HF Radio

Submitted: Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 10:17
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Can anyone tell me is a HF radio still a viable option for remore radio comms for a Cape York trip? Also are there any contacts for the Gold Coast or Brisbane where a HF radio can be hired for a short term?

Thanks for help.
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Reply By: Member -Pinko (NSW) - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 10:27

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 10:27
Try this firm, highly respected and good service.
If they cannot hire they will tell you where.
www.mobilecomms.com.au
1/53 Boyland Street
Coopers Plains Brisbane QLD> 4108
Australia
Cheers
Pinko
Living is a journey,it depends on where you go !
VKS 737 mobile 0049 selcall 0049

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Follow Up By: brian o - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 14:50

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 14:50
pinko
i have both, sat phone for the real stuff, hf radio because its good for a yarn, i am a mechanic and have fixed trucks and earthmoving all my life, years ago on the hf sets is all we had on the western shires, i have talked trawlers out of trouble with engines a 1000km away, dont be talked into an auto tuner aerial they only make good money for repairers,saying that the more i think of it the new barrett one looks very good. you will enjoy it more than you think there are a hell of a lot of old timers out there still yarning away all day. the only issue is atmosphere interference, but after a while you will know which frequencies are better at which time of the day.
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Reply By: olcoolone - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 10:39

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 10:39
For remote travelling I would recommend a satellite phone first and a HF radio second and of course a UHF for short range comms.

HF 4wd radios are still a viable option for remote travels...... there are many advantages as there is many disadvantages compared to a satellite phone.

HF advantages.
1) Regular scheds with useful information.
2) Tracking service available.
3) In an emergency situation your dealing with professionals.
4) Many add on services available.
5) Help may only be a few kilometers away.

HF disadvantages.
1) Harder and more complicated to use.
2) No good for secure communications.
3) Others unable to contact you direct unless they have a HF radio and the conditions are right.
4) Limited telephone communications and other parties find it hard to use.
5) Atmospheric conditions limiting use.
6) More complicated installation.
7) May not work in all situations.
8) Harder to SMS.
9) More expensive.
10) No good for obtaining general information.
11) No good in a rollover.
12) Can be electrically/mechanically less reliable.

I didn't include the usage costs or access fees as they are about the same.
AnswerID: 507256

Follow Up By: The Explorer - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 10:48

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 10:48
"Others unable to contact you direct unless they have a HF radio.."

A disadvantage of a sat phone as well - you wouldn't believe the number of people who don't have one :)

Sat phone is definitely the easiest, smartest solution for infrequent "outback" trips. HF still does the job but probably more suited to someone who travels on a frequent basis and then it could still be argued that a sat phone would still be better in many circumstances. Best solution is to have both but that doesn't suit everyone.

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 12:17

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 12:17
Agreed, I love my HF and would usually go to it over the Sat phone first but as the two posters above indicate, it is a steep learning curve and short term installation is not really viable.

A HF is nothing like a "big UHF CB" and requires a working knowledge of HF radio behaviour, protocols etc to get the most out of it. Also I am pretty sure all memberships are 12 months min.

VKS has a new Satellite service that gives you most of the benefits of both worlds. check you their website.
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Follow Up By: pprass - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 12:57

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 12:57
"A disadvantage of a sat phone as well - you wouldn't believe the number of people who don't have one :)"

I am pretty sure that I have called a Sat phone from my 3G mobile. So you don't have to have a Sat phone to communicate to another Sat phone - it is just expensive to do so. (or was when I had one for a short time)
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 13:36

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 13:36
".. So you don't have to have a Sat phone to communicate to another Sat phone..."

You don't need a HF radio to communicate with another HF radio either...and you can call a HF radio with a Sat Phone and visa versa...but if you are in a location where only sat phones and HF radios work then you will need one or the other.

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Follow Up By: racinrob - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 20:14

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 20:14
Most HF clubs are continually upgrading, VKE237 has unlimited SMS texting at no cost, direct link thru any of their bases to the RFDS in Port Augusta, telephone interconnect to any phone. Membership is $70 P/A and $20 joining fee.

rr VKE237 Sel 6678
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 21:26

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 21:26
Plus for the phone:
On a recent trip in the Vic High country whenever I fired up the phone I had full signal, even in the valleys. May be luck but it gave me good comms to home each night. Sent GPS messages to the grandkids to follow us.

