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Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?

Howard St. John (W8HSJ) on February 19, 2004
View comments about this article!

Hello Everyone,

In this day and age of digital this and digital that, the Internet, EchoLink, Voice over IP, remote bases (W7DXX - Great Service) and other new age stuff, do you think phone patch technology is viable today?

What brought me to ask this question, you may ask? While listening to some friends on 40 meters this afternoon, a question was raised that I could answer. I tried to break in, but due to my poor antenna system (please don't ask), I was not able to contact them. I decided to give one of my friends a call to tell him the answer. Much to my surprise, he had his phone patch hooked up and I was able to talk with the group.

I had not thought of phone patches in years, but it was great to be a part of what I was thinking of as nostalgia equipment.

My conclusion is that they, in fact, are alive and well.

What's your opinion?

Howard W8HSJ

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Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by KI4BNH on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Maritime Mobile Net still uses them I think. In that Maritime context, with Iridium like Sat. Phone costs, if a person is an Amateur, I think they still have a place there. What about disaster use. (HF to unaffected city then "patch me thru to Ace Hdwe or a loved one or FEMA HQ etc..."
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by LNXAUTHOR on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
- phone patch is still used and available on our local repeater...

- quite handy for mobile ops to report traffic light outages, cargo load dumps on busy local streets and highways...

- i've only heard the patch in use for emergency use, but phone patch ops should be part of local ARES or repeater club training...
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by K9FV on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Phone patch is VERY alive and well - BOTH in VHF (2 mtr repeater use) and HF. I make use of both. HF normally when sailing offshore waters and the islands. As mentioned, SAT phones are EXPENSIVE!!! and I ran a LOT of HF phone patches in '99 after the series of hurricanes in the Bahamas. I was the only communication off island for over a week (even for the Bahamian gov).

As I don't have a cell phone, the local repeater phone patch is used quite often for those "quick calls home" type of thing - and I hear several other folks using the local repeater phone patch also.

So YES!!! phone patch is very alive and well.

Ken H>
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by KA7GKN on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I recently reinstalled a phone patch as a way to be prepared with respect to homeland security. I opted for a "real" phone patch system instead of the Kenwood or Heathkit. I installed the JK audio inline patch.

This unit is what the professional stations use. It's easy to install, provides excellent separation, and is routed via a mixer.

It's too bad we get so little press whenever Hams assist local emeregency agencies. If we had more good press perhaps we would have a better argument against BPL and homeowner associations. Maybe the ARRL would also have a better class of lobbyist.

If you use a phone patch only once a year to help someone, it's a good thing!

regards, marty ka7gkn

RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by W5HTW on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Routine phone patches are used on many of the HF frequencies, but, as mentioned, especially on the Maritime Mobile Service Net and the Pacific Seafarer's Net. Other non-US nets also provide phone patches for boats at sea (with amateur radio equipment and licenses.) The MMSN has also provided a lot of non-routine (emergency) phone patches over the years, and probably does so about once a month for a vessel in trouble.

Patches within the US, just conversational patches, are a rarity. Yours was one of them. We used to, for example, set up HF stations in shopping centers and run Mother's Day patches, most of which would be from state to state. These have totally disappeared, as every son, grandson, daughter, granddaughter, mother, brother, uncle, aunt, dog and cat, kitten and goat, have computers with at the minimum email, and usually with live chat. No one is interested in such patches anymore. Changing times.

The autopatch on VHF is a somewhat different animal, as the "auto" suggests. With the autopatch, the ham can direct dial from his HT or mobile, while with normal phone patch, that is not done. Instead, a ham at the other end will dial and then connect the radio to the phone line manually.

Autopatch is used often, not only to report accidents, or just to say "I'm on my way," but to call wifey and see if she needs a loaf of bread (what CB was originally supposed to be for.) It is handy and can easily substitue (and often does) for a cell phone. In emergencies, it can allow someone on the scene of an accident, where cell phones might not work, to speak directly with a police dispatcher or a medical person. Mostly, though, it is used for very casual things. In the past two or three years, many of the hams who got tickets solely to be able to keep in touch with their spouses have left ham radio and moved to cell phones, as those phones and phone plans became far more attractive with more features and lower rates. A good many repeaters, though, still have autopatch capabilities, and it is definitely nice to have, though I haven't used one myself since the mid seventies.

