D-STAR Terminal Mode Hotspots Made Easy

Terminal Mode & Linking Overview
Anxious to use Terminal Mode Linking Now?  Click Here To Get Going

Hotspots have been popular, with good reason.  But what if you just got a new DStar radio, for example a 51 Plus2, and it was shipped with the ICOM OPC-2350LU data cable.  This allows you to use ICOM’s Terminal Mode.

What’s Terminal Mode?  Basically, if you are not within RF range of a DStar repeater but you want to talk to people using the DStar network, Terminal Mode lets you do that quite easily, without having to purchase a full-blown Hotspot.

You do need a computer with internet connection.  For this note, I will focus on ICOM Terminal Mode radios that use the above data cable to connect to the computer, for example, the 51 Plus2, 3100 Plus, 4100 and 5100.  You can also use the 9700 with that data cable and the 705 with a USB cable —  and DV Gateway set to External Gateway.

Callsign Routing

ICOM’s solution is to install their RS-MS3 app on Windows or Android and connect the radio to the computer using the data cable.  The ICOM app supports callsign routing only, which is popular in Japan and with certain groups.  But many hams are disappointed they cannot use this app to link to reflectors.  One reason is that callsign routing requires the target party to know how to use their radio’s CS button to capture the caller’s callsign.  Sadly, many DStar hams have not read up on that, and when they attempt to reply to the Terminal Mode user’s call by just hitting PTT,they are not heard because the reply is not routed back.  The user gets frustrated with callsign routing because no one successfully replies to their calls.

Linking to Reflectors

But there is a really nice alternative software solution.  G4KLX added support for Terminal Mode to his DStarRepeater program, and when used with his ircDDBGateway program, the Terminal Mode user has full linking access to REF, XRF, DCS and XLX reflectors. And doing this is both easy and inexpensive.

The simplest way is to get a Raspberry Pi — if you already have a full-sized Pi in the closet, then use that.  Otherwise, just get a small Pi Zero W for US $10 plus shipping.  Load Pi-Star on an SD card, and you will quickly be up and running.   Yes, that is right — you can be linking to reflectors for just a few dollars, and skip buying a Hotspot for US $150 – $250.

I recently set up a new Pi to do Terminal Mode with my 51A Plus2.  Since the needed G4KLX programs come preloaded on the Pi-Star image, it was just a matter of a few minutes of configuration and I was having QSOs on reflectors using Terminal Mode.  It really is easy.

If you already have a Pi running Pi-Star, check out KG5EIU’s concise article on setting up Terminal Mode for the 51 Plus2.  But essentially that method works for all Terminal Mode radios connected via the OPC-2350LU data cable.

Or check out this step by step guide to use Terminal Mode for Reflector Linking without spending much money at all.