Break Free From Proprietary Digital Radio
Digital modes are all the rage these days in ham radio – hams use protocols like WSPR to check propagation patterns, FT8 to get quick contacts on many bands at relatively low power, and MSK144 to quickly bounce off a meteor signal . There’s also digital voice, which has a number of advantages over analog, including improved sound quality. However, the main disadvantage of most digital voice modes, at least those used on UHF and VHF, is that they are proprietary to different radio brands that have competing digital standards. To cut through the noise a a more open standard can be used instead.
The M17 standard, originally created by [Wojciech Kaczmarski] Also known as [SP5WWP], uses Codec 2 to convert voice to a digital format before it is broadcast over the air. Codec 2 is an open standard unlike other audio codecs. The M17 also supports reflectors that can link individual radios or entire repeaters together over the Internet. Although you can make custom-built modules that will interface with most standard radio inputs, it is also possible to modify existing hardware to support this standard as well. The video below from [Tech Minds] shows that this is done on a radio with only a few hardware modifications and installing new firmware.
For anyone who has been frustrated that there is no real universal standard for digital voice on VHF and above, the M17 could be a game changer if enough people get tired of their friends being on other proprietary digital systems. There is a lot of supported hardware which most hobbyists probably already have, including a number of TNC devices such as Mobilinkd and DigiRig, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get started. If you still enjoy networking on the radio, take a look this method of sending a high-bandwidth IP network over the UHF band.