D-Star still marginal?

d-star_logoI always wondered how many ham radio operators use D-Star. Now I know: according to the organizers of a D-Star forum at Dayton Hamvention 2013 there are now slightly more than 25.000 registered D-Star users around the world. Quote:

“D-STAR continues to grow in popularity with over one thousand interconnected gateways and over twenty-five thousand registered users. The last year has seen new hardware and software offerings that continue to expand the capabilities of this already feature rich protocol. The speakers for this forum will review the things you might have missed in the last year and announce some exciting new hardware and software.”

A large portion of those 25.000 users doesn’t use airwaves at all, but use a (cheaper) dongle instead. Personally I would not hesitate to take dongle users out of the equation, but let’s not be too picky today.

Time to put all of this into perspective. There are now an estimated 3.2 million licensed ham radio operators in the world (source: IARU). This translates into 0.78% of them using D-Star. That isn’t much.

So, is D-Star still marginal? Apparently so. However, acceptance of new technologies always takes time. Some potential users couldn’t care less about digital modes, some don’t like the hefty price tag. Then there’s competition in the form of cheap (sometimes really cheap!) DMR radios. Digital is here to stay.

I’m waiting for someone to link all popular digital technologies and make them available to anyone with (for example) an Echolink account. Now that would be cool.

10 comments on “D-Star still marginal?

    • Rutger,

      indeed we don’t know how many users there are on the other networks. If the Netherlands would serve as an example though, it appears that the exact same users are registered on both. If true it wouldn’t add one single operator to the numbers.

      All these numbers are estimates, as there are many unknowns. If a ham operator dies, he will be removed from the IARU database at a certain point in time. I can’t figure out right now what happens to D-Star registrations when someone goes SK, nor what happens when someone dumps D-Star and sells his rig. For all we know, the current numbers could also be inflated.


  1. D-star is the greatest SCAM Icom managed to pull off on HAM community.
    Nothing spells standard like a single vendor and closed spec.

  2. I wonder if the number of dongle users is really that high… Considering the price of a DV Dongle is about the same as that of a full-blown D-Star radio. There’s cheaper options now like the DVRPTR with AMBE board but for years the DV Dongle was the only way, and a very expensive one at that. Everyone I know that has the dongle also has several D-Star radios.

    Also I think the percentage of actually active HAMs using D-Star is much higher. There’s loads of inactive hams in those 3.2 million and also many older ones who will never take up any new mode regardless of whether it’s proprietary or not.

    I also wish D-Star was more open, especially the codec. But I don’t see any alternatives at this point. Yaesu’s digital offering uses the same codec vendor and doesn’t have the widespread repeater network that D-Star has, so I don’t see any advantage to using it.

  3. you want digital ? buy some Chinese DMR stuff, some USA P25 stuff (i have Astro Spectra’s and XTS2500 model III) on 70cms .. all these are cheaper than Dstar.. Motorola P25 FDMA stuff is excellent & a much more resilient codec than that proprietary nonsense… and you get that PMR feeling converting it to Ham use if it needs ‘hacking’ on to Amateur bands.great fun. there are a few of us locally with a P25 net on 70cms in the evenings.


  4. it is obvious. to me that not too many people here either use or are interested in DS. 25.000 dongle users, if that were true AA4RC would now be a millionaire, and he isn’t.. RF is what 98% of these people use. The figure is those registered with the original Dplus network. it does not include the amount of homebrew and open networks, which overtook it a long time ago. No longer having to purchase the Ā£3000 Icom repeater hardware has been the big news over the past couple yrs. More and more radio clubs and individuals are able to produce a DS repeater for abt Ā£300 and that is what has increased the digital userbase.

    As for the proprietary codec, its the same codec in most all DV systems P25, Mototurbo, DMR. If you do not like something because it is proprietary then be prepared to bin most of your modern rigs, their processors and DSP chips are all the intellectual property of one or another manufacturer.

    The actual specification is open, so anyone can produce a product for use on DS. There are several coders working in DS and producing very interesting projects.

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