What is a Net?
A net is an on-air gathering of ham radio operators. Most nets meet at a regularly-scheduled time on a certain frequency and are usually organized for a specific purpose. This could range from passing messages, to discussing a common topic of interest, relaying critical information (especially in times of severe weather), or even just a regular gathering of friends for conversation.
Formal, Informal, Traffic, Topic, Social? What do they mean?
A formal, or directed, net has a single net control station (NCS, usually "net control" on-air) or stations, who manages the operation of a given net session. The NCS operator calls the net to order at its designated start time, controls repeaters as necessary, calls for participants to join, keeps track of stations who have checked in to a given net session, and generally controls how a given net functions.
An Informal net is just that. A net which, in comparison, tends to be significantly more relaxed. While things are still up to the net control station, an informal net can be thought of as more of a social gathering on the air. Where formal nets are more structured, informal nets are more free-flowing.
A Traffic net is a net in which messages or 'traffic' is passed between stations. A prime example of this is the National Traffic System. In a traffic net, stations who have a message, or traffic, which they need to move elsewhere.
General Net Procedure
The net control station (NCS) of a net may be change every session, though all net controllers generally work with the manager of that net to coordinate scheduling and operations.
While every net is slightly different, there are a few general procedures that are a pretty safe bet to follow.
- Speak slowly and clearly, with proper phoenetics when identifying. The NCS for a net almost always has other things they need to keep track of simultaneously. The last thing a net controller needs is the extra work of trying to decipher a callsign who used poor phoenetics while also trying to log it and remember the callsigns that came immediately after. If you've got creative phoenetics you'd like to try or you have a clever pnemonic for your callsign that's great- however a net is not the place for these.
- Leave space between transmissions. If someone has an emergency transmission they need to interrupt with, or has pertinent information to a topic of discussion they need to have space they can enter during. Leaving space also provides a chance for those who may be shy or slower about transmitting and lets them have a turn where they otherwise may not have had one.
- Don't transmit unless requested to do so. Many nets have a specific structure and flow. Transmitting out of turn could range from being a nuisance to those participating, to a serious issue that delays or prevents critical information from making it wherever it needs to go. The NCS will generally request a specific station transmit something, or will call for a general response.
- When in doubt, check with net control. If you're not sure if a net is going on or you're listening to a net and aren't sure whether you can check in, you can always check and see! First making sure there's nobody transmitting or finding a break in transmissions, transmit your callsign phoenetically and wait. If a net is in progress the NCS will generally acknowledge you with a few seconds. From there you can respectfully ask whatever you need. Remember, the NCS is usually busy with other things at the same time as calling on the radio, make their life easier!
- ID at the end of every transmission. During a directed net, it may be a while between when the NCS has you transmit and when you'll get to transmit again. Remembering that the FCC says amateur radio operators must identify themselves, at a minimum, once every 10 minutes and at the end of a contact, whichever comes sooner. Can you see the potential problem? If you said "I might not get a chance to ID myself", then you're absolutely correct! This is why it's a good idea to identify at the end of every transmission during a directed net - you never know when you won't be able to ID later.
Granted, these guidelines are suggestions, part of being an operator people will interact with is following proper operating procedure
W5AC Net Schedule
All times listed are in Central (local) time.
|Weekly Training and Information Net|
M 20:00 Central
New to radio? First time getting on the air? This net accepts check-ins from newly licensed and long time stations alike, providing a safe place for operators to build proper radio operating skills. Updates on the club are provided, and a weekly discussion topic is provided for your discussion.
|Reveillie Morning Net|
TRS 07:30 Central
Informal Social Net
Having trouble staying awake in the morning before that pesky 8:00 AM class? Want someone to chat with on the drive to work or campus? This informal net is a good way to periodically check in and talk to folks. There's no strict script, and it'll run as short or as long as hams are participating on-air.
Curently on hiatus, looking for net control stations. Interested? Email the club officers!
|Slow-scan Television Net|
F 21:00 Central
Informal Special-interest Net
Interested in learning about slow-scan television? All you need is your laptop (or even phone) and a radio!