First QSO on Echolink

About a week or so ago WI5HER finally convinced me to check in via Echolink to the 9 o’clock net on his local repeater. I’d been waiting for my paper certificate from Industry Canada, and it finally arrived. So I took a photo of that, uploaded it to the Echolink site (only works on iOS the Echolink app, not on Mac OS that I’ve seen) and within 24 hours I was verified there.

Anyway, hearing a net check-in at another non-local repeater was something very different from what I hear on the (French language) local repeater, which I still haven’t made contact with… I know the repeater can hear me, because it gives me a roger beep after I take my finger off the PTT but I’ve never had anybody answer me. Anyway, in relation to that checking in via Echolink in another place was pretty much as easy as pie, though I was really nervous about the “protocol” because there is a certain etiquette or format which repeater net check-ins tend to follow.

Basically, from what I can tell, net check-ins go something like, the control (the person hosting the group check-in) asks for calls according to certain groups of users. If you fit that group, you can transmit your call sign in the gap that follows (try not to overlap others). On first go-round, I just said verbally “normal” letters VA2SFX, but the control said he didn’t recognize the call sign, so asked me to repeat. And since I’m also not a local callsign for that region, it only makes sense. So I repeated it as VICTOR ALPHA TWO SIERRA FOXTROT XRAY and he got that. (Thank you NATO Phonetic Alphabet).

So, on this repeater — I can’t speak for others, when someone logs onto the repeater via Echolink, they can hear it. Maybe it announces my call-sign? I’m really not sure. So, after I correctly self-identified, he let me go right away as I was the only one in the group. You basically have to wait until you’re called, after you announce your station. Anyway, boiled down to a format, I said like basically the following:

[State your first name] [State your location or region]
Brief message introducing yourself.
[Repeat call-sign (phonetically or not)]["Back to the net"]

Saying Back to the net you “release control” back to the net control. Otherwise, if you don’t, I guess you open the chance for the control to respond or ask you a question or something, which I didn’t do. I was “too nervous.”

I have to admit that it’s an odd initial fear in getting on the air, figuring out how it all works, not trying to sound like an idiot, or do the wrong thing, etc. Certainly helps that first time to be able to speak the same language as the net.


My first TX

I don’t live in a very populated area, and my repeater was offline for a couple weeks after getting my ticket. So I waited until it came back before trying to transmit. I listened to the local net, but was a combination of too drunk/nervous/shy to chime in. As it’s in French, I’m never quite sure when I’m supposed to throw out my call sign. So anyway, I waited until after the net was over and fired up my Baofeng HT and finally went for it, with some gentle urging from WI5HER.

When I pushed the talk button, my record player (which I tend to leave on without realizing) activated and I could hear a loud hum out of it. Freaked me the f out at first until I realized what was up. Finally, I realized that I was TXing on the listening frequency of the repeater, and had not programmed the offset, so I fired up CHIRP and cloned the repeater settings into the HT and tried again.

I tried a few times, in both French and (hopeful) English. No results. I tried a few times again over the next few days at random times, stationary and while driving with no results.

As of this writing, I’ve had no contact by radio. Every once in a while, after TXing a CQ or a “listening” after my call sign I hear a little bit of noise, a sort of blip blip blip static and possible kerchunk. I can’t tell if that’s a valid user trying to respond and my HT isn’t able to hear them or what. I can hear my repeater fine though when it self-identifies in voice and CW every ten or so minutes.

Oh well.