Sunday, August 26, 2012

Robust Packet Radio

A couple of days ago Chris, HB9DDF sent me an email asking how to configure APRSIS32 to work with the SCS Tracker / DSP TNC. Digging through my configuration files to get the information he needed I thought: why not put the 30m APRS gateway back online? It had been off since I went into hospital last year and the K2 and magnetic loop were hardly ever used.
SCS Tracker DSP TNC and Elecraft K2 at G4ILO
I don't know if propagation is lousy or whether things have changed since I was last on HF APRS but there seemed to be a lot less activity on the 30m APRS frequency today. An hour went by without my receiving anything. I did, however, hear quite often the "whooshing" sound of Robust Packet Radio (RPR) stations a few hundred Hz down. So I decided to configure the TNC to work in RPR mode.

Robust Packet is a mode obtainable in 300baud and 600baud versions that has been designed to take advantage of the capabilities of digital signal processing (DSP) in order to obtain reliable communication over a normal less than perfect HF path. To anyone who has experience only of traditional 300baud FSK packet RPR has too be seen to be believed. Packet after packet was decoded and displayed by APRSIS32 while conventional packet transmissions on the adjacent channel just flickered the DCD lamp and were discarded due to errors.

Robust Packet is a proprietary mode developed by SCS and is only supported by SCS TNCs. As far as I know no description exists that would enable someone to develop a PC implementation that uses a sound card. In that respect it is pretty much like Icom and D-Star. I would much rather use an open standard.
G4ILO-10 joins the Robust Packet Network
But RPR works where the old-fangled 300baud FSK invented to work on the analogue modems of 30 years ago doesn't. I think it is in keeping with the spirit of ham radio to use state of the art technology where it provides clear benefits to communication.

So G4ILO is now part of the Robust Packet Network.
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