top of page

What is VARA FM?

VARA is a type of digital communication mode used in amateur radio. It's a modem protocol specifically designed for high-speed data communication over amateur radio frequencies. VARA stands for "Virtual Audio Radio" and is known for its efficiency in transferring data, particularly in challenging radio conditions.

VARA is capable of high throughput rates, allowing for faster transmission of data compared to some other digital modes in amateur radio. It's often used for activities such as emergency communications, file transfers, and other situations where high-speed data transmission over radio is beneficial. The protocol is designed to perform well even in conditions where the signal might be weak or subject to interference, making it a valuable tool for amateur radio operators.
 

What is Winlink?

Winlink is a global messaging system that enables licensed amateur radio operators to send and receive email over radio frequencies. It's primarily used by amateur radio enthusiasts, emergency responders, and AUXCOMM, allowing them to communicate via radio when internet access is unavailable or limited.

The system operates by connecting radio stations to the internet via various methods, creating a network that enables users to send messages using their radios. Winlink offers different transmission modes like PACTOR, WINMOR, VARA, and others, each with its own advantages depending on factors like speed, signal conditions, and equipment capabilities.

Winlink supports the exchange of emails, documents, position reporting, weather bulletins, and emergency communications. It's particularly valuable in remote areas, during natural disasters, or in situations where traditional communication infrastructures might be compromised or unavailable.

winlink-logo.png

VARA STATIONS

NA0D VARA-FM
Gateway, Digipeater and Field Units

The NA0D-10 Gateway is in Brentwood, AR and serves much of Washington County as well as portions of Benton, Madison and Crawford Counties. It is tower mounted with a professional antenna on a mountain so it gets out! It uses a Minix mini-computer with a Motorola GM300 as its radio. The soundcard interface is a RIM-Maxtrac. It is NARROW at this time until we can get the RIM-Maxtrac 9600 that allows full speed connectivity. It is on emergency power and site monitored. The system is capable of digipeating both VARA-FM and Packet signals.

System is connected at 145.770 MHz full time. Systems on APRS.FI

System on Winlink.org

The NA0D-11 Gateway is in Mountain Home, AR and serves much of Baxter County as well as portions of Marion Co and beyond. It is tower mounted with a professional antenna on a mountain so it gets out! It uses a Minix mini-computer with a Motorola GM300 as its radio. The soundcard interface is a RIM-Maxtrac. It is NARROW at this time until we can get the RIM-Maxtrac 9600 that allows full speed connectivity. It is site monitored. The system is capable of digipeating both VARA-FM and Packet signals.

System is connected at 145.050 MHz full time. Systems on APRS.FI

System on Winlink.org

There are a couple of different SSID's so  we will explain below.

The NA0D-12 Gateway is in Van Buren, AR and serves much of Crawford County as well as portions of Sebastian Co and beyond. The antenna is mountain top but still needs to get raised onto a tower for wide area coverage.  It uses a Dell small form factor computer with a Motorola GM300 as its radio. The soundcard interface is a RIM-Maxtrac 9600. It is set to WIDE and capable of 9600 Baud transmissions. It is site monitored. The system is capable of digipeating both VARA-FM and Packet signals.

System is connected at 145.770 MHz full time. Systems on APRS.FI

System on Winlink.org

There are a couple of different SSID's so  we will explain below.

20220723_105622.jpg

NA0D VARA-FM/PACKET SSID's

NA0D-10 (Washington CO)

RMS Gateway

RMS Relay

RMS Packet

Connect using SSID NA0D-10 for message sending via CMS and distance testing. NA0D-10 is designed as a Gateway and RMS Relay for VARA-FM, as well as RMS Packet. It is on 145.770 MHz It uses the EA5HVK VARA-FM Software protocol for those modes, as well as UZ7HO Soundmodem for Packet. You can connect to it and send email, test connections, or send messages! Using either VARA-FM or Winlink Packet, you can connect!

NA0D-10 (Washington CO)

Digipeater

Connect using SSID NA0D-10 for our digipeater function to talk to other stations like a repeater. If you use a VARA-FM Winlink session, you can connect to others on the frequency through the digipeater to widen your area of use. It is also on 145.770 MHz. Connect this way to make contact with another station in its coverage area. You can send messages directly to them through the digipeater. 

