APRS Station ID (SSID)

Last updated 6 Feb 2012, Bob WA4APR

SSID’s have seen two different uses in APRS. Initially as an ICON indicator back in the early 1990’s. But that is obsolete for over a decade. Now SSID’s are used as an informal way of indicating one of several different typical APRS applications.

Since many small displays for the handheld and mobile operator show nearby APRS station callsigns that flash up on the screen, it is nice to have some idea of what type of station or activity might be involved simply from the callsign SSID without having to push buttons, search lists, or look at maps to find out more about them.

SSID RECOMMENDATIONS: It is very convenient to other mobile operators or others looking at callsigns flashing by, to be able to recognize some common applications at a glance. Here are the recommendations for the 16 possible SSID’s (the limit of 16 comes from the 4 bits available in the AX.25 protocol. Note, The SSID of zero is dropped by most display applications. So a callsign with no SSID has an SSID of 0.

-0 Your primary station usually fixed and message capable
-1 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc
-2 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc
-3 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc
-4 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc
-5 Other networks (Dstar, Iphones, Androids, Blackberry’s etc)
-6 Special activity, Satellite ops, camping or 6 meters, etc
-7 walkie talkies, HT’s or other human portable
-8 boats, sailboats, RV’s or second main mobile
-9 Primary Mobile (usually message capable)
-10 internet, Igates, echolink, winlink, AVRS, APRN, etc
-11 balloons, aircraft, spacecraft, etc
-12 APRStt, DTMF, RFID, devices, one-way trackers*, etc
-13 Weather stations
-14 Truckers or generally full time drivers
-15 generic additional station, digi, mobile, wx, etc

  • One-way trackers should best use the -12 one-way SSID indicator because the -9’s usually mean a ham in full APRS communication both message and voice. The -9’s can be contacted by APRS message or by Voice on his frequency included in his beacon, or on Voice Alert if he is in simplex range. The -12’s are just moving Icons on the map and since they have no 2 way communication for ham radio they are not generally of routine interest to other operators.

OBJECTS or INTERNET: In addition, Objects or internet generated stations can have any SSID, not just the original 16, since Objects are not constrained by the AX.25 header and can have a 9 byte name. Here are some common OBJECT/Internet SSID’s:

-63 for PSK63 HF stations
-tt for APRS TouchTone users (DTMF)
-ID for RFID
-A through -Z for Dstar

SSID BACKGROUND: Originally, in 1992, we had to use the SSID as a way of indicating the type of station that transmitted a raw NMEA-0183 GPS sting. But in the mid 1990’s we began indicating any of the nearly 200 APRS symbols by the setting of the AX.25 TOCALL of “GPSxyz”. The “xyz” characters define the symbol from the standard APRS symbol table www.aprs.org/symbols.html.

The GPSxyz concept worked so well, the original SSID associations are no longer a required part of the spec. But the conventions that evolved from those early SSID’s are still encouraged as noted above, for easy recognition of station type or activity by when only the callsign is seen.

The -1, -2, -3, -4 and -15 are kept generic so that anyone with as many as 6 digipeaters, or 6 trackers or 6 weather stations or 6 vehicles can still have unique SSID’s for each of his stations. Beyond 6, people will just have to use any SSID that suits their fancy. In some areas there might be 15 digipeaters all under one guy’s call!

SSID USAGE: The SSID’s also might give a hint as to how someone is getting into APRS whether via satellite, a one-way tracker, a mobile, an HT or even via DTMF or an RFID device or whether he is doing something special.

For example, if you are doing something special, change your SSID to -6 to alert others to your excitement, or to make the track-history begin and end on site, and not be tied to all your other -9 travels. Or use -6 SSID for a packet sent via the ISS or APRS satellite or for a 6 meter test so the successful packet is preserved and not overwritten by the same radio the next time you use it not via the ISS on the 144.39 national channel. By using separate SSID’s the WEB data bases will keep statistics and data separate from when you are working normally on other bands with other SSID’s.

So stick to the suggestions above for the obvious applications where you can. Of course these are not rigid. If you have more than 6 digipeaters, use any SSID you want. These are only guidelines to hint at a station’s possible application when all you can see easily is the callsign on a screen or in a list….

de WB4APR, Bob