Plus for the HF:
But I couldn't call the others in a second group using the satellite phone. That is where the HF came into play. The HF got through. Not all times but most of the times. The second group had vehicle issues and we chatted with them to help.

Passing or leaving messages:
With the satellite phone anyone can leave a voice mail at any time or even an email or SMS. But to get a message to a 4WD HF user in the bush VKS cannot help. Short emails to our satellite phone are free.

We had damages and had to go back home and then try to rejoin the mob. I tried to call VKS to get a message through but they would not accept any message unless it was an emergency. We did rejoin the group thanks to Oziexplorer and route/waypoint files the leader gave me.

Phil
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Follow Up By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 09:56

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 09:56
Re VKS messaging - just to be precise, messages to members from anyone, via any means are passed on soon as (often between skeds, via selcall) - all the receiving member needs to do is scan or monitor one of the many daily skeds. If non members are the subject of a message request, that produces problems because Federal Communications law prohibits such activity. Of course, in genuine emergencies, free communication with anyone is on. It should be pointed out though that VKS737 volunteers often provide communications assistance to NON members, through our various bases, when our members encounter them in difficulty - no problem there - it's just talking direct to non-members on HF that is the snag.
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 10:21

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 10:21
You are right I should have been more accurate. They only accept emergency message to be passed from the phone via HF radio to through the VKS HF network to the 4WD operator.

On that recent trip that I mentioned I phoned VKS to send the group a message to call me on my satellite phone. I had access about 90% of the time.A recorded message said that they only accepted emergency message. My message was not an emergency message. So I couldn't send my message to anyone on the trip with HF 4WD VKS membership.

Phil
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 10:35

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 10:35
Hi

VKS isn't the only option. If you want less restriction on HF->Phone and visa versa maybeRadtel would be a good choice.

Cheers
Greg
I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 10:53

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 10:53
True. And they may be more flexible with messages to the remote vehicle. I am only talking about VKS in this case.

It was quite a surprise because I had in the past relayed messages through my home HF station (note not 4WD HF service) to all parts of the world. Even to the point of having the family and friends visit my house and chat for hours with the other end which could be in places like Antarctica. But I do see their (VKS) point as well.

Phil
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 13:54

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 13:54
Yes - HF is entirely viable (quite reliable even) for Cape York - there are various service providers that can cover that area (plus the rest of Australia). I only have first hand experience with VKS-737 though (I'm a member / staff volunteer)....our two Charters Towers bases cover the Cape easily (unless adverse atmospherics step in). Other members here can hopefully provide comment on the performance of other providers for that region. There is comment on this site, plus atVKS-737 ... Satphones ? re HF versus Satphones. HF is my choice, but many travellers prefer Satphone for their primary remote comms.... its a free country ! Oh..... one HF radio outlet I know of in Qld is here - I don't know if they hire.
AnswerID: 507278

Reply By: craigandej - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 14:02

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 14:02
Hi just sold the HF and bought a sat. phone. Main reason was ease of use for my wife, and we now have small kids also. Have used the HF for phone calls very successfully, but unless you use it regularly, its a case of remembering the procedures to get a call out. Fun to listen to skeds and chat of a night though.

Wife is an emergency nurse, so the sat phone is loaded with relevant contact numbers should we need it quickly.

Cheers
AnswerID: 507280

Reply By: Robin Miller - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 14:20

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 14:20
We had to choose and choose HF via Vks737 and it has proved to be a good choice as info you get is relevant to your situation even if you never make a call.

If I required frequent comms back to home or relatives then I would have gone Sat Phone.

Texting on HF would make it complete and while this is possible with other services its all a bit quirky and expensive.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - Tony (ACT) - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 14:20

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 14:20
I will vote for the HF over and above sat phone.

