In 2019 I have one amateur radio with a digital voice option rather than analogue capability and that is my Icom IC-7100 used at home with D-Star. On HF I can recall one time having heard another digital voice call and on VHF due to living in a rural mountainous area with few Radio Amateurs I have never heard any D-Star activity yet.
My local VHF 2m and 70cm analogue voice repeaters are almost not used by anyone these days, very few calls heard compared to 10 years ago and calling through them results in no answers, they are not linked to the Internet with resistance being very strong to that move from a long time previous repeater keeper.
Most days of the week I go for long walks with my Vizsla dog and always take my handheld radio, but rarely manage to find anyone to talk to which is frustrating. I have read all about competing amateur radio digital voice modes such as D-Star, Fusion and DMR (none being compatible with the others and no agreed standard between the main amateur radio manufacturers) and if I was to change my handheld to one of these it wouldn’t help my personal situation as I appear to be well out of range of any other repeater that might have even one of these modes.
In the last couple of weeks I have discovered ‘Network Radio’ which uses either your esisting Smart Mobile phones, or PTT enabled GPRS Android walkie talkie style mobile phones that look and feel like amateur radios, to link via the mobile cellular telephone 3G or 4G network or Wi-Fi to other radio enthusiasts (licenced or unlicenced) around the World.
Network Radio seems particularly popular and these Android operating system devices can also run other existing Amateur Radio apps such as Echolink too. The primary Network Radio app is called Zello which is free and is very well moderated.
The conversations I have listened to have been of an excellent standard with users being from the UK, USA, South Africa, Europe and Oman heard this morning all speaking in English and whilst you do not need to be a licenced radio amateur to use Zello everyone seems to have either an amateur radio callsign or an allocated Network Radio callsign of NR###. If you wish you can also set up your own additional ‘private’ channels.
Definitely going to give this a go and whilst from home and in town I have access to Wi-Fi I will need to see where I can get unlimited cellular data from when out walking with my dog or mobile in my car.