Network Radio the new Marmite mode?
While network radio has been around for some years, however over the last year it has really taken off. It is very easy to use, the audio is very clear, and it’s very accessible, to both new members of the hobby and old ones alike.
So, what is Network Radio?
Well “Network Radio” is really two things. The first is a type of Radio Transceiver. The second is what I can only describe as a selection of channels within a Product use by “Network Radio” enthusiasts.
There are forms of network radio that can be used by Licenced Amateurs and Non-licenced Amateurs. There are a number of options but the top three are:
• Zello: This is a smartphone app for both android and iOS as well as being available for your PC
• TeamSpeak: Available for Android and iOS
• Peanut: Written by an Amateur (PA7LIM) for Amateurs and runs on Android4.x or higher and Windows 7 and higher with .NET 4.5 – Peanut does not support non-licensed users.
From my point of view, both TeamSpeak and Zello are both commercial grade communications in their own right, we just piggyback on them.
It’s hard to get good data on who uses which network radio product.
My view that currently in the UK Zello is possibly the most used by Radio Amateurs in the UK.
As we have a G3RCW Zello group I am going to focus on Zello here.
Getting Setup and starting.
The best thing about Zello is that it is accessible and you may have already got what you need to use to access it. For example, if you have a Smartphone or Windows PC, you are good to go.
So, download the Zello App. from the app store and install Zello it’s free.
When you open the Zello App for the first time you need to complete the setup routine, I recommend using your amateur radio call sign as your username. Choose a strong password, I like to use a strong password generator. Then set up your profile mine has my name and a few details about me and a picture of me so people can be sure it’s me (as far as anyone can).
Once you have completed your setup it’s time to join some channels.
• Go to the Channels tab in Zello
• Search for the G3RCW channel
• Add the channel
• (note if you search for ‘network radios ch’ you will find a number of channels)
• Key up and call a moderator giving your call sign or post on the Radio Society’s members’ Facebook page. As this channel is open to members only it may take a short time to verify you.
• The process is much the same on the other ‘network radios ch’
As a new user, I found it better to put this on my tablet than on my mobile phone.
TeamSpeak – Scott did a very informative talk at the Radio Society on TeamSpeak, sadly I had to use it for work in the past and it just feels like a work tool to me, but do check it out, don’t take my word
Peanut – Peanut is different, it’s been written by a Radio Amateur for Radio Amateurs and you can tell. It is not open to non-Amateurs. And you can get access to DSTAR and DMR using it.
You need a pin code to get started to see http://www.pa7lim.nl/peanut/ Access
You can see the online Peanut dashboard for details http://peanut.pa7lim.nl/
Peanut is certainly a project worth your support.
One of my biggest fears is that Network Radio would drive people off RF, from my first-hand experience that’s not so.
We have used it as talkback and generated activity on RF during our data nights, I understand that both the Microwavers and BATC people are also using Network Radio as TalkBack
So, let’s see how some of the Arguments Against Network Radio Go.
• It’s not just Amateurs – well that is true of Zello and TeamSpeak. Our hobby is all about learning and we must have the willingness to learn. I see that Network Radio could be a key point when training people to become Amateurs. Think of it from a prospective Foundation point of view. If they are not from a Radio background, they will almost certainly have a smartphone. It’s going to allow them to learn procedures at the very start of the process. It makes them feel part of the Amateur Radio Community from day one.
• Using the Internet is cheating – most of us are now happy to use DStar, DMR, IRLP or Echolink. Sometimes it’s very much like a form of Radio snobbery, this will do nothing to stop the hobby from coming to an end.
• The Amateur Bands are dead, I have never found this true, call CQ, use some of the tools at your hand and you can find activity. I have found that a quick call on the Zello group gets a number of people on the air on a band in seconds.
• It’s not Amateur Radio or Real Radio, Wikipedia says that “Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, is the use of radiofrequency spectrum for purposes of non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, private recreation, radiosport, contesting, and emergency communication.” Check carefully keep an open mind and you will find that network radio fits the bill.
You can be connected to and using network radio in about two minutes, it’s a good part of the hobby, what’s to lose?