D-Star Simplified

  • Posted on: 22 February 2017
  • By: Mike

I recently bought a new D-Star radio, and found it very difficult to understand at first.  Lots of information out there, but nothing very simplified.  After hours of research, I was finally able to make a D-Star contact.

Now that I have used it some, I figured I would write something up to explain how it all works.


D-Star being digital voice, relies on some routing techniques for the repeater to understand what you want from it.  Primarily there are 4 'callsigns' that you need to worry about. It gets confusing because in the Amateur Radio world, when we see Call Sign, we think OUR call sign.  this is not always the case with D-star!

  • My  Callsign:  This is YOUR actual call sign.  This is usually set in the radio settings menu someplace.  Many radios allow you to set multiple for multiple users.
  • Your Callsign:  This call sign defines the parameters of your transmission (we will talk about this in depth below)
  • RPT-1 Callsign:  This defines the repeater's call sign, and 'channel' you are intending to use.
  • RPT-2 Callsign:  This defines if you are using the gateway or not on the repeater (to the best of my knowledge, this is all its used for.  Please contact me if you know of more!  I will update the article)


My Callsign

In your radio Menu Settings, you would enter your actual call sign.  You can add a note along with it.  I am only familiar with the ID-51a + and the ID-5100a.  They both set up the same way.

My radio for example has:

KD2IFF /n Mike

This will transmit my callsign for other radios to decode, as well as my name.  I see many people put their radio model in here too.  I believe the note field is short, maybe 3-4 characters?  Essentially this is what identifies you on the D-Star system.


D-Star Callsigns

Let's talk about D-Star call signs in general for a minute before getting into detail.

D-Star call signs consist of 8 characters.  The 8th character has some importance, as it tells the system what you are looking to do.  Sometimes you are using a call sign that consists of only one character in the 8th position.



Other times you are using all 8 characters.



The important thing to be sure of, is that you have the appropriate characters in the appropriate position.


Your Call Sign

Ok, now for some important detail!  Sometimes this is called Your Call Sign in the radio, others it's called UR Call Sign.  See how it can get confusing??  

This call sign tells the system what you want to do specifically.  You will change this field when you want to Link to a reflector, Unlink, check repeater status, etc.  It is even possible to link to another repeater using this command (provided your gateway has the proper information for it)


REF030CL -  This tells the system you want to link to Reflector 30C.

 KB2VZS⎵L - This tells the system to link to the KB2VZS repeater on channel B.

⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵U - This tells the system to un-link from whatever it is linked to.

⎵I - This tells the system to report its current status (linked to, not linked, etc)

⎵E - This handy command will have the system give you an echo test.  Any transmission you make will be played back to you, so you can hear your audio quality.

CQCQCQ⎵⎵ - Probably most important, this tells the system that you just want to talk!!

Now.... notice I kept saying 'system' and not repeater....   Many of these commands will work as when you are using a hotspot, dongle, etc for D-Star too.  In fact, depending on your device (dv-mega on a raspberry pi; Blue DV; etc there are many other commands that are possible too.  This is by far not a comprehensive list, just an example of many popular)



This is used to identify the repeater you are talking through.  Usually just the call sign of the actual repeater, and the letter corresponding to the module you are going through.

A: 1.2ghz

B: 440mhz

C: 140mhz

D: i am not sure!


KB2VZS⎵B - This would be the 440mhz module of the KB2VZS repeater.

DIRECT⎵⎵ - This is used (from what I understand) when you are going direct - simplex, to your hotspot, etc.



Again, to the best of my knowledge, this is only used to tell the system if you want to use the gateway or not.  The gateway, is the repeaters connection to the internet, and the world beyond the repeater.  If you choose to leave this blank, only people directly listening to the repeater will hear you.  Anyone on a linked reflector, or using a dv-dongle, or linked to the repeater in any way will NOT hear you!






Ok, now that we have an understanding of the call signs...  Let's talk about the different approaches Icom has for using the information.


