Getting Started with Echolink and the 985 Repeater
By Tim Poth – W3QP
NOTE: Once you have registered for Echolink you will need to contact Joe, W3GMS, to be added to the permission list.
Echolink is a streaming-audio technology that enables licensed Amateur Radio stations to communicate with one another over the Internet. This gives you access to the world without being limited by HF propagation, and, most importantly, access to the 985 Repeater from outside the coverage area or should you fall victim to inter-mod.
This article is meant to help you get up and running quickly on the 985 repeater, however it is no substitute for the wealth of information on the EchoLink site https://www.echolink.org/. Some sections are rather long as I try to explain the choices you are presented with, but the setup will go quickly so just hang in there!
License Validation: (first time setup)
As part of registering with EchoLink you’ll need to prove that you have a license. You will need to ether:
Upload a PDF copy of your license from the FCC’s site which is free. Directions on getting and uploading the license can be found here: https://www.echolink.org/validation/validation_pdf.jsp
Provide a credit card with a billing address that matches the address on file with the FCC and pay a $1.
License Validation comes AFTER you setup the application for the first time on any device (below).
Testing Your Setup:
Once you have your device setup (below) you may want to find the station ‘ECHOTEST’, this will let you test your connection, audio play back, and transmission settings. It’s not required but it’s a great place to start if you’re having issues or are connecting from a new network such as in a hotel.
Connecting to the 985 Repeater:
Once you have your device setup (below) you’ll want to find the 985 Repeater. To do this use the search feature (magnifier glass icon in the app or ‘Stations’, ‘Find’ menu in Windows) and search for ‘W3GMS-R’. Once you find the repeater you will likely want to add it to your favorites (Right click on the station in windows or tap on the station in the app).
To connect, click connect (icon or right click / connect in windows)
NOTE Only Allowed stations may connect to the 985 Repeater. Please reach out to Joe W3GMS to request to be added to the list.
If, when connecting, you get a ‘Timed Out’ error message it could mean there is an issue with the repeater OR it could mean you do not have permissions. If this is your first time trying to connect, please reach out to Joe W3GMS.
A Bit about networking: (Optional, you can get on 985 without making changes to your network but this provides an overview of the options)
EchoLink is designed to work as a peer-to-peer application; I connect directly to you, you connect directly to me, no server in the middle; this however doesn’t work with modern router / firewall without making changes to your network, specifically setting up ‘Port Forwarding’. There is a ‘No Port Forwarding’ option however there are some limitations to be aware of. Both setups are covered below.
One setup is not ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other, there are just differences, the right choice depends on your situation and needs.
The recommended way to setup your device (computer / tablet / phone) is to login to your router / firewall (the box your ISP gave you that makes the internet work) and configure Port Forwarding. How you enable the forwarding depends on the router / firewall you have. A good starting point is https://portforward.com/router.htm (there is an advertisement page that comes up, click the close link to bypass it). If your ISP provided the device, you can also call them and ask for help, your mileage will vary depending on your provider.
You will want to forward UDP ports 5198 and 5199. More details can be found in the FAQ https://www.echolink.org/firewall-friendly.htm The port will be forward to your device’s address on the network (IP address) which MAY change over time requiring you to update the forward to the new address. Make sure you take notes when setting up the forward in the event you need to change it later.
Depending on your OS and any security software you have installed you may also have to make a change on your computer to allow incoming connections. Again, this will depend on the details of your setup. I would start with getting your router / firewall setup and if you have connection issues after that you can start to look at how your computer is configured.
No Port Forwarding setup
If you can’t forward ports on your router / firewall, are not on your home network, are on a cell phone network; EchoLink provides proxy / relay servers that can help you get connected HOWEVER there are trade-offs compared to a port forward setup. Most notable, other stations may not be able to call you, you may not be able to call a station if they are on a different proxy / relay server. Going through a proxy / relay can also increase latency and add jitter in the audio. Please review the FAQ (above).
For Windows OS:
Step One, Install the software: https://www.echolink.org/download.htm
In most instances you will just need the top EchoLinkSetup installer found on the download page. Below that are some other versions if you have an old operating system.
The install process is straight forward, just keep clicking through. If you need help on the install have a look at the install FAQ: https://www.echolink.org/faq_installation.htm
Step Two, Launch the software
On first launch a Setup Wizard will guide you thought setup, below are some notes on the process to help you along.
Computer User or Sysop:
Choose ‘Computer User’ (default)
There are two different ways to get your voice on to the system, using a microphone and speaker on the computer or using a radio interface. The easiest and quickest option is to be a Computer User, using a radio interface requires special hardware. If you are interested in learning more there are details here: https://www.echolink.org/help_ex/hh_start.htm
When entering your information:
Try to use a complex password that does not overlap with passwords you have used for other sites.
The Location field lets other users know where you are located, ‘City, State’ works well but you can get as specific as you are comfortable with. Set your location as another planet for some interesting QSOs.
