HF Radio Questions

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 10:46
ThreadID: 75560 Views:4845 Replies:11 FollowUps:2
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I need some help re HF Radio. We are about to set off on the big lap of Oz and the reading so far has convinced us to go for HF Radio rather than Sat Phone. Can anyone answer any of the following? Also, happy to be directed to another thread if one exists. Thanks in anticipation.


In light of the fact that my partner will need to be able to use the set do some things ie call home, it needs to be as easy as possible to use. Which is best, Codan NGT or Barrett 2050?

Where do we buy from and who does the installation? We are in Sydney now but Brisbane of Adelaide could suit?

What network/s should we subscribe to and at what cost?

Is it possible to buy recent models second hand and from what sources?

I’m pretty handy and could easily install a uhf set. Should I attempt install of hf set myself? I understand Explor0z has a an online guide.
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Reply By: Isuzumu - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 11:02

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 11:02
Try this site very help full and nice people..www.hfradioclub.com.au

AnswerID: 401449

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 11:06

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 11:06

HF is good for some things, but radio conditions vary and rarely is it good enough to do things like routinely call home. If you want telephone type communications, you need a telephone - a satellite phone if you are going far away from populated areas.

You must have a license to operate an HF transmitter. The license is inherent in your membership of a network. There are several networks, the most well established being VKS737. The main purpose of the network though is not phone calls (though there is limited capacity for this). When in remote areas it is very comforting to be able each day to call in and log progress and intentions for tomorrow, seek assistance if in difficulties, receive brief messages relayed from home. HF is good for this sort of use - quick, straight forward information transfer without lots of words and nuances.

Can't comment on the other networks, but you can check out VKS737 here.


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Reply By: racinrob - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 11:59

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 11:59
I agree with Bruce, check out the HF Radio Club, IMHO it offers much more than the other clubs and also can supply second hand sets at realistic prices.
Check it out on the internet or ring 0418675451
My first choice would be an NGT Codan which hopefully will come with an easy to follow installation book, if not I have one.
VKE 237 Sel 6678
AnswerID: 401460

Reply By: The Landy - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 12:18

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 12:18
Given you are in the Sydney region take a look at Lake Macquarie Communications for sales/installations. The owner Doug Taylor is very knowledgeable and helpful.

Lake Macquarie Communications Link

We use HFoZ and Radtel and have a Codan NGT.

Radtel gives us the ability to make telephone calls and HFoZ gives us the ability to send SMS to a mobile, send / receive email (limited text), and provides GPS position reporting.

HFoZ link

Radtel Link

Previously with VKS-737 but we found that getting on at the ‘skeds’ time was limited by the congestion. Having said that they have been providing 4WDrivers with a service for a long time and have many members that swear by them....

VKS-737 Link

Good luck and enjoy your trip.
AnswerID: 401461

Follow Up By: Member - Fred B (NT) - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 12:31

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 12:31
Ditto with the Codan NGT, HFoZ and Lake maquarie Comms.
Family can track your location on the wb site as well as send & recieve email & txt. Awesome setup. I use them. Although I belong to VKS737 as well, I find it a pain to be limited by skeds. I also found them difficult to contact, get help and info. Others will disagree, but that's OK. I found that if you are not in the "in" crowd, it's difficult to get a word in edgeways.

No skeds needed with HFoZ and vehicle to vehicle comms and chats are encouraged.
Fred B
VKS 737: Mobile/Selcall 1334

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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian: SA - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 12:30

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 12:30
There are a number of networks as mentioned above - HF Oz, HF Radio Club, VKS737, Radtel, Bush Telegraph etc. Some have skeds to listen in to, where messages from home can be passed on. All have facilities for phonecalls via HF too, but as mentioned, quality calls are generally not as assured as they are via the use of a Satphone (via a reliable satphone provider that is :-o).
As for radios - Codan and Barrett are the biggies - Barrett now own Qmac too - there are others, but you have to be sure the radio model is ACMA approved for the use you intend.
Used radios are often listed on the VKS737 site, plus the trader page here.
Installation ? - most careful 'handypersons' can do it ok, but the instructions must be followed to the letter (no 'aussie shortcuts :-o).
I use one network for general HF comms and another for my Raphone calls.
Check out the various network sites re costs etc - heaps of info on most of them.
AnswerID: 401463

Reply By: Steve63 - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 13:30

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 13:30
We have both HF and sat phone. They are different beasts. I know they are often discussed interchangabley but I have not found this to be true. If you want to make phone calls to known numbers get a sat phone on the Iridium Sat network. Phone calls via HF are possible and easy enough when you know what to do but painful compared to a sat phone. You need to establish a connection on an appropriate frequecy. This is not any frequency but is determined by distance from the site you are trying to reach (so you need to know where you are and where the target recieving system is) and the frequecy you use changes depending on the time of day. This change tends to happen noticibly as the sun sets or rises. On top of that there is often a lot of compatition at peak times. If you want to spend a lot of time fiddling with your radio, radtel style calls are one way to do it. If you want to see this for yourself get someone who is a newbie (as you will be) to HF to make a radtel style call to your mobile. Then decide if this is appropriate for you and your partner.

