AA5SG-L #1512

442.250 MHz - 136.5 Hz Tone

AA5SG-R #1545

EchoIRLP

IRLP Node Number 5980

145.230 MHz - 136.5 Hz Tone

Ellisville Mississippi

EM51jo

 

Welcome To My EchoLink Page!

This page is dedicated to the acknowledgement and consideration of EchoLink as a new and innovative mode of communications.

This page provides me with the opportunity to personally share my views and pertinent information with a growing EchoLink community and with others.  IRLP is a similar Internet linking innovation, which may worthy of similar thoughtful consideration.

Some of my comments, as they appear below, may not reflect the opinions of others.  However, they do represent my own musings concerning EchoLink with regard to regulatory issues, and may not at all be comprehensive.

Though I am not writing this page with a comprehensive listing of footnotes, references, or cites pertaining to the rules, I have included a few links within the body of the text and at the bottom of the page. It is my hope that the information presented here will be helpful.

Steve Grantham, AA5SG


About My System:

My EchoLink node consists of the following equipment, software, and services:

 

·        An ADSL Internet Connection (connected via a LinkSys Cable / DSL router.)

·        The EchoLink Software Package (available to licensed Amateur Radio Operators only.)

·        A Pentium Class Computer (as specified in EchoLink hardware requirements.)

·        A Compatible Sound Card (Creative Labs as specified)

·        A Compatible Interface Card (by WB2REM. DTMF functions listed in EchoLink Help Files.)

·        A 70-Centimeter FM Transceiver (to uplink/downlink to/from the repeater site.)

·        A 70-Centimeter and Two-Meter Repeater Linked Installation (for user interface)

 


User Operating Notes:

All stations wishing to utilize this system, both Radio Frequency (RF) and Internet, should be aware of applicable rules and requirements. The EchoLink software performs logging functions, and also applies sysop defined and invoked filters based on both incoming and outgoing connection request callsigns. Those RF users utilizing DTMF commands should become familiar with the default commands and responses, and understand that EchoLink will return a "connected" message only for a complete and valid connection.

Prior to this update, I have been speaking to the initial local user base informally, and giving minimal instruction on the use of the repeater and the EchoLink facility. At this time, I will be presenting a few guidelines for local repeater users who would use EchoLink via the RF interface and be invoking DTMF access commands.

First, and most importantly of all, identify. While I understand that the rules require station identification at the end of every ten minutes, and at the end of on-frequency activity, more than adequate station identification is a courtesy to everyone. Therefore, so we may endeavor to continue to use the default EchoLink command structure, and make the facility freely available to a larger user group, I am soliciting everyone's cooperation by asking that users always identify on-frequency prior to invoking DTMF access codes. Toward this end, all repeater users should be aware that they, as a matter of practice, should upon keying their transmitter, pause for a second to allow time for the PL (or CTCSS) decoder(s) to work and enable the repeat function(s) so their transmissions may be properly and completely heard. One option for gauging an appropriate amount of time would be to either verbally of mentally preface the announcement of the station callsign with the words "this is."

Next, everyone should, being familiar with the default EchoLink command structure, be sure that the repeater and the EchoLink facility are not in use prior to making any attempt to invoke any DTMF access commands. This can be accomplished by doing one or all of the following; monitoring the repeater for activity, asking if the repeater and EchoLink are in use, and finally, after identifying, sending a node status query, the appropriate default DTMF command for this being "zero-eight" (08). If it is determined that the facilities are not in use, by waiting an appropriate amount of time for a response, or by receiving a "disconnected" status message back from the local EchoLink node, and that they are therefore available, users may then properly use the facilities without the possibilty of disrupting the operations of other users.

