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 :)