Major Digital Milestone Reached!
In May 2021, HVDN reported that we were creeping ever closer to that 10,000 digital repeater mark and as of our October survey of repeaterbook.com data this important date in amateur radio history is here with 10,035 digital amateur radio repeaters now tracked.
Here is the latest data based on our semi annual collection efforts since 2016, but no data was collected in 2017.
Our first near casualty of the digital evolution
Someone will really need to look hard at repeaterbook.com data to ensure accuracy of these D-Star tabulations since it appears that 21 less D-Star repeaters exist in October 2021 compared to May 2021.
It is pretty well documented by now thanks to HVDN and pretty much any radio amateur today that DMR is by far the most popular digital voice mode today with an impressive 155.35% increase over the last 5 years.
Still don't believe you, my local 2m FM repeater is just fine!
For those into more fancy math if we are talking about growth or declines, compound annual growth rates (CAGR) are often used in different industries to track growth over a certain period. Over the past five years, DMR is still leading the pack at 20.62% CAGR.
However, beyond the two dedicated non-commercial amateur modes known as Yaesu Fusion and Icom D-Star, it certainly seems interesting that the commercial P25 standard is growing faster than DMR.
Using repeaters to track the healthy growth of amateur radio is smart. Repeaters are expensive and local people with radios are needed to create a need for them to exist or to influence what to purchase. This is why counting repeaters is a great proxy to measure growth and adoption trends.
However, some areas do not have many digital voice repeaters but users are purchasing certain digital radios to use with hotspots. Many of these additional digital adopters are likely learning towards DMR or Fusion as a "my first digital radio" rather than D-Star or the two commercial modes known as P25 and NXDN.
Our secret digital future is already here
We have seen new products brought to market by smaller commercial companies and entrepreneurs, such as the RFinder series of DMR smartphone radios thanks to Bob W2CYK.
New networks run entirely by the radio amateur community like Brandmeister Network and its amazing development team have opened new doors to expand all digital voice modes, including an entirely new up-and-coming amateur created mode such as M17 thanks to Wojciech SP5WWP.
The community also even has other entirely open source network tools such as DV Switch, HBlink plus the amazing MMDVM and Pi-Star projects that Andy MW0MWZ, Jonathan G4KLX, Andy CA6JAU and others created to let us use repeaters or hotspots and fanned the flames of the digital evolution fire probably the most.
And, how could I not mention the work that folks like Roger VK3KYY are doing with OpenGD77 plus the equally fine development around OpenRTX which both help create new ways to use existing radios for digital communications, such as the case with modifying the cult favorite TYT MD-380 DMR radio to be used as M17.
We should expect some exciting times ahead for amateur radio as we also cross the boundaries of generational differences for people born after 1980 who will be entering later career stages and will have even more time for amateur radio experimentation.
Maybe its popular somewhere else?
Different parts of the world are at a crossroads today when it comes to adopting or retiring certain types of equipment.
This is something which HVDN will further track publicly going forward since as the below chart indicates the current split between North America and Rest of World digital voice repeater data.
With M17 Project starting to get more attention, especially with a large investment enabled by non-profit entities Amateur Radio Digital Communications and Open Research Institute it is just a matter of time before something groundbreaking grabs mass attention.
What is next?
Many people do not have the attention span to read articles like this, but they need to pay attention to what is being discussed here very closely if you care about your amateur radio hobby.
Here is my prediction for the next two years (2022 and 2023) for digital repeater counts
While spending time within the HF spectrum chasing rare stations or park activators is good fun and will only get easier as the 11 year sunspot cycle matures over the next few years, do not forget about next generation technology.
Spending more time on SSB during a 20m contest or CW on 40m will not propel the hobby forward for the next generation. Same also with using local 2m analog only repeaters for casual morning gatherings.
Please, spend some time experimenting with different technologies, modes and new ways of thinking and challenge yourself to try and keep track of how much time you spend in different aspects of the hobby month by month or year by year.
The more time spent on the future will secure our past and ensure amateur radio exists for the next 100 years.
Feel free to share some comments below on this and check out our past articles to learn what we are doing which may inspire you to get involved with something new in the future of digital amateur radio.
Awaiting your rotten tomatoes,