What is Routing?

Routing is a powerful method to connect to individuals, repeaters or groups on a D-STAR network.

How does Routing work?

Routing is a connectionless protocol that does not require a Hosts.txt file to to connect. The QuadNet network server does all the heavy lifting for you. You just have to program your radio with the routes you want to use. If there is an individual, repeater or STARnet Group on the QuadNet network, you should be able to route there just by knowing the call sign, or in the case of Group Routing, a "subscribe call".

What are the different kinds of Routing?

There are three kinds of routing:

  1. Call Sign Routing is used to make a person to person connection. Just program you radio's YourCall (UR) with the call sign of the person you want to contact. QuadNet will look up the last repeater that call sign used and direct your voice data to that repeater. After announce yourself with with something like "This is A1AAA call sign routing to B2BBB", your contact can program his radio to Call Sign Route back to you.
  2. Zone Routing or sometimes called Repeater Routing will route you radio directly to a repeater on the network. It's just like linking to a repeater, but it's easier to do. Just program the UR field of your radio with the call sign of the repeater, prepended with a '/'. So to route to a repeater A3BCD C, your UR field would be "/A3BCD C". Just quick-key you radio and you will be connected to the repeater.
  3. Group Routing means routing to a STARnet Digital Group or our new Smart Group Server. A routing group is kind of like a reflector, but it is actually more like a repeater without the RF transceiver. A routing group can have many individual users "subscribed" to it. Anyone subscribed to a group will hear all traffic on the Group. Like a repeater, a routing group can be linked to a reflector. To listen to a group, just program your radio's UR field with the group's subscription call. The main QuadNet Smart Group is called "QNET20 C". Key you transmitter and when you get a confirmation on your radio, you will be connected. Now leave the subscribe call in you UR field and when you key up, you transmission data will go to the Group and then be redistributed to all the other subscribers. You disconnect with another "nsubscribe" call. You can disconnect from QNET20 C with "QNET20 Z".

I've never heard of this. Is D-Star Routing New? Who invented it?

Callsign and Zone Routing have been around since the earliest days of D-Star. It was built into the earliest networks in Japan. If you bought a D-Star ICOM radio new, you probably received a "D-STAR MANUAL" with your radio that discusses these two forms of routing. This manual discusses which buttons you press to do Callsign or Zone Routing, but are a bit short on why you would want to do Routing and how the D-Star system performs these routes. Hopefully, information here will greatly help with that. Group Routing is the new kid on the block having been introduced around 2011, and only available on IRCDDB networks. It was an idea originally conceived by John Hays, K7VE, that he called STARnet Digital and it was first implemented by Jonathan Naylor, G4KLX, as the StarNetServer. It's a brilliant idea and a logical next step into the evolution of routing on a D-Star network. Our new Smart Group Server takes this idea one step further by fully integrating the Group Server into our IRCDDB network.

I heard that routing was bad. Why does QuadNet allow it?

Routing is not bad! Like any powerful tool, it can be troublesome if improperly used. Call Sign Routing is the most potentially disrupting form of routing but there is a proper way to do it. Call Sign Routing requires "situational awareness" and what we mean by that is you need to know that you won't be disturbing an already in-progress discussion on your repeater or the repeater that your contact is connected to. As a beginner, you should limit your Call Sign Routing to when both you and your contact are using personal hot-spots. If you are sure you and your contact are both using hot-spots, give it a try. When you make your initial announcement, give your contact time to unlink if he was linked to something and time to program his radio with his Call Sign Rout back to you. On modern radios there is usually a key to program the return route: on an ID31 or ID-51, that key is called "RX→CS". That button label means you want to Call Sign Route using the last received transmission. In other words, you want to take the MyCall (MY) field from the last received transmission and put it in the UR field of your radio.

Zone Routing is usually very safe, as long as you are doing it from your personal hot-spot. You probably shouldn't Zone Route from a public repeater. Others using the repeater may not like it. Program your radio (see above) and quick key to connect. If you don't hear any traffic from the repeater, you can announce yourself: "A4AAA listening". Some repeater owners block routing. We can't do anything about that. If you want to Zone Route to a public repeater, it's probably a good idea to check with the repeater owner first.

Group Routing is the safest routing mode. Try subscribing to QNET20 C! Listen for traffic, and then put out your call with QNET20 C still in your UR field.

Is there anyway me doing routing can cause someone else problems?

As long as you're using your hot-spot, you're pretty safe from causing any problem for anyone else. However, there are some situations you can get into when you do routing that might make you unpopular with your fellow hams, and all of these scenarios involve using public repeaters. Please not that the scenarios below are only a problem if the public repeater(s) involved are also clients on rr.openquad.net.

