Saturday, June 25, 2005

Repeater linking with VoIP

Everybody knows that the coverage of any 2m repeaters are limited. It depends on the location of the repeater, height above sea level, transmission power, antenna, terrain, and many other factors as well. Anyway, 2m band is still the most popular band used by hams all around the world. Most hams made their first PTT on 2m band. In the past, Malaysian class B hams are limited to the 2m band only. Even though the tuck shop has opened up the 70cm, 6m, and 10m bands, the 2m band is still preferred as 2m rig is the cheapest among all. There is no 6m and 10m FM repeater around, and there is only one official 70cm repeater in the country. Naturally, people continue to stick to the much-loved 2m band.

When it comes to having QSO with hams in another "part" of the country using 2m band, people came up with the idea of repeater linking. Once upon a time, people link repeaters through RF and this method definitely requires some amount of funds, manpower, and "connections" to get it realized. Everybody knows that there is one group that has successfully linked their repeaters. The main group that suppose to represent the interest of all hams in Malaysia have been talking about it, and is still talking about it. To be fair, one repeater had been up on the hill for quite sometime for this purpose. Learned that this repeater had got its call sign already. Good job! At least, we see something is moving. Thanks.

While waiting for people to talk about money, time, resources, bureaucracies, ownerships, recognitions, politics, some hams decided to do "something". These hams don't mind spending their own money, using their own rigs, giving out portion of their broadband Internet bandwidth to link some of the repeaters. Hats off to them!

When repeater linking through the internet was first introduced, FCC is kind and understanding enough not to kill innovation. As hams, FCC stance on this is really welcomed and beneficial to the ham communities, I think. However, this raises some questions though.

First of all, let's take this example. A ham from the United Stated are not allowed to transmit in Malaysia and vice versa because there is no reciprocal licensing agreement between the two countries. With repeater linking vis Echolink, eQSO, or any other similar software, a ham in US can link to a link or repeater in Malaysia. The US callsign will be heard in Malaysia. Is this legal? No one talks about this at this moment. In my opinion, this is OK. However, it really depends on the objective of hams licensing. What is the purpose of RAE? If the objective is to ensure everyone transmitting is having the right equipment and setup, transmitting the right amount of power, not causing interference, this is definitely OK. The guy who is actually transmitting RF is the Malaysian with the Echolink gateway, not the American.

When someone has an Echolink simplex gateway setup, can this guy still go on air? Interesting question to debate. What if someone setup an Echolink repeater gateway, on its own or patch to the existing repater frequencies pair? Another gray area to talk about. If people wants to prevent foreign hams from reaching Malaysian repeaters, what about those from neighbouring countries who beam high power to Malaysia? What if more and more hams setting up Echolink gateway while we have just a mere 4 Mhz bandwidth (144~148 MHz) to share? Will there be fightings among groups?

Well, I would say those questions are not important if hams behave themselves and try their best to adhere to the "Amateur's Code". The first one being "Considerate... never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others". We share this world, sharing the frequencies are just part of life. To me, those unanswered questions remain insignificant unless someone is trying to kill this hobby.

So, happy linking and continue making friends around the world via linking with Voice over Internet Protocol technology. 73.