FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


This is a developing page....please email the network for answers to questions that don't appear
here (via the tab above). Answers here are concise ! Please contact us if detailed advice is required.


Network Simply put, what is the Network's role ?
The VKS-737 Radio Network is a HF Radio communications network licensed by the Australian Communications Media Authority to serve Australian travellers (land, sea or air). Primarily, we provide safety orientated information, pass on messages and arrange rescue/support for people in difficulties. With our many strategically located bases, we effectively cover the nation.
Licence

Must I have a licence for long distance HF use ?
YES ! These radios operate at high power levels, so responsible use is required to minimise disruption on the spectrum. You need to be licensed for the frequencies you intend to use.
Subscription of the VKS-737 Radio Network carries inbuilt licensing for our 7 frequencies.

Do I need an Outpost Licence from ACMA to use the VKS-737 Network ?
NO ! Subscribers DO NOT require an ACMA Outpost Mobile Licence (RFDS licence) to operate on the VKS-737 Network frequencies. An Outpost Mobile Licence DOES NOT permit operation on the frequencies allocated to the VKS-737 Network. See this form for more information:
[DOC 21 Conditions for use of the VKS-737 & HF-Tel Radio Networks - PDF download]

Subscription
Fees
If I subscribe now will I have to renew at the end of this year again ?
Subscriptions are from the 1st December until 30th November; the full yearly fee is payable upon application. Where applicable, pro-rata entitlement applies to second year subscription only.
Help Can I 'expect' the network to help me out if I'm stranded or suffer an emergency ?
You can expect us to try our best, but we cannot indicate any particular outcome for your situation! We offer help to all subscribers in remote areas. In general terms, we will do our best to get assistance for your situation, whatever it is. While we can't offer to pay for any services you require, we will expend volunteers' time and network funds (on long distance calls) to get assistance to you. We will also liaise with local area authorities and assist with coordination of their communications where required.
Tracking

Can I have the network 'track' my progress while in remote areas ?
In short, no. While subscribers are welcome to advise us of their progress (log in) at any time, we do not have the resources to methodically track and/or monitor your progress. At any particular time during the various regional touring seasons, dozens of network subscibers are criss-crossing each of Australia's states. Our base operators are all volunteers and their various roster patterns makes effective tracking an impractical proposition. Should we be advised that a subscriber is overdue or needs assistance, all of our resources will be applied to the situation, but we need to be contacted by the subscriber a family member or others, to commence the process.
Not withstanding the above we will endeavour to track a VKS-737 subscriber should the operator be specifically advised about  travel in a 'dangerous' (extremely remote) area/s.

Messages

Is the messaging service worthwhile ?
Messages for remote subscribers are treated seriously and methodically by network staff. If subscribers monitor our many daily skeds and they are in communication range, they are most likey to get their messages.
We cannot however, indicate any particular outcome in the forwarding of messages.
This lack of certainty is mostly due to:
- some subscribers not monitoring our skeds (in some cases, for weeks on end !).
- deletion of non-urgent messages after 5 days.
- HF conditions being unfavourable at times, due to factors that include the subscribers location,
  plus natural and/or man-made interference.
On rare occasions:
- network volunteers not being available for skeds.
- equipment failure, either from the network or the subscribers side.
The above said, we can say that our messages delivery service has been very effective, but only
for subscribers who monitor our daily skeds !

Information
Supply

Is the information offered on the daily skeds reliable ?
Our information is largely gained from State and Federal government orientated agencies ! We do not generate the information, so therefore cannot indicate any particular level of reliability for the information
we offer. It is gained from the best sources we can access, but subscribers should not plan to, or venture
into un-serviced and/or remote areas of Australia without contacting local area authorities first.
While Parks Management and local business people can be a valuable source of remote area travel information, we recommend local police as possibly the best starting point for your enquiries.

Professional
advice

Can you give detailed professional level advice on air, should I encounter difficulties ?
NO, But we will seek to connect you with (or relay to you) professional advice from accredited providers. For example, if medical issues arise, we would seek to get medical assistance on channel, and then you could talk to them direct. Should mechanical issues arise, we would get advice from the relevant roadside service, a manufacturer's accredited dealer, or your nominated expert.

