Yet another “toy” to add to the ham shack? Oh great, just what the XYL wanted!
A few weeks ago I was reading about this new thing called Hamshack Hotline, from what I can remember I think it was from someone’s QRZ profile. After looking into it more, I thought it might be fun, but was it for me? I mean I already have a crap ton of stuff on my desk as it is. Well the topic kept popping up on YouTube and the discord communities I frequent, and figured why not give it a try!
So what is Hamshack hotline(HH)? Well it’s a private telephone network for Hams by Ham Radio Operators and is a Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) phone system kinda like what’s used in corporate companies, where you have a central pbx/sip server that would add an extension for a phone that you’d be able to use.
Some of you may say HH isn’t real radio! Of course it isn’t! The goal of the HH is not to replace the traffic that is carried over RF, but to be a companion to what you have in the shack… the same could be said for echolink or other internet based shack aid.
Getting on the network is cheap, unless you want to buy new old stock phones… hey kinda like ham radio right?
Getting a phone is as easy as pointing your browser to eBay and searching for a used compatible model that the hamshackhotline.com wiki says will work. Or if you want a brand new phone, Amazon has some models still in stock. A lot of offices are going to remote workers and have shut down the office and are considering these phone’s as junk… also known as eWaste! Luckily these phones can skip the landfill and be used for our purpose. If you do choose to buy used, one thing you do need to look out for is if the phone is locked to a previous network and is able to do a factory reset. Almost all of the listings on eBay don’t tell you if the phone is unlocked and you’ll have to contact the seller to find out. The seller may not know what you are talking about. If the seller doesn’t know, ask if they can get into the web ui admin and click advanced without a password. A factory reset of the phone can be done by yourself as long as you can login to the web ui. If they aren’t able to do this, it’s a locked phone and you have to hack the phone which is more work than it’s worth, so avoid them. As a protection if the buyer sells you a phone that is locked, you have communications from the seller to contest the fact and passably get a refund.
Some used and new phones don’t come with AC power cable and will need to be purchased separately, this is because a lot of these phones are used in an office setting that have POE (Power over ethernet) and will need a 5v 3 amp power brick. I chose the POE option over the power brick, yes, it is more expensive if you don’t already have the equipment to run POE. but as I already have a ton of cords under my desk and adding another? Well Yeah! You don’t want to see the bird’s nest! Cable management is my kryptonite.
So phones? You can get the basic, of basics like the Cisco SPA-941 or SPA-942 that can be had for as low as $25 including shipping. At the time of this writing I found a seller offering 2 for $30. You can also use an analog POTS phone using the Cisco WIP-310, it might be cool to use a rotary phone on the network!
For myself I wanted something a little nicer and chose the Cisco SPA-525G2 which has a 3.2-inch color screen, wifi, bluetooth, mp3 player, newsreader, and is able to handle upto 5 lines. It was a little more than $60, but well worth the upgrade.
Getting on the HH network is also easy. From the HH site, click on the HHOPS helpdesk link, you’ll need to open a new ticket and create a new account. Once done you’ll need to request a number and provide some info about your phone such as model, mac address, your name, call sign, and a picture of the label on the back of the phone. It may take 24-48 hours for the HH team to send you the instructions via email on how to provision your model of phone and will provide you with your extension number (Mine is 6200000901, call me and leave a voicemail). They may also need some extra info such as a copy of your license. As a note, you wont get on the network right away and will have to wait until the HH server updates, for the US it’s 3:30am EST. IMO this is smart of them. This limits the chances of some bad actor wanting to use the network just to cause problems.
So what can you do with HH? Good question, besides talking to your buddies you can jump on bridges which are kinda like talkgroups for DMR or Fusion but without PTT. Another cool feature is that you can configure your phone to let you know if people are in the room by showing a different line color. The network also has RF links to repeaters and or Allstar nodes such as the K8JTK Link which links together AllStar, EchoLink, DMR, DSTAR, M17, NXDN, P25, and Fusion. To use it you would hit *99 to key the mic and # to unkey. Other fun stuff is listening to the Old time radio service or getting your conspiracy theory on by listening to Paranormal Radio which has archives of Art bell shows and Ground Zero! What else? Well it might be good for clubs, ares, races, skywarn, and EOC stuff, who knows the possibilities are wide open. Fax is also capable… for those who need that type of thing.
Anyway, have a look at the site, try it for yourself and have some fun.