System Fusion

System Fusion

WTF? or What The Fusion

System Fusion is the name Yaesu gives their analog/digital capable radios and repeaters. They will do both, hence the name “Fusion”. The K1KC 146.61 repeater near Conyers, Georgia operates in the System Fusion ‘AMS’ mode. That is, it responds in kind to the operating mode of the signal received, be it DN, VW or FM. Loosely translated, they are ‘digital narrow’, ‘voice wide’ and ‘FM analog’. ‘Voice Wide’ is a digital mode with greater audio fidelity than ‘digital narrow’. I won’t get into a detailed explanation of System Fusion or digital operating here, but I will give more information about operating on the K1KC VHF repeater.

The VHF repeater is normally connected to the Yard Dogs WiRES-X room, room # 40383, node # 30383. The room can be changed to any other room temporarily, and should automatically revert to 40383 when you log out. Please check to make sure neither the repeater nor the WiRES-X room is in use prior to changing it.

Yaesu now has numerous radios that can transceive in the Yaesu C4FM protocol. They have mobiles, quasi-base and handheld radios you can use in their digital mode. I call it the ‘Yaesu C4FM’ protocol because it is not the only C4FM protocol in use. In fact, APCO P25 Phase I is C4FM (Continuous 4-Level Frequency Modulation, a special form of 4FSK) protocol. However, the two are incompatible due to slight differences in the carrier frequencies.


WiRES-X is a Yaesu brand of Internet linking that uses a set of servers in Japan to link participating stations. As I mentioned, the K1KC VHF repeater is a node with a node number of 30383 and has an associated ‘room’ with a room number of 40383. A node is a radio or repeater that forms a bridge between the RF world and the Internet. As of right now, the node radio can only be a Yaesu FTM100 or an FTM-400 or a DR-1X or DR-2X repeater (which is obviously a radio too). A ‘room’ is a virtual chat room so to speak. Nodes support rooms and rooms can connect to one another, even in large numbers. There are nets that take place on certain rooms, attracting perhaps 100 or more users at one time. Just like on RF nets, there is a net controller.

Yaesu’s second generation repeaters have the ability (with optional LAN card) to connect to one another via direct IP link, bypassing the WiRES-X servers. Although the new generation can also do WiRES-X, they cannot do both at the same time. Some very interesting linking can be done with the new LAN system, called MSRL (multi-site repeater link).

Let me give you an example of what either of those two features can accomplish. A friend of mine with a WiRES-X capable mobile was able to extend his range (that is, talk to me from a greater distance than the normal range of my repeater) by connecting to a closer WiRES-X enabled repeater and linking it to my WiRES-X enabled repeater. Now, the connection borrowed the Internet and went all the way to Japan before coming back to my repeater. I was using a handie-talkie to access my repeater and was talking to his mobile at a greater distance than normal. Very cool indeed!

If both of us repeater owners had Internet connections, or had IP via RF connections between us, we could accomplish the same thing with the new repeaters, but without going through the servers in Japan. Not owning one yet, I cannot describe the experience to you….only the theory. You can imagine though that there might be less latency. I should mention that WiRES-X requires a modem with each node, known as an HRI-200. The node radio cannot be used to participate in the WiRES-X conversation. You must have a second radio to talk to the node radio. However, the node radio can be taken out of the WiRES-X mode and used as a regular radio (base or mobile).

So, what’s the draw? Well, WiRES-X is like other Internet linking systems in that it gives you global reach from a base, mobile or handheld radio. If you enjoy communicating this is a great way to do it. What makes WiRES-X different then? One difference is that there are no code plugs to program into the radio. Another difference, according to some, is that the audio quality can be better. I won’t say it is always better because there are so many variables involved with the Internet.

The node experience

Operating from a node is a somewhat different experience in my opinion because you have more information at your fingertips quicker. Bring up the WiRES-X on your computer screen and it begins to populate with a node list and a room list. There is also a space for your favorites list…sort of like bookmarks. The screen displays information about that node or room such as location, lat/long, comments entered by the owner and number of current participants. You can exchange electronic QSL cards as well as send messages keyboard to keyboard. The screen also displays near real-time positions from those who are transmitting that info as well as callsign info and their distance and direction. Much of that same info is displayed on the mobile screens, but it is so much easier to read and digest on a PC screen.

I run two rooms. One is associated with the repeater and one is associated with a separate node radio in the shack. The room on the shack, or node radio, is also called Yard Dogs but it shows up differently on your screen. Let me add that the repeater can also be considered a node, so it is more or less semantics that cause me to call the shack node simply ‘my node’. They are both nodes in the technical sense. The shack WiRES-X room is on only sporadically whereas the repeater WiRES-X room is on constantly. Basically I use the Shack WiRES-X room to go hunting whereas the repeater WiRES-X room is for ‘being hunted’.

