How To Use And Setup EchoLink Ham Radio For Off Roading
Ok, so we already know how amazing ham radio is for off roaders. And if you don’t have your ham radio license yet, you need to go take our online ham radio class right meow! But what if I told you that there was this amazing, awesome, fantastical tool that lets you use ham radio repeaters, from anywhere in the world, THROUGH YOUR CELL PHONE!
That’s right, you heard us, ham radio, on your cell phone. What could get better?
This magical program is, of course, EchoLink. And we are going to discuss what it is, why it is useful, and then how to set it up and use it.
To skip to the How To section, Click Here!
What is EchoLink Ham Radio?
With the proliferation of the world wide web and the internet of things, ham radio repeaters are all getting linked to the internet, just like everything else. This makes a massive amount of repeaters accessible via any internet or data connection.
Once you are connected to a repeater via EchoLink, you can have a normal ham radio conversation. All of the part 97 rules still apply. But now, you can have conversations with people nowhere near your geographic area, via repeaters!
EchoLink is a computer program that can run on Windows computers, or any cell phone, or tablet.
If you use the computer version, you get these great lists of all of the active EchoLink’d repeaters worldwide. You can then choose which repeater you want to connect to, and, as long as you have a mic and speakers, have a conversation with whoever may be listening.
Bringing up a list isn’t quite as user friendly on cell phones. However, it is very easy to search for a repeater by its callsign. You can then save that repeater as a favorite for quick access later.
What is EchoLink Ham Radio Useful For?
EchoLink is amazing for any situation where you need to get ahold of someone, where only 1 of you has cell reception, and the other is within range of a known EchoLinked repeater.
One instance that would prove EchoLink to be awesome is for your significant other to check up on you while you are out and about. By having a nightly check in time, it helps alleviate stress on the significant other. It also gets help out to you faster if you miss your check in time due to an injury or unexpected emergency.
We have also seen this used to great success in the event of someone going on the trail early, and the significant other coming up at a later time. This helps communication channels significantly in case you run out of supplies or forgot something and need your significant other to bring it.
Another use of EchoLink is to check in with your group if you are running late to the meeting spot. We had this come up once where someone in our group lost their radiator fan while on the freeway heading to the Rubicon. He was able to use EchoLink from his phone, and get ahold of the rest of the group at Loon Lake. That way they weren’t waiting around for him to never show up.
You can also use EchoLink just to reach out and have some interesting conversations. We were out hiking around Fordyce Lake in Northern California one day. While crossing the dam, we heard a conversation happening on the local repeater. This conversation was between a guy in England that was driving around with his kids, and a guy in North Pole, Alaska.
The kids in England didn’t think anyone actually lived at the North Pole. So, the dad was able to somehow get ahold of a guy in North Pole, Alaska. They then connected to the same repeater via EchoLink so that the dad could prove to the kids that the North Pole existed. Pretty crazy when you think that a guy from North Pole, Alaska, was talking to a guy and his kids in England, via the internet and a repeater in Northern California.
Think of EchoLink as another communication tool. You can use it while at home. You can use it while out on the trail. You can use to to talk to other people you are wheeling with. You can use it to talk to loved ones. You can use it to talk to pretty much anyone with a ham license!
That is the caveat to EchoLink. Because it still follows the rules of ham radio, you need to make sure that the people on both ends of the conversation are licensed.
How To Setup EchoLink Ham Radio
– Find the Echolink app on your phone by going to iTunes or Google Play Store and search “EchoLink”
– Download the app, and run it. It should ask you for your callsign to be logged into the system. Follow the steps until it tells you to proceed to the verification.
– Go to the FCC ULS Website: http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home
– If you havent logged in here before, click on “Register”
– If you have already registered here before, click on “Log In” under the Online Filing section
– Once logged in, navigate to “Download Electronic Authorizations” in the left menu bar
– Select the option in the left window with your Ham Radio Callsign, and click “ADD >”, then highlight your document, then click “DOWNLOAD” in the bottom right. DO NOT CHANGE THE FILE NAME. But you can select where you want to save it.
– Go to http://www.echolink.org/validation/ and put in your call sign then click Continue. Click on “FCC PDF Document (Preferred Method)“.
– Follow the instructions to upload the PDF file that you downloaded from the FCC ULS website, into the EchoLink Validation website.
– You should receive an email confirmation notifying you when you are all setup for EchoLink
Once you receive the confirmation email from EchoLink, then you will be all setup to connect to ham radio repeaters from almost any device! PC, Ipads, Tablets, Phones, etc. Mac computers are not compatible with the desktop software at the time of this writing. It is a great tool once you start playing around with it. So, do just that! Play around with it!
How To Use EchoLink Ham Radio On Your Cell Phone
Remember, even though you are using it on your cell phone, it still behaves like a radio. In other words, you still have to take turns transmitting and receiving.
There are 2 ways you can connect to a repeater through the app. First, click on the 2 people button on the top menu.
The first way to connect to a repeater is to browse for one. Tap on “Locations”. You can then continue down the menus to find repeaters in different parts of the world to talk to!
The second way is to just type in the repeater’s call sign in the search box at the top. For our example, we will connect to The Rubicon’s repeater, KA6GWY. Please remember that this is a live repeater, used for emergencies on The Rubicon Trail. It is fun to listen to, but avoid transmitting and tying up the repeater in case it needs to be used for emergencies.
When you are connected to a repeater on your phone, you are in a “conference room”. This conference room will show you other people connected to the repeater via EchoLink or IRLP. You can also leave the conference room by tapping “End”. Or you can send a transmission by tapping “Transmit”.
While transmitting, you will see a screen like the one above. In order to stop transmitting, just tap the screen. You will then be returned to the conference room.
While you are receiving a transmission from the repeater, you will see a screen very similar to the conference room. However, the “transmit” button will be blanked out so that you can’t transmit. There will also be a bright green “RX” next to the end button to show that the repeater is currently transmitting, and you are receiving.
That’s it! We hope you enjoyed this article! Play around with it, and remember, even if you accidentally tap the transmit button, please remember to ID yourself. It gets super confusing to people listening to a repeater, and hear a bunch of kerchunks.
Drop a comment below if you have any questions on the process. Also, let us know if you have any fun stories from your experiences on EchoLink, like listening to someone from England talk to someone from North Pole Alaska through a repeater in Northern California!
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Also, if you don’t have your Ham Radio Technician License, head over to our Online Ham Radio Class and study up! Remember, 15% of your registration goes back into keeping our trails open!
And, of course, don’t forget to check out our MORRFlate 4 Tire Off Road Inflation Deflation Kit!