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APRS Map South Okaloosa County
APRS View of Southern Okaloosa County Florida.

Get started fast with APRS to text message.

For those of you who have decided to try APRS for the first time, I am putting together this basic guide with the hopes it can speed things up for you. In this first guide we will look at how to text a sell phone from your radio. Before you start, go ahead and create a free APRS.fi account here: APRS.fi. While this step is not needed, it will help you trouble shoot any problems that may pop up.

It should go without saying, but to use APRS you need a system that supports APRS. This could be a:

Digital APRS radio
Analog radio with computer interface
Cell phone

For this article we are going to focus on APRS radios (this guide is using a Yaesu FTM-400). Start out by setting your callsign and secondary station identification or SSID. Usually this setting is in the dedicated APRS menu or under /General/Data. If your callsign is already set by the radio, you will just need to assign a SSID based on the following criteria.

6Satellite Or Special Opperations
8Marine Mobile
9Mobiles And Trackers
11Hight Altitude Ballons
12Tracker Boxes
13Weather Stations
14Long Haul Trucks
15Any Other Station

Here you can see this backpacked FTM-400 set for SSID 15. You can get to this menu from the Yaesu FTM-400 by holding the Setup Button until it takes you into options. From there navigate to APRS settings and 23 (Callsign).

APRS Callsign SSID
Callsign and SSID Set

With the callsign set, you now want to assure you have the preferred path set. The path is how the signal will propagate through repeaters and eventually to the internet. I suggest starting with a path, Wide1-1,Wide2-1. If Wide1-1,Wide2-1 does not work, you can try Wide1-1,Wide2-2.

APRS path set to Wide1-1,Wide2-1
APRS Path In FTM-400

While there are a few more settings you should consider, we will touch on those later, the basic set up is now complete. Assuming you are in North America, tune your radio to 144.3900. With that done, you are not ready to turn on your APRS modem. If you are not in North America a quick internet search will tell you the local APRS frequency.

Make sure APRS modem is on
Brace Yourself For the Beeps

With the modem now on, you should be seeing data coming in as well as your beacon going out periodically. You are now ready to send your first text message. This service uses the gateway documented here: SMSGate.org. Once you are all setup, I highly suggest creating an account there. Having an account allows you to set aliases so you do not have to type out phone numbers every time.

How to text smart phone from APRS radio
APRS Messaging Screen

Now launch the message screen (FTM-400: Press the F Function Button until the menu comes up then scroll to and press MSG). You need to set the callsign to SMSGTE. For the message the syntax is:

@<phone_number> <message>.
Example: @1235551212 Whats up? I just set up new radio.

The image above shows the correct format. Now press SEND, Tx, MSG Tx, whatever your radio uses. If everything is correct you should hear your radio transmit and your message will show up on the number you entered in 1-2 minutes.

Iphone to Yaesu radio sms texing
APRS To iPhone Screenshot

To reply the syntax is:

@<callsign-SSID> <message>.
Example: @K9DTF-15 Who dis? New phone.

If for some reason you cannot send or cannot reply, this is where the APRS.fi account you set up earlier comes in. Simply go to APRS.fi and search for your callsign including your SSID. Now click on your callsign and select info. If you are logged in, from here you can click Messages in the top of the screen. This will allow you to see if your message or reply made it to an igate and then APRS server.

Granted you could do this from an Android / iOS app like PocketPacket, but this method requires no additional apps or software.

Did we get something wrong? Let us know in the forum and we will do out best to correct it. Discussion Topic On APRS To Text