— >This is not simplex anymore <–
Thanks to Jose Alberto Nieto Ros EA5HVK for helping me clear up a few points with this write up. Their is a PDF you can read and find out more about this major update.
On 11/28/2020 the Vara FM people released version 4.0.1 which gives us the ability to turn our two meter VHF/UHF radios into a digipeater, specifically for Vara FM.
If you already have Winlink connected to your radio via a computer then you already have a sound interface device between the two. This could be a digital radio adapter like the DRA-50 or a Signalink or something else. Now all’s you need is the Vara FM program v4.0.1 and answers to some of your questions.
- The speed*** at which Vara FM will run is dependent on the sound interface you have and how it is connected to your radio. The newer radios usually have a data port on the back and if yours does then you can expect to get 9600 baud (this is Vara FM WIDE) if you use the DRA-50 interface, if you use a Signalink it depends on what color transformer* is inside the Signalink. If you have a radio that does not have a data port you will have to get a cable to connect the sound interface to the speaker and microphone jack. This will work but not at 9600 baud, usually 1200 baud (this is Vara FM NARROW) is what you would get. Also, if you do not purchase a Vara FM license then the most you will get is Vara FM narrow, which is still very fast all things considered, see *** below.
- Is Vara FM packet ? No it is not. And you do not need a packet modem to run Vara FM. Actually you do not need any modem at all to run Vara FM. Vara FM comes with its own modem in the software.
- How do I setup Vara FM to turn my station into a digipeater ? Download and install v4.0.1 start Winlink** and in Winlink open a VARA FM P2P session. In the Vara Modem box (the one with the gauges) click on Settings, Vara Setup and put your callsign in the box titled Digipeater, click on close. That’s it, your station is now a Vara FM digipeater. Make sure your radio is on the correct frequency and follow the band plan please. Keep the squelch turned to zero and volume turned down to a level you like.
- How do I use a Vara FM digipeater to pass traffic to another Vara FM station that is out of my simplex range ? Step number 3 above should not have anything in the digipeater box. In the Vara FM peer to peer session box on the second line from the top where it says connection select digipeater, then in the next box type in the stations callsign your want to pass traffic to. After that is the word VIA and after that type in the digipeater station callsign that you can connect to.
- Turn the volume up on the radio and listen for other traffic, if the frequency is not in use. Perform the drive level calibration and use the digipeaters call sign. Make sure you get a reply back from the digipeater station.
- In the Vara peer to peer session box….Click on START
- All 3 stations must be on the same frequency. And all must be in Vara FM P2P mode.
- If any station has Vara FM that is below version 4.0.1 this will not work.
- * I am not a Signalink user so I don’t know all of the details on how to get a Signalink to run at 9600 baud. Do some reading before you purchase a signalink to make sure it will meet your expectations.
- ** Digipeaters don’t need open Winlink Express necessarily. You only need VARA FM, the FM Rig and the computer to create a Digipeater.
- Digipeaters can pass P2P traffic or Winlink traffic messages indistinctly. Using digipeaters you can connect with distant VARA FM Gateways too.
- *** When we talk about “baud” we are talking about the speed between the sound card (DRA-50 or a Signalink) and the 2 meter radio.
- The digipeater doesn’t require a VARA license, but, you need a VARA license to connect via digipeaters.
- For more information on connection speeds please take a look at this page from Kevin Custer:
- W1GTT, WD4NG, KM4AEG and a few other operators have tested this and it works just fine. Should you learn something that would make this post more accurate please click on contact above and let us know.