DV Access Point – My First Look

This is certainly not the first blog posting to be written about the D-STAR Access Point Dongle (DVAP).  If you Google the subject you’ll find many.  I would like to thank Tim Kirby, G4VXE for his excellent blog postings regarding the subject of the DVAP and his time in helping answer a few questions I had regarding the product. 

Let me start off by answering the question of why, why did I purchase the DVAP?  Yes, I am extremely fortunate to live in a part of the county which has several excellent D-STAR repeaters.  As a matter of fact, we have repeaters both here in Denver (W0CDS) and one down in Monument, Colorado (W0TLM) serving the greater Colorado Springs area.  From just about any point in Denver, including my home shack (via external antenna) I can connect to the Denver machines and generally anywhere south of Denver can hit the Monument system.  So again, why do I need the DVAP device?

This is partly answered by saying my biggest interest in D-STAR is not for local rag chew.  I much prefer to either just listen in on an active reflector or conduct short QSO’s or even rag chews with a hams around the world.  It has been my experience that our local D-STAR repeaters are often used for local rag chew sessions.  Again, sometimes I just enjoy listening in on an active reflector and hear hams from the other side of the world talk about whatever they are talking about.  The DVAP allows me to essentially connect to any D-STAR reflector I choose and I can listen without interruption or without tying up the local repeaters for just my listening enjoyment.  Of course, I can also contribute to the conversations as well and I do enjoy that aspect about D-STAR over Echolink or IRLP.

You might be wondering exactly what the DVAP is and how it works?  Another great question.  You may have heard of the DV Dongle which came out a few years ago.  It was a little blue box which connected to your PC and allowed up to use a PC headset and microphone to access the D-STAR network. The DVAP is almost the same thing.  Notice I said almost.  It does connect to a PC or Mac, but you must also own a D-STAR capable transceiver.  I have the ICOM IC-92AD. 

photo

In my case, the IC-92AD controls all aspects of the DV Access Point Dongle and functions much the same way as my local D-STAR repeater.  The DVAP is essentially my own personal D-STAR repeater/gateway system.  I can setup my memories in the IC-92AD to connect to, communicate with and disconnect from all the reflectors on the D-STAR global system.   The DVAP has a built-in antenna and is capable of transmitting at 10mw on the 2m amateur band.  The range of the DVAP is designed to cover a range of up to 100 yards.  Depending on a few variables your results may vary.  In my application I plan for now to just operate it indoors with the stock antenna.  Of course, I’ll test with my outside mounted 2m antenna at some point to see just how far I can walk away from my QTH and still be able to use the DVAP.  But the general application is mainly inside my home and perhaps on the back deck or courtyard.

As you can tell from the photo above, the DV Access Point Dongle is relatively small.  Inside the box you you’ll find the DVAP module with antenna attached, a user guide and a USB cable.  The user guide explains briefly about the operation of the DVAP and points you to the DVAP Support Website.  From the DVAP website you’ll find additional “how to” material and links to the various software you’ll need to download and install. 

photo

Because I had done some homework on my own before hand, and again thanks to Tim for answering a few questions, I was setup and fully functional in about 10 minutes.  During this 10 minutes I downloaded the software and drivers, unpacked the DVAP from the box, connected it to a laptop running Windows 7 and programmed a few memories to connect to the UK reflector.  I’ve been playing around with the DVAP and getting my memories setup on the IC-92AD for about an hour and am really pleased with the DVAP.  As I stated, I’ll do some more testing and will make sure to blog about my experiences.  Currently I’m using the DVAP tool which is what you’ll find on the DVAP support website.  I do have plans to test another client which offers a little more functionality and allows you to connect direct to reflectors from the software client versus the need to setup from the radio.  But I wanted to first checkout this client first.

As I stated earlier, I do have a few tests I want to complete.  First, I’ll connect the DVAP to my external 2m antenna which is mounted just below my roof line.  It might be interesting to know just how far I can walk away from my QTH and still be in communication to the DVAP.  Remember the DVAP transmits at 10mw.

I also want to check out the other software client which I briefly discussed.  I also plan to setup additional memories on the IC-92AD for other D-STAR reflectors.  I’d like to see how it all works from my office location.  I do work in a lab which is somewhat of an RF black hole.  It might be nice to take the setup to work and enjoy some D-STAR QSO’s during my lunch break.  Finally, I plan to test the range of the DVAP by attaching my external 2m antenna and walking around the neighborhood.  This will probably just a be a one-time test to fulfill my curiosity of just how far 10mw will truly go.  I also have plans to test to see how well it would perform when connected to my 3G AT&T data card.  This could be useful on longer road trips where either I don’t take along HF gear or just to supplement my operation.  I’m sure I’ll share my experiences via this blog site.

But for now, it will come in handy in the shack.  Speaking of which, I just finished my first QSO on the DVAP while connected to the USA Reflector 001, module C with N9ZGE – Don in Springfield, IL.  I was his first D-STAR contact and he was my first DVAP contact.  Best of luck to Don as he continues making those D-STAR contacts.

If you would like to learn more about the exciting D-STAR digital mode, please read this.

Until next time…

73 de KD0BIK

Jerry Taylor, KD0BIK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. He is the host of the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast. Contact him at [email protected].

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