IRLP Operating Guidelines

As with any new technology, it does take some time to adopt to operating procedures that differ from conventional FM repeater use. This webpage can serve as a guideline for those wishing to use their local IRLP enabled repeater node.

COMMON MODES

There are two connection modes for an IRLP connection. Direct one-to-one or, one-to-many via a Reflector.

Direct connect is just like it sounds where repeater (node) "A" connects direct with node "B". With this type of link the two nodes are interconnected and no other IRLP connections are possible. While repeaters "A" and "B" are connected, anyone attempting to connect with either node will be told by a recording that - "The node you are calling is currently connected to callsign" however all local traffic on each repeater will be heard on the other repeater as well.

A reflector is a Linux computer that is not connected to any radio but rather sits on lots of internet bandwidth capable of allowing many repeaters to be inter-connected together by streaming the received audio back to all other connected stations. At any given time there can be 10 to 20 nodes/repeaters around the world interconnected via a Reflector. You can always check which stations are connected to the reflector by visiting http://status.irlp.net and looking for nodes connected to individual nodes or reflectors.

REFLECTOR USE

With reflector use the first thing to remember is to leave a gap between transmissions. Having said that this is a good time to list the three main rules when connected to a reflector:

Pause

Pause

Pause

Due to the slight increase in processing delays in the links between the computer and IRLP link radio, a slight change in our normal operating procedures is required with IRLP.

By leaving a pause between transmissions it .....

allows users on other nodes a chance to check in.

allows other nodes time to send touch-tone commands to drop their node.

The most important guideline to remember is leaving a pause after pressing the PTT button as well as between transmissions.

Avoid local traffic while connected to the reflector.
By its nature, the reflector has a large footprint and a wide audience, therefore if local users would like to have a discussion, they should disconnect from the reflector.Along the same line, if two distant stations become engaged in an extended dialog involving only themselves, then I would recommend they both move off the reflector and make a direct node to node connection, freeing up the reflector for others. If more than two nodes are involved, then moving to one of the lesser used reflectors might be an alternative, especially if one of the stations can check the web site for an available reflector. Moving to one of the available sub-channels is an option, as well.

Calling CQ DX :-)
It IS acceptable to call CQ, in fact, if you really want to make a contact, it is preferable to say "This is VE1KS calling CQ, is anyone available for a contact?" as opposed to "VE1KS Listening" ...silence for 2 minutes, followed by a disconnect. However 3 x 3 x 47 CQs are unnecessary and should be left for CW/SSB frequencies where tuning around is the observed practice. Odds are we heard it the first time.

In general, long winded, channel consuming conversations should be avoided. Remember there are usually a dozen or two connected systems, with perhaps hundreds of users that might like a chance to use the system.

A few other Reflector operational guidelines:

Listen first. When connecting to the main channel on a Reflector, odds are that you are dropping into an existing conversation. Wait for at least 15 seconds to make sure you are not interrupting an existing QSO before calling.

Pause between transmissions. Many nodes are connected using simplex links, therefore the only time it is possible for them to disconnect is between transmissions. Be sure to pause AT LEAST 5 seconds between transmissions.

Key your transmitter and wait before speaking. There are propagation delays across the Internet, as well as other radio generated delays before the audio path is cut through. If you speak immediately upon PTT, the beginning of your transmission will not be heard.

MAKING A DIRECT CONNECTION

First of all listen on your local machine for at least 15 -30 seconds before transmitting and then ask if the repeater is currently in use. Assuming all is clear, identify your self and give the node name or number you wish to call . Example: "VE1KS for the Sydney node" - - then enter the ON code for the node and release your PTT. Your local repeater should come up with a carrier as it waits for the connection to be authenticated. This can take 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 as your nodes voice ID to the other repeater.

NOTE: If your node is already connected to another node or reflector, a greeting will play saying; - "your node is currently connected to...ID of the connection") In this case confirm if anyone desires the connection to remain up before dropping by using the OFF code..

Once connected and after hearing the confirming voice ID, wait at least 10 seconds before transmitting as.......

The repeater may be in use, and your entry may have occurred between transmissions.

The voice ID of your node is longer than the voice ID of their node, and the connection is not made until the ID is fully played.

Press and hold the microphone PTT for a second and then announce your presence and your intention such as you are calling someone specifically or just looking for a QSO with another ham in that city.

If no response is heard, announce your call and your intent to drop the link and then touch- tone in the OFF code. It's not a good idea to transmit touch-tone commands without first giving your call-sign. Not only is this courteous it is a regulatory issue in some countries who may be connected to the reflector.

Some nodes are configured so you cannot connect to them if that repeater is active. In this case you will receive the message "The node you are calling is being used locally" If you receive this message wait 5 or 10 minutes and then try again.

If you stay connected to a node and there is no activity on your repeater for 3 minutes, the connection will time out and automatically disconnect with a voice ID disconnect message on both nodes. Remember to rotate the conversation to avoid this.

WHAT ARE THE NODE CODES?

This is a very common question to which there is no single answer. Some node operators choose to add a prefix to their node. Also some nodes require membership so the easiest way to get current codes is to contact the node operator or custodian.

CONNECTING TO THE REFLECTOR

As above, listen to your local machine for local use and then announce your intention for the Reflector before keying the ON command. When you hear the confirmation ID always WAIT at least 15 seconds before transmitting as you are most likely now connected with many repeaters and a QSO could be in progress. If after 15 seconds you hear nothing, identify yourself and indicate you are listening to the Reflector from "City and, Prov./State, Country". With the world wide IRLP activity your local repeater now has world wide coverage thus the suggestion to better detail your QTH.

Don't be in a hurry to hear someone come back to you. You may have to do a bid of pleading from time-to-time to un-lodge someone from whatever they are currently involved with.

By default, connections to the reflectors now time out with no activity however many node owners set this period for a long period so it is not unusual for repeaters with minimal traffic to stay connected to the Reflector for extended periods of time. When or if the node times out from a Reflector connection a standard time-out greeting will precede the timeout saying, "Activity time out ... Reflector xxxx, link off"

If you are new to IRLP you should always consult with your local node sponsor to confirm the local guidelines on reflector connections in your area.

If you hear or wish to engage in a prolonged rag-chew on your local repeater (long discussion of a local nature) out of courtesy to other node listeners drop the reflector.

ERROR MESSAGES

From time-to-time you may receive error messages when attempting to connect with a node or reflector. The most common ones are:

"The node you are calling is not responding, please try again later"
This is caused by a loss of internet connectivity to one end of the call attempt.

"BEEP Error- The call attempt has timed out, the connection has been lost"
This error occurs when a node is OFF-LINE. Some nodes such as in the UK use dial-up connections and then, only for short periods. Also there may be temporary net or node problems.

"The Connection Has Been Lost"
If the internet connection drops, this error message will be heard. I found this out when I accidentally kicked out my network cable while working around the node computer.

DO'S and DON'TS

In summary then a few do's and don'ts

DO pause between transmissions to let other in or others to enter DTMF command.

DO identify before sending DTMF command tones.

DO hold your microphone PTT for about 1 second before talking to allow all systems time to rise.

DO NOT rag-chew on your local repeater while connected to the reflector.

DO pause for 10 seconds or when entering the reflector before talking.

DO NOT start or plan a Net without pre-authorization from the reflector owner or local node custodian.

OTHER TIPS

Do you have any suggestions on improving this help page? If so please contact Rob Ewert VE1KS ve1ks@rac.ca