GB3OA update – February 2023

Just to keep everyone up to date on the latest status on the upgrade to the GB3OA repeater.

The new repeater hardware has arrived (Yeasu DR-2XE) and has been set up on the bench. It has a pair of dummy loads on the TX & RX sockets and in addition is now connected to an HRI-200 for WiresX operation. In terms of the native hardware, other than our usual concerns over having a remote Windows PC (we just know at some point that’s going to be a problem despite all the protection and options for remote access / restart), at the moment everything seems to be running just fine, but the intention is to try and iron out any gremlins before it goes to the repeater site. Please note that while you may ‘see’ GB3OA as available on WiresX (since strictly speaking it is), it is not physically on air. The old hardware is still operational on site. There is no current forecast as to when the hardware swap will take place.

The WiresX room associated with the repeater is SW-Lancs and it is anticipated that the repeater will be connected to this room as its default. If a user wishes to disconnect from the default room and connect up elsewhere, that’s fine. The only thing we’d request is that once you’re finished, please disconnect. The repeater will take care of automatically re-joining the SW-Lancs room. Please note that while the repeater supports both FM and C4FM, only C4FM can be used for WiresX for linking.

And now to the subject of cross-modes and bridging. While it’s already been mentioned, it is still worthwhile repeating that the WiresX system and all the other available C4FM linking systems for example FCS and YSF reflectors are totally separate from WiresX. You cannot assume that if there’s a WiresX room and a YSF reflector with the same name that they will be connected to each other. We’ve already set up a YSF reflector also called SW-Lancs. The intention was, and still maybe is to bridge between the two systems. This will allow a broader spectrum of users (essentially using hotspots) to connect remotely. We’ve been experimenting in achieving this bridge using a pair of hotspots. While it does actually appear to work, (it’s essentially an RF bridge), we’re not really satisfied with it, both the quality and reliability of the connection needs improvement. As it stands, it’s quite possible when the new hardware is deployed it will be without this bridge. If that is the case, it’s likely the SW-Lancs YSF reflector will be withdrawn to avoid confusion. If anyone has any suggestions as to how the bridging could be done better, feel free to contact us!

Keep an eye open here for more updates in due course.

The GB3OA team.

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GB3OA Repeater – a roadmap

A short update on some of the ideas the team are playing around with at the moment. This doesn’t necessarily constitute a commitment, rather a statement of intent, a roadmap if you like. The following steps represent the logical order we plan to progress, that said, it’s quite possible some of the later phases may take place sooner. Our ultimate aim is to have an analog / C4FM based repeater with its own Wires-X room that’s also capable of being accessed (over the internet) via other modes. In other words, the only RF input GB3OA will support directly will either be analogue or C4FM. To access the GB3OA Wires-X room, for example via DMR, other linking / cross modes will be needed. Please note, the team here at GB3OA are still learning about Fusion and all the various linking methods. What you’ll read below represents our current understanding, some of this may well be wrong, if you believe it is, please tell us! Consider this a learning journey, and after all, wasn’t that one of the prime motivations in the amateur radio license? Self learning and education?

Phase 1 – Replace the repeater hardware

As most are aware, the repeater hardware is now very old, yet thankfully it’s still working fine, it demonstrates just how well made some of the old PMR kit was. But we need to plan for its eventual replacement. Our current system is very bespoke so what we’ve been looking at is what can we obtain ‘off the shelf’ that only needs the minimum amount of configuring and or programming. Many options have been considered, but the current favourite is the Yaesu DR-2XE. If configured correctly this will allow for dual mode operation, so, if you only have analogue gear, fine, use that. If you’re equipped with C4FM capability, you can use its digital side. The repeater will switch automatically between the modes depending on what it’s receiving.

Phase 2 – Wires-X linking

What the above lacks is any form of communication outside of the RF coverage area of the repeater. Fusion affords opportunities for linking through its proprietary system Wires-X. To be able to take advantage of this, we’d also need a Yaesu HRI-200 and an internet connection at the repeater site. We already have internet available on site and we’ve already purchased the HRI-200, so it would seem silly not to take advantage of this capability. What this will give is the opportunity for C4FM users outside of the RF coverage area to connect to the Wires-X GB3OA room and chat to anyone who’s within the RF coverage area of the repeater and anyone else who is also connected to the Wires-X room. Our intention is to arrange for Wires-X to default to the GB3OA room, but if required you can disconnect it and re-connect up somewhere else. After a period of inactivity, the connection would default back to the GB3OA room. This limits the digital access, both locally via RF to C4FM and via the Internet remotely to Yaesu Wires-X only.

