EchoLink® software allows licensed Amateur Radio stations to communicate with one another over the Internet, using streaming-audio technology.  The program allows worldwide connections to be made between stations, or from computer to station, greatly enhancing Amateur Radio's communications capabilities.  There are more than 200,000 validated users worldwide — in 151 of the world's 193 nations — with about 6,000 online at any given time.

At it’s most basic of uses EchoLink is a computer-based Amateur Radio system distributed free of charge that allows radio amateurs to communicate with other amateur radio operators using Voice over IP (VoIP) technology on the Internet for at least part of the path between them. It was designed by Jonathan Taylor, a radio amateur with call sign K1RFD.

The system allows reliable worldwide connections to be made between radio amateurs, greatly enhancing Amateur Radio's communications capabilities. In essence it is the same as other VoIP applications (such as Skype), but with the unique addition of the ability to link to an amateur radio station's transceiver. Thus any low-power handheld amateur radio transceiver which can contact a local EchoLink node (a node is an active EchoLink station with a transceiver attached) can then use the Internet connection of that station to send its transmission via VoIP to any other active EchoLink node, worldwide. No special hardware or software is required to relay a transmission via an EchoLInk node.


Before using the system, it is necessary for a new user's callsign to be validated. The EchoLink system requires that each new user provide positive proof of license and identity before his or her callsign is added to the list of validated users. For Canada that means you must submit a clear and high resolution scanned copy of your Amateur Radio Operator Certificate, Certificate of Proficiency, or Amateur Radio Club Call Sign Registration, all of these are the official documents generated by Industry Canada and you should have your copy hanging above your station.

The registration is done at the Echolink dot org website and it may take a few days, but it is no cost to you, and it ensures that this system is used only by licensed amateur radio operators.



Once you’re registered with the Echolink system you’ll receive an email with your confirmation information.

The easiest way to start using Echolink is to install the software on your PC, your tablet, or your smartphone.

The various software packages are written to run on 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows.

Open source software packages that are largely compatible with EchoLink are available for Macintosh (EchoMac and EchoHam) and Linux (echoLinux or SvxLink/Qtel).

Another edition of the software runs on Apple mobile devices (iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad), and is available from the Apple App Store.

An Android version is available on Google Play and several other Android app repositories.

If you install it on your PC you’ll need a headset with a microphone so you can hear and speak into the Echolink software.

When you install it on a tablet or smart phone one of the benefits is that the device is that they almost always have a built in speaker and microphone.

The next  step after installation will be to provide your login information so the software or app can log into the Echolink system when you turn it on.


Using the Echolink software varies from software to app. But the basics are always the same.

You have a search ability that allows you to search by user, by location, or by node. This is the quickest ways to search around for other echolink users. There are also other searches often available like Repeaters, Links, and Conferences.

The software will typically allow you to create a list of favorites as well, so once you find some people or groups on Echolink, you can bookmark those items into your favorites list.

Transmitting on Echolink is often as simple as pressing a QSO or transmit button which activates your microphone, you speak just like you would on a typical local repeater and follow the same protocols like  ID’ing. When you are done ‘transmitting’ you often click or touch the same button that started your transmission and that will end your transmission.

To familiarize yourself with this process there is a test node in Echolink called ECHOTEST and you can use this by yourself to simulate a test QSO with the system, when you test transmit, your audio is record and played back to you when you end the transmission. This is an excellent way to not only test the transmit function, but also to see that your incoming and outgoing audio levels are acceptable.


Like some of the new digital modes there is some terminology in Echolink that it’s very helpful to understand. Here is a short list with their definitions.

Users – This one’s pretty simple, it’s all the registered Amateur Radio operators on the Echolink system. You can search for a person and directly make a point to point connection with that person if they are also logged in at the same time.

Conferences – Every installation Echolink has the option to run in what’s called SysOp mode and host a conference. Typically a conference is a virtual ‘room’ where up to 99 other stations can connect and have QSO’s in a round table fashion. An example of this might be a club like NORAC registering our club callsign VE7NOR with echolink and then setting up a dedicated PC server to host a VE7NOR conference room and leave it running 24/7 for our members or other amateurs to use for group meet-ups. There are some large long time running Echolink conferences that are dedicated to certain discussions or interests, these conferences typically have the letters CONF in their name to identify themselves as a full-time conference server. Operating a full time conference server does come with some added rules and an annual fee to help support the otherwise free echolink system.

