DESTINATIONS - PLANNING & PACKING
Outback Travel Australia relies on the VKS737 network on all bush trips.
OTA team members regularly accompany specialists who are opening up new tracks, tracing explorers’ routes or conducting archaeological work.
In all these pursuits OTA staffers rely on the VKS737 HF radio network, as well as on satellite phone connection.
The VKS737 HF radio network was established in 1993 to provide emergency and general radio communications for people who live, work in or travel through rural and remote areas of Australia. The network is managed by administration staff, committee members and volunteers including message coordinator and base station operators.
VKS737 is licensed by the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA) and subscribers must comply with all provisions of the Radio communications
One advantage of HF radio over a satellite phone is that communications can be broadcast over many receivers. There’s often a wealth of track and weather information at the other end of a VKS737 radio and all the subscribers OTA has communicated with have been very helpful.
Another advantage is the knowledgeable support provided by VKS737 base operators – volunteers who are happy to help with information or relaying messages. It can be very comforting when you’re in very remote areas to hear a friendly, helpful voice crackling through the HF radio speaker.
Anyone who has used a CB radio is familiar with simplex transmissions, where you make a statement, finish it with the word ‘over’ and wait for a response from another transmitter.
HF radio use is similar, but there are protocols that must be observed, to keep the system working smoothly. It doesn’t take much practice for new VKS737 users to become familiar with the system.
Before buying a new or used HF radio it’s best to check with the VKS737 organisation, to make sure the unit is compatible.
The VKS737 network has an excellent website, with a long list of FAQs and an on line licence application form that can be downloaded in Acrobat PDF format.