Are you “Winlink” Capable?

Do you know what Winlink is and what it’s used for?  Have you heard folks talking about Winlink and wondered what the heck is this system?  Here’s a little help from Wikipedia:

Winlink, also known as the Winlink 2000 Network, is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies to provide radio interconnection services that include email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, and message relay. The system is built and administered by volunteers and administered by the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation Inc., an American charitable entity and 501c(3) non-profit organization.

OK, that doesn’t really get down to the brass tacks for us here in our local area.  What do WE do with Winlink and what is it really?

Well, it is indeed a worldwide radio messaging system.  It provides Remote Message Servers (RMS’s) around the world that operate on a wide variety of frequencies and modes.  The RMS’s provide direct connection to a Central Message Server (CMS) via internet.  CMS’s are effectively e-mail servers associated with the Winlink system.  There are five redundant CMS locations around the world including San Diego (California), Brentwood (Tennessee), Perth (Australia), Halifax (Canada), Wien (Austria).  These servers constantly synchronize with each other.  Now, we can ALSO operate in “local” stand alone mode and create our own CMS or CMS’s.  This is especially helpful in case of a scenario where infrastructure, including internet, is knocked out and allows us to use the great features of the Winlink system to manage local message traffic.

But how does this really work?  Well, your objective as a “client” would be to connect to an “RMS”.  Making a connection to an RMS results in the Winlink system doing two things: 

  1. If you have message traffic to send, it will accept the traffic from you.
  2. If there is traffic waiting to be delivered to you, it will indeed be delivered be delivered to you. Once those transactions are complete, they system will disconnect.

OK, now you’re asking about frequency bands, modes, etc.  Can’t blame you.  The reality is that there are RMS’s operating on HF, 2-meters, 220 MHz, 440 MHz, and even on MESH networks.  We actually have RMS’s here locally in Anchorage and the MatSu areas available on ALL these bands.  On HF, the normal mode of operation is Pactor (although other modes are used, such as Winmor).  On 2-meters, 220 MHz, and 440 MHz, the mode used is packet, at either 1200 or 9600 baud.  Then of course there are the RMS’s operating on our MESH network at 3.4 GHz. 

This is all great, but what about the darn software I have to run?  Well, the Winlink system will indeed work with a number of “client” software packages, but the package of choice, at least our choice, is Winlink Express.  Winlink express allows use of all the features of the Winlink system as a whole, including use of the various modes on different bands to get the job done.

So, what are the “local” RMS stations you ask?  Here’s a list of local stations (and this will change somewhat as we develop and evolve the system):

  1. HF (Center frequencies 3589.0 KHz, 7075.9 KHz, 7101.7 KHz, 10143.7 KHz – PACTOR 1, 2, and 3): WL7CVG – Located at Alaska Native Medical Center. This station is connected to the worldwide Winlink CMS system.
  2. VHF (144.90 MHz, 1200 Baud Packet): WL7CVG-10 – Located on Elmendorf AFB at the EARS club station. This station is connected to the worldwide Winlink CMS system.
  3. VHF (144.98 MHz, 1200 Baud Packet): WL7CVG-10 – Located at AARC Club Station – This works with our LOCAL MESH-synced messaging server and is NOT connected to the worldwide Winlink CMS system at this time.
  4. VHF (144.98 MHz, 1200 Baud Packet): KL7AA-9 – Located at the ANMC Tuttle Drive warehouse. Station – This works with our LOCAL MESH-synced messaging server and is NOT connected to the worldwide Winlink CMS system at this time. We anticipate moving this RMS to another 2-meter frequency and shifting it to 9600 Baud Packet).
  5. VHF (223.66 MHz, 9600 Baud Packet): WL7CVG-10 – Located at AARC Club Station – This works with our LOCAL MESH-synced messaging server and is NOT connected to the worldwide Winlink CMS system at this time.
  6. UHF (441.175 MHz, 9600 Baud Packet): Located on Elmendorf AFB at the EARS club station.  This works with our LOCAL MESH-synced messaging server and is NOT connected to the worldwide Winlink CMS system at this time.

In addition to sending messages using the Winlink system’s RMS/CMS features, there’s also an ability to move traffic peer-to-peer, or in other words, one station directly to another. 

Another new feature we now have is the ability to interconnect all our local RMS’s via our Mesh network.  This is transparent to the end user, but you just need to know that any message sent to a local Mesh-synced RMS is available for pickup via any other local Mesh-synced RMS. 

If you’d like to learn more about Winlink, the Mesh Network, or our Anchorage ARES effort, join us at the club station on Working Wednesdays.  We’re usually opened up by 1800L.

73,

Kent, KL5T