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Blog - Fusion and Billy Joe Jim Buck Bob

Special thanks to Cevan Twilley, K5ORN, for presenting the Fusion topic to the YL NTX net. I’ve heard him present this topic at least three times and it’s still interesting. Thanks for all your help Cevan, its appreciated.


Here goes my humble, though correct opinion, based on my experience with one radio. The Yaesu FT60R HT. It was my first “real” radio and to this very day, I unashamedly admit that I love my little HT. Coupled with a mag-mount antenna, I had many a QSO spanning many a mile. For that reason alone I am totally and completely biased and I don’t care one whit.

Yaesu is the bomb!

They make an exceptional quality radio.

And their marketing folks are geniuses.

Case in point:

About three years ago, Yaesu launched the digital Fusion repeater into the marketplace at a low, low, introductory price of $1500. While that price is not unheard of for new repeaters, it wasn’t selling like Yaesu had hoped.

Enter the Yaesu Marketing Geniuses, who dropped the price to $500. This provided a phenomenal opportunity for clubs and EOCs alike to replace old, outdated equipment or to try their hand at repeater ownership. The plan worked like a charm and soon Yaesu Fusion Repeaters were everywhere. Today there are hundreds of them scattered all over US. In Texas alone, there are 91 Fusion repeaters. In my neck of the woods, Johnson County, there are six!

Marketing Genius Move Number One.

The ramifications of Genius Move Number One were far reaching. All those new repeaters stirred curiosity. We’re a techy bunch, we hams, and as a *TOTAL COINCDIENCE*, Yaesu just happened to offer a full-line of Fusion radios. The more people learned about Fusion repeaters, the faster those full-priced radios flew off the shelf. So that, my friends, was Marketing Genius Move Number Two.

Not a bad plan at all. They discounted the repeaters and sold thousands of radios. Of course, Yaesu offers a quality line of equipment with an incredibly innovative design, so that helped. Because of this, they will ride the coat-tails of those two Marketing Genius Moves for many years to come, I’m sure.
It’s well-earned. Fusion is pretty neat.

Three years ago, if you asked most hams what Fusion radio was, they would have probably replied, “Yeasu’s new-fangled answer to digital radio / DMR.” Now however, we know…Fusion is like nothing else. It really is “Fusion”. (One might argue that the naming of the product line was Marketing Genius Move Number 1A, but I’m sticking with my original story. Anywho…)

Allison’s Definition:

Fusion: Verb. The process of merging of two wildly different things to become a third thing. In this case, FM analogue signals and digital signals merged to become Fusion.

Yes, Fusion is digital. But it’s also backwards compatible with analogue FM. Every Fusion radio and repeater is aware of the current QSO and its mode. The ramifications of that statement may not fully hit you at first, but it is actually the beauty of Fusion and also what makes Fusion, “Fusion”.

If a conversation starts in FM analogue, the repeater repeats FM analogue. If a conversation starts in digital, the repeater repeats digital. In addition, Fusion radios are smart and will automatically switch back and forth between the two modes, depending on the the repeater’s current output.

So what if you don’t have a Fusion radio? Does that mean you can’t use the repeater or talk to people who are Fusion?

Nope, this is another fabulous facet of Fusion. Say two people are chatting away in digital mode and an analogue station wants to break in. The breaking-in station keys the repeater once and identifies their station -- so it’s not confused with kerchunking -- and an amazing thing happens. The two radios that were previously digital will switch to analogue in order to allow all parties to QSO. Pretty darn slick, really.

The main benefit of digital, of course, is the exceptional audio quality. There is no static or white noise behind an incoming signal and weaker signals undergo error correction to improve audio quality.

All radios offer full 2m/70cm capabilities, plus a few interesting side-perks. Like for instance, trajectory information. Say you’re running the local Sky Warn net and you’ve sent your ace on-the-scene storm spotter Billy Joe Jim Buck Bob to investigate reports of a twister bearing down on Five Points.

Billy Joe is passionate ham, but he’s directionally challenged. So when he checks in to the Sky Warn net to report that “he don’t see a tornado nowhar”, his Fusion radio will talk to your Fusion radio. Even if APRS was not a factor -- which it is, but we'll get to that later -- YOUR radio would display Billy Joe’s callsign, distance from you, and the direction of the received signal. From that, you can easily discern that Billy Joe is actually not in Five Points, he’s in Plum Grove.

With the exception of the HF Fusion rig, all radios come with full APRS capabilities, TNC beaconing and Smart Navigation, which provides first and last transmission location. This could be another boon to our hapless storm spotter. In an effort to get him to Five Points, you direct him to go East on Bee Creek Road to FM 876. He responds… “East? Is that left or right?”

(Maybe we better keep an eye on Billy Joe.)

Another awesome feature Fusion offers is Digital Group Monitor. Group Monitor is a heads up display that provides the Radio ID number of all people who are active whether they are in- or out-of-range. Including Billy Joe, who texted from his on-screen radio keyboard… “Oooooh. East. I thought you said West! I’m on it!”

God Bless Billy Joe. He’s brave of heart, that man. He arrives on-scene and with his handy dandy digital hand-mic / camera, sends you a picture of an ominous funnel cloud bearing down on Five Points, along with an email this time saying, “Wish you were here, this is AWESOME!”

Despite all of his wanderings, Billy Joe will have excellent audio quality right up until he reaches the end of his tether, in which case the audio will go from excellent to the Star Wars’ R2D2 sound. This is the one disadvantage of digital – and this goes for ALL digital, no matter radio manufacturer -- pixelated sound. It arrives on the fringes of coverage or if there is too much atmospheric disturbance.

Another issue. If you are monitoring a repeater and you do not have a Fusion radio, digital QSOs in progress will sound like static. There is a quick and simple solution to this: tone squelch. Since digital transmissions do not require a tone to access a repeater, if you set your tone squelch to the repeater’s required tone, you will effectively squelch out all digital transmissions.

Neither one of these are disadvantages so much as “slight annoyances”. And since Fusion plays well with everyone, you might just listen for the static and see if you can horn in on the conversation.

Or go buy you a Fusion radio… No need to get intimidated. Set up is a breeze. Just take it out of the box, enter your callsign and you’re good to go. There are quite a few to choose from, but here’s a small assortment of the ones Cevan suggested.

FT1DR / XDR -- Entry level Fusion HT. A steal for the APRS radio alone.

FT2DR – The updated version of the FT1DR, but with touch screen and dual digital VFO.

FTM 400DR / XDR – dual band mobile with touchscreen interface and can function as an iGATE. For a mobile radio, this is a great economical option.

FT991 – All mode radio – 2m / 70cm/ YSF / HF rig. “The Swiss Army Knife of radios.” The only thing this radio doesn’t do is beacon. ‘Cause you, know, it’s an HF rig and you’re most likely not moving.