The Southern Alberta Repeater Association's focus is on linking amateur radio repeaters throughout Alberta. To this end, SARA maintains a network of UHF Hub repeaters, UHF link radios, and a few 2m drop repeaters. Most of the repeaters that you will be using are maintained by local clubs and individuals. By linking your local repeater onto the SARA backbone, you can extend the reach of your handheld or mobile VHF radio across the province, and beyond. Once your local repeater is linked to the SARA backbone, you have direct access to any of the other drop repeaters, as well as other linking systems in the province.
There aren't many rules to remember, but none-the-less they are still very important.
- Always give your full callsign before you send any tones. It is a transmission, therefore, illegal not to do so.
- Always listen after you bring up a drop repeater. There may be another station already on the system. If you are on the system, and hear a repeater link into your conversation, let them know who you are communicating with, and on which repeaters.
- Make sure you leave a good couple of seconds between transmissions. The system will turn around in about 20 milliseconds, however, other stations needing the system can't raise your attention if you are too quick with the trigger finger.
- There may be many stations wanting to use the system, so either keep your QSO short or ask on a regular basis if other stations need the system or want to join in.
- Always return the system to the state that you found it. Remember to start at the destination end and work back. Give your full callsign before you send any tones. It is your final transmission on that repeater frequency, therefore, illegal not to do so.
The system is open to all licensed amateur radio operators.
HOW TO ACCESS THE SARA SYSTEM
Each and every drop repeater has two DTMF codes; an on code and an off code. By entering the on code, you link the associated drop repeater to the SARA backbone. The off code will disconnect the associated drop repeater from the SARA backbone.
Lets say from Edmonton we want to call a station in Calgary.
Access the local drop repeater VE6NHB 145.410 (-600). Make sure no one is on the repeater. Then you must connect the repeater to the "party line" or the system. As mentioned before, most of the repeaters on the SARA system are normally left in the OFF position. To connect or bring VE6NHB on-line give the repeater call followed by your call sign and punch in the DTMF code 654*. "VE6NHB... VE6SRV" 654*. You should hear a voice reply alerting you to the fact the repeater is now enabled. If nothing is heard, try again. Not all DTMF pads on amateur radios are created equal.
Now listen to make sure no one else is on the system. Now we want to enable our destination repeater in Calgary. That repeater is VE6OIL. So following the same procedure that we used to bring VE6NHB on-line we now will turn on VE6OIL. Once again, first give the repeater call sign, then yours and the DTMF code 660*. "VE6OIL... VE6SRV" 660*. Again, you should hear a voice response. If not, try again. Most of the repeaters on the SARA system use voice responses, some however, use a CW response.
We are there. You have connected Edmonton to Calgary. It's that simple! Again, listen to make sure no one is using the VE6OIL repeater. If not simply call your station or give a general CQ. Follow normal operating procedure. Give your intended station's call followed by yours. "VE6XYZ...VE6SRV". Carry on your QSO, then reverse the procedure to take the repeaters off line, but this time we use the down codes. These codes are the second set of numbers in the directory listing. Let's go through the procedure.
Once you have finished using the destination repeater we ask you take the system down. This can be done by either station. Sometimes, it is safer if you are mobile to let the station on base or portable take the system down. First, give the call of the destination repeater, then your call and ( still using Calgery as our example) the DTMF code 661*. "VE6OIL...VE6SRV" 661*. The voice or CW identifier will tell you the repeater is off-line.
Once you have heard the destination repeater go off line then repeat the procedure for the local repeater. Again, give the repeater call sign followed by yours and (still using VE6NHB as our example) the DTMF code 655*. "VE6NHB...VE6SRV" 655*. You will hear the repeater go off line.
IRLP (The Internet Radio Linking Project)
IRLP allows users to link repeaters via a internet connection. There are two connection modes for an IRLP connection: Direct one-to-one, and one-to-many via a Reflector.
SARA has an IRLP node connected to the UHF backbone.
- To connect to a node, first connect your local repeater to the SARA UHF trunk.
- To directly connect to a node on the IRLP node list, use the 4 digit node code (example VE6LAW 1440 on).
- To disconnect from a node use digits 73 ( universal off ) .
Because some reflectors, are very busy SARA RESTRICTS ACCESS TO REFLECTORS. The reason is due to the half duplex structure of IRLP. If the connection to the reflector is constantly transmitting. The IRLP node cannot be shut off. Only during a break in the conversations can the connection be disconnected. This could tie up the SARA network for hours.
MAKING A DIRECT IRLP CONNECTION
- Identify with your callsign and the fact that you are controlling, and then enter the ON code for the node you wish to link with. The system should come up with a carrier as it waits for the connection to be established. You may hear a few seconds of dead air, so don't be concerned. When the connection is confirmed, the voice ID of the destination node will be transmitted back to you. As well, the other node will hear your nodes voice ID on their repeater. After hearing the confirming voice ID, wait at least 15 seconds before transmitting to make sure that you don't interfere with an ongoing conversation.
- Due to the audio delays inherent in a linked system, as well as those added by the Internet connection, it's important that you adhere to the following practice. Wait for a couple of seconds after pressing the PTT button before you begin to speak. This allows time for all of the links to get established and ensures that your first few words won't be cut off.
- Some nodes are configured so that you cannot connect with them if their repeater is in use. In this case, you will hear the message, "The node you are calling is being used locally". If you hear this message, wait 5 or 10 minutes and then try again.
- You may also be informed that the other node is currently linked either to another node or to a reflector. If they're linked to another node, you will have to try again later. If they're linked to a reflector, you can link to the same reflector and call them there.
- Should you stay connected to a node and there is no activity for 4 minutes, the connection may time out and automatically disconnect. This is dependent on the other node's time out value.
- When dropping the link, announce your call and your intent, and then enter the OFF code. You should hear a confirming voice ID that the link has been dropped. If not heard, try entering the OFF code again.