Is a 'regional' RF only packet radio system of any use to hams?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KX4O, Jun 22, 2016.

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  1. KX4O

    KX4O Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's hard to deny the apparent increase of interest in AX.25 packet radio. Equipment choices, some very inexpensive, seem to be on the rise and there is an overall increase in discussion... or so it seems.

    Answering this perceived need, several local hams in my area, including myself, are contemplating a roll out of a standalone AX.25 packet radio system. What makes this one potentially different from packet radio's troubled past is avoiding things like linking to other systems and adoption of a single central local/regional BBS system directly wired to a very broad choice of frequency ports (HF, VHF and UHF). We document our efforts here. Our poster of our project at the Manassas ham fest garnered much attention and started many eyeball QSOs.

    The apparently successful Kentucky Packet Network is the model we are following for our design and planning.

    Do you all foresee a need for low bandwidth, frequency diverse system of trading simple and short messages between hams using the AX.25 traditions?

    What are we missing that might attract you to login to a such a system?
    KI5WW likes this.
  2. W3WN

    W3WN Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ah, where is the Beard of Texas when we need him? I'm sure he'd approve of this...
    Go for it.

    Whether or not there is a "need" for this remains to be seen. I suspect that as the system grows, and more use it, the usefulness of it overall will only improve exponentially.

    If nothing else, it should be a fun experiment and demonstration of what we can do. Even if someone claims there is no "need" for it.

    Enjoy. Have fun. Keep us posted.
  3. VE4CY

    VE4CY Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was big into packet back in the mid 80's. We had an AX25 network that covered southern Manitoba and Northern North Dakota. It was served with NetROM nodes and local W0RLI & FBB bulletin boards. (One of our die-hard members from back then still maintains an AX25 packet BBS on 145.01 Mhz that we can connect to).

    But, instead of recreating the nostalgia of the 80's, why not develop an HSMM network? It will function essentially the same, but will provide megabits per second rather than bits per second. This can be done fairly inexpensively using Linksys, Ubiquity or Microtic equipment. We have one expanding in our area.

    I'm not a Wikipedia fan, but they did a pretty good job describing HSMM
  4. KX4O

    KX4O Ham Member QRZ Page

    Rest assured HSMM is on our radar as shown in our preliminary design. Our thinking is to provide a common messaging watering hole available via traditional AX.25 paths plus connect in with the local HSMM network to provide telnet style access to the same common BBS system. It's not quite clear who is in charge of the local HSMM effort in our area, but it is certainly growing and we intend to participate not long after the roll out.

    Not obvious, one of our goals is to serve the needs of hams along the Appalachian Trail and my experiences there suggest band diversity should help access the system. So while the VAPN promotes HF, VHF and UHF access, thanks to HSMM we can add microwaves to that list.
    N0NB likes this.
  5. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    You could probably increase utilization exponentially by providing WINLINK capability on the system. That might be too successful, and rapidly overload the 1200 bps network, particularly where multiple hops are required to reach the server. But perhaps you could limit it to the 9600 side of the network, which would be much better equipped to handle it. In any case, a central BBS is a great idea, with or without email capability.

    We have a statewide packet network here, and I fear utilization is so low that nobody knows when it's down. There is no BBS on it, so it's strictly keyboard to keyboard.
  6. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    The failure of the old packet networks was the lack of traffic control. When anyone could send a message to "All" the nets became bogged down in what we now call 'spam' messages such as Recipe Of The Day, Joke Of The Day, etc.

    Someone must be able to control who can access (i.e. ban abusing stations), delete junk messages, and give priority to important traffic.

    I enjoyed the live keyboard to keyboard contacts in early to mid packet life. But as more people came online, and spam filled the air, that became impossible.

    One other point: The other limiting factor that strangled packet was the lack of speed (bandwidth). With commons speeds of 300bps for HF and 1200bps for VHF, there is a very real limit to the number of users and amount of traffic that can be handled. The inability to overcome these very real physical limitations is what doomed packet. The way the telecom industry overcame this was wider signals (bandwidth). We as hams don't have that luxury at low frequencies (below SHF).
  7. KC4YLV

    KC4YLV Ham Member QRZ Page

    HSMM is a fine ad-hoc tech. I wouldn't try to deploy anything permanent with it.

    You can't simply change the ssid/negotiation and put a huge 2.4 ghz omni on top of a hospital and expect people to beam in with a little yagi from their house on wifi channel 1. Channel saturation is going to be ridiculous. THe only way these systems can scale is to get off the 2.4 ISM wifi band.

    As for packet, I've tried, i love it, nobody else is interested. I think it is pretty debatable that it's experiencing a resurgence overall. KPC-3's back on the shelf this season.

    There are tons of packet nodes here in Denver, nobody uses them for anything but a bit of traffic it seems.

    My thought is that you said you're doing it with a group of friends. If there is human interest, it will succeed. If there is not, it will fail.

    e: also speed limits are pertinent, as mentioned. 1200 bps is slow today, and it gets worse when the channel gets busy. AX25 congestion level is ridiculously low.
  8. KX4O

    KX4O Ham Member QRZ Page

    It seems like the folks are trying different things and bands to build out their network in our region. We would simply link to this mesh per their instructions. They will likely suggest our local mesh antenna serve local users in our area as well. We're kind of waiting to see how all this mesh tech works out given your and other's concerns over things like saturation.
    It may well be that the new commercial offerings are mostly meant for APRS applications so you may be right.
    On what bands may they be accessed?
    There's definitely measurable human interest in our area, but not quite enough to spend money on this just yet.
    Thanks to the availability of 9600 capable user gear, we will use 9600 as much as we can.
  9. KC4YLV

    KC4YLV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Careful with '9600 capable'. A lot of radios have tragically high error rates to the point that 9600bps retries will knock it down to 1200bps throughput in the end. is a great starter to get an idea for what's good and what's crap.

    Denver has a lot of 2 meter packet, all on 145.05. However we do have the W0TX gateway to Network 105 on 20 meters. I can't hear/work it, of course, but I see people digi-ing into and out of it all day :D
  10. KX4O

    KX4O Ham Member QRZ Page

    I sure wish that list had recent makes/models. Does anyone still do BER testing on rigs?

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