Digital communications is not as scary as it sounds.  This post will show you what basic equipment is needed to get started.  Once you get your digital communications running,  help others in your network and consider starting a local digital net!

NOTE: A Ham License is required to TRANSMIT on digital modes

Benefits of digital communications:
Digital communications requires less power,  transmits farther and is reliable even in poor conditions.  Another benefit is, digital communication can only be ‘decoded’ by others set up for digital communications.  It just sounds like a ‘humming or buzzing’ noise while transmitting to anyone monitoring the frequency without the digital equipment.

Digital communications does require a computer since it uses software such as fldigi.  However, it does not require an internet connection for transmitting and receiving—it uses radio waves.
Here is a picture of an example of a basic digital comms setup:

List of components (pictured):

1) Computer (laptop, netbook, etc.) to run the free downloaded copy of fldigi

2) BaoFeng UV-5R Dual-Band Ham Radio

3) Signal Link USB for UV-5R (comes with cables and jumpers)

4) Plug & Play Jumper (recommended for easier set up instead of using jumpers) 

NOTE: The Signal Link and Plug & Play linked above is for the BaoFeng UV-5R. Verify you are ordering the correct Signal Link and Jumper for your specific radio. TigerTronics has a customer service department if needed.

The purpose of the Signalink device is to act as an external sound card for your computer, making it compatible with other users’ computers.  Once you have your gear, review the Signalink manual that came with your equipment to get your jumpers or Plug & Play installed.

To get started, you will need to download  fldigi.

Configuring fldigi is quick and simple.  Once you have it downloaded, follow the steps below:

1) Click on configure, then the operator tab and enter your FCC call sign. Click “save” and close.


2) Plug Signalink into the USB port and press red PWR button “on”.
3) Click  “configure” tab and then select “sound card” from the drop down menu.
4) Select the USB options in the drop-down on both Capture and Playback.  Save and close window.

5) Next, select the mode and you want to use in the fldigi program
(Refer to the  Communications S.O.I. or the Scheduled Nets page for the operation mode and frequency)


6) Enter the call sign you want to call. You are almost ready to type and send your digital message:
call sign

Connect the cables from your Signalink to the radio and computer. Then, verify you have the correct frequency entered in your radio before you start transmitting and receiving messages.

To send a message:
Type your message in the blue box then click the purple TX button below the text. Once your message is sent, click the RX button to stop transmission

To receive a message:
If your equipment and configurations are set correctly, you will automatically receive messages in the upper text box.  If the message is not legible,  verify the SQL button in the lower right portion of the screen is checked yellow, and adjust the squelch bar next to the SQL button.


Additional resources:
TigerTronics SignaLink USB Interface Article (pdf)

TigerTronics Frequently asked questions