Hamshack Hotline – What is it?

TopicHamshack Hotline – an outline
SubtopicFree Station to Station Voice Communication
Equipment RequiredCisco IP Phone+ Internet
Costsabout $20US if you need to buy a used phone or cheaper
Document last reviewed and updated (reviewed each year)13th Jan 2024

Overview

You may have seen an increasing number of Ham’s with a VoIP phone on pictures of their ham shack or some are adding their Hamshack Hotline number to their email sign-offs e.g. HH 6100000045 adding it alongside a Twitter or Mastodon link

Why would I want to setup HamShack Hotline?

  • Great way of reaching other hams without giving them your mobile number
  • As this phone is normally in your shack, the only time you will normally answer this phone is when you are in your shack and concentrating on your hobby.
  • Use of virtual conference rooms – a good alternative to Discord, especially live feedback or discussion is needed (useful when band conditions are not conducive to in-depth discussions)
  • Do you have a group of hams that want to push, assist and encourage each other other to keep learning various facets of this great hobby
  • Do you have members that cannot meet face to face regularly, but can meet in a conference room
  • Do you need to have one on one conversations to help a fellow ham who is struggling to grasp a concept (e.g. DMR)
  • You want to call another ham on Hamshack Hotline, but worried about intruding on his family time.
  • Doing some experimentation on a new feature, fine tuning your radio settings and need to get instant feedback on your signal quality on some new equipment

What actually is Hamshack Hotline?

In very simple terms it is a Closed Circuit VoIP system that is generally cloud based. I state very clearly that it WILL NOT allow you to make or receive calls to/from external public phone services.

For those that have been around VoIP, the PBX system(s) that the phones connect to are Asterisk based PBX systems of which there are multiple instances.

It was started in 2018 by a few hams and has grown immensely with now approx 8000 users on the system with the numbers growing daily as more and more people realise its benefits (it has already increased by 1000+ users since the original article was written about a year ago), and find how useful it can be. Hamshack Hotline exists on donations and a band of volunteers that handle the technical side of things as well as provisioning new users and changes to existing users.

The website contains a map of all HH users and where they are roughly located in the world and how many are connected.

Likewise they publish a list of Conference rooms public and non-public

So what are the minimum requirements?

You are going to need a Hardware based phone. typically the older consumer based Cisco SPA phones, which can be picked up for $20 or so depending on the model. They also have a view other models as well, have a look at this page…https://wiki.hamshackhotline.com/doku.php?id=kb:supported.endpoints . The Cisco phones were heavily used on business VoIP systems for many years, and even Cisco dealers were using them as a lower cost alternative for the corporate Cisco UC systems (basically the phones were half the price or the Cisco 78xx & 79xx phones). So there are a lot of phones out there and a quick check of SPA504 for sale will find multiple ads.

You need to be a licenced Amateur which can be verified. As an example, if you have an F-Call, like we have in Australia (earlier Foundation licensees), which has 4 letters instead of the normal three, you might be required to provide paperwork to substantiate your licence. You might also have to provide your callsign in the comments section as the callsign entry form only allows 3 letters.

You are going to physically have the phone, as you are going to need to supply the MAC address of the phone. So if you are waiting for the phone to arrive, you can register for the ticket system, but to request an HH extension number, you need to provide the MAC address

How do I request an extension number & Connect my Phone

So you now have a phone, you can now request a an extension number.

The first step is to create an account on the website that will allow you to access the ticket system by going to this URL

https://apps.hamshackhotline.com:9090/login.php

If you have not done so already, click on the Create an Account web link on that page

Fill in the details, it is pretty straight forward with one main rule. Dont use an email address that forwards to another address e.g. callsign@wia.org.au or callsign@arrl.net. Use a primary email address.

Click on the Register and you should receive an email asking you to verify/confirm that you requested registration on the site.

Once you have gone through that you go to the same URL again

https://apps.hamshackhotline.com:9090/login.php

This time however, you are now going to drop your email address and password in the white boxes and click on Sign in

Once Signed in, you are going to Open A New Ticket

Now this could be one of three selections you can make on the drop down box under HELP TOPIC

Your choices are

HHAP (Asia Pacific) New Line Request – If you are from Australia, this is the one to choose

HHEU (Europe) New Line Request –

HHUS (Americas) New Line Request

HHUX (Experimental) – Now Decommissioned as of 2023

Once you make your choice, the screen will

Pay attention on this page, making sure you have set the Phone model correctly, provided the correct MAC address, provided your call sign and if you feel that it is appropriate, provide a PDF copy of your Licence, especially if there is not a Goverment Website that Hamshack Hotline can confirm your licence (which may occur in Australia if ACMA no longer maintains the RRL Database which has been proposed). You are probably wondering how to attach your PDF, you can do this after you have clicked on Create Ticket.

Once you do this, you will now see your request and importantly, you will see the Post A Reply window at the bottom of the ticket you just created.

Just drag your file onto the page (where the arrow is point to), add a couple of words like the above, and click on Post Reply

Now just sit back and wait for reply.

Now they quote 3-5 days for a reply, but in general they are coming back with 24 hours, but remember these people are volunteers, this is not there day job, so if you don’t get a reply, just wait a few days before chasing things up.

Once they have setup your extension, you will get an email similar to this one

Provisioning your Phone

Couple of things to prepare

  • Perform a factory reset on your phone. This is important. The provisioning file that your phone is about to receive only configures the most critical fields, not every field in the phone, and this configuration is based on the basis that your phone has all the rest of its settings set as default. If these are not set as default, then they can and will have an impact on the critical settings. So the best way is to Factory Reset the phone.
  • You need to work out what the IP address of the phone is on your Network. You can do this by using IP scanner software on your network, or use the Phones config button (that is the one with the paper sheet with a dog ear). And you can go through the menus, looking for the Network IP address. Once you have this write it down.

Now in your email, you probably have the line (at least for Cisco phones)

http://x.x.x.x/admin/resync?http://apps.hamshackhotline.com:2443/spacfg-$MA.cfg

Replace the x.x.x.x with your phone IP address (nothing else in the URL gets changed.

This line needs to be put in your browser of your workstation that is on the same network.

You should see your phone perform a configuration and probably a reboot.

What that Line does is tells the phone to pickup its configuration from http://apps.hamshackhotline.com based on the phones MAC address, and apply to the phone.

If everything worked well, your phone should now be configured as an extension on the Hamshack Hotline

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