Echolink is a system that can connect Amateur Radio stations to each other via internet. Does this sound weird to you? Well, that depends on how you look at it.
The Echolink system allows radio signals to be passed over the internet. This is accomplished via computers that are connected both to the internet and to an amateur radio station. By contacting one of these, your signals can go from the air waves onto the internet and vice-versa. Echolink even allows PC users and amateur radio stations to directly communicate with each other. In fact, you do not need amateur radio equipment to make a contact with radio stations anywhere in the world. You need a PC with a soundcard, speakers and a microphone. Your PC transmits your voice signals over the internet, to an Amateur Radio station which is connected directly to the internet.
Echolink connects for example two-way repeater radio stations and / or computers to each other. That means that you can make contact with your portable radio set to a local repeater station. Your signal is then transferred from this repeater, via the internet, to another repeater or to a computer on the network. The other repeater re-transmits your signal in its local area. In this way you can speak to an amateur radio station in that area. Or to a radio amateur connected with his personal computer directly to the echolink network.
E.g.: a Scout camping in Nijkerk, Netherlands makes radio contact with the local repeater station in Amersfoort. Using the internet, his signal is transferred to the main repeater in Sydney, Australia. Via this system, he has a pleasant conversation with another Scout in Paramatta, close to Sydney, who uses a portable radio station at his local camp site. Another Scout, located in Roanoke Virginia, USA, uses the computer room of the local high school. He too connects himself to the echolink network and can speak to the Scouts in Nijkerk and Sydney at the same time.
Advantages for use during JOTA-JOTI:
Suppose you are at a location that does not allow you to put up antennas. Or you have easy access to the computer class room in a school building. Now you have the chance to take part in JOTA from the school’s PC’s, simply by connecting to Echolink.
Your radio amateur has to validate his call sign with Echolink so his license can be checked. This can now be easily done on-line and takes only a few days to return the validation to you. But don’t wait till the last moment to prepare your Echolink station. Validate with Echolink before 1 October if you intend to use it for JOTA-JOTI.
Click here to validate your station.
Notice on validation:
(Update): The Echolink system owners are increasingly restrictive in validating licenses. Scout radio stations do no longer obtain a single-use status, which means they cannot connect to Echolink with just a computer anymore. Additionally, Echolink started charging financial contributions for having conference servers hosted by Scout groups. Your best option would be to ask one of your radio amateurs to validate his personal licence and operate Echolink over his system during the JOTA-JOTI. The World JOTA-JOTI Team will test alternative systems this year and discourages extensive use of Echolink. The World Scout Bureau radio stations will not operate Echolink anymore.
Special-event call signs cannot be used on Echolink; instead you must use the call sign of the 1st operator. The software, however, allows you to set a station descriptor; JOTA-JOTI stations are asked to put in their station descriptor “JOTA-JOTI: your call sign“, so they can easily be recognized on the system. A detailed instruction for JOTA stations is available here .
If your JOTA station does not have an internet connection available on site, you can still use the Echolink system. Ask your radio amateur to determine which VHF or UHF link station is nearby and within reach of your JOTA-JOTI station. Next, obtain the co-operation of the operator of your local link station. Set up instructions can be found here.
For details and technical assistance to your radio amateur on how to use Echolink, please see the specialised web site.