If you would like to check out phone patches, monitor the MMSN on 14300 USB daily for a while. They don't run one every day, of course, but you will hear patch requests from vessels at sea, or in foreign ports (they have to be careful to meet legal criteria) asking for patches back home. The Seafarer's Net is, I believe, on 14313 in the evenings, (while the band is open in the Pacific area) though I have not listened for a while.


RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by NE1Z on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Half-duplex patches are always confusing to recipients of such calls, including trained 9-1-1 operators. It requires the "don't talk while I'm talking" speech.

100 million US cellphones in use means we hams are beat to the punch 99.74% time reporting an incident of any sort. It had its' time & are still useful while offshore where there is no cell coverage intended.

Just how do you serve "Homeland Security" on an unsecured line?

Will the "self-important" please get over yourselves?

Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by KA3RFE on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
HF phone patches, like everything else in Ham Radio, have their place. Cellphones and pagers also have their place. Repeater autopactches also have their place. Phone patches do have an important role to play in emergency communications involving HF rigs and the telephone lines.

Not dead by a long shot and probably will be around for as long as their are hams willing to provide the patches.

73 Pete KA3RFE
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by KE4SKY on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
With the wide availability of Internet email, MARS phone patches aren't as common as they used to be, but inbound military personnel on MATS birds returning from overseas deployments will use the "ET Phone Home" feature to notify their loved ones that they are home bound, and their ETA, etc.

In the Washington, DC area the 146.79-, 146.91- and 447.025- repeaters of the Northern Virginia FM association have open autopatch to "911" Emergency (enter DTMF code 9111) available, or during daylight hours ask a control operator or any association member to place the call for you.

All "911" calls are routed directly to the Fairfax County Public Safety Communications Center, which can relay emergency calls to federal or state agencies, or any surrounding jurisdiction in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Emergency Mutual Aid Compact.
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by AD7DB on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Actually, some local hams have discovered how useful it can be to patch a phone call. One ham phoned in from across the country to another ham, who relayed him into the weekly club checkin using his speakerphone. The ham on the remote end also got to listen to the rest of the net that way.

They had to reinvent phone relay techniques and precedures that would have been old hat to hams 30 years ago. Like when to say "Over" so the guy with the mike can switch back to receive, proper method of identification, simple things like that.

With cheap nationwide cellphones that incur no long distance or roaming surcharges, such activities can be done much more easily than a few years ago. And you don't have to have Echolink or IRLP at both ends.

RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by G7HEU on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Question for all:

When disagreeing with people in the street (rather than the 'net), are you prepared to say 'get over yourself' to each of them or will you be more polite to those that have the capacity to punch you on the nose?

You guys are lucky - phone patches have never been allowed here in the U.K.

Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by KC0ARF on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I do not know much about HF Phone patches, but do know that Autopatches remain alive on VHF / UHF repeaters in Wisconsin. While they are not as widespread as in the past, they are still used. Cell phones are responsible for this weakening trend.

One place that an autopatch can really shine is if several are trying to coordinate a meeting on the air, and a potential attendee is not on the air. One person can bring up the patch, call the other person, and everyone settle in on a time and location for the meet.

I can also see a limited emergency use of autopatch for homeland security. A repeater atop an EOC could be wired into the EOC PBX, and responding hams could autopatch a call center and get them to open the door. I would argue that it is better to have such an autopatch option than to dismiss it with a wave of a hand. If misused, a control operator can often disable the autopatch function.

One particularly interesting varient of the autopatch is the reverse patch... the condition when someone on the phone line calls a repeater, and an amateur "answers" the call. Over the last few years, I have read various comments concerning the legalities of such a setup... where a non-licensed individual could bring up a repeater and cause it to transmit. I am in favor of this technology, as it is a potential tool to solve a particular communications problem.

If your repeater has IRLP or Echolink, you have to be careful that your autopatch doesn't pass audio to the internet. There are countries outside the US that forbid the connection of a repeater system to a telephone system. Your IRLP / Echolink installation is a logical extension of the local repeater system you are linked to, and in order to respect the foreign country's requirements, best design your system not to pass autopatch audio.
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by K1CJS on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Just a thought--When the sh*t hits the fan and the cell phone systems are overloaded, such as the 9-11 attacks or the blackout in the middle section/northeast area of our country last year, a properly functioning repeater patch will be welcome. Again, when the cellphones are out altogether, we hams will still have our capability of repeater phone patches and patches on our own equipment as well.

