|Equipment Required||Computer + Internet|
|Document last reviewed and updated (reviewed each year)||4th January 2023|
This is one of those subjects in Amateur Radio where it raises a good deal of debate between two camps. One camp finds it’s an interesting and useful facet of Amateur Radio and the other camp that steadfastly refuses to accept it as a part of Amateur Radio. So be warned if you decide to raise it as a topic of discussion at your next local club or field outing.
It really comes down to how you view Amateur Radio and whether you enjoy it for all or one of these following reasons:
- Purely for the RF Component and what you can achieve with the equipment, location and power available to you utilising RF only
- Whether you enjoy talking to like minded people about Amateur Radio and Electronic related topics
- Whether you just enjoy the mate ship
- Whether you enjoy talking to new people everyday.
So what is Echolink? You have probably heard the term mentioned, and/or you might have seen a repeater listed as Echolink IRLP on a Wesbite or Repeater resource.
Echolink is described by https://www.echolink.org as “software allows licensed Amateur Radio stations to communicate with one another over the Internet, using streaming-audio technology“.
Your first thought after reading that is that it sounds just like VoIP, and having worked in the VoIP field for the last 20+ years, that’s a good description of VoIP. However, the important part of that line is “allows Licensed Amateur Radio Stations” which is not necessarily required for ordinary VoIP communications.
Your next question might be, why do I need to be a Licenced Amateur to use Echolink?
In its simplest form Echolink is a point to point and/or a Point to Multipoint audio streaming service utilising endpoint conferencing or dedicated hosting software/hardware to host a number of calls.
At its more complex form, Echolink provides connectivity and integration of these audio streams onto the Amateur Radio airwaves either via your own VHF/UHF Transceiver connected to your PC, or the most common is a repeater connected to the Internet. What this means is that you can have an Amateur operator on the Repeater (that is connected to Echolink) via his HT, and be talking to one or multiple users connected purely via Echolink software talking via their PC.
Now there is one thing that we need to be clear on and quoting from the Echolinks FAQ….”Echolink and IRLP are two separate systems that achieve a common purpose: Interconnecting Amateur stations by voice over the Internet”
The common and important piece being the Internet. If you decide to connect up the Internet to a repeater for IRLP, then it is quite common to setup Echolink as well offering both options which many repeaters builders have done. In fact some IRLP hardware provide the option of setting up running Echolink on that hardware as well.
Some good but general distinctions between IRLP and EchoLink are the following (but please note these are generalisations and there exceptions)
- IRLP can only be accessed by RF Radio, relies heavily on DTMF codes so you can select a Node you want to connect to, and is generally restricted to one user at at time. It uses the Internet as a connection between repeaters
- Echolink Links and Repeaters can be accessed Echolink software (with no RF), and Echolink Links and Repeaters using both RF and also Echolink software. Echolink supports multiple users and conferences
Echolink is only available for Windows, but there are similar products like QTEL that do similar things on Linux see https://kd9cpb.com/qtel. Note that the Echolink do not provide support on anything but the Windows client.
How to get started with Echolink
Couple of things before you get started which you are going to need if you are an Australian Amateur.
- Copy of your current Apparatus Licence from ACMA – yes this is the PDF that you can download from ACMA (FCC Equivalent in Australia) that contains your Licence details
- Copy of your Amateur Operators Certificate of Proficiency (Foundation / Standard / Advanced) – AOCP
The first document is easy…..the second for many (particularly foundation members) is a real issue. At the time you become an Amateur Operator, the only thing you are waiting on is the email from AMC (Exam/Call Sign body Australia) in to confirm that you passed, and the next thing you are waiting on is the copy of the Apparatus Licence from ACMA after you complete the payment. that’s it, you can now press the PTT button. The issue is that the AOCP certificate arrives about a week or so later and becomes a superflous piece of paper that gets tossed into a pile or box (unless you are excited enough to stick it on the wall).
Well you are going to need that Certificate. So look for it now, otherwise it is not worth starting the Echolink process until you find it. Having spoke to quite a few VK Hams, most started the process with Echolink, but when they got the email telling them what was needed, the whole process/interest stalled as they could not find the certificate.
Once you have that in your hands (and ideally scanned), along with a PDF of your Apparatus Licence from ACMA, you are now ready to commence the Validation process.
Now you can download the software from https://www.echolink.org/download.htm and click on the link EchoLinkSetup-x-x-xxx.exe. The latest version should be on that page
Complete the install using default settings until the installation is complete. Now run the software (or click on Launch Echolink as it finishes the installation.
