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.

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.

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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!

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My Radio Diddity GD-77

Starting in digital can be a little overwhelming to start with, no matter how many years you have had your licence. I even had a digital scanner for many years prior to starting in the digital world of Amateur Radio.

After working out what digital radio is, what you can do on it and how it worked, I then started researching what equipment was required.

According to other reviews at the time I was looking, many people claimed that the RadioDitty GD-77 was the best value for money.

My Radioditty GD-77 while on holidays
My Radioditty GD-77 while on holidays

After a month or so of using the RadioDitty GD-77 through repeaters, I purchased an OpenSpot2. I did a lot of research prior to this, and had settled on the OpenSpot1, however when I went to purchase it, only the OpenSpot2 details. It happened to be the week it was launched, so there were no reviews available at the time.

Currently my digital setup is very simple, it just has:

  • One hand held radio, the Radio Ditty GD-77, this came with charger, USB cable and remote microphone
  • OpenSpot2 Hotspot. This came with a power cable.

With this simple setup I am able to talk the world via

  • The BrandMeister network
  • The Australian VK-DMR network
  • Other DMR networks around the world, eg New Zealand, Canada etc
  • YSF Reflectors
  • C4FM
  • NXDN Reflectors
  • SharkRF servers

The above is just to name a few networks. Each of the above networks range from a few Talk Groups, to thousands upon thousands of them from all over the world.

In 2019, my family went for a huge five week trip through outback Australia. We went to some of the most remote parts of the world. We had to carry a lot of water, food and supplies. We also had to carry extra battery power to charge fridges etc. I would have liked to have taken a HF radio with us given the outback probably didn’t have a lot of interference, however we simply didn’t have enough room, or power.

Instead we took a very simple setup, my GD-77, my openspot2 and a small battery back that ran my openspot and mobile phone. Even without power, I was able to talk the world with a little mobile reception or wifi.

Many people have many radio’s for different networks, making it hard to keep updated, and obviously cost a lot. My digital setup costed far less than it costed me to get on 2m/70cm many years ago. And did I mention, this radio also does analogue, so yes, you can use this radio on 2m and 70cm simplex or via the repeaters and no one will know you are actually talking on a digital radio.

The only down site is it is a little hard to program and navigate the channels. The radio is built for commercial operations, and not really for amateur radio, however it can be done. Commercial operations usually have a small number of talk groups or repeaters/frequencies, where as amateur radio uses a lot. However once you nut it out, it isn’t really that hard.

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