It's a bad idea to initiate a callsign route to another ham unless you are using your own personal hot-spot and you know your target is currently using their personal hot-spot. If your callsign route happens to use a public repeater, anyone else listening to the repeater will only hear half the conversation. A callsign route that involves a public repeater may interrupt a QSO already taking place on that repeater. Using group routing on a public repeater can also be troublesome for others that want to use the repeater. If you subscribe to a routing group using a public repeater, other users listening to the repeater will not hear you, they will only hear the traffic on the subscribed routing group. And what happens if you should turn off you radio without logging off the routing group. The routing group will continue to route all traffic to the repeater you last used until you've timed out on that routing group! The message here: If you are using a public repeater, make sure you unsubscribe when you are done!

Another problem can arise when you are using a routing group. A problem can happen because of a feature in all routing groups called "follow me". Follow me means that once you are subscribed to a routing group, you can change the repeater you are using and the smart group will automatically re-route any traffic to the last repeater you were heard on. Here is a scenario where this will get you into trouble: Let's say you are using your hot-spot in your home and subscribed to one or server routing groups. Then you decide you are going to go downtown and see a movie. You get into your car and drive downtown. While driving, you hear someone on your mobile radio using the local public repeater that you've been want to talk to, so you key up and have a QSO with your friend. When you are done, you arrive at the theater and you get out of your car and go see the movie. Traffic on any of the groups to which you were subscribed will be routed to that repeater you last used. The bad thing is that it can be hard for the repeater owner to figure out how to stop the now unwanted incoming routing group traffic. The message here is the same as above: make sure you unsubscribe from a routing group when you are done!

If you routinely use both your own personal hot-spot and public repeaters, be very careful about using routing groups, they will follow you wherever you go!

Group Routing sounds like fun. What other routing groups are available?

That's easy! Just go the the routing groups page on this website. It shows you all of the Smart Groups and STARnet Groups that are connected to the QuadNet server and their subscribe and unsubscribe callsigns. This page also shows you who may be currently subscribed to each Group. The newer Smart Group Servers also report other status information, like the reflector to which they are linked.

The beautiful thing about these routing groups is that your system doesn't need to know the IP address of them. Even if a group changes addresses, QuadNet will know and it provides all the information you gateway need to know to connect. Isn't that better than having to update those troublesome Host files?

I have some really great ideas for using a routing group! How can I have my own Group?

The Jonathan Naylor (G4KLX) software, ircDDBGateway, supports a mini-STARnet Server with up to five different groups. Just configure them and go. Be sure you check the routing groups page first to be sure that the name of your Group(s) is/are not already being used! If ircDDBGateway was compiled with the proper switches, you mini-STARnet Group channels can be linked to a XRF or DCS reflector, depending on how it was compiled.

A full STARnet Group Server is also available from Jonathan. Another, newer, smarter server is being actively developed especially for use on the QuadNet network, if interested, see N7TAE's git hub repository. Please be aware that these full STARnet Servers require a unique QuadNet login callsign and they need to be running on a unique IP address. Usually a club callsign is used for these full servers. (Note that the ircDDBGateway mini-STARnet Server doesn't need a unique login or IP address. The ircDDBGateway program will share the QuadNet connection between the STARnet Server and the Gateway).

If you want to set up a STARnet Group with some ham-oriented theme that would appeal to a broad audience, let us know, we might be interested in hosting it on one of our servers. We would be especially interested if your group was about developing or promoting routing!

How does Routing differ from linking?

Linking is a connection-based protocol. You have to link to a repeater or a reflector before you can use that node. You can, in general, only link to a single node. In contrast, you can subscribe to several routing groups. When you are connect to multiple groups, you will hear traffic from every group. If you are familiar with the way the DMR works, this is very similar to have multiple talk groups in your receive group. When you key up your radio, your voice will only go to the Group in you UR field. Subscribing to several groups at the same time works best when the groups are relatively quite.

This sound like fun. What software should I use?

Most good software packages are based on programs that Jonathan Naylor, G4KLX wrote, either the multi-mode-digital-voice, MMDVMHost/IRCDDBGateway combination, or the older DStarRepeater/IRCDDBGateway combination. If you are new to this, look at the PiStar software. PiStar supports most of the devices listed on our home page. This includes both the single-board-computers (SBC) that PiStar supports and radio modems that handle the RF. If you have a Raspberry Pi and one of the supported devices, you can download an image, burn it to an SD card, plug in the card and power up the Raspberry Pi. Then just use a browser from a computer on the same network to configure PiStar. You'll be up and running in no time!

Okay, what else do I need to know?

Routing requires access to UDP port 40000. This port is usually closed on most home networks, so you have to configure your network to forward that (and other ports) to the SBC where you hot-spot is running. You might not have to do anything if your home router uses uPnP. See the "Port Forwarding" section on the MAIN page for more details. We've heard several reports that some users don't have to do any home network port forwarding. It seems the common circumstances are that these users are on very modern networks with the latest home network routers. If this describes your situation, try routing without configuring any port forwarding.

Can I do routing from my mobile hot-spot?