Having said all this, I prefer the HF radio and often use the skeds on VKS737 when we are away. There is often a lot of information avauilable that it is difficult to find out any other way. If you don't know who you should be talking to HF is also good as the base station operators are very helpful.

Most people have a bias one way or another. I think they are completely different tools with different objectives. Usage should lead you to the correct choice.


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Follow Up By: Member - Allan B (QLD) - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 15:56

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 15:56
I agree with Steve.HF radio and satellite phones are different beasts each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Similar costs to setup but different costs to operate. The HF is somewhat like this forum..... group activity and multiple assistance but not always easy to manage. A satellite phone is just like your mobile phone...... privacy and you speak directly with the person you want, provided you know who you want and they are available.

Telephone connection over HF is difficult to manage and often of inferior quality. Also difficult for others to contact you especially if you are not expecting the call.
HF is old technology. The transceivers have benefitted from progressive development but radio propagation cannot be improved. Satellite communication is however our most recent communication technology.

In the case of emergency, if you suffer from vehicle electrical failure, the HF radio will be out of action, as it also will be if the antenna is damaged. Also if you are away from the vehicle, the HF is not available for emergency contact.

I have HF and have hired a satphone. If I had to do it all again I would purchase just a satphone.

And a comment about UHF radio. Mine was in the vehicle when I purchased it but I find it virtually useless. The only value I can see is if I were travelling in company with others. When I do turn it on, all I hear is others talking with each other about inconsequential matters and usually liberally punctuated with bad language. Someone may tell me how valuable UHF is for announcing your presence on tracks or dunes. But it's the idiot who doesn't hear you and who doesn't announce their presence who will hurtle around the bend. However, it does add another impressive antenna to the array on the front of my vehicle. LOL


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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 16:19

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 16:19
Reading above that HF is declared 'old technology' reminded me that I forgot to add earlier - there are balanced comments re Satphones v HF on the VKS737 site (Satphones page) and here at Exploroz..... might be worth a read.
AnswerID: 401489

Reply By: Member - Graham H (QLD) - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 17:20

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 17:20
Had both when we set out a year ago Got to the west coast and never used the HF so sold it

Still have the Sat phone which has had some use as in calling ahead on the Nullabor when running late
AnswerID: 401496

Reply By: anglepole - Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 17:33

Thursday, Jan 28, 2010 at 17:33

Plenty of good advice above.

After travelling many thousands of kilometres in remote Australia, I have found HF to be a cheap and reliable option. You can use Telecall to connect to the Telephone system. But thousands can listen in. But worth connection if spending a lot of time away from any civilisation.

Most outback towns have public phones, and/or mobile phone access: use these to phone home.

Networks like VKS are there when you get into trouble away from a town. They are very good and practised at helping. VKS has a very good message service as well.

If you are going to take weeks travelling the Canning Stock Route and need to phone home daily then go for the Sat Phone.

Barrett and Codan make excellent Radios. I have a Barrett 550 and it has proved to be most reliable over the last 17 years. Barrett have a better reputation for spares and after sales service.

Hope this helps

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Reply By: Bob of KAOS - Friday, Jan 29, 2010 at 06:20

Friday, Jan 29, 2010 at 06:20

As stated above HF and sat phone are entirely different but there is an overlap in what they can achieve in an emergency. I would put HF more toward the entertainment end of the spectrum, and the satphone toward the no nonsense business end.

The satphone is better if you need to stay in touch with home. The HF is better if you enjoy chit chat with other travellers.

If you have both, and an emergency arises, you'll reach for the phone before the HF.

AnswerID: 401569

Reply By: The Landy - Friday, Jan 29, 2010 at 10:09

Friday, Jan 29, 2010 at 10:09
A number of comments point towards the 'difficulty' of using HF radio, whether for radio calls or connection to a phone service. Certainly the process is a little more involved than just picking up a telephone and dialling, however once learnt the process is not that cumbersome for the service the HF provides.

Mostly, HF is a remote area communication device, and anyone contemplating travel to remote areas need to be well prepared. That isn't to say that you will need a HF radio, but if you do have one simply take the time to understand its operation. If you do this you will never find it a problem.

Often it is simply thought of as an emergency communication device, however the new generation units are capable of SMS/GPS/Email services. And it has been pointed out on a number of occasions that it enables you to contact people you wouldn't ordinarily know where there, something that might be helpful in the event of a break-down or emergency. It also enables you to listen to weather information via commercial radio sources, as well as accessing news etc....

I've posted previously along the lines that some have here, that HF and Sat phone provide two different functions. But if I had to cut a choice it would be HF, and I wouldn't consider it to be at the entertainment end of the spectrum.

A couple of comments above that HF may be useless in a vehicle roll-over, due to antenna damage, or rendered inoperable in the event of an electrical failure. This isn't necessarily so. A 'bush' antenna can be made out of wire, and for remote area travel we always carry an alternative electrical capacity. Such as a all purpose battery the type used for starting flat batteries, or a generator, essential equipment for all remote area travel. And bear in mind that Sat phones also need an external charging source.

All food for thought....buy both if your budget allows it..

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