Finally, let me take a moment to ask the new hams, those who may not yet be acquainted with appropriate callsign / calling conventions, to take a moment to consider that such conventions may exist, and that their understanding and proper use of those will increase harmony and the understanding of who is who in an on-the-air conversation. While the rules may not require you to state the callsign of the station you are addressing, and this can actually be redundant and unnecessary on a repeater, all repeated stations being able to be heard on-frequency with the equal strength of the repeater transmitter, the convention is that one should say the other station's callsign followed by the words "this is" and then the transmitting station's callsign. In many instances, you will hear stations simply verbally stating a pair of callsigns. In this situation, it is understood that the words "this is" were deleted for the sake of brevity, and the convention being what it is, means that the last callsign spoken is that of the transmitting station.

In summary, one should listen first, identify and verbally call to ask if the repeater or the link is in use, identify and query EchoLink node status using DTMF access code "zero-eight" (08) to determine if the link is connected or not, and to what station if it is connected. Then, you may, upon determining that the facilities are not in use, identify and call a station by voice or by DTMF command.

 


Background:

I received my vanity call, AA5SG, in June of 2003. I started out as a Novice in 1976 with the initial callsign of WB5XOX having been issued in error.  (The suffixes beginning with X, at the time, were reserved for experimental stations.)  The Commission corrected its error within just a couple of weeks, then issuing WB5YLF.  I soon upgraded to Technician, later I made a callsign change N5DWU, and after several more years I upgraded to Advanced, finally upgrading to Amateur-Extra, having digested “the whole thing."  Wasn’t incentive licensing grand?  Now, things are different, with “no-code Techs,” “5 wpm Extras,” etc.  Life goes on, and it’s time to get out of the box, to do some critical thinking about where we are and how we should react to change.  The one thing certain in life is that there is and will be change, and plenty of it.  Yet, I digress.  I have…

 

·        Been a ham for 30-years.

·        Always loved VHF & UHF FM.

·        Placed numerous repeaters on the air.

·        Have implemented more traditional methods of linking.

·        Operated a RTTY BBS.

·        Operated a Packet BBS.

·        Operated Packet Digipeaters and Nodes.

·        Been involved in Repeater Coordination for a long, long, time.

·        Been involved in Spectrum Management for a long, long, time.

·        Had a lifetime career in Electronics and Telecommunications.

·        Been on EchoLink since the third quarter of 2002.

·        Operated the EQSO VoIP mode.

·        Installed and operated IRLP and EchoIRLP nodes.

 


What Is EchoLink?

EchoLink is many things.  It is a switched Internet communications tool for licensed amateur radio operators that includes…

 

·        Two-way computer user text messaging. (Keyboard chat – CPU to CPU)

·        Two-way computer user voice messaging. (Voice chat  - CPU to CPU - w/ headset)

·        Two-way computer user radio control. (Voice chat / QSO - CPU to Radio - w/ interface)

·        Two-way radio user to computer user. (Voice chat / QSO - Radio to CPU - w/ interface)

·        Two-way repeater interlink medium. (Voice chat / QSO - Radio to Radio - w/ interface)

 

EchoLink is not…

 

·        A simplex repeater

 


International Considerations?

EchoLink is an internationally available project that is extremely versatile and easily software configurable.  As such, I will not be addressing all of its facets.  I will only be musing over certain interfaced radio equipment linking aspects of the mode.  Since an international team has developed the EchoLink software, it should therefore be flexible enough to accommodate differing regulatory scenarios.

It is possible, and advisable, for the US EchoLink sysop to easily configure the software to authorize connections from only stations with callsigns from countries with which the US has third-party agreements.  Also, violating and suspect stations may be excluded through the use of a blacklist feature within the software. Options also exist to allow only pre-authorized station connections.

The EchoLink software can also be configured to exclude all casual Internet users from a given installation in wholesale fashion, and thereby limit connections to repeater and link stations only as a method of input/output.

This station requests and accepts connections from domestic stations and certain international stations only. The software at this EchoLink station has been configured to work only international stations whose countries have "made the necessary arrangements with the United States" to exchange third party messages.

Click here for a current FCC list of countries.

 


Repeater, Auxiliary, or Remote-Base?

Please take time to reflect on the following.

Our FCC regulations do not specifically define or address “Remote-Base” stations.  It is, however, reasonable for one to apply portions of the rules pertaining to repeaters and auxiliary stations to this type of operation.