NA0D-2

Portable Field Kit

NA0D-2 is a portable field deployable setup. It uses a 25 watt Motorola CDM 750 with RB Sound card interface. It is powered by a Panasonic Toughbook with GPS dongle for real-time location tracking. Can be battery powered for field deployment and also has APRS YAAC APRS system on board as needed.

ham van vara.jpg

NA0D

Home Station

NA0D is my home station and available 24 hours a day like the Digi. There is no SSID, just my call. It uses a Dell desktop computer, 10 watt Leixen dual band radio attached with a Signalink USB Sound card.

na0d_home.jpg

NA0D-11 (Baxter Co)

RMS Gateway

RMS Relay

RMS Packet

Connect using SSID NA0D-11 for message sending via CMS and distance testing. NA0D-11 is designed as a Gateway and RMS Relay for VARA-FM, as well as RMS Packet. It is on 145.050 MHz It uses the EA5HVK VARA-FM Software protocol for those modes, as well as UZ7HO Soundmodem for Packet. You can connect to it and send email, test connections, or send messages! Using either VARA-FM or Winlink Packet, you can connect!

NA0D-11 (Baxter Co)

Digipeater

Connect using SSID NA0D-11 for our digipeater function to talk to other stations like a repeater. If you use a VARA-FM Winlink session, you can connect to others on the frequency through the digipeater to widen your area of use. It is also on 145.050 MHz. Connect this way to make contact with another station in its coverage area. You can send messages directly to them through the digipeater.  

20240407_155203_edited.jpg

NA0D-12 (Crawford Co)

RMS Gateway

RMS Relay

RMS Packet

Connect using SSID NA0D-12 for message sending via CMS and distance testing. NA0D-12 is designed as a Gateway and RMS Relay for VARA-FM, as well as RMS Packet. It is on 145.770 MHz It uses the EA5HVK VARA-FM Software protocol for those modes, as well as UZ7HO Soundmodem for Packet. You can connect to it and send email, test connections, or send messages! Using either VARA-FM or Winlink Packet, you can connect!

NA0D-12 (Crawford Co)

Digipeater

Connect using SSID NA0D-12 for our digipeater function to talk to other stations like a repeater. If you use a VARA-FM Winlink session, you can connect to others on the frequency through the digipeater to widen your area of use. It is also on 145.770 MHz. Connect this way to make contact with another station in its coverage area. You can send messages directly to them through the digipeater. 

Equipment List and Links

Here are some basic links of items in use to get started. I will add more documents as time allows. 

wl2klogosm400x167_0.png

Quick Setup Guide for VARA FM

Here is another guide to help set up.

repeater-builder-rim-maxtrac-usb-radio-interface-380553_1024x1024.webp

Purchase USB Interface and some how to's.

Another site for interfacing RIM USB Here. Good stuff!

ea5hvk_edited.jpg

Get the software that makes the VARA Magic Happen!

Direct link to EA5HVK Weak Signals Software

ara_fm_v4.1.2.jpg

Document on how to get VARA FM and Packet to play nice together!

tgr-sl-usb_oh_xl.jpg

Support and how to for the Signalink USB Sound Card

soundmodem.png

The venerable virtual TNC that runs great on most computers!

What can Winlink/VARA be used for?

Winlink offers several features and capabilities that cater to the needs of amateur radio operators and emergency communicators. Here are some key features available within the Winlink system:

  1. Email Communication: Users can compose, send, and receive emails over radio frequencies using specialized software like Winlink Express. This functionality is especially useful in areas lacking internet access or during emergencies. This is extremely valuable to many emergency managers.

  2. Position Reporting: Winlink supports position reporting, allowing users, especially those at sea or in remote areas, to report their locations and movements using radio communications.

  3. Weather Bulletins: Users can access and receive weather bulletins and updates via Winlink, providing crucial information for boaters, emergency responders, and others operating in remote or vulnerable areas.

  4. File Transfer: Winlink facilitates the transfer of files and documents over radio frequencies, which can be essential in emergency situations where sending specific data or instructions is necessary.

  5. Forms and Templates: The system includes pre-configured forms and templates for standardized communication, such as emergency messages, situation reports, or other structured data.

  6. Emergency Communication: Winlink is widely used in emergency communication scenarios, enabling responders and organizations to maintain contact and share vital information when conventional communication infrastructures are compromised.

  7. Hybrid Network Connectivity: It allows hybrid network connectivity, meaning it can operate via both radio links and internet connections, providing flexibility and redundancy in communication.

  8. Support for Various Transmission Modes: Winlink supports multiple transmission modes like PACTOR, WINMOR, VARA, ARDOP, etc., offering different speeds and adaptability to varying radio conditions.

These features collectively make Winlink a versatile and crucial tool for amateur radio operators, emergency communicators, boaters, and individuals operating in remote or challenging environments where traditional communication methods might be unreliable or unavailable.

bottom of page