New England Net Directory


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What is a “NET” and how do I participate in one?

A net is a gathering on an amateur radio network. Do not confuse network as in linking, which can sometimes be the case, but is not always. Instead, think of networking as a social construct. When you network in this context, you are meeting and interacting with other people.

Nets are found in two formats: Formal and Informal.

Formal nets have a structure and are more regimented. These nets involve radio discipline so that information can flow efficiently. A formal net has somebody in charge, a conductor so to speak. This person in charge of the net is known as the Net Control Operator or NCS for short. All requests must go thru the Net Control, this is referred to as a Directed Net. The NCS directs actions and when said actions can take place. The NCS is instrumental in making sure everything in a net gets sorted, important transmissions are prioritized and the mission of the net is met.

Informal nets are intended for socialization. These nets often take a round-table discussion meaning everybody has a chance to make comments in the order that they checked in. “Checking In” is when you announce your callsign to the NCS that you want to participate in the discussion. Some nets may have a topic of discussion whereas others may just have a free-for-all where anybody can talk about an appropriate item of their choosing.

Formal Net Types:

Nets can be found to have different purposes.

Traffic Net: A formal traffic net (National Traffic System/NTS or Radio Relay International/RRI) handles sending and receiving formal messages into and out of an area. Traffic nets use what is known as a Radiogram. These forms have a preamble (header) which contains important preliminary information that can be used for tracking and sending. The preamble shows what number message the originator used, the precedence (how important a message is): Emergency, Priority, Welfare or Routine, the callsign of the person who first introduced the message into the system, how many word groups are in the message, known as Check (short for Checksum), town or city the message was initiated from as well as the time and date the message was first introduced into the system.

A Net Control Station will first take check-ins from stations who have formal traffic first. Most nets indicate if they have traffic upon check in. This is Kilo Uniform One Uniform, no traffic. Some nets have you check in with just your callsign, upon acknowledgment you will list your traffic status.

Examples: KU1U: This is Kilo Uniform One Uniform, no traffic

NCS: The net recognizes KU1U, no traffic

KU1U: This is Kilo Uniform One Uniform, One thru

NCS: KU1U list your traffic

KU1U: I have one thru (if outside of the state)

Sometimes messages do not need to go far, they may be sent and received within your own state. When the message needs to go beyond your own area, it is called “thru traffic”. Somebody may check into a net identifying themselves as a “thru rep” or a “liaison”. Everyone enjoys something different when it comes to a traffic net. Some people like sending message, some may partake in moving messages thru to the next net, others may like to receive the traffic while lastly there are folks who want to deliver the message when it reaches its destination.

While voice handling is a large part of traffic handling and what many hams interact with first hand, messages may also encounter Morse code or digital nets along the way to its destination.

Checking into a Morse Code (also known as CW, short for Continuous Wave) follows a prescribed method. Understanding when to check in and how to participate in a CW net is largely dependent on timing.

The Net Control Station will open a CW net, the queue to listen for is “QNI?” I like to think of this as Quick Now Introduce Myself! When you hear “QNI?” send a single letter. Traditionally people send the last letter of their callsign suffix. KU1U would send “U”, NCS will repeat back the letter they heard. If I hear NCS repeat back L, I know that was not me, they are asking for the callsign with “L” in it to complete their full callsign, so one might hear “AF1L”. The NCS will acknowledge the full callsign with a brief intro, for example, NCS: AF1L GA DV AS(NCS is saying the callsign and Good Afternoon Dave, Please Standby, the A and S are sent as one character). Now here, you can do one of two things: 1) send the first letter of the suffix of your callsign once you hear “AS” (Standby) or want for the NCS to send “QNI?”. I have heard some people use a random letter when checking into a net, but it is more common to send the last letter of your suffix.

If you are checking in but do not have traffic, you would send “QRU” respond to NCS with:

KU1U: KU1U QRU K (This is KU1U, I do not have any traffic, go ahead”

If somebody has traffic going to Nekoosa, Wisconsin on a CW net, it would be sent like this:


QTC is shorthand for “I have messages”

The NCS may have the traffic passed on the same frequency or they might tell you and the receiving station to go off frequency to pass the message, returning to the main frequency once finished. NCS may send something like:


This means for KU1U and W1KX to go down 5 kHz and pass the traffic. The receiving station will be the one who calls the sending station.

After traffic is passed, NCS goes around to secure everyone from the net. If K1ESE is up next, he acknowledges to let NCS know he is there by sending either a “dah” or two “dits”, Net Control will then secure them from the net.

Stations will be secured by NCS with the prosign QNX.

When the CW Traffic Net is complete, NCS will send QNF. Think of it as “Now Finished”.

Other Nets may include:

ARES? (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) for training or activations

RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) for training or activations

SKYWARN (National Weather Service) for training and weather reporting events/ disasters

Hospital Nets to communicate between different medical facilities

There are some nets that occur on a larger scale such as the East Coast Amateur Radio Service (ECARS) on 7.255 MHz LSB, Maritime Mobile Service Network on 14.300 MHz USB and the Hurricane Watch Net when activated on 14.325 MHz, just as a few examples.

Good etiquette to consider when checking into a net:

  • Listen before you speak (avoid doubling other stations)
  • Key up, pause briefly (half a second) at the beginning and end of your transmission to avoid clipping yourself
  • Is your radio programmed correctly? (Correct Frequency and Mode, if on a repeater, ensure the tone, shift and offset are all accurate)
  • For formal nets, keep transmissions short and to the point.
  • Be sure to inform net control if you are leaving a net or have a request
  • Be polite and courteous on the air