Local RF: Simplex 145.545 PL: 77.0
After moving into our new home in 2000 and operating only on VHF and UHF due to the restrictive antenna covenants, I discovered ECHOLINK during 2003. The first echolink station I set up was PC based only. I ran a local desk mike to the PC audio input and listened on the stereo PC speakers. I ran the mike audio through a mixer board garnished from my music studio and I was able to control the levels and response ranges to maximize the readability. I registered as a -L user even though I had no link at the time as I wanted to use VOX rather than push the space bar every time I wanted to transmit. Under sysop status as a LINK I could turn on the VOX capability of Echolink and the PC would transmit by just speaking into the mike. A picture of my first PC echolink setup can be seen below: ( mixer board is to the right side of pic )
After a few months of PC based Echolinking, I decided to setup a LINK node. Using an old Clegg FM-28 rig on low power 2 meter simplex ( 1 millawatt ) and a Mountain Radio "nomic" radio-to-PC interface I was operational on my own "in-house" link. Now armed with my HT I was able to be free of the PC and "roam" around my property and enjoy Echolink contacts via simplex. Below is a picture of my first Echolink 2 meter RF link station:
After a year of "house-bound" linking, I decided to set up a more powerful base station Echolink transmitter. Purchasing 2 Yaesu 8900R quad band rigs, one for the vehicle and one for the base station I was ready to assemble my new Echolink. I added a wireless laptop PC to the base station to interface with the wireless router on the floor below. Connecting the new 8900R to the laptop PC through the Mountain Radio "nomic" radio to PC interface was very straightforward. I run the 8900R on 20 watts using 2 meter simplex. The antenna is a quad band Comet UHV-4 mobile antenna in the attic above the radio room. The UHV-4 sits on a tripod base with 16 tuned #8 copper radials in a 360 degree arc around the tripod. There are 4 tuned radials for each band: 10 - 6 - 2 - 440. As I work only about 6 miles from my house and the range of my LINK is approx. 10 to 15 miles I am within the "full quieting" range on my entire daily commute. Below is a picture of the current Echolink 8900R setup. Note: I have purchased a new (3rd) 8900R that is also in the picture as a backup. Also, since the dedicated Echolink 8900R has the nomic interface plugged into its mic jack, the second 8900R makes for quick contacts should 6 or 10 meter FM open up suddenly. I can easily switch the UHV-4 between the two rigs by the antenna switch seen sitting on top of the new 8900R:
In October of 2006, the Federal Communications Commission made it even easier to operate an ECHOLINK RF node on 2 meters. Prior to that time, RF control of 2 meter Echolink nodes had to be conducted on 220mhz or higher ( most commonly done on the 440 mhz band ). Stations that "remotely control" other stations by RF are known as "auxiliary" stations and were not allowed on the 2 meter band prior to October 2006. In its Report and Order the FCC rendered a decision:
" We agree with the commenters who support allowing the 2 meter band to be used by auxiliary stations, because such use could result in the expansion of amateur service communication systems that incorporate voice over internet protocol operations . . . . . "
The section regarding the above text begins at the bottom of page 12 and continues into page 14 of the PDF document.
Additionally, regarding the "control point" of Echolink "linking" systems, PART 97.109 reads:
(a) Each amateur station must have at least one control point.
(c) When a station is being remotely controlled, the control operator must be at the control point. Any station may be remotely controlled.
The FCC's concept clearly allows "off site" control of any ECHOLINK "simplex" node by HT or MOBILE station. This is best facilitated by the use of DUAL BAND rigs on both ends of the equation ( Echolink node base station and mobile/HT ). For instance, my N3RO-L node uses two 8900R quad band rigs. The LEFT side is the Echolink node frequency ( either 2 meters or 6 meters ), while the RIGHT side is always the "auxiliary" station channel on 440 mhz where I can control the LEFT side node frequency, shutting down or turning on the Echolink station as desired. In such a dual band situation, the "auxiliary" station is within the same transceiver "box" as the main node station - the concept of auxiliary station control still applies however.
This is made very clear in an ARRL article published in QST magazine in 2003. Bear in mind when reading this article however, that it is out-of-date with regards to the FCC now allowing "control" tones/signals on two meters as of October 2006. One note of caution however, although the FCC allows "control tones" to be sent on 2 meters, it is not allowable to "control" your Echolink node on the SAME FREQUENCY as your node operates on. If your node is in transmit mode there would be no way to shut it off by sending control tones on the same frequency, thus the dual band rig offers the perfect solution . . . another receiver monitoring another frequency on another band allowing control tones to be "heard" by your station despite the Echolink station being in transmit mode. The Yaesu 8900 provides this function perfectly.
For further reading click on the link below for the full FCC part 97 rules and regulations.