As in repeater operation, remote-base transmitters interfaced with the EchoLink system will be retransmitting the signals of other amateur radio stations.  As in auxiliary operation, there are the station remote control, and other aspects of the rules to be considered.

Keep in mind the frequency limitations concerning both repeater and auxiliary stations.  Each of these station types is restricted to certain frequencies per the FCC rules.  Just because the ARRL or some other body may list a certain frequency range as “experimental,” this does not necessarily mean that "anything goes" there.  Recently, I was informed that an ARRL Official Observer (OO) cited one particular station operator for operating his EchoLink remote-base on a two-meter FM simplex channel that was designated as being experimental in nature.

Click here for some additional information on repeaters and auxiliary stations.


Where And How Should One Operate An EchoLink Station?

EchoLink stations are currently on the air on the ten-meter, six-meter, and two-meter bands, as well as on the higher bands where auxiliary operation is permissible.  None of the former bands are authorized for auxiliary operation.  It would be well considered for these stations to be operating within authorized repeater sub-band limits.  And, if the radio equipment on these bands is not locally connected to the EchoLink computer, then it should be connected via an auxiliary link using authorized auxiliary frequencies or via wireline.  It is not advisable to, for instance, connect a two-meter rig to your EchoLink facility and use it to interface with your local two-meter repeater.

  Persons wishing to place an EchoLink station on the air in the US might be well advised to consider the following options prior to going on the air.

A)    Utilize an existing repeater for EchoLink operations, linking to the repeater in an authorized manner.

B)     Obtain an authorized repeater frequency assignment from the recognized repeater coordinator, and then begin permanent operation of a split-frequency remote-base there, or

C)    Establish an operation on an allocated simplex frequency that lies within an authorized repeater-sub-band. 

Option A would be preferred by many, and may be the best option for use in the more congested metropolitan areas.

Option B is justifiable, is a good choice for better frequency utilization, and is easier to implement, particularly for those individuals or groups located in lesser populated remote or rural areas that may not have the user base or resources to implement and operate a full blown traditional repeater station (a stand alone repeater that utilizes a duplexer and typically needs a large user base.)   This method of implementation also lends itself better to cellular-type frequency re-use than does single frequency simplex operation.

Option C is the least desirable as it would be uncoordinated, and operation there would be by gentleman's agreement only.  Additionally, there would be a somewhat limited number of available simplex frequencies from which to choose.  Finally, don’t forget that many of these simplex frequencies may also be used for repeater inputs or outputs according to local option.


In Closing:

While varied opinions have been expressed by the uninformed pertaining to the legitimacy of the remote control of amateur radio facilities by Internet connected stations, and what constitutes auxiliary operation versus what does not, it seems that at least a virtual local operator presence exists at the EchoLink transmitter site via wireline or common-carrier (the Internet.)

 

There are some rather obvious applications of existing rules regarding EchoLink, and there are some that may not be quite so.  I am informed that The Commission’s chief enforcer Riley Hollingsworth is somewhat open-minded about the new application of technologies and concerning innovations such as this.  I believe there will be some time for the bugs or caveats of this new communications application to become known.  What we have to do is be able to use a little common sense in the interim, as we all endeavor to make a smooth transition into the light of the apparent.

 


 

Email:

 

send electronic mail to: [email protected]

 


 

Links:

 

Link to: Introducing EchoLink
Link to: Help Files For EchoLink
Link to: EchoLink Active Stations list
Link to: EchoLink MASTER User list
Link to: EchoLink MASTER Link list
Link to: EchoLink MASTER Repeater list
Link to: EchoLink MASTER Conference list
Link to: EchoLinkMap.Org
Link to: IRLP - Internet Radio Linking Project

Link to: SERA - Mississippi District Page

Link to: FCC - All About International Arrangements

Link to: Part 97 - FCC Rules - Amateur Radio Service

Link to: Repeaters and Auxiliary Stations - by W3DTN

 



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Last Modified: Wednesday, June 30, 2006 at 10:10 PM CDT