What is DMR Radio? Is it the new “HF”?

I’ve been a licensed amateur radio operator for some time now.  My original license was a Technician License granted under KC2MLT.  Around 2013 I updated to a General License with a vanity call, KD2KEV.

I usually “worked” the 2 meter band but discovered my handheld could “hit” many more repeaters on 70cm (440 band).  Recently, I was listening to two other stations going back and forth about “packet radio”, a concept I still haven’t gotten yet, and then one of the guys said, “I have to look into DMR”.

Now, that’s a phrase I’m familiar with because most of the law enforcement agencies in our country have switched over to digital trunking with Motorola products.  DMR is quite similar as it uses handheld radios that link to repeaters on a particular frequency.  Then, you monitor certain “talk groups” within that repeaters range.  The talk groups for first responders are usually assigned by venue (city) then department (police department, fire department, parks and recreation) and then precinct or firehouse, or park location, and then there can be specialist talk groups for car to car, detectives, fire Marshalls, park supervisors, etc.  DMR on the amateur side is similar in that talk groups can be assigned to particular Ham Clubs, cities, specialist groups (think Facebook Pages) like Phoenix Trail Riders or Thunderbird Radio Club.

Well, after an initial investment based on a warranty when one of my radios went kurplunk, I received an AnyTone 878 Bluetooth with GPS.  Various internet sources claim this radio is the bomb.  So far, I’ve gotten compliments on the purchase from many other stations.  HOWEVER, I hadn’t made one single digital contact.  It seems I could barely reach the local repeater on a place called White Tanks Mountain on the far west side of the Phoenix Valley (actually located in Waddell, Arizona and part of the Maricopa County Parks System).  Frustrated beyond believe, I hit the internet again and discovered my issue could easily be resolved with a Hot Spot.  A hot what?   A hot spot is a tiny piece of engineering miracle that allows you to connect to other Talk Groups via the internet but by using your radio.  So, think of your hot spot as a little router connected to your home’s router, connected to a modem, connected to the internet, connected to a particular DMR Master (I use Brandmeister) that houses connection ports FOR THE WORLD.

AND, get this, you can connect it / tether it to your cell phone and use it in the car or any other place that doesn’t have internet (but a cell tower needs to be in the area).

So, essentially, my little DMR handheld became an old fashioned HF radio that could circle the world without the need to wait for certain sun spots, propagation, time of the day, and antenna availability.

Did HF become a dying skill much like morse code?