There has been a lot of talk lately about Network Radios, but just what is a Network Radio anyway?
Network Radios are a newer form of communications device that is becoming quite popular both within the amateur radio community and outside of it. At first I thought this was merely a fad and did not see the interest that everyone had been giving these "toys".
I decided to try out a Network Radio and see what the fuss was all about. I decided on two different versions, both made by Inrico.
The TM-7 looks very much like any other mobile radio that you would have in your vehicle, in fact it reminds me quite a bit of a Motorola mobile radio with the "P" buttons across the front of it under the touch screen.
I also wanted a more portable version for when I am not in my vehicle so I chose the T-320 handheld.
Both of these devices are based on the Android mobile phone system and are able to make and receive phone calls, text messages, email, etc., but what makes these devices different from a traditional mobile phone is the dedicated Push to Talk or PTT buttons.
The T320 looks basically like any standard Android mobile phone except for the external antenna and volume knob on top of it, the PTT buttons and two additional programable push buttons on its left side, and its Motorola style speaker mic connection on its right side.
The external antenna means this device is ale to find a signal where a traditional cell phone will not. Yesterday while out driving around the island I found myself in a location where my iPhone was not ale to reach the cell tower ad I lost service. I then looked at the T320 screen and saw that I still had full service available on it. I was able to use it to when I had no possibility of using my iPhone 7. That is very handy since there are several areas around the island that are well known dead spots where cell phones do not work in. I drove through all of these areas and saw that I never lost service with the T-320 or the TM-7 Network Radios.
With the new Network Radios you can access Echolink, Zello, and the International Radio Network (IRN), among others to have concersations with ham radio operators all around the world, with FM quality transmissions, just like you can from your current smartphone, but it is so much easier having the external push to talk button built right into the Network Radios. There is no more having to unlock your screen to access the PTT button each time you want to say something. With the iPhone, this was a particular annoyance that I was glad to leave behind.
The sound quality on transmitting and receiving is also better than using a traditional phone because the speakers are designed specifically for use as a radio, and believe me, they are loud enough that you will not have to worry about not being able to hear the conversation in a noisy environment.
Are these a replacement for amateur radios? Of course not, but they are an alternative, especially for people in situations where they can not put up an HF antenna to still talk to people around the world. For instance those living in apartments or restrictive neighborhoods. Also I can see this as an alternative for older hams moving into assisted living communities, they can now take their radios with them to keep in touch with their friends around the world.
I think Network Radios definitely have a place in the amateur radio community, and they are becoming very popular for a reason, THEY WORK!
Until Next Time
Aloha & 73 from Hawaii