I 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.