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Thread: HAM Switchboard?

  1. #1

    Default HAM Switchboard?

    Is there a product or technique for operating a "HAM switchboard"?

    The idea is that operators would call into a single frequency (or something like the DARN network), then the control station which was receiving those calls could shift the calling station's conversation to a different frequency/network, keeping the original frequency/network open for other traffic.

    Like a telephone switchboard does, but for HAM ... operator calls into Net Control with a resource request, and Net Control routes the call to the Resource Control station, so the Request doesn't tie up Net Control's availability.

    I suppose the Net Control operator could reply to the incoming station with instructions to shift to the different frequency, but I would like to learn if it is possible to do it from the receiving Net Control station, without forcing the incoming station to change.

    My concern is that sometimes a station may be able to reach a repeater, or some simplex frequencies, but they may be out of reach of the target station, if they have to change frequencies.

    I'd like to use the tool/concept to route traffic to the appropriate command stations, when there are a lot of transmitting stations with different kinds of traffic.

    TIA 73

  2. #2
    Super Moderator 5B4AJB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KM6WKA View Post
    Is there a product or technique for operating a "HAM switchboard"?

    The idea is that operators would call into a single frequency (or something like the DARN network), then the control station which was receiving those calls could shift the calling station's conversation to a different frequency/network, keeping the original frequency/network open for other traffic.

    Like a telephone switchboard does, but for HAM ... operator calls into Net Control with a resource request, and Net Control routes the call to the Resource Control station, so the Request doesn't tie up Net Control's availability.
    You mean like packet radio?

  3. #3

    Default Can you be more specific, please?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5B4AJB View Post
    You mean like packet radio?
    How do you mean, please?

    Are you referring to X.25, and how can that be used in the way I'm asking about, in a manner like a standard telephone switchboard, please?

    In my scenario, I'm thinking that all operators are using standard gear ... mobile, HT or base radio units, typically connecting to a standard repeater or linked repeater network.

    How does packet radio fit into that, in order to re-direct traffic to a different repeater system or some simplex route that is transparent to the incoming traffic operator?

    Apologizing for my ignorance, I'm looking for specific equipment or techniques that can do that, just like a telephone switchboard does.

    I appreciate your interest and input and an expansion on your comment's specifics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KM6WKA View Post
    Is there a product or technique for operating a "HAM switchboard"?

    The idea is that operators would call into a single frequency (or something like the DARN network), then the control station which was receiving those calls could shift the calling station's conversation to a different frequency/network, keeping the original frequency/network open for other traffic.

    Like a telephone switchboard does, but for HAM ... operator calls into Net Control with a resource request, and Net Control routes the call to the Resource Control station, so the Request doesn't tie up Net Control's availability.

    I suppose the Net Control operator could reply to the incoming station with instructions to shift to the different frequency, but I would like to learn if it is possible to do it from the receiving Net Control station, without forcing the incoming station to change.

    My concern is that sometimes a station may be able to reach a repeater, or some simplex frequencies, but they may be out of reach of the target station, if they have to change frequencies.

    I'd like to use the tool/concept to route traffic to the appropriate command stations, when there are a lot of transmitting stations with different kinds of traffic.

    TIA 73
    On the surface I want to say no, not in daily operations AFAIK. I do remember a regional emergency band plan that has all the actors pre staged on "their" frequencies, but there was no "Central Scrutinizer" directing traffic to other frequencies. What made you think of this?

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    Super Moderator 5B4AJB's Avatar
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    Looking further into your question, I think you need some sort of commercial - type equipment. You could do it if every station had a packet transceiver and CAT capable radios.

    Maybe a simpler approach would be a better idea, like CTCSS on a single frequency...

