Packet Radio

Packet radio is a form of packet switching technology used to transmit digital data via wireless communications. Packet radio uses the same concepts of data transmission using datagrams that are fundamental to communications on the Internet, as opposed to older techniques used by dedicated or switched circuits. Packet radio can be used over long distances without the need for a physical connection between stations. Packet radio can also be used for mobile communications.

Current Arkansas Packet Map, as of 03/10/2019

Packet radio is a digital radio communications mode. Earlier digital modes were telegraphy (Morse code), teleprinter (Baudot code) and facsimile.

It is possible for any packet station to act as a digipeater, linking distant stations with each other through ad hoc networks. This makes packet radio especially useful for emergency communications. Mobile packet radio stations can automatically transmit their location, and also check in periodically with the network to show that they are still operating.

The most common use of packet radio is in amateur radio, to construct wireless computer networks. Packet radio uses the AX.25 (Amateur X.25) data link layer protocol, derived from the X.25 protocol suite and adapted for amateur radio use. AX.25 was developed in the 1970s. AX.25 includes a digipeater field to allow other stations to automatically repeat packets to extend the range of transmitters. One advantage is that every packet sent contains the sender's and recipient's amateur radio callsign, thus providing station identification with every transmission.

A basic packet radio station consists of a computer or dumb terminal, a modem, and a transceiver with an antenna. Traditionally, the computer and modem are combined in one unit, the terminal node controller (TNC), with a dumb terminal (or terminal emulator) used to input and display data. Increasingly, personal computers are taking over the functions of the TNC, with the modem either a standalone unit or implemented entirely in software. Alternatively, multiple manufacturers (including Kenwood and Alinco) now market handheld or mobile radios with built-in TNCs, allowing connection directly to the serial port of a computer or terminal with no other equipment required.

The computer is responsible for managing network connections, formatting data as AX.25 packets, and controlling the radio channel. Frequently it provides other functionality as well, such as a simple bulletin board system to accept messages while the operator is away.

Following the OSI model, packet radio networks can be described in terms of the physical, data link, and network layer protocols on which they rely.




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