I just finished a conversation with a radio operator. My location is Northwest Washington. His location is Singapore. Both of us used a handheld radio handheld radio. Our conversation was crystal clear — 599. How is this possible with a typical 5 watt handheld radio? You probably are thinking HF SSB would be the only way to accomplish this on the airwaves. Nope. Handhelds were used.
Enter the partnership of RF and VOIP (Radio and Voice over Internet Protocol), called EchoLink.
What is EchoLink? EchoLink is a computer based voice over IP system that allows licensed Amateur radio operators to operate with the internet as part of the path for the radio signal. There are a few different ways two users can connect.
- Computer to Computer – Two computer operators communicate Voice over IP using the Amatuer radio rules in the communications.
- Computer to Radio Repeater – One computer operator is connected to an internet connected repeater and the other user is connected to the repeater via radio.
- Computer to Radio – One computer operator is connected to an internet connected radio. The other user may be communicating with the internet connected radio via simplex.
- Radio to Radio with Internet in between – Each radio operator is communicating through an internet connected radio or repeater
Software: There are several software options.
- Developed by Jonathan Taylor (K1RFD)
- Windows Based VOIP software.
- EchoLink for IOS (Apple Store)
- Echolink for Android
Back to the international radio conversation.
- Used a handheld radio, identify on a local repeater.
- Using the keypad, dial in a connection string to open a connection to a repeater in Singapore (identify when the connection is made).
- The radio operator in Singapore heard a USA call sign.
- The Singapore operator returned my call
At the end of the conversation the following happened
- The Singapore operator said goodbye, closed out with his call sign and carried on with his day
- I said goodbye, and closed out my conversation with listeners in Singapore with my call sign
- Using the keypad, I disconnected my local repeater from the Singapore repeater
- At this point I felt that I was finished using the local repeater, so I signed off with my call sign and indicated to other users that the repeater was available
The same conversation can be carried out from a Computer or Smartphone. See your local repeater instructions for details on connecting to a EchoLink Node.
When you Connect to Echolink from a computer or Smartphone, you can see the list of other users.
Here are the following types:
Just the call sign- This is another user connected over the internet. If you connect, you will be communicating directly over the internet.
Call sign with a -L suffix- This is a radio that is connected to the Internet. Communications with this user will be transmitted in simplex over the radio.
Call sign with a -R suffix-This is a repeater that is connected to the Internet. Communications with this repeater will be transmitted over the radio to a wide audience.
An internet connected user can communicate with someone covered by a repeater who is outside of cell phone coverage.
Someone on the road can call out to a local repeater and make a connection to a specific EchoLink user.
Range of a repeater can be tested. Using a Smartphone, you can connect to your local repeater and call out. At the same time you can listen to your radio to see if the signal is reaching the radio. The opposite can be also be tested. Using your radio, you can call the repeater and at the same time listen to your smartphone to judge the quality of your handheld radio signal at a distance.
During an ice storm one winter, my city lost utilities. The local grid was severely affected. Communications were lost. Handheld radios were helpful in keeping in touch via simplex with my family members as I ventured out on foot to purchase some eggs from a local store. During my travel, I was able to connect with a repeater that was not affected by the storm. This repeater was also an internet linked repeater. I was about to call well outside of the affected area to let a family member know that we were okay and that communications were down.
Each User of Echolink must validate their call sign and Identity in order to create an account. This is necessary to keep out unauthorized (unlicensed) users.
Users of the EchoLink system need to comply with the FCC regulations while using the system. EchoLink users should use the same operating procedures used on the air for Echolink. This includes internet only Echolink Connections.
Remember, Youtube is your friend. There are several Echolink videos out on Youtube.