No, the phone patch isn't dead--not by a long shot.
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by KF4MKJ on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
The phone patch on our local repeater comes in handy. Several hams use it routinely, I use it for areas where my cellphone doesn't work, or doesn't work well. One guy even promotes it as a cheap alternative to a cell phone. Twenty dollars a year for club membership as opposed to forty dollars a month cell phone bill.

RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by WB4QNG on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
While they are not dead they are not well. I can remember when I had one and every Sunday afternoon the 20 meter band was full of them. Now I hardly hear them at all. Same with auto patches on the repeaters. It used to hams were the only way a wreck or breakdown could be reported on the road. I cannot remember the last time I heard someone use an autopatch for that purpose. With the event of cheap long distance phone service and cell phones they have become less needed. I still think ham radio is a very important part of the emergency backup system but I think the Backup is the important word now. I can remember when we were the emergency service not a backup system. When hurricaines hit we were the only comunications for days if not weeks. Now they bring banks of satellite pay phones. Wildfires we were the commucniations for the firefighters to talk back home. Now I am not sure what they use but it is not phone patches. Of course I already mention cell phones. I do agree when every thing else there is ham radio but I believe that they try everthing else first.
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by KD7VDB on February 19, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
One night i was coming from a venue with mentor and good friend Larry Bloomfield KA6UTC, down highway 126 in oregon. We came apon a flipped over subaru outback with a small child and his mother inside. Oregon being as vast as it is there isnt cell service out of most towns. I thankfully had my HT and called the usuall break break emergency signal but no one was monitoring on the 146.80 repeater and they decided to discontinue its use as a auto patch a long time ago. the only reason we got help was that a forest service truck was driving through and came upon us and had a 150watt Forest service radio. No one was luckilly hurt but it took almost a hour for help to arrive .

Long live the AUTOPATCHES they save lives!!!!!!!!
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by K6BBC on February 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Well, I guess the cheep long distances rates killed the traditional phone-patch. Back a few years ago there were nets (WESTCARS for one) who were set up to beat the phone company out of toll charges. I guess long distance rates have come down enough so even cheapskate hams will pay them.

RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by K9KJM on February 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I am afraid that WB4QNG is correct. Phone patch operation on the ham bands, Both HF and VHF is no where near as important on a daily basis as it once was. (For that matter, Packet radio is also almost dead) Mostly because of the advent of cellphones and the internet. Which is a real shame. As pointed out,
ham radio is still a really good "back up" communications system. I hope both phone patches and packet radio can survive a while longer yet...........
But it is a changing world. We need to find the best way to help out in a disaster situation in todays world of many new communications modes.
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by KE2IV on February 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
First of all, except for accessing landline phone service via radio, Autopatch and PhonePatch are totally different.

As the G-station alluded to, PhonePatch is a means of connecting a THIRD PARTY to a wireless transmission. Many countries, particularly those where the phone system is (or was) state-owned and considered a revenue-generating operation PROHIBITED such third-party communications.

This is the form of communication which the original poster queried about.

AUTOPATCH, as the term should suggest, is an operator-accessed TWO-WAY form of communication. Yes, you usually access it from your vehicle - but that is NOT why it is considered to be AUTOpatch.

It means that you, the initiator of the communication is accessing the repeater to connect to a SECOND party for a direct contact.

Oh, and I agree with NE1Z.

So called Home Security experts - - get over it. Your phone patch would be useless - to whom are your trying to connect to who?

Think about it!
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by K5ET on February 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Several area repeaters have phone patches but they
are rarely used anymore. Since repeater operators here
can obtain phone lines at residential rates for their
patches even if the repeater is in a commercial location, the expense is not too great. Most of the
systems here have "911" calls inhibited so calls to
public safety agencies have to be done through their
regular 7 digit numbers. This was done due to abuse
a few years back when there were some self-appointed
Broderick Crawford types would call 911 when they saw a
car with a burned out tail light or a noisy muffler.
The 911 agencies never complained about it officially,
talk to any of them and they'll tell you about the calls they get seeking advice on anything from "true
love" to changing a faucet washer. But open-access 911
was a casulty of this.
Cellphones are a big factor in the drop off in usage, most of the hams that were regular patch users
quit using them when they got a cellphone. Cellular
coverage is quite good in the area even in rural places, usually any "holes" in your coverage is not
being caused by being out of range of a cell site, but
the byzantine world of roaming agreements between various cellular carriers and the various technologies
being used. So if you have a TDMA phone and roam into
a CDMA area, and no analog fallback is available, you
might be out of luck even if the carriers have a roaming agreement. Go to a hamfest these days, the
"typical ham" is far more likely to have cellphone from her/her belt or pocket than an HT or some other
gizmo perhaps excepting pagers or wireless-enabled

Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by WA8VBX on February 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I would like to say it is alive and well, but it is alive but struggling to stay that way.

