There’s a moment in your Network Radio career and probably in your general Radio career as well that you have several different devices connected to different technologies or networks. This often results in dragging around multiple handheld devices to stay connected with your favourite fellow radio folks on their own networks.
We have Zello, ZelloWork, WalkieFleet, Real PTT, Echolink, PMR, DMR, … and so on.
Personally I have a private WalkieFleet Network for me and my family (Clan Caignie), a professional WalkieFleet network for my crew when at work and I use Zello to keep in touch with my favourite Network Radio buddies. So that’s three networks to monitor. Actually two, because when at work al the rest is shut down, to keep focussed. When at work i only run the Family WalkieFleet network on my Smartphone in case of emergency if my wife or kid is are in trouble.
So I end up with two networks that I would like to monitor at the same time, Zello & my Clan Caignie WalkieFleet network. And as we all know, most PTT applications are not social pieces of software. They all think they are the center of the “PTT universe” and claim the PTT button. I’ve written some articles about using multiple PTT applications on one device and most of them work fine but sometimes you wish you just have it all in one application. This was the starting point from were NR001, ZRB003 , NR0216 and me NR515 at www.zelloradiobenelux.be started testing.
That’s were “crosslinking” comes into the picture: “linking devices across platforms“.
There are several ways to do this: create software that talks to the API’s of the desired PTT applications*, linking a device to a PC or linking two devices to each other via a hardware solution. Especially the last two options are most accessible and easier to install.
(* if both PTT applications have API access)
That hardware solution is actually quite simple. It’s a connector cable that connects the incoming en outgoing port from one device to another. The cables crosslinks the ports on the devices. The outgoing jack is connected to the incoming jack on the other device and vice versa. A lot of you guys are handy enough to produce those cables themselves. As I mentioned numerous times before, i’m a very technical guy but if you give me a solder iron and i’ll burn down my house before I finished my coffee. So I headed over to the guys of HF Electronics and asked for a prefabricated Crosslink cable. They provided me with a Surecom SR629 – Repeater Controller. That’s actually the advanced version of the selmade cross cable. I’m not sure what the black box in between actually does. According to ZRB003, it’s a module that levels the audio, but we’re not sure. Let’s just call it black box ;-). I selected the device with the K-connector cables because most of my devices are T199’s with a kenwood connector. But other connectors can be ordered.
So when I got back home I simply had to do four thing:
For starters i needed to create a crosslink channel in my Walkie Fleet account. That would be the channel where the input from the other device would be accessible.
Secondly I created dedicated Crosslink and user and device in my WalkieFleet network. This device could be used to link all other devices to with the repeater cable.
(If you would like to do this by adding en external signal to your Zello channel, just add a Zello User to your contacts and channel and you’re done)
Number 3 was to set up your other RF or Network Radio -device to the selected channel.
An finally connect the repeater cables to your devices and switch it in “Mode 2” (RX and TX for both devices)
That’s it, you’re set to go!
But you’re not…. there are a few remarks, and things that need to be taken in consideration before and while using this setup.
First of all, when you connect digital platforms like Zello, DMR, … you have to disable all sound notifications on the devices. Because this will end up in the devices constantly reacting to each others end of call, or start TX notifications. When I first connected my Zello to WalkieFleet both networks were having a Beep Ballroom Dance ♻︎. It drove me crazy, not to mention everyone else in the house!
Next thing we found out was that Zello was not that great in Practical use. The voice quality was low, the lag in the network big and because of that lag it was nearly impossible to join a group conversation. We were not able to PTT because sometimes the lag was even 20 seconds or more. Also for Zello on your sending device, which is on another network, you cannot see when you are actually connecting or transmitting. Very hard to start a conversation like that. (Left T199 is running Zello)
ZelloWork on the other hand worked much better, we assumed that this is because they are on faster & better servers. But then again, this is only an assumption made by NR001 – ZRB001 – NR0216 and me.
I didn’t have any problems connecting VHF devices to the crosslink, both simple HAM devices and my Kenwood Walkie talkies worked perfectly on that.
Since I don’t have DMR I wasn’t able to test that.
Conclusion, it works perfectly from for networks like HF – PMR and probably DMR as well. Bridging Networks on my WalkieFleet was also working fine, because I have fast servers with low response time to connect. ZelloWork seemed also to be workable.
Receiving from Zello worked also perfect, I was able to follow all conversations in a good quality. But interacting on conversations was almost impossible. Main reason was the connection delay …
I was really happy to perform these tests and to have an active Zello listening channel on my WalkieFleet network . But to interact, i’ll just switch on my Zello app!
All this testing was merely personal interpretation, if you have other experiences or solutions please let me know, then we can update this article or add another!
Keep in mind that crosslinking to public channels is NOT DONE