Phase 3 – YSF reflector

It’s more than likely, anyone who has been dabbling in the dark arts of digital amateur radio has at some point come across the pi-star (mmdvm) hotspot in one form or another. They really are astonishing little devices and if you haven’t already read about them, we suggest you do so. A good start is on the pi-star site here. Essentially what a hotspot does is give anyone who is not within RF range of a node or repeater the option to use something like a hand held and connect up (using the hotspot) to a myriad of rooms, reflectors and users anywhere in the world. All you need is your radio, the hotspot and an internet connection. These sorts of setup are ideal for those living in places where they’re not allowed to erect aerials. You can still communicate worldwide with the just a hotspot and a handheld. One of the modes that’s supported is C4FM. So if you have a C4FM handheld and a hotspot, you can connect to any Wires-X room, right? Wrong! This is where there is so much confusion. What you will see is that there are many different types of (C4FM) reflector that you can connect to but you need to be aware these are entirely separate to the Wires-X network. Yaesu are very protective of their Wires-X protocol, in other words, a hotspot will never be allowed to connect directly to a Wires-X room. So, in true amateur radio spirit, equivalent (open source) protocols were developed that have similar functionality to Wires-X. Hotspots are allowed to connect with these reflectors. It’s not within the scope of this update to explain all the different types of reflector out there that support C4FM, but for now, we think we’ve found the easiest one to set up, and that’s a YSF reflector. In fact we’ve already done it. It’s GB-SW-Lancs (#01704). It lives on an internet cloud based server. Anyone who has a hotspot can now connect up to the reflector and chat freely. Ideally it’s for those in and around the local south west Lancashire or north Merseyside area (roughly speaking the target coverage area of GB3OA), but we really don’t mind if you’re from further afield! The snag? Like the Wires-X room, this YSF Reflector is isolated. If you have a C4FM capability, and are within the coverage area of GB3OA, you will be able to access GB3OA and its associated Wires-X room using your radio, but not the YSF reflector. For that you’ll need to use your hotspot. So, how to we connect these two things together?

Phase 4 – Bridging

We’re now delving into areas that the team are still collectively getting their heads around. What we need is a way of ‘bridging’ our Wires-X room and YSF reflector together so that everyone will be able to hear and communicate with anyone regardless of how they’re connected (Wires-X or YSF reflector). At the simplest level, we believe this could be achieved by using a duplex hotspot (configured to connect to the YSF reflector), located at the repeater with it’s TX/RX set to the ‘reverse repeat’ frequencies of the repeater. In other words, the bridging is achieved with an RF link. We’re still researching what other methods may be available, ideally a multi-protocol bridge working on a cloud based server would be nice, but so far, we’ve not found anything (yet) that provides that. Given the closed Wires-X protocol, we doubt we will either although there are articles suggesting something can be achieved by a tortuous route of cross connecting with other modes and reflectors. The quest continues! If you have any suggestions please let us know.

Phase 5 – Other modes

As previously stated, the current intention is to allow only RF access via analogue FM or C4FM. But what if you have a DMR or D-Star radio? We’re not precious about how you access the system. At the moment, the whole multi-protocol bridge picture seems to be developing at quite a pace. We will certainly be looking into this, but in the meantime, If you have a hotspot, you can configure it as as DMR to YSF gateway. If you do this, and select the DMR TG to be TG01704 you should emerge into the YSF reflector room while using your DMR radio. Quite neat.


As you’ve probably gathered, all of this is very much a work in progress. We’ll try and keep you updated on any progress. In the meantime, you’re probably likely to see both the YSF reflector and the GB3OA Wires-X room running (although not yet bridged), but please be aware that the Wires-X room will only by running into a radio on a dummy load at the repeater keeper’s QTH for now. The big job of course is to purchase the new repeater hardware and get that installed! Once that’s done, the ultimate goal is to have and RF system that handles analogue and C4FM with remote access to all other modes via some form of cross mode linking.

The GB3OA team.

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A long overdue update

For those that have been following these pages, you’ve almost certainly noticed that it’s not been updated for quite some time now. We apologise for that since quite a lot has changed. Our good friend G4TUP became SK back in July 2019, David was largely responsible for keeping the web site up to date and since then everything has been rather low key due to COVID and other priorities.

For this update we’ll concentrate on what’s changed, a future missive will address what ideas we’re having for the future.

As far as the (RF) hardware, location, aerial etc, nothing has changed, coverage should be much the same as it has ever been. We do need to start looking towards hardware replacement since the gear was already old when we installed it back in 2006. At least it shows equipment was made to last all those years ago!

What we’ve lost is IRLP & Echolink internet linking. There are numerous reasons for this but let’s not dig too deep into that story just now. While it’s entirely plausible we could resurrect it, since IRLP & Echolink came onto the scene, other digital modes are also now available and our collective view was that we maybe should look towards those modes. More of that in a future post.

We’ve also lost ‘The Stream”. There was a monthly outlay required for this, and looking at the level of utilisation, it soon became clear it was not adding anything of any value.

Many of the existing pages of the website that are no longer relevant have moved under a heading titled ‘Outdated’. The old pages simply reside there to provide a little nostalgia. The remaining pages that are still on the menu have been tweaked to ensure they’re now up to date with the latest situation.

If you’re looking at the entry for GB3OA you’ll see the repeater is now licensed for all digital modes, this was as a result of the latest NOV renewal. At the time we were not sure what digital modes we’d need, so we applied for them all. What you need to know is that while the repeater is licensed for them, there is no hardware at the moment to support them. We shall send a update to the ukrepeater site shortly stating the same. What (digital) modes we chose to support (if any) is still being discussed. You’d be surprised at just how many people still like the idea and simplicity of a local coverage, analogue only repeater.

We now have a small group of individuals who act as a ‘core’ when we’re making decisions on what plans we have for the repeater. This group was formed prior to COVID, and sadly has not been able to meet up since, although we’re looking to get the ball rolling on that score before too long.

In the meantime, feel free to continue to use GB3OA. To be honest, it’s used so little that if the hardware were to fail tomorrow we’d be hard pressed to justify replacing it.

Mark G4EID / KM8H and the GB3OA team.

A long overdue update Read More »