Amateur Radio and VoIP – AllStar Link Network

The VARC technical team is in the process of implementing AllStar on the club owned analog voice repeater systems.  This technology will great expand members repeater system experience and access to features such as linking to other systems worldwide, land-line telephone auto-patch, instantaneous weather local weather information.   With a modest investment in either a VHF Handie-Talkie (HT) or mobile radio a amateur will have access to the world.

Those members who are involved with emergency communications (ARES and SkyWarn) aspect of amateur radio will find this new tool very useful for those purposes.


What is the AllStar Link Network?

The AllStar Link network consists of a number of large (and small) individuals and groups who wish to provide efficient large-area communications to the Amateur Radio public in their respective local areas. This is done by providing a local VHF or UHF repeater system controlled by a Linux-based computer system running the open-source Asterisk PBX telephone switch platform along with the app_rpt repeater/remote base controller/linking software module (which is included in the distribution of Asterisk) connected to a high speed (broadband, such as Cable Modem or DSL) Internet connection.

The computer system running Linux/Asterisk PBX coupled with the app_rpt module makes a powerful repeater/remote base controller capable of controlling many (like up to hundreds, theoretically) repeaters and/or remote bases per computer system. It provides linking of these repeater and remote base “nodes”, with “nodes” on other systems of similar construction anywhere in the world, over the Internet via its IAX2 Voice Over IP protocol. It also, of course, provides for an Autopatch (public switched telephone network access over the radio) on each node (Asterisk is a phone switch after all J), if desired. For detailed information on system requirements and configurations see the app_rpt documentation.

AllStar Link is an organization devoted to the proliferation of this technology, and to organize its public use. Certainly, anyone can have a “private” system using this technology, and they would have no need for AllStar Link affiliation, but there needs to be a single, central point of organization for public use of this technology, and that’s what AllStar Link provides.

To qualify for AllStar Link affiliation, your repeater system must be either open (meaning that any licensed Amateur Radio station is welcome to fully use all of its functionality at any time), or at least semi-open (meaning that for permanent use, the owner of the system may require membership for use of all or part of its functionality, but non-members, particularly those visiting the area may use it on a temporary, short-term basis only). Some functions may be limited or un-available, but functions that allow for linking over the AllStar Link must be available to non-members at any time, and the system must be able to accept linking from any AllStar Link node. The DTMF control codes used for controlling linking and other AllStar Link-wide functions will be consistent among all nodes. Systems are welcome and encouraged to have other parts (such as other private nodes or remote bases, etc) of their radio systems not affiliated with AllStar Link. Our node numbering scheme (use the “List All Nodes” button above) was designed specifically with this in mind.

Our technology has the unique characteristic that repeaters and remote base nodes are completely separate from each other, unlike any other repeater/remote-base controllers. That means that just because a remote-base is at the same site or even on the same computer system as a repeater, they are not tied together in any way. They are implemented as completely separate nodes, usable separately.

Unlike other Radio-centric VOIP technologies, such as Echolink or IRLP, etc, Allstar and the app_rpt/Asterisk technology have been specifically designed to be part of, and to link together parts of the very infrastructure of the radio systems that it implements, as opposed to be an end-to-end protocol like others.

All systems (nodes) are either repeater controllers or remote-base controllers. They connect directly with the radio hardware (thus replacing/outdating) current controllers on a system that is already up and operating. Just simply as a repeater controller, the amount of functionality and flexibility is very impressive, and when you also consider its remote base, linking (full-duplex) and VOIP (for autopatch, remote control, etc) capabilities, its amazing.

Allstar Link is an attempt to take this technology and make it available and applicable to as many Amateur Radio operators as possible, via their local repeater systems. For the most part we try to keep administration and policy making up to local systems. We only require strict technical standards (we dont want a bad sounding or un-usable system), and minimum operational requirements, most of which have to do with making the systems available to all, and making sure that everyone gets along, and treats everyone with proper respect and dignity.

Once again, this technology is not intended to be implemented by the end-user or those light at heart. It takes serious committment and resources (that which is required to put a radio system on the air to begin with, and to maintain it) by either a group, club, or maybe even a single, dedicated, talented (not to mention monied) individual. The assumption made with Allstar Link is that the purpose of this work and level of dedication is to share the goodness and great benefits with others, and to promote continuation of doing so.

Purpose Of This Portal

The purpose of this Portal is to provide both users and System operators/Providers of the AllStar Link Network, a method to access, connect to, use, and interact with all participating AllStar Link Nodes via the Web Browser running on their desktop computer, or by the telephone (see the Support page for information on the Telephone Portal), and in addition, be able to provide a simple, clear and concise methodology by which a System operator may specify and enter the desired configuration of their system(s), and be able to apply these configurations to their systems, using a Graphical User Interface also from their Web Browser.

Node Types

When you sign up for a node, you will have the option of checking some check boxes which identify the type of node you are putting up. Note: It is very important to supply a working email address where you can be reached! I have had to cancel several node number requests because of non-working email addresses!! We will be changing the software to automatically validate email addresses on node number requests in the future.


This is a full duplex node which is able to be controlled with DTMF commands. Repeater nodes may or may not have emergency power or extended coverage. Offset (+/-) and CTCSS tone should be supplied during the signup process. Latitude and Longitude in degrees/minutes/seconds format should be supplied.

Simplex Node

This is a half-duplex node which is able to be controlled with DTMF commands. Simplex nodes may or may not have emergency power or extended coverage. A CTCSS tone should be supplied during the signup process if one is required. Latitude and Longitude in degrees/minutes/seconds format is optional.

Remote Base Node

This is a half-duplex node which is for initating outbound radio connections only. A remote base node will not decode DTMF and act on any commands from the RF side. This type of node should only have the remote base, and perhaps the frequency-agile checkbox(es) checked; none of the other boxes make much sense. This node type is typically used to implement a frequency-agile VHF/UHF/HF remote base.

Hub Node

This is a node which has no Radio hardware associated with it whatsoever. This node type is typically used in a location where there is a large amount of Internet Bandwith available in addition to a computer system with a good amount of CPU power, and is used as a “central connecting point”.