Why; on a trip down to Maytown from Laura had a vehicle with a major front end breakdown. Put out a call on the HF and got an operator in Alice Springs, told him the problem and asked if he could put in a call to wrecker in Mareba. I did not have the number but he looked it up. After a couple of minutes he called back to remind us it was Sunday and nothing was open. Gave us the number anyway. After closing down a voice came on from bloke in Cooktown who heard the call, and said he was heading that way tomorrow and being a mechnaic would assist if required. All turned out well in the end.

2nd time that comes to mind, camped at Durba Springs on the CSR and saw two different people walking around with their sat phone up in the air trying to get a signal. A bloke nearby was using his HF to talk to home.

They are not hard to use, just takes a bit of pratice to get to know the set. That's what the VKS operators will allow you to do, cal them for a radio check when ever you want.
AnswerID: 507288

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 18:30

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 18:30
Don't think all satellite services are the same, I find I can use the satellite phone all the time and there has been times where I could not use the HF for days on end.

Globalstar had big problems, all the rest are 100% reliable.

Biggest problem with HF is you have to selcall the bases when outside sched times.
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Follow Up By: Member - Tony (ACT) - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 18:34

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 18:34
Whats wrong with that? Using selcall the operator knows straight away who is calling as well as your name.
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Follow Up By: bigfellabrian - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 19:22

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 19:22
Selcall is the best part,I leave my service truck and then come back to a selcall and it's too easy. Call the bloke and wait while you have. Beer
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 20:05

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 20:05
Why are you so protective of HF radio, we have HF and a sat phone and use both.

For ease of use a sat phone any day.
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Follow Up By: Member - Tony (ACT) - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 20:12

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 20:12
I dislike people like you that dismiss things as if your views are the only one. And thats what it is my view.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 08:15

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 08:15
Isn't a forum about other peoples views and experiences..... so you dislike my views regarding sat phones but your view is acceptable, what's that thing about calling the kettle black!

As you can see I have both and both have their place and benefits...... do you have a sat phone and if so what and who with, how do you find them.... you do have a sat phone so you can make unbiased comments don't you..
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 08:21

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 08:21
Some will never give up their 78LP's and valve amplifiers either. Whatever does it for you is the answer.
Or play it safe and have both!
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: bigfellabrian - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 08:44

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 08:44
doesnt matter, i am happy to use them all, we have 12 units with hf and always find us talking on them as we all hear whats going on, we helped a bloke out last night who was only 25kms away from one of our diesel fitters, didnt know him from a bar of soap, we were going past in 2 hours time anyway, thats what happens in the scrub.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 11:09

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 11:09
bigfellabrian...... that is one big advantage of HF radio and it can save you a lot of money in recovery costs and paid help.

We always travel with out HF radio turned on to 8022 Mhz just in case.

The networking on HF radio is a benefit, have heard many times to be on the look out for a "such and such" vehicle in "such and such" area... if seen tell them to phone "such and such" police.

We use HF to break up the boredom of long distance travel, if we have to get in contact with someone for a specific reason like property owners, fuel depots, customers or suppliers the sat phone is used.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 11:10

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 11:10
Opppsss!!!!!

should of read "We always travel with our HF radio turned on to 8022 Mhz just in case".
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 20:22

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 20:22
This post has descended into a HF versus Satphone debate, whereas ExplorerGaz originally asked if "HF radio still a viable option for remore radio comms for a Cape York trip?"


Gaz, unless you are going into very unusual locations on Cape York then you have no real need of either HF or Satphone. There are so many travellers out-and-about on The Cape nowadays that you are never far away from assistance if in trouble. Short-range UHF radio could be useful.
Setting up a HF on a hire basis could be difficult so if you had a special need for emergency comms (e.g., specific health issues) hiring a satphone could be easier. It is just like using a mobile phone and hire is readily available.


If you wanted the HF to listen to general chatter then OK, but there is not a lot of that and unless you were experienced with the HF then it would not be easy to join-in anyway.


For the record, I have UHF, HF and satphone. But we go alone into very remote and lonely locations.


Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Grumblebum and the Dragon - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 09:48

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 09:48
Us too, have both but the sat phone is rarely used. I find the HF excellent as a "one to all" comms system - help may be just down the road.

