All, I just got a hold of a neat little gadget available on ebay for $114 shipped (from Hong Kong). It is a fully integrated MMDVM (multi-mode digital voice modem) on a board that interfaces with a Raspberry Pi Nano single-board computer. It comes in a tiny case with an OLED display screen, and a UHF ducky antenna.
This is commonly known as a Jumbo-spot and can be found in DIY format for around $45… (you add your own Pi Nano @ $15, an 8GB SD Card @ $9, and solder 2 headers and 1 antenna connector…and you can be on digital modes for $75 or so)
SO…what can you do with this dongle? Well..many digital repeaters are networked together….and connected to various “chat rooms” and “reflectors”. Thus, a virtual congregation of hams from all over the world meet up. However, some places may lack a repeater (or like many students, you’re limited to a simple D-Star, Fusion, or DMR handheld without the ability to install outdoor antennas to reach the regular repeater).
No problem — all you need is this dongle, a 5V wallwart, and a WIFI connection… oh, and your regular dstar or fusion or dmr radio. You configure the dongle to connect to the internet and connect you to those various reflectors/chat rooms of your choice using a user-interface known as Pi-Star.
The small hotspot dongle connects to your radio on your choice of VHF or UHF frequencies (simplex in most cases). Thus, the ‘last mile’ connection is from your HT / Radio to the dongle and is done with RF.
What results is an HT that is truly global-capable as long as the internet connection is available. Some guys are even using mobile WIFI/LTE hotspots to take their HT mobile while staying connected every step of the way through the D-Star, Fusion, or DMR network.
What’s more: a College hamradio chat room has been created on the DMR network – node 9500 – to allow college club stations to communicate with each other, to network, and to have fun.
Here’s a few links for more info: http://radioaficion.com/news/jumbo-spot-mmdvm-review/