Reach Can I reach Network bases and other VKS-737 subscribers from anywhere ?
There is no simple answer to this, HF conditions vary greatly across the year, and location plays a part too. At times, users can reach clear across the country, at other times much less distance. Factors include antenna type, location, time of day, frequency used, and atmospherics. What is clear is that at any particular time, using equipment in good working order, you can expect to contact a VKS-737 subscribers or one of our bases, via voice or selcall transmissions.
Radio
costs
How much do long distance HF radios cost ?
New prices are commonly in the range $3000 to $4000. For these prices you get state of the art equipment capable of advanced functions. For simple yet very reliable 'talk' only, the now superceded design, used radios on the second hand market are a good option.
Types What type of radio is best for me ?
The answer here is "needs driven"; it depends on which facilities you need.
Radios are now available in two basic groups; The earlier "crystal" controlled units are very easy to use; just select a channel, adjust the tapped antenna, turn it on and go! The modern radios are very easy to use in voice mode too, but if you want to employ the advanced functions, a little more learning and practice is required. While travelling, it is a good idea to call into one of the bases daily, to gain confidence and ease of operation. If you simply want to stay in touch with the daily base station voice skeds while travelling, the "talk -only radio" will be fine. If you would like to contact particular mobiles, and base stations 'out of sked hours', you will need the radios with selcall functions.
Note: Data Transmission is NOT PERMITTED on VKS-737 Voice Only Frequencies
See this form for more information: [DOC 06 Communications Systems Comparison - PDF download]
Installation

Could I install a modern HF radio ?
Anyone familiar in doing maintenance and lighter repairs to a car should have no problems. Modern radios are usually in several modular parts. The main radio box can go anywhere inside the vehicle, the user-interface unit (quite small) can go in a convenient place for reading, button pushing and microphone use, and the antenna system commonly fits to the rear of the vehicle (bracket required). Wiring it all up requires attention to the manufacturer's supplied detail, but it is no more difficult than any after market accessories such as spotlights, second batteries, or winches etc. If you are not accustomed to such installations, have your dealer do the work, it's most likely you will be offered comprehensive instruction on use of the radio as well.

Supply Where can I look at these HF radios ?
Many radio communications equipment resellers in Australia cater for long distance HF - check the yellow pages, check our links page, or contact head office for a referral in your area. You might also visit the manufacturers' web sites (our links page; tab above).
Testing Can I call the network bases to try out my radio ?
YES ! provided you are a current VKS-737 subscriber, during sked sessions operators don't mind "saying hello" and giving you feedback (a Radio Check), but wait till the operator has covered traffic from remote area travellers. If you know other VKS-737 subscribers, you can arrange to contact them direct, but ensure this is out of sked timeslots. See the RADIO CHECKS link above.
Calling Can I call other VKS-737 subscribers, at any time ?
YES ! provided you are a current VKS-737 subscriber; be aware you must "give way" to sked sessions and any other important traffic (such as bases and authorities assisting with emergencies).
Can I call non-subscribed users, at any time ?
NO ! Authority is given to communicate with VKS-737 bases and other current VKS-737 subscribed users only.
Selcalls What does 'selcall' mean ?
Selcall is a system of uniquely identifying particular radio sets (including those at base stations). When two radios have selcall fitted, they can 'alert' each other without alerting other radios on channel, in range. The upshot of this is that you can advise particular base stations or other users that you want to communicate. It should be noted that once on air, all other users on channel can monitor your traffic.
Selcall capability also allows you to work directly with telephone interconnects at our bases, thereby making contact possible (conditions permitting) with key network staff and authorities listed in your user manual.
Can I request a preferred 'secall' number ?
NO ! preferential numbers are not available.
Beacons

What does 'beacon call' mean ?
Beacon is similar to selcall, but its only a 'test' selcall. That is, you send out a beacon signal to a particular selcall number, and if that radio is in range, you will hear a revertive signal. The responding radio's user will be unaware that you have tested their radio with the beacon call. A satisfactory revertive tells you that it may be worth trying to establish a voice call.

