Winlink 2000 (WL2K) is a worldwide system of volunteer resources supporting e-mail by radio, with non-commercial links to internet e-mail. These resources come from Amateur Radio, the Military Affiliate Radio Systems (MARS), and other volunteer organizations. The Winlink 2000 system provides valuable service to emergency communicators, and to licensed operators who do not have access to the internet.
Winlink has been experiencing steady growth in Virginia. Much of the growth has been taking place due to the placement of RMS/gateways on VHF/UHF frequencies that provide for the use of individual stations setup with the use of a two meter rig, TNC and free software. The hardware required is the same that is needed to set up a regular packet station. The use of VHF for connection to the Internet frees up valuable HF frequencies for systems that must depend on HF as a workable solution for the required coverage.
The primary reason for interest in the Winlink system in Virginia has been a desire to support emergency communications. The motivation to support emergency Communications has also propelled Winlink's growth. This growth has taken place via the placement of permanent stations in government and private agencies within the Commonwealth.
In my home county of Carroll most of the growth has taken place in the past year. We have grown from a RMS/gateway and single station at my home to Winlink Airmail stations being operational from the county EOC and sheriffs department, Twin County E-911, Dugspur Rescue, Laurel Rescue, Carroll County Search and Rescue, and the Carroll County Emergency Medical Service. We have plans and the equipment to place Winlink and voice in 10 more public service locations.
One neighboring county, Floyd has made great strides with Winlink setups in the past year. The EC for Floyd County, Tom King, W4VZH was the first to set up Winlink there. This included a RMS/gateway (145.51) and home Airmail station. Later Tom built a portable Winlink station to carry into the field. It was not long until Don Clements, KE4UGF and Russ Abbey, KG4MAV were all up and running with Winlink in Floyd County. Planning is now underway to setup Winlink for the American Red Cross in the local chapter house and primary shelter locations. Recently a Floyd County Digi and node has been setup to support Winlink for Floyd and neighboring counties. Dave Potter, W4RPI has served as a mentor to the Floyd and Carroll County groups. Dave has VHF, and UHF packet stations at this home near Roanoke Virginia. Dave also has a portable Winlink station ready for deployment where and when needed.
In nearby Montgomery County, Carter Craigie, N3AO has Winlink on both VHF and HF. Carter has been supportive of emergency communication both in his local and in neighboring counties.
Carroll and Grayson Counties have a digi and node setup (145.57) on one of the higher peaks in Virginia. This digi is on Point Lookout Mountain with the base of the antenna at an elevation 4610 above sea level. This digi allows Winlink connections into the Carroll County gateway (W4GHS-10) from Carroll, Grayson, Wythe, Floyd, Smyth, Washington, Bland, Pulaski and Montgomery Counties of Virginia. This digi also covers a number of counties in NW North Carolina. Floyd County has a digi near Buffalo Mountain at an elevation of about 3200. This digi is N4USA-5 and operates on 145.51 and is used to support the W4VZH-10 RMS gateway and if required the W4GHS-10 gateway can change over to 145.51 and use the N4USA-5 digi.
Another approach being used in SW Virginia is utilizing Satellite Internet connections for the gateways. This allows far greater dependability for the RMS/gateway in the event that it is located in the midst of a disaster impact area. If the gateway has generator power it can survive a disaster where power lines, telephone lines, and cables are down. Even wireless Internet connections must rely on hardwired infrastructure to get its feed and may be down if located in the impact area.
If your local emergency communications unit is interested in installing Winlink and you need some assistance in your installing or planning click on the "Virginia Support" tab above.