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What is Echolink? This is usually the first question asked by someone unfamiliar with the concept. The discussion as we go forward assumes that the reader is somewhat computer literate. This is usually not a problem for most Amateur Operators in todays world of radio, computers, and the internet.

Echolink is a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) that is used exclusively by Amateur Radio operators world wide. The operators of the Echolink service are very strict in limiting the use of Echolink to duly licensed Ham operators and before access is granted to a user they must have their Ham licensed validated with the respective licensing authority.

All rules and regulations applicable to the Amateur Radio Service are strictly followed and that includes the use of callsigns and proper station ID procedures. This is imperative as at any given moment a current computer to computer conversation may be linked to an RF node and be transmitted over the air.

Echolink provides several different yet related types of communications techniques. As mentioned in the previous paragraph there are direct computer to computer connections. There are also computer to RF links that are provided by Link stations. KB1XI-L is an example.

There are also RF simplex to computer to remote Repeater gateways. The connections can be initiated at any point in the chain.
In the case of a simplex Link or repeater Link station the operator stays connected to the Echolink server via the internet and provides VOIP connection capability to other local Ham radio operators both base and mobile on a local (usually VHF or UHF) frequency.  KB1XI-L does this from Ryan's Hill in Derry NH on 145.710 Mhz.  RF access usually requires the inclusion on a PL tone. KB1XI-L requires PL tone 100.0 Hz.
Interfacing is done between the radio and the computer at the Node site with the use of a special controller. KB1XI-L uses the Ultimate Linking Interface (ULI) designed WB2REM. (See Station Photos link)

Connections can be made to the node either via a connect request from a Internet Echolink user or from the RF side by using shortcuts established by the node operator to specific callsigns or by entering the touchtone node number of the echolink user. Every registered echolink user is assigned a unique node number. All connections from the internet at KB1XI-L are retransmitted over the RF link. This assures that RF users monitoring the frequency will hear the connection and the callsign of the station making the connections.  RF users are then free to call the station and enter into a qso.  Stations in QSO, either the internet station via a keyboard command or in the case of an RF user can end the qso and disconnect.  KB1XI-L disconnect sequence for RF users is the transmitting of the touchtone sequence 73 .

In general the number of simultanious connections over a Link station is limited by the station operator and is usually dictated by the bandwidth available to the Link operator.  KB1XI-L uses a broadband Verizon FIOS connection so the limit is set to 10.

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For more detailed information on Echolink go to the Echolink website.
http://www.echolink.org/