Antennas

What type of antenna is best ?
Autotune antennas auto-adapt to the frequency in use by the radio at any time. Manual 'tap' antennas give high performance levels, but require manual adjustment by the user, each time a new frequency is used (getting out of the car and making the change). Radio manufacturers usually supply matched antennas for mobile radio use. If the original antenna is not available, check with the manufacturer if possible, or contact head office with the radio make and model number.

Easy Use

Are these HF radios easy to use ?
The earlier "crystal" controlled units are very easy to use; just select a channel, adjust the tapped antenna, turn it on and go ! The modern radios are very easy to use in voice mode too, but if you want to employ the advanced functions, a little more learning and practice is required. While travelling, it is a good idea to call into one of the bases daily, to gain confidence and ease of operation.

Phonecalls

Can I make direct dial radio-telephone (HF-Tel) calls from my radio ?
YES ! only if the radio has this facility built in AND you subscribe to the HF-Tel service. See the HF-Tel page via the tab above.
How does the HF-Tel system work ?
Simply put, you are supplied with the base details. When you selcall a base, your ID will be recorded, a phone line will be connected and you then dial a phone number using your HF radio's numeric keys. When the other party answers, you are away !
Is HF-Tel service costly ?
For costs and details on HF-Tel service See the HF-Tel page via the tab above or contact head office for further information.
Would a Satphone be better ?
See our Satphones page, via the tab above.
Also, for further information refer to: [DOC 06 Communications Systems Comparison - PDF download]

GPS

Can I send my GPS co-ordinates via HF radio ?
Important advice for all VKS-737 subscribers.
Many modern HF radios have Global Positioning System (GPS) software installed by the maker.
This allows your location co-ordinates to be transmitted by your HF to a remote suitably equipped and compatible base station.
While this may be desirable for users in certain circumstances, the VKS-737 Radio Network cannot offer to accept and process this data.
It should be noted that under ACMA licensing conditions data can not be transmitted on the
VKS-737 VOICE ONLY frequencies.

SMS

Can I send SMS via HF radio ?
Important advice for a all VKS-737 subscribers.
Many modern HF radios have Short Message Service (SMS) software installed by the maker.
This allows your location co-ordinates to be transmitted by your HF to a remote suitably equipped and compatible base station.
While this may be desirable for users in certain circumstances, the VKS-737 Radio Network cannot offer to accept and process this data.
It should be noted that under ACMA licensing conditions data can not be transmitted on the
VKS-737 VOICE ONLY frequencies.

RFDS

Can I contact the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) via VKS-737 Base Stations ?
YES ! The RFDS Operations Centres at Broken Hill (NSW), Cairns (QLD), Charleville (QLD), Jandakot (WA), Mount Isa (QLD) & Port Augusta (SA) can be contacted using Selcall via ALL of the Nineteen (19) VKS-737 Base Stations. For more information refer to:
[DOC 40 How to contact RFDS in the case of an emergency - PDF download]
Can I contact the RFDS using the RFDS Emergency call "Red Button" via VKS-737 Base Stations ?
NO ! The RFDS Emergency call "Red Button" can only be used to contact the RFDS bases at Broken Hill (NSW) and Port Augusta (SA) on the relevant RFDS frequencies assigned to those bases (NOT VKS-737 frequencies. For more information refer to:
[DOC 40 How to contact RFDS in the case of an emergency - PDF download]
I have a HF radio and I have checked the RFDS frequencies, to find that they are NOT programmed for Secall ?
Your radio only needs to have an upgrade of the frequencies fitted. Visit our [DOC 09 VKS-737 Supporting Businesses- pdf download] list to locate a supporting dealer in close proximity alternatively contact head office (08) 8287 6222 for further information.
How do I obtain RFDS emergency assistance ?
It's as easy as:
1. Performing a Beacon Test to find the most suitable frequency and base to use
2. Selcalling the relevant RFDS Base.
For further information refer to: [DOC 40 How to contact RFDS in the case of an emergency - PDF download]