But Wait! There’s more!

System Fusion is about far more than WiRES-X and MSRL. Firstly there is the digital experience. There is no white noise on the digital signal. Either your hear it, or you don’t. True, a digital signal can chop in and out and be unintelligible, but still there is no white noise. That’s always the first thing I notice about digital after switching back to analog…I notice the white noise.

While using the digital modes you can transmit other data as well. That other data can be callsign, GPS position, radio type, personal information, altitude, monitoring frequency…heck, you name it! You can transmit files or images, news of interest to a group and more. There is a function called Group Monitor which looks for other stations within a given range. It’s almost like a ‘friend’s club’, but they don’t have to be your friends. Just like in APRS, you can message each other.

Let’s Build A Bridge

I would be remiss in my story if I did not mention that bridges of all types are being built to and from System Fusion to other protocols. If you hang out a little while in one of the more popular rooms, you will find out that users of other types of digital devices are talking to System Fusion users. How is this possible? By the simple fact that some smart folks have written translating software that decodes one protocol and recodes it into System Fusion C4FM and vice versa. This is a very good development since no one is winning the ‘Digital War’ just yet. It would be a real shame if this bridging were not taking place. As it is, we are able in some cases, to talk to one another. The day has not arrived that we can dial each other up as in a telephone system, regardless of protocol or regardless of location, but bridges do exist and there are many of them. One room I know of has SIX different ways of getting in. That is nothing short of awesome! I want to be like those guys!

Can You Hear Me Now?

Yeah, I know. That question is getting to be rather passe’, but we asked each other that question, over and over and over. Why? We wanted to understand just how well digital operating compares with analog operating. Is digital better than analog? The answer is YES/NO. Take your pick. It totally depends on…uh, well uh, well, more than I understand. But hey, I will  give you my take on it.

After extensive trials on VHF, we found that it depends on a number of factors, and sometimes those theories don’t work too well. Therefore, I will make generalizations and warn you there are caveats. In general, when both stations in a two station conversation are fixed/not moving, there may be a distance advantage over analog. That makes sense considering the digital transmission occupies a narrower bandwidth than analog and therefore carries a greater spectral power density. It’s the same concept for a CW transmission versus and SSB transmission.

There’s a station roughly 60 miles from me who cannot get into my repeater in analog, but can almost get into my repeater in digital. (We are talking C4FM still). When one or both stations are moving, the quality of reception can drop dramatically. That’s not always the case, but it usually is. When you have a good signal to noise ratio between you, then you can have a really good, white noise free conversation. I know, I’ve done it. When the signals start getting weak, the perceived quality goes downhill fast. This is usually when we switchback to good ole analog. My brain can recover the conversation, even with the added white noise, far easier than when there are 100% dropouts of the conversation. I think that’s fairly universal. The trouble with digital is that you never know when it’s about to happen. Many times with analog you get some warning the signal is fading. The digital signal can be like a strobe light for your ears; unpleasant to me.

The bottom line? I’ll put it like this: Digital is not better, but it’s not worse. It’s just different. I does give you capabilities that do not come with analog operating and that may be important to some. The linking going on that is associated with digital operating is surely exciting and new worlds are being revealed. It would seem that analog will remain with us for a very long time…maybe forever. For one thing, analog is natural. I like natural. For a second reason, no one is winning the digital wars. Digital operating is fractured to say the least and it would appear there is likely to be more fracturing. Each of these digital protocols has advantages and disadvantages. I just happen to be a System Fusion guy with nothing bad to say about the other guys.

What About Those Caveats?

Oh yeah. Well, regarding those generalizations I made about fixed vs. moving stations, in my experience they are generally true. However, we found exceptions that we could not explain. My suspicion is that multipath distortion has a really negative effect on digital reception. I have looked for theory that supports that feeling and have found some but can’t say positively that is the problem. Even with my limited knowledge of coherence bandwidth and intersymbol interference, I feel like multipath distortion is the likely culprit. However, the same thing can happen when neither station is moving. It could still be multipath distortion but I cannot speak here with any authority. I do want to point out though that we found exceptions to my generalizations. If you accept then that most of the time these things hold true, then you have gotten my point.

Okay, I lied

If you recall the first part of this diatribe, then you will recall I promised not to go into detail about digital operating and I promised to talk mainly about using the repeater. Seems like I didn’t accomplish either one of those goals. Maybe next time.


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