I had two son's in Iraq, one at Baghdad and one in Mosul, and I talked to them more on cell phones while they were there, and I am not sure if there were any Mars stations they could use, and one of my son's is a Ham and knows what to look for.
Also ATT&T had payphones setup (of course collect calls only) at the major compounds so that the military could use them.
Now with the satellite phones coming down in prices, it will even get easier to reach out and call home.

I used Mars and phone patch's through out my military career, and it was a way to keep in contact with my family, but technology I think will finally make Phone Patching go the way of spark-gap radio.


Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by KC8FRJ on February 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
You are right, how absolutely silly of us to heed the warnings of Homeland security. Providing communications to anyone while their means of communications are disable because of:
Multiple day power failure, disabling landline and cell service.
Planes hitting buildings causing frantic overload conditions in cell service.
Hurricanes disabling landline and cell service.
Tornadoes disabling landline and cell service.
Is/was silly.

People really did not any communications assistance finding Space Shuttle debris in Texas.
Silly us trying to step forward and be prepared ‘just in case’.

I am very much at fault for sitting on my laurels and being caught off guard in the recent disasters here in the United States. I am not going to try to consul myself by diminishing the worth of what I could have done.

Why do I not have a phone patch?
Why can I not provide a moderate speed wireless data path?
What are the RACES frequencies and procedures?
Why do I not frequent satellites?
Why do I not operate CW?
Why are my emergency power sources lacking? (Solar panel is in the shed….)

I need to improve my readiness, and would not be surprised that others need to do the same.
I do not see how it is helpful to condescend to others trying to improve themselves.
I would rather think that recent history is a wake up call, we should be rallying into action.

RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by WI4CW on February 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!

K8FRJ - pretty convicting comment - you drilled me too. I started thinking about the phone patch stuff late yesterday evening when I read this. I personally as well - need to get a few more items in line in the event that we have an scenario requiring all able radio folksen....

Take care

73 de Ken

"Why do I not have a phone patch?
Why can I not provide a moderate speed wireless data path?
What are the RACES frequencies and procedures?
Why do I not frequent satellites?
Why do I not operate CW?
Why are my emergency power sources lacking? (Solar panel is in the shed….) "
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by AC7NA on February 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
It's obvious that HF phone patches are not as popular as they once were for a variety of reasons; however, there are still applications for them, primarily in the mobile maritime arena.

About 6 mos. ago, I listened to a phone patch between a soon to be father and the hospital room where his wife was in labor. The patch originated from a Navy destroyer in the pacific and was patched from a ham in MN to the hospital in WA. The patch started at his home where he was checking in on his pregnant wife. The call was answered by his mother-in-law who informed the father she was watching his kids after the wife, having just gone into labor a short time previous, went to the hospital. The ham (wish I could remember his call)got the phone number to the hospital from the mother-in-law and was able to patch directly to the labor and delivery room. It was pretty emotional for me to listen to the newborn baby crying in the background (it was a girl), the cheers on both ends of the conversation, and the gratitude expressed by the couple to the ham who made this connection possible. In this particular situation, an HF phone patch was probably the only way this could have occurred.

I have HF phone patch capability, and I'm ready to use it if the opportunity presents itself. The equipment is cheap and could definitely make a difference in someone's life!

Brian AC7NA
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by WB2NVY on February 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Last time I did phone patch was on 75m in the 1960s. My "patch" was absolutely nothing more than a TV HV xfmr. The primary, LV, & HV windings were perfect Z matches to telco, mic input and headphone jack, and it performed far better than any commercially made patch. Is it alive or dead? I haven't heard any being used on VHF nor HF.
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by N8MMZ on February 21, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
May not be too many phone patches on ham bands, but the MARS guys are still doing it. See the excerpt below from "Airman" Feb. 2003 issue ( below.