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by WZ7U View Post
    On the surface I want to say no, not in daily operations AFAIK. I do remember a regional emergency band plan that has all the actors pre staged on "their" frequencies, but there was no "Central Scrutinizer" directing traffic to other frequencies. What made you think of this?
    I'm thinking a multiple nets scenario is probably the current solution, however I'm also thinking it's difficult to implement, in action. (Thanks for the FZ reference! )

    I'm a member of ARES Los Angeles, and our primarily mission is to support hospital communications during various crises.

    Last week, here in Los Angeles, we held a large drill with over 30 hospitals participating. The hospitals held their own drills, and used the ReddiNet system, which they normally do, although many of them lost access to it during the drill, for one reason or another.

    We deployed HAM HT and mobile operators to each of the hospitals for reporting capacity updates (HSA Polls), patient updates (MCI Polls) and to relay other emergency traffic ... simulating the not-uncommon scenario where hospitals lose their phone/fax/comms systems during a big event (wildfire, earthquake, etc.) The scenario for this drill was flooding.

    With all of that traffic, the single Net Control for the drill was totally swamped, and became ineffective for our mission. During our "hot wash", after the drill concluded, the idea was presented to split Net Controls up, as you described, with separate nets for each one.

    I'm a programmer, building a system for digitally logging and routing HAM comms traffic, so I started thinking of how we could make it transparent to the lonely operators deployed to the various hospitals to simply send their traffic without needing to keep a band plan handy, and without them needing to switch around between the nets, themselves, as many of our operators are enthusiastic-yet-relatively unskilled in this regard.

    If there is already a system for some kind of HAM routing hub, I figured that would be a great place to start, for us, hence, my query.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5B4AJB View Post
    Looking further into your question, I think you need some sort of commercial - type equipment. You could do it if every station had a packet transceiver and CAT capable radios.

    Maybe a simpler approach would be a better idea, like CTCSS on a single frequency...
    Very interesting! Thank you, for this.

    In our case, we are using single operators to relay multiple types of traffic, as opposed to being dedicated to a single agency, and we want to route their traffic according to its content.

    For example, as a concept ... one operator using only one HT needs to send traffic to one net for patient counts and transport management, one net for resource requests and logistics, and still another net for emergency event traffic ... so, three agencies from one HT, ideally without that remote operator needing to manually switch frequencies.

    These are volunteer community operators, not commercial operators, and they will bring whatever HAM gear they have to their staging areas, in an event.

    See my reply, above, for more details about how we actually operate. Thanks, again!

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by WZ7U View Post
    On the surface I want to say no, not in daily operations AFAIK. I do remember a regional emergency band plan that has all the actors pre staged on "their" frequencies, but there was no "Central Scrutinizer" directing traffic to other frequencies. What made you think of this?
    During a recent drill we had 39 hospital-based operators calling into a single Net Control, each with a handful of report types and other traffic, and it quickly became unmanageable. I was hoping to spare our volunteer operators the hassle of switching bands for different report/traffic types, as it's chaotic enough for them, as it is.

    I suppose I'm asking about a "radio router" that can maintain the originating band and switch it to use a secondary band, from a single source ... one Net Control station receives all traffic, and switches them to the appropriate band, as needed ... instead of the operator switching the bands.

    I do see that the original band would NOT be freed up, however, so it's looking like the operators are going to need some band-switching training, and we'll need a "regional emergency band plan", such as you describe, in order to take the pressure off a single station. We will, of course, need to add Net Controls to each of the alternate bands, as well.

    <sigh> It's never simple. Thank you both for your responses.

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    Yup, that's how you forge great net controls. But it does sound like your system needs a little fine tuning perhaps.

    A couple solar cycles back, I had the privilege of getting to know the fellas who put together a comm system in conjunction with the regional hospital here. Not sure how its gone since then, but I did find one reference to them. Maybe you could compare notes? Sorry, but that's the only experience I've had with a hospital based ham system.

    http://www.arrl.org/Groups/view/hosp...eur-radio-team

    These I found as well but they look like dead ends to me.
    https://heartpdx.blogspot.com/
    https://www.qsl.net/k7esm/

    HEART.PNG

    You could try and email the only guy I remember from the group. No guarantees he's still is affiliated but it's worth a try. Look up w7enk on the zed.

