The Independent Repeater Association
|Technical Briefings from the IRA Local Laws and Ordinances||
IRA OFFERS ECHOLINK TO WEST
Most of you already know about the Independent Repeater Association because of its “Link Repeater System” and “June Hamfestival” in Hudsonville. This short article is to inform you of another resource that the IRA has made available to West Michigan Hams.
Co-Located at the “Hill” with the Grand Rapids 147.160 (W8HVG) repeater is another repeater on a frequency of 443.8 mhz, 94.8 PL (KA8YSM). For a number of years now this repeater has been used by the IRA Board along with a small number of Hams for local communication. This keeps the “Link System” which has a much larger coverage area more available for the type of communication intended for it. The 443.8 UHF repeater is accessed with a 5.0 mhz plus offset along with a 94.8 hz tone. The repeater provides a very reliable 25 mile radius coverage when using a 25 watt mobile radio. Reliable HT coverage is limited to about a 10 mile radius of the repeater site. The autopatch is open and shares a phone line with the “Link System”. If the link system autopatch is being used don’t try and use the 443.8 machine autopatch, it won’t work. The ‘*’ tone will initiate a call and the ‘#’ tone will terminate it, just like on the 147.16.
What is “echolink”? To put it simply, echolink is voice over IP (Internet Protocol). What is voice over IP? Many if not most are aware that you can talk with others over the Internet using your computer. The magic of “echolink” is that, as a Ham Radio operator you can put a radio on each end of the Internet connection and take voice over IP mobile. The IRA has done that for you by making “echolink” available on the 443.8 machine. To initiate a connection with another “echolink” station all you need do is to transmit via touch tones their individual node number preceded by a ‘#’ tone. The function of the ‘#’ tone is simply to allow the repeater to pass tones that are normally muted by the controller. To terminate the connection simply send the ‘#’ tone twice in the same transmission, the first one opens up the controller the second disconnects the station.
HOW IS IT DONE?
The items required are, a computer with sound card, a sound card radio interface, free software from “echolink’, a transciever, feedline, and antenna. A good quality Internet connection is also necessary in order to gain access to the Web. You can operate “echolink” on a dial up connection of 28.8 kbps or higher. The broader the bandwith the more simultaneus connections that are possible. The IRA Repeater 443.8 can sustain up to three connections at the same time because the Internet connection is a DSL. There are three different types of nodes, Repeaters, Links, and Users. At any given time there are nearly 1,000 active nodes in the United States, 500 in Europe, and hundreds more around the World.
WHO CAN I TALK WITH?
Basically any Ham Radio operator in the World who has access to a radio node or the Internet with a computer. To talk with someone coming into the repeater via “echolink” all you need do is to operate as your normally would. The one exception is that because you are going over the Internet there will be around a 10 second delay before the station your are talking with will transmit back. Be patient, even though the repeater carrier may drop, they will get back with you. Unless you are a dedicated DX’er on the HF bands you may hear calls you have never heard before. Some recent examples of stations that have connected to the repeater are, S21AM, DG5RBK, VK2DOR, SM0VPH, PA1WDP, and many more. For those of you who remember Jeff N8ZUZ, you will find him on the repeater a couple times a week from Bolivia, South America.
In order to make use of the “echolink” feature on the repeater it would be a good idea for you to connect to http://www.echolink.org/ and learn as much about this mode of communication as you can. It is not necessary that you become a registered user of “echolink” in order to use this function on the repeater. However, if you wish to communicate through your computer or put up your own “Link” to the Internet you will need to prove that you are a liscenced Amateur Radio Operator. This will open up almost the entire planet for you to communicate with, I have found it well worth it. Please be polite, patient and enjoy the system.
Submitted by Tom, KA8YSM