Hotspot Fixing Packet Loss with AutoCal

The thing with digital communications, it can be extremely complicated. It only takes one tick box to be ticked incorrectly to take your station off the air.  Just as easily one tick box will get you on the air and sounding great.

With Analogue, it was all about antenna gain, SWA, power and height.  Digital is vastly different, especially via a hotspot, as it is all about lack of power, mic gain and packet loss.  Packet loss can be tricky and is often put down to a bad internet connection.  However, that is not always the reason, and if your internet is good, and your packet loss is above 1%, then it can get tricky to know why.

Assuming you have a good connection, you have your hotspot close to your modem if it is via wifi and your radio is also close to your hotspot, then here is something you may want to try.  I will explain how to do it using an OpenSpot, as that is what I am using, however, most hotspots may have the same or similar features.

After many years of using the same hotspot, I noticed more and more the hotspot didn’t seem to recognise my signal from my radio.  I could hear fine, and my hotspot even said it was receiving my signal, but my call didn’t come up on the dashboard and the other person couldn’t receive my signal unless it did come up on the dashboard.

It started 3 in 1 times I would trigger the hotspot like normal, then it changed to 1 in 3.  It got worse before it made the hotspot almost unusable.

My hotspot, an OpenSpot2, has a AutoCal option and will analyse an incoming signal and tries to find out the frequency difference between the OpenSpot and the transmitter. They suggest that you only run AutoCal feature if the openSPOT2 shows BER above 1% for your radio’s transmission, as errors in the voice stream usually won’t be noticeable if the BER is below 1%.

You can see this on the OpenSpot by going to the Status screen and open the BER graph and transmit. A quicker way is to look when you transmit on the dashboard of your OpenSpot, you can see below the BER is next to the B, and this example has a loss of 1.3%.

Dashboard showing BER loss.

With the Openspot, press the quick setup button, select the type of radio you are using (I am using a DMR radio), and then you can see the AutoCal button.

All you need to do is press that AutoCal button.  Then scroll down and you will see it doing the three phases. Make sure the correct modem mode is selected. Hold the PTT button on your radio until all 3 phases are completed. Once complete, you can try the echo test to check you are working well.

Then you can return to normal use and the BER should have reduced to well below 1%.

OpenSpot have more information here in their user manual.

I hope this helped you, and if you enjoyed it, here are some other posts I have done. Please don’t forget to put your email address in to make sure you get the latest posts.

OpenSpot from the Start

I have spoken to a few people who have felt a bit overwhelmed setting up their OpenSpot from the start. In saying that, I have always been surprised how many people are on digital, some of them have no computer experience at all.  It only takes one tickbox to be selected wrongly and you are off the air totally.  So clearly there are a lot of helpful Amateurs out there.  This website is my way of helping, as I can’t be all over the world to help.  I have put things of interest as I find them on my site.  If you find it interesting, please subscribe or let me know.

In saying that, OpenSpot has been setup to be as easy as possible with a lot of thought behind it.  While I am not claiming this is the best hotspot, I am saying I have two of them and found them great to use at home, mobile, and portable.

This is what I do with my openspot2.

Starting from the beginning

Plug your OpenSpot2 in

Turn your mobile phone wifi (or could use a tablet or laptop with wifi) on and connect to your openSPOT2 AP

If the popup page does not show up (it may take a while to load), type in openspot2.local in a web browser

A welcome screen will ask you to select your country

Scan or manually select your home wifi

Press connect and type in your password for your home wifi

After pressing ok, you will get a message saying this hotspot is going to connect to the wifi now instead of directly connecting to your phone

You can then connect to it via your phone or device that is connected to the home wifi.  I recommend you do this via a pc as you get more functions on screen, however you can do it via a mobile phone with a smaller screen. To connect, go to openspot2.local in a web browser.  However, if you have two openspot2’s on your network, as I do, you will need to log into your network modem and check the actual ip address of your openspot.

If you can not find it on your network, then I suggest you go back to your phone and see if you can connect to your openspot again via wifi.  If it is not there, you may need to unplug the power cord and plug it back in a minute or so later, or press the button next to the power cord until the light goes white to reset it and start again.

Once you connect via the wifi network to your Openspot for the first time you will get a Quick Setup Screen.

Put in your call sign and the DMR ID will auto populate.  You can put in your NXDN ID also.

Select the type of radio you will be using to connect to the OpenSpot.

Type in the frequency you want to use while using the Openspot.  Make sure it is a different frequency to all other hotspots so you don’t get hotspot feedback. Keep colour code as 1. Then select the network you want to connect to.