John and Jean
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Reply By: BushyRob21 - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 13:09

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 13:09
Firstly, I have to reveal my interest. I am a Coordinator with the VKS-737 Radio Network, responsible for the Base rosters for South Australia and Eastern states. I am also responsible for the message service. Yes, the message service recording states that it is primarily for messages of an urgent or important nature. Having said that, I have never knocked back a message request.

Messages I've put up for transmission have included ones such as "We will be at..." "Selcall us at [time]" "Ring your sister" and "Birthday greetings to... from..." If necessary, I'll ring back the caller for clarification. Occasionally we need to inform travellers of bad news. Yes, it's an open network but when you're camped on the Gunbarrel Highway, how else can messages be relayed reliably?

SatPhones? Yes they do work. Calls are expensive and I sometimes question their reliability. Two examples: a person suffered a stroke in the Simpson Desert and a SatPhone would not connect. Similar experience on the Canning Stock Route when a traveller broke his leg. Clear sky all around, no SatPhone signal. HF radio worked fine. HF radio service providers generally have multiple frequencies to cope with different atmospheric conditions and times of day. Learning to cope with that doesn't take long.

VKS-737 has 19 base stations around the country, seven of those at RFDS facilities. We monitor via selcall 24 hours a day and run regular voice skeds every day of the year to enable subscribers to call in. Base operators are dedicated volunteers and are willing to help with any situation, or just say G'day and have a chat.

Many people make arrangements to talk directly with others, similar to the old RFDS Galah Sessions. HF Radio does work well, just spend some time familiarizing yourself with it.
AnswerID: 507355

Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 14:55

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 14:55
Hi BushyRob,
I generally agree with what you say re the VKS737 service. I have even received an operator-relayed Happy Birthday message and it resulted in a couple of other mobiles adding their good wishes.
In the case of satphone failure, I do wonder which model phone and which service provider was being used. I have never had any problem with Iridium and both the police and RFDS use them as well as their HF radios.
If, as you say, "HF Radio does work well" then why do we sometimes hear messages being relayed to and from the VKS operator? If no-one happened to be in a position to provide the relay then there would be no communication in those instances. It matters little just why a relay was necessary, the fact is that it WAS necessary!
I carry two spare tyres and I carry two long-range communications, HF and Satphone. They each have their pro's & con's.


But none of this answers the OP's original question. It has all been a defensive debate of "My choice is right".
Cheers
Allan

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Reply By: BushyRob21 - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 18:13

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 18:13
Thanks Alan. Yes, we do have problems from time to time resolving callers. When that happens, it's great to have assistance from others who have their radios on and can relay for the caller. At times when conditions are difficult, I do my best to find out approximately where the caller is, then I change to another base if necessary to try to assist the caller. We do encourage callers, if they can't get through on a voice sked to selcall any base on any frequency where they can get a decent selcall revertive tone. The procedures for doing that are published in the reference manual that everyone got a couple of years ago. There is a new one in the pipeline and should come out late this year. Speaking of selcalling (this is for the benefit of VKS subscribers), if you selcall xx01 (where xx is the two digit identifier of a base station) your call will now go to a pool of operators and will be answered by the first available operator. We try to encourage HF radio users to leave their radios on, particularly when voice skeds are happening. A HF radio is basically useless if it spends most of its time turned off. Also, we don't insist on strict radio procedure. A command of English gets people through. We'll talk to any subscriber, even if they are just saying G'day from their driveway at home. Good way to check the radio to make sure it is in good health. Cheers Robert (Mobile 2500)
AnswerID: 507377

Reply By: BushyRob21 - Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 19:00

Friday, Mar 22, 2013 at 19:00
For ExplorGaz - Sorry, we've got off the track a bit. Hiring HF Radios does not seem to be a popular thing nowadays. It's all related to the work required to install the radio and a HF antenna. Yes, HF Radio will work very well pretty much anywhere around Northern Queensland. We get lots of regular callers from Cape York and The Gulf. You can also look at www.HF-Radio.com.au and see what they have available. I purchased a second hand Barrett 950 for less than $1000. A tapped whip cost about $300 with the base. You can get radios for less than that. Cheers Robert (VKS Mobile 2500)
AnswerID: 507380

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