Wednesday, March 28, 2018

New Product - Inrico TM-7 - Is It Real Radio?

The Inrico TM-7, a best seller network radio and is the first mobile network Radio. Great for amateur radio use with the new IRN platform, for Zello, Team Speak 3 and Echolink via 3G or WiFi. And it works as WiFi hotspot too! This network radio is fully compatible with the International Radio Network (IRN) and with the new Echolink for Android 

What follows is not an APRIL FOOL JOKE.
Wot? - It looks a like a Motorola!

What is in the box?

The Inrico TM-7 comes complete with Microphone, Power Lead and GPS antenna. On switch on, it is blatantly obvious that the operating system is that of an Android Phone. As an optional extra, one can obtain a small mag mounted Cellular Antenna. It should be noted that there is a provision to insert a cellular network sim card into the underside of the radio. The actual data useage is not that heavy.

It is necessary to import a few apps from the Google Play Store such as APRS Droid, Teamspeak 3 and Echolink for Android and perhaps even Zello. Provided that you have registered with Echolink, it is a case of entering your callsign and password and away you go on Echolink. Absolutely no problem as it will work first time.

APRS Droid requires a small payment for the app followed by the entry of a registration key and the app will fire up very quickly once the GPs antenna is connected to the "Radio". There is no problem with any part of the route. Operation on APRS via 2 metres would often see parts of the route missing due to poor coverage. Cellular towers cover pretty much everywhere nowadays.

Teamspeak 3 is required to link into other Amateur Radio Applications. After download, it is necessary to join the International Radio Network to obtain the privilege key to allow access to the amateur radio transmitting areas. A simple process, without the necessity to upload the license. After filling out  the necessary online forms, the IRN team check, and other areas, to ensure that your details are correct before issuing the key. I stress here that unless you can prove that you are a radio amateur, you will not get the key.
There are a number of zones in the IRN server which cater for Amateur Radio. The most popular is the UK Hub and one may find repeaters and other Amateur Groups linked together. To select a particular station, or net, one uses the touch screen. This is not too easy as my fingers are a bit large for the small display, however, the stylus for the Android tablet does come in handy. 

Operating this "Radio" is no different to the operation of any other VHF/UHF black box radio. Just press the PTT and talk. In fairness, this all happens via the data connection on the WiFi or 4G Network. The audio quality is excellent on both Echolink and on the networks available via Teamspeak 3 and the International Radio Network. The UK Hub is connected to Echolink, DMR, D-Star, Wires-X and a couple of Repeaters. Searching through other areas, there are nets from the UK, Australia, the States, and South Africa to name a few. Temporary groups may be set up for private chats amongst individual hams. There is always activity on this device from many parts of the world.

Zello can be added and it is possible to chat to non-radio hams and for personal use. This would not enable connection into the zones where amateur radio operation takes place.

The RT4 4G /LTE is a handheld radio that would pair nicely with this device and an added bonus is that it doubles as a mobile phone. It provides all the functions of the TM-7 but you can make mobile phone calls as well. It is chunky and has an antenna sticking out of the top. The antenna has nothing to do with phone or communications. It is the GPS antenna.

Is it Real Radio?

The debate can go on for ever. Looking back in time, it could be said by CW operators that the new AM mode was not real radio. The introduction of SSB caused more discontent and, to cap it all, the introduction of FM was the end of the world. I remember saying that FM would never catch on in the 1960s as there were very few using it - a bit like comments about digital radio today. FM resulted in the introduction of Repeaters and then it was really necessary to hold up the crucifix. In time, this sacrilege soon became acceptable and the norm. One should not forget that, as time progressed, many Analog repeaters were linked via IRLP and Echolink and the first generation of Yaesu's Wires system. 

Whilst discussing Digital Radio, at an IRTS Lecture in Dundalk, two Radio Amateurs became quite irate and irrational, saying that Digital Radio would never be encouraged in their area - end of story. Famous last words me thinks! Their part of the country now has the highest uptake of Digital Radio according to the DMR listings and I am sure that they will have a DMR repeater in their City sooner or later. The circle turns!

A well seasoned HF contest operator would throw forty fits at the thought of an internet connection to a major HF radio installation in a beautifully RF quiet area. I am sure that WiFi radio would provoke instantaneous Hari Kari in his case.

Looking at another angle, one has to see the way commercial broadcasting has developed. Not only is it Digital but almost all commercial broadcasters stream via the internet and can be picked up on WiFi radios or mobile phones with the correct app. Nobody bats an eyelid about this and it is an excellent opportunity to listen to stations in HiFi quality from locations all over the world.

Commercial two way radio is very much influenced and controlled via the internet whether it be by DMR or TETRA operation. Security companies would be lost without video feeds from remote sites via the internet. Taxi companies are a prime user of 4G internet communications.

Yes things are changing, and we, as radio amateurs, will have to adapt, adopt and improve as this is what we do. DMR, D-Star, Yaesu Fusion, P25 and NXDN all have an input and output via the internet somewhere along the line. One can transmit into a repeater or gateway in Galway and come out in Australia over another repeater. Hey - how many sit patiently waiting for DX on the HF bands. Australia is not DX on Digital Modes! A few seconds of a call will bring up an Australian station almost immediately on Digital Radio - no pile ups or poor operating here. Digital operators are gentlemen.

The formation of interlinked modes, Echolink and repeaters into a Hub has proven successful and it has enabled a number of operators who just cannot transmit on an external antenna or who are not in the range of a repeater to communicate. 

If you are not into Amateur Radio, this is the ideal system to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world via Zello or other personal talk areas not associated with the licenced operator's area. The cost is minimal.

Whatever floats the boat at the end of the day. To quote Chris, G7DDN, "Does the fact that one transmits on cellular frequencies at 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz or on Wi-Fi on 2.4GHz or 5GHz matter? Is there something intrinsically evil about that? Is there more virtue in using 14 MHz or 144 MHz, for example? They are just “frequencies” after all".

This article does not reflect the view of the Galway VHF Group apart from the avid texters WattsApp and mobile phone users. As they will say in the future, "You are 5 9, whats your IMEI Number - QSL"!