Monday, September 06, 2010

EchoLink on Android

An EchoLink app has recently been released for Android mobile phones. That makes two smartphone platforms - Android and iPhone - that can now be used to access EchoLink. Is this really a good idea?

Let me make it clear from the start: I like EchoLink. What I like about it is that it can be used to link repeaters in different parts of the country or the world, and even allows individual operators like myself to set up simplex voice nodes without the technical complications, expense and licensing issues of running a repeater, the aim being simply to get some interesting activity on what may otherwise be a more or less dead band.

I realize that contacts made using EchoLink are not traditional amateur radio point to point contacts, so I don't want to start up the old "it's not ham radio" argument again. But I don't think the point of most contacts made on VHF FM is that you worked direct and exchange QSLs afterwards. They are just conversations between hams. The fact that the transmission went most of the way over the internet is of no more significance than if you used a conventional repeater. However it does matter to me that radios are used at each end, otherwise it's internet chat not a radio contact in any shape or form. So far, that seems to be the case with most of the EchoLink contacts I have made, but for how long?

The trouble with EchoLink apps for smartphones is that they are VoIP apps pure and simple. They encourage the use of EchoLink as a VoIP chat mode. Smartphones are so popular now that I'm afraid this could become the dominant way of using the system. It could even replace ham radio handhelds. Users are going to ask themselves: Why bother carrying this goofy looking radio about when I can just use my phone? One more nail in the coffin of amateur radio?


Theodore said...

If you want to experience the real thrill of ham radio, go to H.F.
VHF/UHF, APRS, Echolink ... are all parochial in nature, due to their limited coverage and audience.
Your worldview will expand and you will feel that you are riding bareback on a mustang when you unexpectedly come across an opening on 17m for example.
Solar flux is up a little, conditions are good, come outside and play the world game.
Leave the walkie talkies and GPS to others, its fun in the sunspots.

Paul said...


I, too, love Echolink. This app has connected me with long-lost ham friends. Echolink has gotten me back into ham radio when I had become inactive for years. I stay "connected" via my RF link system to an Echolink server (*SCARS*) almost 24/7, and this is a world-wide operation with hams connecting from most continents of the world, if not all. Weekly nets meet -- US, Pacific Coast (of the US, including some from the Pacific Rim), Eurasia, Australia, and more.

I use my HT all summer "poolside portable" to talk with my world-wide group of friends; and, my neighbor walks, bicycles, and talks with his HT "pedestrian portable" on a daily basis. And, today, I used my Android phone to check into nets from the Pacific coast of the US all the way to Russia -- all with no QRM or QRN, no fading, no QSB, but all with an RF connection to "the system" because, as we hams know, the cellular telephone system is, first and foremost, an RF system. Of course, it's not Amateur Radio, but Amateur Radio operators have harnessed it to expand the reach, scope, and interest of hams worldwide. Would I want to use ONLY my Droid phone for ham radio fun? No! Do I enjoy it as a supplement? You bet!

The debate will rage on for years, I'm sure, especially as other platforms come "on line"; but, for me, I'm just happy to have all these great toys/tools for use in my favorite hobby, ham radio!

73, Paul N4FTD