It will start a Setup Wizard – Just click NEXT
Now on the next dialog, select Computer User, don’t try and jump ahead and select Sysop because it will give you more rights – Click Next
Start as a Computer User and get the validation completed, you can change to Sysop later, without having to go through validation again.
Enter your details similar to below, making sure it’s your callsign, selecting a password, your name, location and your email address – Click Next
Now select your region which would be Oceania – Click Next
Now this is an important part. You can choose to do the firewall test or you can Click Next
You can do a Firewall Test if you wish, but you can really end up down a rabbit hole, and it’s one of the few times where I recommend skipping (pressing next).
The reason why were want to pass this, is to get the validation process started. You can come back to the firewall setup and testing after your Validation, especially as you will go back and forth with firewall tests multiple times once you are validated
Almost there, you will come to the next dialog screen which says Setup is now complete! – Click on Finish
Finally you will be greeted by the final Dialog – Click on OK
What this has just done is
Installed the Echolink software
Configured Echolink as a Computer User with your details (Call Sign, location, email etc)
But most importantly, Echolink as passed your CallSign to the Echolink system, if this is not done, the process with fail
If you have completed everything successfully, you can go to the www.echolink.org/validation in a browser which will bring up the following screen
It will appear with nothing next to Callsign
Now enter the call sign that you added into Echolink (which should be your callsign) like below and click Continue
Now is the first test, so see if your call sign comes up like below. What this confirms is that your Echolink software has registered your Callsign and the system is waiting to complete validation
Enter your Email address. This is where you will receive the Confirmation email to continue the validation after you press the Request Validation button.
Below is a similar email you will receive.
You need to click on the link and it will take you to page that explains what you require in terms of documentation, and it provides a couple of buttons that will upload your prepared documents
Once you have uploaded the documents, it is case of waiting for the documents and your account to be validated. I found that validation was done in a few hours, but naturally this could be different depending on the time of day that you submitted, whether it’s a weekend etc.
So what do you do while you are waiting – perform firewall tests (this can be accessed from the menus without being Validated), and read up on the web about how Echolink connects. Add Port Forwards to your firewall for UDP ports 5198 and 5199 (this is important if you are interested in moving on to a Sysop role later on). If you load the application onto your Mobile Phone, you will find that it automatically selects a Relay, and connects as you are not running Sysop functions on a mobile
The screenshot above is a failed firewall test, you can modify your firewall, and come back and re-test as many times as you need to.
Once you have received your Validation, open Echolink again, and you should now see a screen full of active Echolink nodes (like the picture at the start of this article), which may include repeaters, links, user nodes, and dedicated conferences. You are now connected to EcholinkTake the a time to learn what Echolink does, understand Dedicated Conferences, understand what Links are, and what Repeaters are.
Just remember, Links and Repeaters are quite often connected to the RF world, so normal regulations on Call Sign identification, foul language, no encryption (I don’t need to repeat them all here).
Actually, if you are using a conference room, non RF link, its good practice to use normal identification and procedures
Lets go over a few things to keep you in good stead
Have a look at the Conferences, but pay attention to the Welcome information on the right hand side as you enter each Link or Conference or Repeater. You may find that it is entirely open to all, it may be actively used during particular times (e.g. nets etc), they may have special requirements, or they may point you to a Website explaining more.
Just like Amateur Radio over the airwaves, you may find that you meet some other hams with similar interests, or just interested in meeting someone that they have not been able to reach with their radio
What can you use Echolink for??
Have a group of operators that meet up on regular days, yet someone can’t because they are out of the area for the week. Echolink allows them to still join in on a Net.
Have an operator that is moving out of state or country, and still wants to be involved, Echolink keeps them connected
Just got your licence, and not sure where to get started, especially if you have no clubs or like minded hams close by. This allows you to get started and connect to other hams and start your learning journey. You might find your next purchase is a UHF/VHF HT Radio as you expand your interest.
Want to get involved in one more facet of Amateur Radio, pushing yourself to learn more about repeaters, simplex links, and learn about other services such as Allstar, IRLP. Having a purpose or interest is a great way to learn,
Further Reading and Expansion
Wikipedia – General Information – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EchoLink
Validation Link – https://www.echolink.org/validation/
Echolink Conference Servers – https://www.echolink.org/conf.htm
Echolink Support – https://www.echolink.org/support.htm
Echolink Access Policies – https://www.echolink.org/access_policies.htm
Youtube Video on Echolink CQ from VK3YE (Australian Video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-8cx_LFE1Y
There are a number of Youtube videos as well.