Unfortunately Callsign and Zone Routing can't be done from a mobile rig. You gateway software is not intelligent enough to handle routing through a phone network. (We are working on that!) Smart Groups are accessible from a mobile hot-spot. Unlike the legacy STARnet Digital Groups, Smart Groups can be used from a mobile hot-spot (like a hot-spot using a smart-phone for its Internet connection). Routing has a significant advantage for mobile users because it's simpler to get connected to your friends and start talking!

There is one potential problem with Group Routing from a mobile hot-spot: Cellphone based networks are constantly changing ports for their clients. As a result, if there is a lot of dead time on a Smart Group that you are listening to, your phone provider might change the routing port to a new number and close down the old one. The result is that you will effectively be disconnected from the Smart Group. You'll still be subscribed, but the Smart Group will still be sending you voice data to your old port. To get reconnected, just key up and by doing so, you will inform your Smart Group of your new port number. We have recently implemented a new "keep alive" feature in Smart Groups that should keep a port locked open. However, it is still possible that your mobile hot-spot might loose its connection. If you suspect that might be the case, just key up again to re-establish the connection.

I'd like to try Routing, but I am afraid of making a mistake. Can you help?

Absolutely! At QuadNet, we strongly believe in the experimental nature of ham radio. Making a mistake along the path to learning is part of the process. If you really don't want to try Routing without some hand-holding, link up to XRF757C and talk to us. There is usually someone around that can help. We also can provide other options to communicate, if your still in the "What do I need?" phase. See the getting started page.

I won't ever use Routing. Can I still use QuadNet?

Yes, you can. We won't stop you, but we're not sure why you would want to. You don't need an IRCDDB network if all you are going to do is to link to reflectors. You just need the IP address of the reflectors in you system's *_Hosts.txt files. Your kind of missing the whole point of QuadNet if you don't do any routing. You can route to other hams, repeaters and Groups, and you don't need to know their IP addresses. The QuadNet Routing Network tells your system where to find them. It knows what IP addresses they are at because they are connected to the QuadNet Network. If your sure that you never will route to anything (or some of your friends will never route to you), just leave the ircddb network field in your software blank. You don't need us.

But we hope you will remember us when a reflector that you use changes its IP address and you can no longer link to it. As you trying to remember where those Host.txt files are, and what the heck is the new IP address of that reflector, you might think, "Isn't there a better way to do this?" Well, yes, there is.

Why did QuadNet create the Smart Group Server and how is it different from a STARnet Digital Server?

From the users perspective, they have exactly the same function: You route your voice data into a group and it re-routes your transmission to everyone subscribed to that group as well as a linked XRF or DCS reflector, if present. That is, the both embrace the original idea of John Hays K7VE: the STARnet Digital Server. However there were some problems with the way things were working. There were no dashboards for these routing groups. You couldn't tell who was using a group, or if the group was linked unless you looked at the reflector status page to which it was linked. However you would only be able to do this if you already knew what reflector is was suppose to be linked and you knew the operational callsign of the group, which, by the way, wasn't available to anybody but the administrator of StarNetServer. The QuadNet team didn't like the invisibility of STARnet Groups. It doesn't promote D-Star Routing. So they decided to do something about it.

We first started with a simple status page that showed groups and users, but there were problems. Inadequacies in both the StarNetServer code and the client code produced inaccurate information on the status page. As we studied the problem, we realized that as coded, the StarNetServer is quite inflexible and has nearly no interaction with the IRCDDB network it uses. The only information available to the IRCDDB network is a group's subscribing and unsubscribing callsigns and the administrative callsign it uses. Linking status was not available.

It also has some annoying "features", like the fact that an initial subscription logon was retransmitted to others already logged in. That's not very courteous! In ham radio, it's always best to listen before you transmit. Linking works that way, why can't routing groups? Also, you can't route to StarNetServer groups if you using a mobile hot-spot. Many said this would NEVER work and at the time, many of the QuadNet admins believed this to be true.

We had many others problems with the way the StarNetServer was coded, so we decided that a new routing group server was needed. Early in the development, the re-coding effort began to significantly deviate from the origin code. Several of the key software units of were nearly completely rewritten. At that time, we decided it was appropriate to re-brand this new effort, and we chose Smart Group Server as a name.

As it develops, some important differences are noticed. Smart Groups now interact with the QuadNet network, reporting exactly who is subscribed and its linking status. It even reports how long a user will remain subscribed if they are inactive. And this data is reliable and accurate on the ROUTING GROUPS page. So from a users point of view the big changes are: You can listen before you talk, you can see accurate status information of each Smart Group on the ROUTING GROUP page and now you can route to a Smart Group from a mobile hot-spot. More developments are on the way.

There are other important changes to the Smart Group Server that delight us. These changes are not something a user will get excited about, but it will allow us great flexibility in building up a robust global routing network for all to use. Hopefully everyone will be happy about that. If you don't think this new routing server warrants a new name, that's okay, you can call it a "routing group" and leave it at that.