How to make an easy contact (Part 2)

Introduction

This post is a follow up to Part 1. The purpose of Part 2 is to expand a little further out, including features not common on basic, entry level HTs. This part assumes you have DTMF and some sort of digital mode.

Internet Radio Linking Project… part 2

Previously, I discussed how you could use an IRLP repeater to listen for contacts from a distant IRLP repeater. This is aimed at using a DTMF radio to dial into a repeater.

Step 1 – Find a local repeater that has IRLP. You can use the Repeater Book app/website or the ARRL repeater listings.

Step 2 – Tune to your local IRLP repeater using appropriate offset and PL tones.

Step 3 – Listen for a few minutes. Make sure there are no upcoming nets.

Step 4 – Identify an IRLP repeater you wish to connect to by looking on the IRLP website for node. You are looking for online/idle nodes. If a node is connected, it is already patched into another repeater. You can either wait or select a different node. Make sure you check the time zone of the repeater you are patching to so you don’t connect when everyone is sleeping.

Step 5 – Identify yourself and ask to use the IRLP. For example, “KD9NRT wishing to use the IRLP.” Wait for a response. If nothing is heard, you can clear the repeater of any connected nodes by pressing 73 on your keypad. Then, use IRLP. Let everyone know that you are using it. For example, “KD9NRT activating the IRLP.”

Step 6 – Use the DTMF function on your radio. This is usually done by holding down the PTT button while inputting the repeater’s IRLP node number. The repeater should let you know if you connect.

Step 7 – Call out for a contact. Let them know you are using IRLP and looking for a contact.

Step 8 – When you are finished, let everyone know you are going to disconnect the node. For example, “KD9NRT disconnecting IRLP.” Wait for 10 seconds. Press 73 on your keypad. The repeater should let you know that it has disconnected.

It is that easy. Okay, I say it is that easy but there may be more steps involved with your repeater. The local club may restrict IRLP use to their members. Be courteous. If they say not to use the IRLP repeater, don’t argue. Just move on or become a member.

Hotspots

Hotspots are in-home, low power simplex repeaters that connect to the internet and broadcast out a digital signal. There are three major mode. They are DMR, D-Star, and YSF. D-Star is used by Icom and Kenwood radios. YSF (Yaesu System Fusion) is for Yaesu radios. DMR is everyone else, mostly the Chinese brands as of recent. Many clubs have a digital repeater but it may not be linked to the internet. For example, the Fort Wayne Radio Club operates the 94 repeater, which is YSF but not connected to WiRES-X. A hotspot allows you to connect to different talk groups using the internet. Hotspots are under 1 W of power and operate like a mini-repeater. They have a range of about a block under good circumstances. I personally use a DVMega hotspot on a Raspberry Pi 3 that sits on the first floor of my house. I get about 400 ft of reliable connection. I did swap out the antenna for a Diamond HT antenna though. A simple hamfest stubby antenna would also work. There is a video of a guy using a good HT antenna and putting the hotspot up really high in his house and getting about a 1/4 mile of range from his. This is kind of cool but at the same time, not what they are intended for. They are supposed to be house wide. Setup is dependent on your device. Check YouTube for some good guides on how to set your hotspot up appropriately for the network you are using. Since I have mostly Yaesu radios, I’ll talk about the WiRES-X connection.

First, tune to your hotspot frequency. Press the WiRES-X button on your radio. Give it a second to download the information from the hotspot. Use a web browser to find a talk group to connect to. Enter the number into the search space. Wait for it to connect. Once connected, you should hear people talking if the room is busy enough. If not, you can call out for a contact. The busiest room for WiRES-X is AmericaLink. There is usually between 200 and 500 users. I’ve made a contact in Japan using the Indiana Link room. It all depends on who is there. Remember there may be a language barrier for some of the rooms. Don’t be rude and join a French room and expect them to speak English. Be courteous. Of course, if you speak French, join the French room and make some contacts. When you are done, you don’t need to disconnect. It is your hotspot and will remain where you left it. After some time, it will reset to you default room. I would recommend not setting this to a busy room. In order to change rooms, you need to send a signal between talking. If it is a busy room and users are tailgating, it may take a long time to switch rooms. The longest it has taken me is five minutes to switch rooms. A guy from my local club said it once took him 30 minutes. I probably would have given up well before then.

Note on Digital Mode

The speech on digital modes sounds like… digital speech. I know that all the makers of digital repeaters would love you to think it comes across like they offer voice quality similar to them sitting right next to you. This is not the case. There is some digital compression with the audio. It does take some time to get used to. As digital modes expand more, the quality will improve but be aware that it will sound a little odd at first.

Satellites

Satellites are the reason I’m involved in amateur radio. Satellites, or birds, are repeaters that are in space. With that thinking, it takes some of the fear away from operating. There are a few major types of satellites, but since this is about making easy contacts, I will focus on FM satellites. The three most common FM satellites in the US are SO-50, AO-91, and AO-92. There are more that follow irregular schedules. Check the AMSAT website for when they are active. Satellites are easy to work once you wrap your head around the quarks of them. Even though they are repeaters, they operate in split mode, meaning the uplink and downlink are on different bands, i.e. you talk on 2 m and listen on 70 cm. Not all radios do split. You can get around this with a dual VFO radio by setting the downlink (listen frequency) to the B band. You also need to adjust for doppler by programming in channels to compensate for the satellites movement. Some operators say you need to have a full duplex radio, but this isn’t a requirement though it does help. There aren’t many full duplex radios available. Kenwood and Alinco make some. Wouxun also makes some, but a recent ARRL article has shown they can be out of compliance, therefore, I cannot recommend them. You also need a Yagi that can do both 2 m and 70 cm. Arrow and Elk make great antennas for satellites.

If you are interested in working satellites, check out the YouTube channel Space Comms, which contains videos from John Brier KG4AKV.

ISS APRS

You can work APRS through the ISS. The ISS has an APRS digipeater onboard that can send your signal out great distances. How is this different than satellites? There aren’t crazy pileups that are present on FM satellites. This can be done with a low amount of money. All you need is a radio, an APRS cable for the radio, a cell phone, and a tape measure Yagi. Simply plug your phone into you radio using the audio cable. Then. load your APRS app. Make sure it is configured. When the ISS flies over, you can send and receive APRS packets. It is more difficult than standard APRS as there are specific digipaths you need to input for the ISS. A quick Google search will help you out with how to set up your pathing. You can easily cut down on the amount of items needed if your radio has built in APRS. There are both VHF and UHF options for packet radio to the ISS. They do not operate on the standard APRS frequency. VHF is on 145.825 with UHF on 437.550.

I will state that even though this is labeled as easy, I found it to be a little difficult. It took me about two weeks of working the ISS on every pass to finally get it to work. I’m not sure why it wasn’t working.

Wrap Up

I’m going to wrap up this post here. There is a lot in this. I would consider this to be a little more advanced than the previous. If the first blog post over easy contacts is a 1/5 for difficulty, I would give these a 2/5. I will follow up with a more advanced post next. This will outline specific cases, and in some instances, require special equipment. As always, thank you for reading.

One thought on “How to make an easy contact (Part 2)

  1. I went DMR – and one nigh I’m listening and hear a station in the Netherlands. I guess the DMR repeater was hooked to the internet but i blew my mind. de kd1s.

    Like

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