    Best wishes for your endeavor. 73, Eric wz7u (ex kk7ue)

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by KM6WKA View Post
    During a recent drill we had 39 hospital-based operators calling into a single Net Control, each with a handful of report types and other traffic, and it quickly became unmanageable. I was hoping to spare our volunteer operators the hassle of switching bands for different report/traffic types, as it's chaotic enough for them, as it is.

    I suppose I'm asking about a "radio router" that can maintain the originating band and switch it to use a secondary band, from a single source ... one Net Control station receives all traffic, and switches them to the appropriate band, as needed ... instead of the operator switching the bands.

    I do see that the original band would NOT be freed up, however, so it's looking like the operators are going to need some band-switching training, and we'll need a "regional emergency band plan", such as you describe, in order to take the pressure off a single station. We will, of course, need to add Net Controls to each of the alternate bands, as well.

    <sigh> It's never simple. Thank you both for your responses.
    The simplest way to accomplish what you are envisioning is to have a multi-repeater/frequency communications plan in place before the drill ever commences.

    Down south of you in San Diego County, the ARES group participates in state-mandated twice yearly hospital drills. It got to the point where we were passing so much voice traffic, we had to expand our comm plan. Last May we had something like 13 different analog repeater frequencies and one DMR talk group available to us. We had them designated as Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Primary was where Net Control was located, but was also monitoring the two secondary repeaters and a couple of the tertiary repeaters (five frequencies total.) The NC operator doled out the use of the secondary and tertiary repeaters for the passing of lengthy traffic as needed.

    The ARES leadership contacted the owners of each repeater prior to the drill to arrange to use the repeaters. Not one of them turned us down. The system worked fairly well, although the NC operator found it a bit difficult to monitor five frequencies at once. There was a second operator that stepped up without being asked and helped handle some of the traffic. For our November drill we actually assigned a second. backup NCO and it worked a bit better.

    You really need to put your best voice operator in the position of net control. Our NCO has extensive military and law enforcement radio experience.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by K6CPO View Post
    The simplest way to accomplish what you are envisioning is to have a multi-repeater/frequency communications plan in place before the drill ever commences.

    Down south of you in San Diego County, the ARES group participates in state-mandated twice yearly hospital drills. It got to the point where we were passing so much voice traffic, we had to expand our comm plan. Last May we had something like 13 different analog repeater frequencies and one DMR talk group available to us. We had them designated as Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Primary was where Net Control was located, but was also monitoring the two secondary repeaters and a couple of the tertiary repeaters (five frequencies total.) The NC operator doled out the use of the secondary and tertiary repeaters for the passing of lengthy traffic as needed.

    The ARES leadership contacted the owners of each repeater prior to the drill to arrange to use the repeaters. Not one of them turned us down. The system worked fairly well, although the NC operator found it a bit difficult to monitor five frequencies at once. There was a second operator that stepped up without being asked and helped handle some of the traffic. For our November drill we actually assigned a second. backup NCO and it worked a bit better.

    You really need to put your best voice operator in the position of net control. Our NCO has extensive military and law enforcement radio experience.

    I wonder if you've gotten any use of it because of the covid19 pandemic?
    I imagine phone networks were a bit overwhelmed!
    more along the lines of disaster scenarios( earthquake, tornado, etc.)

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by gnuuser View Post
    I wonder if you've gotten any use of it because of the covid19 pandemic?
    I imagine phone networks were a bit overwhelmed!
    more along the lines of disaster scenarios( earthquake, tornado, etc.)
    None at all... San Diego ARES is sitting at "Yellow" alert status, but so far all we've done is hold periodic meetings via Zoom. We've had no call for our services.

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