The newer Icom radios such as the ID-51a and ID-5100a have 3 methods of using D-star.  Yes this can be confusing!!!  The 3 options are Memory Mode, URCall Mode, DR Mode.


Memory Mode

Using this mode, you would program several memory slots per repeater.  Each slot would have different entries for the Your Callsign field.  


  Receive Frequency Transmit Frequency Offset Direction Operating Mode Name Your Callsign RPT-1 Callsign RPT-2 Callsign


2 444.800 449.800 +DUP DV KB2VZS - Info ⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵I KV2VZS⎵B KB2VZS⎵G
3 444.800 449.800 +DUP DV KB2VZS - Unlink ⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵U KV2VZS⎵B KB2VZS⎵G
4 444.800 449.800 +DUP DV KB2VZS - Echo ⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵E KV2VZS⎵B KB2VZS⎵G
5 444.800 449.800 +DUP DV KB2VZS - 30C REF030CL KV2VZS⎵B KB2VZS⎵G
6 444.800 449.800 +DUP DV KB2VZS - 01C REF001CL KV2VZS⎵B KB2VZS⎵G


So, using the above example, if you wish to Link to Reflector 30C, you would set your radio to channel 5, key up for a second and relaease.  The system should report back that its now linked.  You may just hear people talking.  Then you would turn back to channel 1, and continue talking.

Likewise, if you want to unlink, switch to channel 3, key up for a second, and it should report as unlinked.

This method lets you use your memory channels for all your linking and unlinking.


URCall Mode

This option, you would have one memory entry per repeater.  Then, you would store in the URCall list, the different commands you would like to use.  Depending on the radio, you can have upwards of 200 slots to use.  

To use this method, use the following steps:

  1. Choose the frequency you wish to operate on via memory, or vfo
  2. Press the CS button (ID-51a you need to long-press)
  3. Select the UR: field
  4. Select the Your Callsign choice
  5. Choose the option you wish to use and select
    • Examples (note, this option will provide friendly names that are shown on the right.  these friendly names can be changed via programming)
      • CQCQCQ⎵⎵ - Use Repeater
      • REF030CL - link to REF030C
      • ⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵⎵U - Unlink Repeater
  6. Key up to enable the option (ie link, unlink, etc) or talk (cqcqcq or echo)


DR Mode

The final option, is DR Mode.  Icom created this option in an attempt to simplify D-Star.  This mode is what REALLY confused me at first!  I will do my best to explain it, but I really dont use it, so it may be a little cumbersome.

With DR mode, you have a To: field and a From: field.  This mode attempts to automate the 'callsign' settings for you.


In the From: field, you will set the repeater you would like to use.  You can choose this by using the nearby repeater list, or just scrolling through the list and hand picking a repeater.  This list is maintained via programming software, can be updated with new information from www.dstarinfo.com.  Use your preffered method to locate the repeater you wish to talk via.

The To: field lets you choose your method of talking.  I will try to describe each one below:

  • Local CQ - This will let you talk locally on your repeater only.  Like I was saying above about not entering a gateway in RPT-2.  This option clears the RPT-2 field for you.
  • Gateway CQ - This sets RPT-2 as the gateway for the repeater and makes it available for use
  • Your Call Sign - This will let you use the list of call signs set in the radio programming.  It would be the same as URCall mode above
  • Reflector - This drills down a menu, giving you the ability to choose, link, unlink reflectors, echo test, and get repeater status information
  • RX History - Recieve History (only while using DR mode I believe)
  • TX History - Transmit History (only while using DR mode I believe)
  • Direct Input (UR) - Provides the ability to hand enter a UR Call
  • Direct Input (RPT) - Provides the ability to hand enter a Repeater

While this mode is entirely very functional, I find it mildly confusing.  The only time I even use it, is to locate a repeater with the GPS and see if there is any activity.  Once located, it is pretty simple to copy to a memory, but thats a story for a different time.



Hopefully this makes sense and is helpful to others.  Feel free to comment, or send email via my email listed on QRZ.