Enjoyed the read? Don’t forget to subscribe. Below are some other interesting reads:

SMS via Radio or Hotspot

One of the most underutilised by very cool feature that comes with some digital networks is the ability to send and receive SMS messages. You can send it fairly easily to another radio, but did you know you can also receive a weather report, see where your last GPS transmitted location is, and send messages to your mobile phone. The best thing is there no cost either.

While not all networks and not all radio’s support sending SMS’s. Some hotspots do and some done also just to make it even more confusing. While I don’t plan to list all networks available, as they there are more all the time, and the settings change also. However, at the time of writing this (2020), the VK-DMR network does not support GPS or SMS (you must turn it off to use the system), but the BrandMeister one does. So, I will talk from here on about the BrandMeister network. If you use a different network, then check with that network first.

BrandMeister Setup

First you need to setup your BrandMeister account to send and receive SMS. From the BrandMeister page, login at the right of the screen. Then under Services on the left side, select selfcare. I usually set the radio brand to either ETSI or Motorola, however this will depend on the radio you have. While you are here, you might want to turn on or off your GPS location and check everything looks good.

Radio Setup

Would you believe most digital radios allow you to send and receive messages right from the screen easily. However not all. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this (2020), the OpenGD-77 does not support text messaging as yet. However, it is on the job list. I do understand that since text messaging isn’t the most used option in digital radio, probably leaving this setup until last is fair enough. However, I have done it on the original GD-77 firmware, and seen it done on other radio’s also.

If your fortunate enough, you may have a hotspot that can do it anyway.

Hotspot Sending

I am not going to talk about every hotspot available, mainly because I don’t own every hotspot available. But I will talk about the OpenSpot as I have a couple of them myself, and I know they work.

From a PC, the menu on the right side has DMR SMS chat that will bring up a box much like the picture below.

DMR SMS Chat in OpenSpot

262993 GPS and Weather

If you send the message help to destination ID 262993 you will get a prompt much like above. It may take a little while to reply. As I live in Melbourne, you can see above I then sent a private message to 262993 again and typed in the message wx Melbourne, AU. You can see above the message on the left I received. Remember, the reply’s do take a while to come back and usually arrive just as you have given up waiting!

You could also send the message gps help to the same number, 262993, to get an overview of all the GPS commands which includes setting your home position, and so on. If you have transmitted your GPS location with the same callsign you set up in the selfcare then it will reply with your last location sent. If you want to save that as your home location, send GPS SET and it will save your last location as your home location. Then you will get from now on your home location and your last transmitted location.

If you send RSSI to 262993 it will reply with the repeater and connected talk group you were last using. If you send a message INFO *callsign where *callsign is replaced with your call sign you will get a reply when you last spoke. If you have two digital ID numbers, then it will send both of them back to you.

262994 Repeater, POCSAG and dapnet

If you send RPT SMS to 262994 you will get a reply of what static talk groups you are currently connected to.

You can also send a message to a call sign using this 262994 number. For example, if you want to send a message to me, send VK3TBS followed by your message to number 262994. However, I couldn’t get this to work – maybe because I was messaging myself! If you get it to work, please let me know what I did wrong.

262995 SMSC – SMS-ing to a mobile phone

This is taking SMS-ing to the next level. I was even able to SMS my wife who doesn’t have a licence.

To do this, send the following message SMSGTE @[phone number] [message] to 262995. where [phone number] is your country number (e.g. 61 for Australia) followed by the mobile number. Remember to remove the first 0 if you’re in Australia.

There is more information on sending messages to and from your radio to mobile phones on the smsgte.org web site. There is heaps of information under the User Guide menu.

UPDATE – Before I finish, I discovered the hard way that when you send a message from a mobile phone to a radio, I got a bill. I am not sure if it was because I am in Australia, or my phone carrier saw the oppertunity, but I think with a few tests it was only $1 or so.

APRS Chat

APRS is almost a bit easier and can quickly send messages to and from a mobile phone. Once you have done the above setup, I selected APRS chat in my OpenSpot2 dashboard. Then I sent a message with the destination callsign of SMSGTE then the message was @[phone number] [message] there [phone number] is your country number (e.g. 61 for Australia) followed by the mobile number. Remember to remove the first 0 if you’re in Australia.

You can see in the picture below I sent a message Test from hotspot to my phone which appeared instantly. I then sent one back from my phone saying This is from my mobile phone which then appeared instantly. It worked really well.

Other Reads

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Portable Hot Stop with Battery Pack

The new OpenSpot3 has come out with an internal battery. You might ask why? Well there is two common issues that is mostly raised with almost all hot spots. One is the range – I have addressed this in my BlueDV post if you want to make your own long range hotspot. However the other issue is it isn’t very portable.