Selecting your Geographic Region:
This selection helps connect your computer to the closest internet endpoint for getting on the EchoLink network. If you travel you may want to update this for different locations (below).
Click ‘Test Firewall’, review the output, close the window.
If you wanted to use Port Forwarding and one or more of the tests failed try making changes to your router / firewall and repeat until you get a pass. See networking section (above) for links with more information.
If you don’t want to / can’t setup Port Forwarding that’s fine, click next. Again, you do not need this to get on 985, there are however some tradeoffs, see the networking section at the top for more details.
EchoLink Proxy (you will only see this page if you failed the firewall test in the last step)
You will want to accept the default here of ‘Enable the EchoLink Proxy Option Now’ as you don’t have the ports open. This can be changed later (below).
Step three, Validate your account:
Once you have completed the setup wizard, you’ll get a message that you need to validate your account. Start by visiting https://www.echolink.org/validation/ and enter your call sign. The site will then ask you to enter your email and send you a validation email that will have a link to follow. The site will then ask you to validate your license as noted (above). Validation can take up to 24hr and you will get an email when completed. My validation took ~10min. Once your account is validated you will ether want to close and reopen the app OR click on the ‘Station’ menu and then ‘Refresh List’.
Step four, Audio Setup (optional):
Depending on your computer you may need to change the device used for audio or adjust your levels. For example, you may normally listen to audio through speaker but you may have a headset you with to use for EchoLink.
On the ‘Tools’ menu click on ‘Adjust Sound Devices’ and then select ether ‘Playback’ or ‘Recording’. Both options take you to a windows device page that allows you to adjust both depending on the tab you are on.
Connect to 985 Repeater:
Follow the notes above about finding and connecting to the 985 Repeater and make some contacts!
A note about Transmitting:
In the windows app to send a transmission you can ether click on the lightning bolt icon on the menu bar one to start and then again once to stop OR press the spacebar once to start and once to stop.
Making Changes to your setup:
If you need to make a change to your setup you can find everything under the ‘Tools’ menu, ‘Setup’. For example, if you setup port forwarding at home but are currently in a hotel with your laptop you can go to the ‘Proxy’ tab under ‘Setup’ and select ‘Automatic Proxy Selection’. When you return home, you can go to the same page and change the selection back to ‘Direct Connection (No Proxy)’.
If you find yourself outside of the region you selected at setup this can be changed under ‘Tools’ menu, ‘Setup’, and click on the ‘Servers’ tab. If you click ‘Reset to Defaults’ it will provide you with the list of regions again and you can select the most appropriate one.
For Mac OS:
EchoLink.org does not currently publish a version of the software for Mac OS however there FAQ does link to this software: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/echoham/id873302145 It has very mixed reviews.
I don’t have a Mac to provide more details here. Review the Windows OS steps as they should be similar.
For Android devices:
Start by opening the Play Store and searching for ‘EchoLink’ The app vender is listed as Synergenics, LLC. Click Install.
Once the app is installed open it and enter your call sign. If you do NOT have a validated account, it will prompt you to go through the account setup process. If you DO have a validated account, it will prompt you to enter your password and allow you to use the app. The account validation process will be similar to the process under the Windows OS setup (above) however I can’t document that as my account has already setup.
Once logged in to the app you can click the three vertical dots in the upper right-hand side to access ‘Settings’. Under ‘Settings’ you can update your Name (defaults to your device name such as ‘Samsung Galaxy’), your Location (defaults to using your device’s location data) and other settings such as RX or TX sounds and mic gain.
Under ‘Settings’ you will also see ‘Network’ which allows you to update your network settings. If you are on a cell phone network you will likely want to use ‘Relay’ which is the default. If you have performance issues you can try switching to ‘Public Proxy’ and see if that improves your experience. ‘Private Proxy’ allows you to specify a proxy server you have setup; this is an advanced option and not likely something you want to do. If you setup port forwarding to this device you will want to switch this to ‘Direct’.
NOTE If you use EchoLink on your phone and are NOT on wi-fi you will use your cell data plan. If you do not have unlimited data this could get expensive.
Test your Connection:
Once you have updated any settings go to the ‘Stations’ tab (icon of two people). The top option should be the ‘ECHOTEST’ account. Use this to hear and send audio to ensure everything is working as expected, adjust your mic gain under settings as needed. Once connected to a station, such as ‘ECHOTEST’ or the 985 Repeater, on the top right of the app you’ll see a speaker icon. This will allow you to change the audio mode to a headset / handset, Speaker, or Bluetooth. The default is speaker.
Connect to 985 Repeater:
To connect to the 985 Repeater, follow the notes above and make some contacts!
More details for setting your Android device up to use Echolink can be found here. https://www.echolink.org/faq_android.htm
For iOS devices:
Details for setting your iOS device to use Echolink can be found here. https://www.echolink.org/faq_iphone.htm