The ability to connect to reflectors is what makes Dstar really shine. Please don’t be shy to connect to reflectors, they’re much easier to use than you may think.
The nice part about using reflectors, is the ability to talk to people all over the world on a capable mobile or HT, or for a licensed ham who may not have HF capabilities. This giving users the ability to reach out farther than just the capabilities of the local repeater.
Also check out QuadNet reflectors, linking Dstar, DMR, and Fusion together.
Here is a great write up on Icom’s DR button- charlottdstar.org
Reflectors are basically conference servers that are connected to many (sometimes A reflector is software running on a computer with no radios attached to it that bridges communications between multiple repeaters or “hotspot” users. Think of a reflector as a teleconference bridge. Many of us call into telephone bridges at work that link multiple people together using a common number, a reflector is basically the same thing (even more basic, just like the old 3-way calls linked multiple phone calls together.) Each reflector has multiple modules designated by a letter code. There are 4 main types of reflectors: REF, XRF, DCS, and XLX. What’s the difference between them all? Really nothing. They all do the same basic thing, connect repeaters and hotspot users to each other on a common “bridge”.
- REF – The first reflectors created were REF reflectors. REF reflectors use a protocol known as DPLUS and amateurs that wish to utilize those reflectors must register with a DSTAR gateway system. These are the most common type of reflectors and are natively supported for selection via most newer DSTAR radios using the DR (DSTAR Repeater) mode. It allows you to choose your repeater and link that repeater to reflectors using a menu instead of having to program channels. The authoritative source for REF reflectors is dstarinfo.
- XRF – Up next is XRF reflectors. These reflectors use a protocol known as DExtra. Again, they all do the same thing, just a different backend software. You can find a list of these reflectors here.
- DCS – Originating in Germany, it was ran by German amateur operators. Utilizing the DCS protocol, other hams have now taken over the DCS routing system and are now being used outside Germany but still mostly overseas. A list of DCS reflectors can be found here.
- XLX – Last but not least are the newest of the reflector types but it actually supports the 3 prior protocols, DPLUS, XRF, and DCS. XLX reflectors are primarily used to connect multiple reflectors together. One of the greatest benefits of XLX is that they can connect other digital radio protocols together such as DMR and Yaesu Fusion. A great example is the Quadnet Array which links all the digital modes together. Check out my QuadNet reflector page.
A few of the most heavily used reflectors are REF030C (North America), REF001C (World Wide), and XRF757A, which is a widely used quadnet reflector for north america bridging Dstar and DMR.
Let’s use the Icom 5100 as an example here, the Icom radios and even the kenwood Dstar radios have basically the same concept for using the reflectors.
When you push the DR button on the front of your radio, the menu will change as it enters the digital mode menu. On the top will be say “To”, and the lower grid will say “From”. When you click on the From grid, you can use the banks to select our W7OEC repeater.
Before connecting to the reflector, please wait a few seconds to make sure the repeater is not in use, then announce your callsign and which reflector you’re connecting to. Example: “This is N7GWA going to connect to reflector 030 Charlie”.
Select the TO grid where it says CQ CQ CQ, and click on reflector, from here you can link, unlink, perform an echo test, and get current connection information. Select “Link to Reflector”, click on direct input, and type in the reflector you want to connect to. This will go back to the main grid menu with the reflector you want to connect to in the “TO” column. Key (kerchunk) the mic for about two seconds, then un key. You should get a repeater beep, followed by a “Connecting to (Whatever reflector you choose)”.
You are now connected to the reflector, now click back on the “TO” column, Reflector, and click “Use Reflector”. This will bring you back to the main grid menu.
You will again want to wait a couple seconds to make sure you’re not interrupting anyones QSO. You can now throw out your call sign and make contacts all over the world.
When you are through with using the reflector, you will need to disconnect from it. Click on the “TO” grid again, Reflector, Unlink Reflector, and kerchunk the mic for about two seconds. You should receive a message “unlinked”.
Please again announce your callsign and that the repeater is clear.