"Ray, a retired Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel, has been there during tough times, too. The World War II B-24 Liberator pilot — with 51 combat missions under his belt — has helped aircraft with radio problems or that needed refueling. And he recently helped a C-130 Hercules crew out of a jam.

“When we discovered our airplane had severe rudder damage in flight, Ray patched us through to the right agencies,” said Capt. Nathan Allerheiligen, a C-130 pilot with the 61st Airlift Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. “He held the line open and re-routed our phone patch requests though other frequencies. He was a lifesaver.”"

Some folks still use a patch. I guess I'll keep mine around for good measure.

Jonathan - N8MMZ
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by K6FUZ on February 22, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I put a CS-800 on my Kenwood TKR-750 repeater on 2m and our local ham community typically uses the autopatch when we can't get cell service or there are a bunch of us on the radio and we want to make a telephone conference call.

Even though this is an urban area, cell service can still have outages. Several times during the 4pm to 7pm time frame I have gotten the "SOS Calls Only" message on the cell phone and been blocked from making calls. Also in the hills, it's easy to find you don't have service. I've used the autopatch quite a bit under these conditions.

The conference call aspect is really handy when you have a discussion going and you need quick input from a third party which you can reach via telephone.

As for local emergencies, I would not count on any land line service being too useful around here. The most likely emergency we would have is an earthquake and they tend to cause the telecom infrastructure to overload. In that case, it's probably going to be no phone, radio.

Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by KA5E on February 22, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
As a net control station for the Maritime Mobile Service Net and Hurricane Watch Net, I can tell you that in certain cases, phone patches are invaluable in HF work. I used mine yesterday afternoon to patch Miami to Chile in a 'family' emergency illness. I use it often to connect loved ones at sea to their contacts in the US.

In the case of emergency, a phone patch can bring the US Coast Guard directly in touch with the vessel in distress eliminating the '3rd party' and possible confusion.

In many situations from the shuttle disaster to hurricanes, etc. ham radio is often the only link. I'll continue to keep my phone patch working.


Dave - KA5E
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by KC8VWM on February 23, 2004 Mail this to a friend!

Cell Phone - Great when 100,000 lines at the cell site are not tied up at the same time during a disaster.

2 Way Radio Communication - Good if the intended party you wish to reach is equipped with a radio and tuned to the same frequency.

Phone Patch? - Priceless.


Charles - KC8VWM
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by KE2IV on February 24, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
This is a sad thread.

That any ham really believes that phone patches have a role anymore....WOW!

Any of you want to buy my old B/W TV?

Get real!
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by KC8FRJ on February 24, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Well.... OK.....KE2IV

What accommodations have you made in your shack to be prepared for an emergency?

Always looking for good information!
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by KF4VGX on February 25, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Dead & Gone.
RE: Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gon  
by KC8VWM on February 25, 2004 Mail this to a friend!

>>>Any of you want to buy my old B/W TV? <<<

Sure, I'll bet it's user serviceable friendly!
They don't make em like that anymore...


Charles - KC8VWM
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by VA7CPC on February 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Certainly useful in the Maritime Mobile net, which also does "remote location" communications. See:

Since I might want a patch from my boat in the Pacific to family in New York City, I hope they keep the patch capability alive.

A time may come when satellite phones are universally available and "talk minutes" are very cheap -- but it ain't here yet.
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by WA2JJH on February 29, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
the day of when NYC hams would autopatch in a 911, is no longer. Before everybody had a cell phone, we would do that kind of work all the time.

However I think it is a good thing to have a phone patch in the shack.
Phone Patch Alive & Well or Dead & Gone?  
by NJ6F on March 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Think outside the box...

I use my Kenwood phone patch as a link to my Radio Shack hands free phone with dual headphones with swivel mic with mic on / off and audio volume control and FT100D in VOX position so I can walk around the house and out by the pool and just lock the freq dial on an existing conversation or net. I bass up the mic by putting the rigs eq in bass position and add more bass via USB/LSB Xmit offset control.
I just switched the mic wire in the PC-1A patch so when the switch is on passing receive audio it also passes my mic audio vs switching it off as designed.

or.... link to a 440 Echolink repeater via same mode and utilize the hands free phones memory for the repeater access code, delay and node numbers to your favorite Echolink site / repeater, link or person.
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