Operation Victor Whisky

A journey into Yaesu System Fusion’s Voice Wide Mode

As of today, the Northwich Repeater Group runs two YSF (Yaesu System Fusion) Voice Wide repeaters. GB7SJ (Northwich) and GB7YZ (Mold). These are both linked together via the GB7SJ YSF reflector. While DN (Digital Narrow) can be used, the repeaters are usually used in VW (Voice Wide) mode. The audio quality is much nicer and is the perfect ragchew mode.

GB7YZ and GB7SJ coverage map
GB7SJ / GB3SJ / GB7DJ Mast
Top: GB7SJ Yaesu System Fusion DR-1X / Bottom GB7DJ DMR Repeater
Top – GB7SJ Filters / Bottom – GB3SJ Filters

So, how did it all begin? Well, it all started one evening back in January 2019. I put a call out on TG23520 Northwest Link using my trusty TYT UV-380 and got chatting to Stuart M0WTX. In amongst our chat, I mentioned that I had just bought a Yaesu 991A and that it had YSF capability. At this point, I had never used fusion and was curious to know what it was like. Stuart then suggested we jump onto GB7SJ and give it a go. At this time GB7SJ was just a 70cm analogue FM repeater that used to link to HUBNet in the evenings via fusion. We played on DN first and then I asked what the VW was for. Let’s try it! exclaims Stuart and off we went. This was the game changer.

“I could take GB7SJ and make it a Voice Wide repeater, to encourage the uptake and enjoyment of the Voice Wide mode for ragchewing.”

Stuart M0WTX

You could almost hear the cogs turning in Stuart’s head, “I could take GB7SJ off HUBNet and make it a Voice Wide repeater, to encourage the uptake and enjoyment of the Voice Wide mode for ragchewing.” and so he did. At this point just me and him chatting each night enjoying the closest to FM digital communications. As time went by others started to call in, suddenly hearing some fusion in the area people were finally getting to use their fusion radios and even more so the VW mode.

The next step was to allow those friends further away to join in on the VW fun. Some of our fellow hams, including my dad, had no facility near them to be able to use their fusion radios, so a reflector was set up for them to connect their hotspots to. Stuart called in our resident reflector guru Peter G7RPG. He set up the YSF reflector and had it added to the hosts file, so people can choose it from the pulldown in pi-star.

Hotspot that links GB7SJ YSF reflector to the main repeater
GB7SJ Reflector Dashboard

Introducing Victor Whisky.

One night we were chatting away and we had a break station. This was VK3TUX Adrian. Adrian likes to play with P25 and cross mode operations and hooked in his P25 system to the GB7SJ reflector. We were fascinated by this, especially the quality of the cross-link. Experimentation began and Adrian managed to almost get a clean DMR link into the system. It was decided that DMR just did not sound as good and so was removed from the system. P25 uses IMBE and AMBE +2 Full Rate (on later models). Both of these are natively compatible with the VW mode which is also AMBE +2 Full Rate. This means P25 to YSF sounds the same and makes for a pleasant listening experience.

At this point, I want to say how much myself and Stuart appreciated all the efforts and help that Adrian put in. However, Adrian’s talk groups are very busy and this meant a lot of non-local traffic was coming into the system. The goal here is to provide local amateurs with a means to ragchew in VW and so we had to ask Adrian to disconnect his link. Adrian always referred to VW as Victor Whisky and so we have kept that as a thank you to his earlier involvement.

I am not so sure how it came about, but Stuart had been chatting to a friend Mike 2W0TDK. He lives on a hill over in Mold and long story short was interested in running a repeater in VW. He wasn’t totally sold on digital modes at this point. Stuart set to work and built the repeater. I believe the NoV was already in place, so everything was ready to go. Peter did his magic with mmdvm so that the repeater could work on the reflector, linking the two together.

GB7YZ Repeater
GB7YZ ready to be installed with filters

Myself and Stuart performed a test, where I was able to work GB7SJ comfortably using my FT-2D on 1W on the default rubber duck in my bedroom. Switching to FM, I couldn’t be pulled out of the noise.

Many locals now enjoy the Voice Wide system, Carl GW0TQM often uses GB7YZ while out walking. Carl is a keen SOTA and portable operator. YSF excels when it comes to portable / mobile use and low signals. Myself and Stuart performed a test, where I was able to work GB7SJ comfortably using my FT-2D on 1W on the default rubber duck in my bedroom. Switching to FM, I couldn’t be pulled out of the noise.

At this time Yaesu themselves have no system to allow two fusion repeaters to link and transmit/receive the VW mode. We give special thanks to Jonathan Naylor G4KLX and Andy Taylor MW0MWZ for making both mmdvm and pi-star and helping to push amateur radio digital modes into a new era.

So, if VW sounds really good, almost as good as FM, why are people not using it?

So, if VW sounds really good, almost as good as FM, why are people not using it? Well, I think some of that stems from repeaters not actually allowing it. The issue is simple, in order to allow cross mode operations, everything must run in narrow mode. This is because DMR and D-Star use the AMBE +2 standard narrow rate. If you came onto a repeater connected to crosslinks, no one would hear you in VW mode. However if you want to ragchew simplex, or you live in the North West UK near Northwich or Mold you can jump on the repeaters and enjoy the ride.

As we are at the end of this story, I would like to go slightly off topic. Cross mode operations continue to improve. Steve N4IRS and Mike N4IRR are working away on the dvswitch project, continually developing new ways to make it possible to cross mode with better quality. The current build of mmdvm bridge will be introducing a new feature that will allow VW and DN to be passed to an endpoint using only one mmdvm bridge and two analogue bridges. This will allow P25 to be used into a system and hear both DN and VW. Maybe one day in the future DN and VW could pipe in a similar way, allowing YSF to cross mode seamlessly with other modes.