I have two OpenSpot2 hotspots and enjoy them very much. I can cross modes easily all by using the one radio. You used to have to get one radio per band which was a lot more expensive. Anyway I can take the OpenSpot2 in the car and plug it into the car battery and run it via my mobile phone which works well. However what if I want to go for a bike ride or walk without the car?

The main issue is not having the battery of the car when you walk or ride your bike. This is perhaps one reason why the OpenSpot3 has an internal battery. For the rest of us, you can still do it.

Below is a picture of my setup. I took this picture in outback South Australia. At the top of the picture is a small pocket size battery which actually has two USB plugs, so I could plug in my HotSpot and my mobile phone. It even has a torch on it and has a lot of charge (15,000 mAh 2.4 Amp) so it wasn’t the cheapest one available. I could have gone a lot cheaper however we also used this battery pack for other things while we were in remote Australia for several days.

To the left of the photo is my GD-77, my hotspot and my phone. With this setup, I was able to talk the world!

Some other reads you may enjoy

BlueDV Windows 10 GD-77

I found it hard to find useful information on how to run the OpenGD-77 hotpot mode with Windows 10. At the time of writing this, there is a lot about this topic using a pistar and even android or ISO, but not much with Windows 10. This is my experence with BlueDV and Open GD-77 using a Windows 10 PC.

Someone once asked me after reading this page, why would you want to do this? So I have added this paragraph to try and explain. One reason is to extend your hotspot range. For example, if you use a normal regular hotspot, it will only have a small range around or in the house. If you want to go for a walk or dig in the garden, you either have to take a battery pack to plug your hotspot in and your mobile plus your radio. This is something I have done many time, especially while camping and in outback Australia – I have added a photo of it below. However if you have a spare digital radio, then you can plug in your GD77 into an external antenna and via BlueDV as explained below, and then almost run your own 5W repeater into the talk group you want. I have done this and been able to walk several kms from home and still have full access yet only taking my GD77 radio with me. The other reason you can do this is because you can. To make your own repeater is a bit of fun.

Hotspot with battery pack and mobile phone on a park bench.

Before you read on, it should be noted that the Open GD-77 firmware and software is changing all the time, so some of the steps below may change. I will do my best to keep this page up to date, however please message me or leave a comment if you have any suggestions.

First install the Open GD-77 firmware and comm driver. There are instructions on my other post here.

Then once complete, make sure your GD77 is plugged into your USB on your PC. Then type in Device manager in the Windows 10 search box to open the Device Manager. Go to Ports and there you should see OpenGD77 followed by a COM number. If you do not, then you need to install the Comm Driver again. Take note of this Com number.

Now open the GD-77 CPS Community Edition and once loaded make sure it has an Extras menu between the View and Language menus. Click on the Extras menu and select OpenGD77 support. Click on Read codeplug and make sure that works. Obviously you need the radio plugged in and turned on to do this.

Now download the latest BlueDV install file from the following web site. Make sure you select the Windows version. There may be beta versions available if you want to try them.

Download and then install the msi file inside the zip file.

Keep the radio plugged into the USB port on your PC. Turn on the radio and press the green button to go into the OpenGD77 menu. Scroll down to options and then go up to Hotspot and when on hotspot press the right button until it changes to BlueDv. Press the green button to save.

Next open BlueDV and once opened, click on Menu then Setup. Put in your callsign, then change the serial port radio to the Com port noted earlier. Tick on RX/TX Colors, enter in the Frequency you wish to use, enter your DMR ID in both boxes, then select the Brandmeister DMR Master server you want to connect to and put in your password. Select Save to save these settings and close the setup box.

Now turn on Serial (top left under menu) by pressing the slide switch to the left, and DMR in the BlueDV interface. If you can not turn on DMR then you have the same problem I did, then you have not turned your radio on correctly or turned the hotspot mode on. If you have not turned on the hotspot, see two paragraphs above. Then, make sure the radio is in VFO mode by pressing the red button, you should see two lines of frequencies. Make sure they are both the frequency you are using in BlueDV. Turn your radio off, connect the cable and plug it into the PC, then hold down the small black button above the blue button and PTT button, and while holding the button, turn the radio on. The radio should say Hotspot along the top of the screen.

It should now work. Adjust your power level on this radio and plug into a nice antenna, then you can use another DMR radio on the same frequency and you now have your own hotspot that will cover an area that your GD77 will cover.

If you put in the DStar or Fusion settings, you can cross mode across to these networks also if you use the latest BlueDV version.

For more information, here is a video I found that got me going with this project. If you look at this video from 6:34 you can see how to do it without BlueDV and using MMDVMHost instead.

I hope you have found this useful. Please see below some other similar articles I have written that might be of interest. Please leave me some feedback if this has been of some help.