The Radio Net Project
RADIO-NET is an ambitious project aimed at delivering a suitable and inexpensive communications system for groups such as humanitarian missions and Non Government Organisations (NGO's), who live in remote African regions. RADIO-NET is a very viable alternative in areas where there telephone and cellphone networks are non existent or where satellite link costs are prohibitive. The system is particularly suitable for organisations dependent upon donors and volunteers.
The project aims to be an 'open platform', a mixed and co-existent communication system beginning with radio transmission right through to satellite links. The dispatch centre will be located in Tanzania, in the heart of Africa and will link to further locations thus allowing organisations to be reached either through normal communication channels, particularly in the case of emergency situations.
Provided operators hold a legitimate licence to transmit on HF bands (either as ham or civilian operators), any organisation can become part of the RADIO-NET network. Regardless of whether ham or civilian, the centre will handle both separate frequencies and will operate to manage distress dispatches to the relevant institutions or response teams. The RADIO-NET centre, due to it's permanent location, can accommodate traffic between well known institutions operating in Africa such as Red Cross International, The Flying Doctors, AMREF and the various UN organisations.
The centre will be equipped with Full Spectrum Radio Equipment. These will represent equipment both from radio amateur use such as Kenwood, Yaesu and ICOM and civilian brands such as Codan, Barrett, Motorola and Kachina. RADIO-NET will provide the complete range of radiating systems (aerials) in order to cover the entire radio spectrum and a series of personal computers. Additionally, an internet gateway will be added later to handle digital traffic as well as a bi-directional satellite link to transmit valuable www information and email. Although bandwidth will be limited all parties will have access to tele-medicine services and online assistance from specialists in the area.
Requirements for Client Stations
All parties within a 30-40 km radius from the radio centre will be equipped with HF radio and inexpensive VHF radios. An add-on to this system will be the use of portable PCs to enable users to utilise the same frequencies for digital data exchange such as mail, bulletins and circulars.
A viable way of digital transmission directly derived from the amateur radio world will be implemented (APRS = Automatic Positioning Report System ), making use of the same frequencies and able to dispatch their geographical location to the centre and other users. At the same time these users will be able to exchange text and distress messages and make requests for medical assistance. All such information will be visible on the respective PC's including a detailed map of the area to help guide rescue and relief teams.
Who will install this equipment?
Initially volunteer licenced operators will be responsible for installation of all stations, however, as the project progresses, these volunteer will begin a training programme to enable local people to gain the expertise required and necessary licences to operate on radio frequencies. It is envisaged that the local people will in turn become trainers in order to facilitate a number of such licenced facilities which will be of vital importance to their communities.