Ham Radio g03s VoIP

I’ve been a licensed amateur (ham) radio operator for over 20 years now.  My FCC callsign is N7ICE (pronounced november-seven-india-charlie-echo in ham speak).  I love the ham radio hobby and community and usually have a VHF/UHF radio in my backpack on all of my travels.  On weekends, I frequently get on the HF bands and try my luck with DXing long rang conversations (QSOs) and even try a little satellite communications using AMSAT’s many open amateur satellites flying around space.  I love ham radio so much that I even run a social network for ham operators to stay in touch online called 73s.org .

Ok, enough about me - let’s talk about ham radio entering the world of VoIP. Before we go into the details, I need to start by clarifying that these ham radio projects and protocols are not new.  Hams are known for their innovation and experimentation with communications and these projects have been underway for over a decade now.

Let’s start with IRLP (Internet Radio Linking Project).  This project was the first of the still-standing VoIP ham radio initiatives.  The idea behind IRLP is to link VHF (144-148 Mhz) and UHF (440-450 Mhz) repeaters to the internet and connect these repeaters via VoIP to allow ham radio operators in different cities around the world to communicate via handheld RF radios.  Repeaters work line-of-sight from mountain tops and tall buildings allowing ham radio operators to communicate effectively with other hams in the city for free.  Over the years, IRLP technology has been perfected to deliver very low latency with worldwide coverage. DTMF tones entered on these frequencies allow ham radio operators to connect their club repeaters to various repeaters around the world to chat with other hams using VoIP and radios with as little as 1 watt of power.

EchoLink is probably the most popular ham radio based VoIP technology. Software has been developed for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android to allow hams to communicate via software in addition to using actual radios.  You can think of this service as being an an exclusive VoIP network (like Skype) for licensed amateur radio operators.  Much like IRLP, EchoLink also connects local repeaters into the VoIP network so that hams with RF radios can also communicate with hams running only the EchoLink software from their desktop/laptops and mobile devices.

Last but certainly not least is my favorite new ham radio VoIP technology called D-STAR (Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio).  D-STAR is an open standard developed by the JRRL (Japanese Radio Relay League).  Unlike IRLP and Echolink that connect analog FM radios to the Internet for VoIP communications, D-STAR is completely digital to and from the RF radio. Digital communications allows for data compression and wideband HD audio conversations with other hams anywhere in the world.  D-STAR digital repeaters are used instead of the traditional analog FM repeaters.  All of these repeaters are connected to the Internet and they allow hams to control the links to other D-STAR repeaters much like IRLP and EchoLink but via programming rather than DTMF key strokes.  Every D-STAR radio is programmed with the ham radio operator’s callsign which allows for callsign routing across the entire network.  This means that the ham no longer needs to know which city a fellow ham radio operator is currently in.  D-STAR can route the communications to the last known repeater where the ham was heard. Also like EchoLink, D-STAR users have the ability to connect DV Dongles their computers to communicate via software rather than a radio.

Since D-STAR is a private network for hams and since it’s connected to the Internet, each ham radio in the 1.2 Ghz band can be assigned a unique IP address allowing for web surfing via computers connected to the radio using Ethernet cables. Of course I had to take this one step further and attach a WAP (wireless access point) to my Icom ID-1 allowing me to surf the web with an iPod Touch from my SUV.  Here’s the video: http://blip.tv/73s-hambrief-ham-radio-update/73s-org-hambrief-32-2219810

I hope that this post has peaked your interests in ham radio.  It’s easy to study and take the test to get your license and join the other 750,000 licensed amateur radio operators in the US and even more worldwide. Feel free to follow or contact me on Twitter with questions (@ChrisMatthieu).


Note: 73s means Best Regards in ham speak :)


Here’s the low-down, simplified situation regarding the #Ukraine#Crimea, and the aggression from #Russia:

1) In 1994, a treaty was signed by the USofA, Britain, Russia, and Ukraine. President Bill Clinton, Britain’s Sir John Major, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Ukraine’s Leonid Kuchma, agreed to The Budapest Memorandum as part of the denuclearization of former Soviet republics after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly independent Ukraine had on its territory what was the third largest strategic nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. It was larger than those of Britain, France, and China combined. On June 1, 1996 Ukraine became a non-nuclear nation when it sent the last of its 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantling. The first shipment of nuclear weapons from Ukraine to Russia (by train) was in March 1994… 

Yes, Ukraine gave up their arms in exchange for the treaty of sovereignty, which was in part guaranteed by Russia. (Lesson: NEVER GIVE UP YOUR ARMS!)

2) The Russian sympathizers in Crimea have no legal right to ask Russia to come in and take over, as Crimea is part of Ukraine as validated by the 1994 treaty. The Treaty is International Law, and any movement by Russia to “go in and secure” Crimea is not only a violation of International Law, but the disregard of Russia’s own legal commitment to a Treaty of which Russia is a signer. (Lesson: Russian thugs led by Putin can never be trusted).

3) The people of Ukraine – all of them, Crimea included – are in harm’s way. The countries that are part of the Treaty must stand and enforce the Treaty. That is a provision OF the Treaty. What is Russia’s response? What is the response of the USofA and Britain?

4) We who are not directly able to do anything for the people of Ukraine MUST do something that is in our power: spread the truth, pray, support, and stress to our leaders that we support the need to honor our Treaty.

Please share this – and get the word out to everyone that our fellow brothers and sisters (not just ham radio operators and shortwave listeners that are our friends and fellow members of our community, but ALL that live there who desire freedom and democracy, safety and peace) need our support in every way possible.

Tweeting v1a Ham Radio

When it comes to communications technologies, hams (amateur radio operators) are always innovating and usually ahead of the market because we can experiment with wireless RF networks and satellites without a significant investment of capital.  Twenty years ago, Bob Bruninga created the concept of APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting Service).  This service primarily does two things for the ham community:  

1. APRS routes messages across a private packet network to other hams.

2. APRS supports GPS coordinates embedded in beacons (messages sent at regular intervals from your ham radio to the packet network)

Hams use APRS as a private SMS service where instead of using mobile telephones, we use radios.  Hams also use APRS to see who is near them based on their last beacon with coordinates.  Think Google Latitude and Twitter mashup for hams except even better because APRS can also calculate speed of travel and include presence icons to indicate mode of operation.

Ok, so enough with the history lesson - let’s talk about tweeting with a ham radio.  Did I mention earlier that I run a social network for ham radio operators called 73s.org?  As one of the benefits of this social network, we allow hams to tweet from their radios just like most people have learned how to tweet from their  phones via SMS (40404).  

Well you probably guessed by now that this hack includes APRS and you’re right.  Hams can send APRS messages to “73S” which in turn posts a status message to 73s.org under the user account linked to the ham’s callsign. If your 73s.org user account is oauthed with your Twitter account, these status updates are then relayed to Twitter from your ham radio!  Here’s the video: http://hambrief.tv/episodes/30

I hope that this post has peaked your interests in ham radio.  It’s easy to study and take the test to get your license and join the other 750,000 licensed amateur radio operators in the US and even more worldwide. Feel free to follow or contact me on Twitter with questions (@ChrisMatthieu).

73s de (from) N7ICE


Chris Matthieu, N7ICE, demonstrates how to connect the JawBone Jambox to a Yaesu VX-8R using Bluetooth with voice-activated VOX!

One hour into my first contest...

It did not occur to me that the contest start time was in GMT…not EST…hahaha.

So, needless to say, I was a bit surprised to turn on the radio and hear 10M alive! (especially at night of course)

One hour into it, I’ve made 11 contacts. Not a lot compared to an experienced ham, but I’m pretty happy with it!