Emergency PoC, Interviews and Radios on Vacation
Chris Rolinson previews a presentation on network radios, reports on a useful microphone modification, interviews Karl Hobson G1YPQ
Chris Rolinson previews a presentation on network radios, reports on a useful microphone modification, interviews Karl Hobson G1YPQ exclusively for RadioUser and lets a radio speak.
The world of network radios continues to evolve at a furious pace. This month we have an interview with the man behind the Network Radios Channels on Zello and hear from a ‘talking’ Inrico T320!
But first, a timely reminder that there is a presentation on network radios at the RSGB Convention this month. The title of the talk is Threat or Opportunity? An Overview of the Network Radio Phenomenon.
The event takes place from October 12th to 14th at Kents Hill Park Conference Centre in Milton Keynes, and day visitor tickets are available. More info is on the RSGB website:
Duarte CT1EIZ, of www.network-radios.com, reported recently that he received a phone call from none other than the CEO of Zello, Bill Moore!
Duarte said, “He wanted to hear my thoughts on the network radio industry and how Zello could adapt to our needs. I will keep (you) posted with developments. I can only anticipate exciting news!”
The summer sunshine may have been great for holidaymakers, but the hot weather was the cause of another interesting outing for Emergency PoC. As reported on the Government Computing website recently, some of the fledgeling 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN) technology was at the heart of the response to the wildfires on Saddleworth Moor.
During the crisis, fire crews were assisted by temporary mobile coverage, provided from one of EE’s new 4G rapid response vehicles’ (Fig 1).
One of the ‘accusations’ sometimes levelled at network radios is that they don’t cover the whole world. (Neither does lots of other radio infrastructure either, by the way). However, Airbus is experimenting with High Altitude Platforms (HAPs).
These are solar-powered drones flying at an altitude of around 65,000ft – above air traffic but below satellites. The main non-military use is for delivering broadband to places currently ‘off the grid’. Airbus’s Zephyr project is worth keeping an eye on:
At the time of writing, two new devices have been grabbing the attention of many enthusiasts. The Anysecu 3G-W2 (alias Senhaix N60) is a mobile radio, with the largest screen yet seen on such a device (Fig. 2).
Some hobbyists have been using them as base stations; they consider them too nice to leave in a vehicle!
The other radio eliciting gasps is the Boxchip S700 handheld (Fig 3). It comes in two versions, A & B. The only difference between them is that the ‘A’ model also has a 432 MHz FM/DMR transceiver built in. Early adopters claim they are so well featured that they can replace your main phone.
The main UK dealers could well be selling these by the time you read this.
Inrico TM-8 Microphone issues
The Inrico TM-8 has had some bad press since its release, due to audio issues. The problems may have been fixed in newer stock. However, my thanks go to John Blake VK6JB for the following modification:
John noticed that the grill opening on the supplied microphone was restrictively small, so he moved the microphone insert closer to the front of the housing (Fig. 4) drilling four small holes to allow for better voice transfer (Fig. 5). Finally, he glued the microphone insert into the rubber and the rubber to the housing. He reports that the audio is much crisper and clearer.
Later, Duarte CT1EIZ posted details of a software mod here:
Furthermore, Paul Mclean & Andreas Macrides reported on the NR Facebook group that there is also now a hardware mod to the microphone’s PCB. TM-8 owners now have many options available to improve audio.
Remember, you perform any mods at your own risk, and you may invalidate your warranty.
A Chance Meeting
You never know when a contact on NR will surprise and delight. This summer, Dave Lees G0PDL took his Inrico T320 on a driving holiday to Spain. It was a fascinating trip, from the Midlands to Plymouth, then by ferry to Santander and finally on towards Tarragona. Dave wrote in detail about the journey on his blog: https://zasbatt.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/travelling-abroad-with-network-radio
Sadly, Dave had the misfortune to end up talking with me a few times! On one occasion, Mike Higlett G6WTM joined in too. It transpired that Mike was temporarily staying in a hotel near my home. The next evening, Mike came over to Wythall Radio Club for a meet and a natter.
Mike is a postgraduate qualified communications engineer who is a bit of an expert on cellular and microwave technology. And, after getting over the further surprise of meeting his former tutor, Dr Pete Best G8CQH, at the club (!), he was a joy to converse with.
Among things I learned that evening were the following:
First, there are apps to allow direct comms between network radio devices (more on this in future columns).
Second, some hams have been experimenting with hacked router firmware which lowers ‘normal’ Wi-Fi
frequencies onto the nearby amateur radio band.
Third, those operators have been creating networks for devices like PoC radios to connect to.
The implications of this are potentially immense (carry your own network with you, anyone?).
Happily, Mike will be contributing his thoughts to this column on occasions, as the technology develops.
The Start of a Phenomenon
As mentioned last month, the Network Radios suite of channels seems the most popular place to meet on-air at the moment. It struck me that few of us even realise how these channels came into being. Therefore – exclusively for RU – I tracked down Karl Hobson G1YPQ (Fig. 6) and cornered him with no escape, until he finally admitted it was, indeed, his fault. Here is the transcript of our interview:
RU: Tell us a little about your background in Radio…
KH: “I have always been fascinated by radio communications and how one’s voice can travel between unconnected devices yet still sound like you at the receiving end. At 12 years old, I got my first 40-channel AM CB radio, and, by the age of 16, I had a Yaesu FRG-7700 receiver. In 1987, I passed the RAE and became G1YPQ.”
RU: How did you get into Radio over IP?
