YSF rooms (the ones on repeaters) but you can connect to the four FCS reflectors FCS001-004 and each of these holds 100 groups (effectively rooms) numbered 000-099. Some of these reflectors are bridged to YSF rooms, DStar rooms, DMR rooms, AllStar and Echolink.
When connected to the DV4MINI running in C4FM mode you can switch C4FM reflectors and groups by sending DTMF tones. First step press and hold PTT and push and hold # (the V/M key) for a second. Wait a couple of seconds more (you will now be disconnected from any groups).
Press and hold the PTT and push for example A155 then stop transmitting and the DV4MINI should switch you to FCS001-055. This means you can change groups without being able to see the 'screen' of the machine the DV4MINI is plugged into.
Note the 'A' is sent by holding the [F] key.
Each time the DV4MINI boots it returns to the last mode and room it was using WHEN IT WAS LAST SHUT DOWN PROPERLY. So using a computer you pick your startup mode and group, close the DV4MINI panel and reopen it to check. From now the dongle will boot in this group even if you have switched it elsewhere before turning the computer off.
For a list of all the FCS001 rooms click here (and then select INFO on the left hand side menu)
Overall connecting to remote rooms with amateurs in was easy and effective. It's great that you call the room lists to the radio and then select them. I was less inspired by the data component - if I had managed to grab an image maybe I'd be happier. Data transfer is slow and the file selection process took me right back to using WAP on my wonderful Nokia 9110
Why have a dongle?
1: You do not have Fusion repeaters nearby. Either at home, when you can set a hotspot on your own wifi, or out and about (working/holiday?) when the dongle can be run from a raspberry pi tethered to a mobile phone.
2: You want to chat for a long time about something - why tie up the repeater in the area when you can arrange to meet up on a Reflector room.
3: Investing in a Wires-X box (actually a similar price) and tying up an FM radio is too much- although note that the Wires-X box will allow you to reach repeater rooms where as the DV4mini is limited to the FCS reflectors.
I have one of these dongles, bought originally for DMR - for which it works but the in DMR mode the audio quality is can be grim. It works also on DSTAR and works well on FUSION.
To set up the DV4mini on the FUSION reflector was so easy compared to both DMR and DSTAR.
1. Set the radio on VFO mode to the same frequency as the DV4mini. Choose a digital mode or auto-fm, it does transmit 'CONNECT' to the radio when you join a room which would switch the radio to digital.
2. Click one of the four reflectors FCS001, 002, 003 or 004. Then click which ROOM (there are one hundred in each) to join. If you set the software to show CALLS on the PC then you also see a list of who else is signed into the room. Most calls you see seem to be listening only.
The dashboard for the fusion reflectors can be accessed online. There are four reflectors and you can view station activity, connected users and a list of (some of the) rooms on each reflector together with the DTMF code- so you can swap rooms from the radio by sending a DTMF code.
GB7SJ in Northwich has been connected much of the time to FCS001-room 55, which appears to be the busiest of the rooms on reflector FCS001.
However, a new room CQ-UK has appeared on the Wires-X/YSF repeater network room ref 27793 which, since it is also linked to FCS001-55 via GB7RY has reached a critical mass and is busy pretty much all day.
This high level of activity makes listening a viable reason to tool up with reflector access, however it is already appearing that repeaters that link into this net -especially if in analogue mode- can become at times too busy for the locals to us.
The linkage between YSF and FCS raises the possibility that two stations will transmit simultaneously. It appears that when this happens, no station wins and silence results. During this silence other stations start calling CQ,or other named stations or even increasingly for a 'rig-check' -because of the silence causing more collisions presumably. The curious thing is that some of these calls will get through, but the station calling is unlikely to hear a reply, and so it goes on. The answer is for everyone to listen for a time rather than asking for reassurance.
Apparently the trick to prevent this may be to leave longer gaps between each over and not try and interject quick comments between other stations overs. This also means that you should listen for a minute or two before transmitting. In additionally blipping the tx means that the system sounds empty but all the timers reset so an apparent gap in tx becomes no gap at all.
Interestingly, enabling GM on your Fusion radio will mean your TX will auto send polling transmissions, very brief and with no audio - compounding the above even if you are not in the same room as the radio.
FCS001-54 in the UK evenings I'm told carries 'C4FM-NET' also in YSF room 41306 although it wasn't on when I checked.
Another review of the FT1XD
Google Maps listing of Fusions Noeds and Repeaters
There seem to be a flurry of Fusion boxes connected and not, coming on stream. My home town is getting one on 70cm GB7YZ which is rumoured to be going live in Feb 2017, the Great Orme has swapped it's 2m FM box for a dual mode GB3GO albeit not yet linked to the internet, and Anglesey 70cm box GB3AN has gone dual mode on 70cm.
A useful mapping display of APRS activity and means of posting/messaging without RF. Indicates local repeaters and ham activity. Works well in conjunction with APRS systems or MicE enabled devices like DSTAR.
A collection of ham radio related information and live links on the web.