HamSphere: Virtual Ham Radio


When band conditions are poor or you feel like a change, you may like to have a go at a different sort of amateur radio experience by trying HamSphere, which is a virtual ham radio service using the internet to replicate HF bands and operation.

User interface is via a simulated HF transceiver presented on the computer screen. Of course, being an internet based virtual amateur radio system, no amateur radio equipment is needed and no RF is radiated, yet the experience is very close to that of operating a real HF radio on the HF bands. For those unable to operate real radios because of planning restrictions or other problems, this system offers some of the fun of amateur radio again.

HamSphere is a community for amateur radio operators and other radio enthusiasts. Amateur radio equipment is not needed. The transceiver uses java technology and simulates all amateur radio bands from 160 to 6 meters. The software, plus a lot more information about this service, is available from http://www.hamsphere.com/ .  The software works in Windows, Mac and Linux.

Before you download the HamSphere software be sure to download Java. I hadn't done that and so got an error message. Java is free to download from www.java.com/getjava/ and takes only a few minutes to install. Installing HamSphere is even quicker. Once both are installed the system appears to work flawlessly.

Features of the HamSphere's Software Transceiver's simulation

  • Modes: DSB (Double side band modulation) and CW (built in keyer)
  • Filters: 700Hz in CW, 2.4kHz and 3.8 kHz in DSB.
  • AGC: Fast and slow
  • 6, 10, 11, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40, 48, 80, 160m bands.
  • Band span: Usable bandwidth for each band is 96kHz.
  • Virtual Power: Adjustable between 10 - 2.5kW.
  • Simulation on/off (turn off shortwave reality mode and use as a 2m like transceiver)
  • VFO and memory mode (9 memories)
  • DX Cluster

What does it feel like to use?

Well today, Feb 8th 2011, I had my first QSO using HamSphere with Con ZS4CCM in South Africa. The QSO was on the simulated 40m band and it felt like a real, ionospheric, QSO with band noise, tuning onto frequency with pitch changes and QRM from signals nearby. The transceiver feels and looks like a real HF rig similar to a basestation rig from Yaesu or Icom. This was actually rather a fun way of spending a quiet half hour sitting in front of a fire enjoying QSOs without interfering with neighbouring TVs and having to spend £1000 on an HF rig. I've still to learn how to drive all the bells and whistles - like adding entries into the memories - but I am sure the help files will explain all this.

This is not ultimately ham radio in the traditional sense. No skills are needed to build and set up a station, erect antennas, or battle the sunspots. If all you do normally is chat to other stations around the world this may not matter much. It is a great way of enjoying contacts with stations around the world and, in my opinion, is a perfectly valid way of enjoying a form of ham radio. I like the fact that CBers are welcomed onto the system, thereby being able to learn amateur QSO techniques before perhaps going on to get a full amateur licence.

As far as "simulated ionosphere", internet based ham radio systems go, this is the best one I have used. I can recommend it. All I'd like now is for Kelly to design a version of this that runs on the iPod Touch 4g, so I can access the system over a 2.4GHz WiFi link from a mini handheld "transceiver" in my pocket.

Updated 8.2.11