KH: “RoIP has been around for many years, but it’s only in recent years, with faster internet speeds, cellular broadband coverage, software and technology, that it has become viable for commercial, hobby and leisure use. I was first introduced to it around 2010 while working in the business world on site-link communication.”
RU: What motivated you to set up the first Network Radios Channel?
KH: “The arrival of the Inrico T320 device. I had tried similar units in the past, the Sure F22, for example, but some of the available channels on Zello left a lot to be desired. However, I could see the possibilities that a channel for radio enthusiasts, licensed or not, could be appealing. So, network radios were born on the 13th of January 2018. To start with, interest was slow; just myself, Darren M3LOX who launched the original channel, and Ian G3ZHI. But it picked up the pace and then our stars appeared; Steve G0TDJ, Neil G0TVJ, Michelle G0JIW, Paul G7BHE, Aidan G0PSH, Roy G1IKF and ‘Hairy Paul’ from Scotland. They brought a wealth of experience.”
RU: What has the interest in the channels been like?
KH: “The take-up has been phenomenal. Frankly, we were blown away at how quickly this has become a success. Currently, we have over 4000 subscribers, over 2000 trusted users, over 1300 Facebook members and it never seems to slow down! We have 7 channels available with more in reserve, for when we need them.”
RU: How do the ‘Network Radios’ channels differ from IRN? There was a channel on IRN, but it didn’t really take off, did it?
KH: “Zello is a clean, easy-to-use platform with superb audio quality. It is very adaptable too - we can send text, photos or even location easily. The ability to add channels ourselves, as we need them, is great; even things like auto-reconnect on signal-dropout works very well, especially for mobile users. Network radios on Zello seem simple, whereas, though IRN is a great platform, we seemed to get a little lost within the many options they have. Therefore, we decided to build it on Zello. It feels like a mature platform – Zello is very modern and professional.”
RU: Are there any ‘speciality-channels’ in the pipeline? Mobiles-only, for example?
KH: “Currently we are looking at whether we can accommodate CW, thanks to Steve G0TDJ’ s experiments. If we get this going, I'm sure this will be a success. My vision though is to keep things simple as much as possible, but the users are the folk that make network radios what it is. We will always be open to suggestions but keeping everything simple and usable has to be at the forefront of how things work.”
RU: What is going well and what would you like to see improved?
KH: “The moderation aspect is something I am really pleased with; any ‘on-the-air incidents’ can be dealt with quickly. Also, we seem to be praised by many for the civility and respectful nature of the channels, as well as the quality of the conversations. Improvements would probably be more on Zello’s side - a ‘channel-change’ knob option has now arrived for the Inrico T199 radio - Zello is to be congratulated for that; it would be nice to see it extended. Other things? Possibly a ‘scan’ option and maybe a way to see more on-screen information on small screens.”
RU: What has Network Radios done to your perception and enjoyment of the hobby?
KH: “Many bemoan the lack of ‘on-the-air’ activity. Because I’m open-minded, where technology is concerned, I feel I have created a place where people can continue in their love of communicating with like-minded hobbyists in a safe, controlled environment. This hobby is always changing; network radios is just a positive change within the hobby.”
RU: What would you say to those people who say it’s not ‘real’ radio?
KH: “I don't want to get into that! However, I would simply ask those people to have a listen for a while, maybe even join in? Perhaps they can then try to convince over 2000 trusted users that it isn’t ‘real’ radio.”
My thanks to Karl, who I can confirm was safely ‘released back into the wilds of Yorkshire’!
An Inrico T320 Goes on Holiday
It’s not often your T320 talks back to you, but this one does. Here is its story:
“’Twas the middle of the night, and I was removed from my charger and placed in the car by my owner, Roy G1IKF, and his wife. It was very dark as we headed through the night to a strange place called ‘Scotland. “As they talked in the car, I learned they had booked a week’s boating holiday on the ‘Caledonian Ship Canal’ (Fig. 7). Roy said it would be great to play radio as we cruised but I discovered I had competition! There were two other radios along for the ride too! A Yaesu FT70 and a Baofeng, whatever they are. “Finally, we arrived at the Inverness Marina and our adventure began. On board, I found myself with the other two radios next to the helm. To my horror, my beloved owner picked up the Baofeng and started talking on some strange channel to the swing-bridge operator. The bridge opened, and we went through. What a short QSO, not what I am used to at all! “Soon we arrived at Loch Ness and surely it was my time to shine. But to my horror, he picked up the Yaesu! It didn’t take long though before he declared ‘2 and 70 are dead’, whatever that meant. Finally, he glanced at my screen and declared “I can’t believe it! 4G coverage on Loch Ness! (Fig 8). Really! What was his problem? I have coverage virtually anywhere and a short cellular antenna to assist! On to the network radios Zello channels and a call for a contact. A ‘piece of cake’ for me - I netted Roy a very lengthy chat with a station all the way to Fort Augustus. With APRS in the background and others watching our progress, I was in my element, providing a service, just as he expected (Fig. 9). Throughout the holiday, it was the same story; first, he would try the Yaesu and complain, then the Baofeng to talk to the lock-keepers but it was always back to me for the fun! We eventually arrived in Fort William and I was out on the deck, with Ben Nevis in the background. I was a great success, even in the remotest locations of the holiday. The Yaesu was left in the charger - I actually felt sorry for him. Now home again, I’ve been told to get ready for another holiday later this year, in Cyprus! I must be the luckiest T320 in the world! Unless you know better, of course…”
(Thanks to Roy G1IKF for the ‘translation’!)
Well, that’s it for October. Please remember to send any news and photos to me at the e-mail address in the head of this column. I love hearing about what you have been up to!
This article was featured in the October 2018 issue of Radio User