Locations – When you register for Echolink you supply your Country of origin. Searching by location in Echolink would help you filter all the registered users who are logged into Echolink in your region like for instance all of the VA7 or VE7 users in British Columbia.

Links – Individuals or clubs can create an Echolink node with a PC connected to a simplex radio. This simple system would allow any analog FM radio to transmit and receive from the link node connected to the internet, thus allowing you to remotely communicate into the Echolink system. Many D-Star and Yaesu Fusion enthusasts are familiar with operating their own hotpots and nodes and they are directly to what Echolink calls a Link.

Repeaters – Just like a link node but here the computer and echolink connection is RF linked to a duplex repeater system or network of repeaters. Essentially the only difference between a link and a repeater is whether the RF connected radio is running in either simplex or duplex mode. 

When you as a user are operating on Echolink via a RF source like a personal radio into a link or repeater you can use up to 20 different DTMF commands to control the node and it’s connections to Echolink over the internet. These commands include connecting by node number, connecting by callsign, connecting to random nodes, links, or repeaters. Disconnecting from a node, reconnecting if your connection is dropped, and performing a variety of queries from your radios DTMF keypad.


Radio amateurs using the EchoLink software can operate it in one of two modes:

Single User Mode is used if they have an Internet-connected computer, they can use the computer's microphone and speakers to connect to other EchoLink-enabled computers over the Internet and talk to the amateur at the other end.

Sysop Mode entails connecting their own VHF or UHF transceiver to their Internet-connected PC with a simple homemade or manufactured radio-PC digital mode interface. Doing this enables another radio amateur with their own transceiver, who is within radio range of this station, to communicate with (or through) any other EchoLink-equipped station anywhere in the world. This was an early and unique feature EchoLink in the beginning of the technology.

Radio amateurs without the EchoLink software or a computer connected to the Internet can take advantage of the EchoLink network if they are within radio range of a sysop mode running EchoLink Link station. It is also possible to link a sysop mode EchoLink station to a local repeater, further enhancing the communication possibilities.

While the Single User mode is common for all version of the Echolink software and apps, generally the SysOp mode is limited to the PC based versions of the software for Windows, Mac, and Linux.


So in summary Echolink was one of the first voice over internet services designed for Amateur Radio.

You can register for free and operate on just a computer, tablet, or smart phone, but you can also create your own link and use your VHF or UHF radios to talk into your personal use only low wattage link.

If you’re an Advanced certificate holder you could boost your link power up higher and share your simplex link with other hams in your community, or you or your local club could connect your link to a duplex repeater and share Echolink over an ever larger regional area.

When you use Echolink from any device you can connect to other online Echolink users one-to-one, or you can connect to a conference and join up to 99 other users in a group conversation or net. You can also direct connect to links or repeaters as well.

Echolink is 16 years old in 2018 and that’s older than Skype so when it was founded it was a very new voice technology for the Internet. Even today Echolink is still popular and relevant. One of the main pro’s of Echolink is that you can use traditional analog FM radios when using links or repeaters, and even if your using a computer or mobile device it’s not really a digital mode, it’s just a conversion from analog audio to internet packets, and then back to analog audio again.

I encourage everyone to register and try out Echolink, you may like using it and continue, or you may choose to move onto trying other modes but remember Amateur Radio is like a swiss army knife with lots of various tools at your disposal, getting familiar with Echolink is just another one of those tools.

Another benefit of Echolink is the current low solar cycle when many other modes are getting harder and harder to use echolink is a rather simple and effective mode for clear communication even though it does rely on the Internet and not a lot of RF.

When you do get Echolink running check out the conference room called DODROPIN node # 355800, this echolink conference server has no less than 10 net’s every week.

Next week I’ll be covering Echolink’s Canadian cousin the Internet Radio Linking Project more commonly know as IRLP found right here in BC.

Questions and Answers?