by David Struebel, WB2FTX
Section Traffic Manager - Northern NJ
Initiating an NTS Message on Packet
NTS Packet Delivery in NJ and Hudson County
Picking up an NTS Packet Message for Delivery
NTS Radiogram Format for Packet
I hope this overview will give you the information
you need to to send and pickup NTS messages by packet. I'm assuming
that you are familiar with packet operations and know how to access a
local PBBS (packet bulletin board system).
Packet NTS messages can be sent from any
PBBS . The format is
- At the PBBS prompt, issue the command "ST
xxxxx @NTSyy" where xxxxx is replaced with the 5 digit zip code for the destination and
the yy is replaced with the 2 letter abbreviation for the state or province (e.g. NTSNJ, NYSNY, NTSTX etc.)
- When the PBBS responds with the
"Title/Subject" prompt enter:
"QTC AAAA BBB-BBB" , where
"AAAA" is replaced with the destination city/town and
"BBB-BBB" is replaced with the destination telephone area code
plus the three digit exchange.
- When the PBBS asks you to send the message, type in the NTS message in
standard radiogram format. For example:
NR 945 R WB2FTX 5 BUTLER NJ OCT 22
110 MAIN STREET
BLOOMFIELD NJ 07003
THIS IS A TEST MESSAGE
You can enter either 5 or 10 words to a line. The BT and AR are used
in the same fashion as on Morse Code and Phone.
See below for more information
about radiogram format.
- At the end of the message, enter either a
Control-Z key combination or "/ex" to tell the PBBS that you have
finished entering the message. The PBBS will then start to relay the
message according to the xxxxx@NTSyy address.
NTS Packet Delivery in NJ and Hudson County
State-wide System: I've designed a
state-wide network for the delivery of NTS Packet
messages which is based on zip codes. The
state has been divided into 3 major areas, each handled by a different
public NTS PBBS acting as a "hub".
NJ zip codes, the NTS packet hub is my WB2FTX-4 station in Butler.
For central Jersey, the hub is WB2COP-4 in Monmouth county, and for
southern Jersey, the hub is K2UL-4 in Mercer County. These hubs pass
messages to one another based on the zip codes each hub covers.
A hub does one of three things with messages for
its coverage area. Messages with zip codes near the hub are held on the
hub for pick up and delivery by NTS
operators who live close to the hub (see
Messages for zip codes slightly further away from
the hub are
passed to "local" NTS PBBSs.
For example, messages for zip codes in Warren or Hunterdon county are
forwarded to the N2QAE-4 PBBS in Long Valley, where NTS operators in
those counties can pick them up. (Any "hub" can send messages to any
"local" it can "hear".)
Still other messages are forwarded to
"individual" NTS operators who have packet
stations with private TNC mailboxes running all the time (or at regular
intervals) to receive messages destined for their
immediate locale. For example, in northern NJ, messages for Sussex
county are sent to the private packet mailbox
of a cooperating NTS operator in that area. These individual operators are
responsible for delivery or forwarding of the messages they receive in
their mailboxes. Other NTS
operators do not have access to these mailboxes or the messages
there. (If you would like information about becoming an
"individual" mail drop, please contact
me. Several zip codes are unspoken for and I'd appreciate the help.)
- If you can communicate directly with the NTS
PBBS, use the CONNECT command in Command mode, e.g. "C
WB2FTX-4" or "C BBSNTS" (BBSNTS is an alias for
- If you can't connect directly to the NTS PBBS,
connect through another station that you can hear. There are two
ways, the first way is the preferred way:
- NODES: Find a network NODE station which you can hear,
e.g. WA2SNA-2 on 145.01 MHz. (List of
Flexnet and Neighboring non-Flexnet Nodes)
First CONNECT to the node. Then, while
still connected to the node, try to connect to the NTS BBS by sending a
"C WB2FTX-4" or "C BBSNTS" statement in
Converse mode, not Command mode. In some cases, you
might need to connect to yet another node which can
"hear" the NTS PBBS. (Some nodes may require a 2
Meter or 220/440 MHz port number between the "C" and the PBBS name,
e.g. "C 2 WA2SNA-2".
Example (going through 2 NODES):
C KA2UGQ-3 (in
COMMAND mode), then after connecting,
C 2 WA2SNA-2 (in CONVERSE mode), then after
C WB2FTX-4 (in CONVERSE mode)
or, combining the last two commands with a
C KA2UGQ-3 (in
COMMAND mode), then after connecting,
C 2 WB2FTX-4 VIA WA2SNA-2 (in CONVERSE mode)
Using a NODE network is preferred over the "Digipeater"
method below for two reasons. The NODE software helps ensure that packets make it correctly
over each leg of a packet's journey -- from you to the NODE
station and then from the NODE station to the PBBS. If there is a failure on any leg, the NODE will
work with the station to get the packet through
correctly. This technique is called node-to-node
acknowledgements. In addition, NODE-to-NODE
packets are often carried on quieter 220 MHz links. Together,
these features make for a faster and more reliable connection.
- DIGIPEATERS: Use the VIA addendum in your CONNECT
command, e.g. "C WB2FTX-4 VIA WA2SNA-2".
This is less efficient. The "VIA" station acts as a
"dumb" repeater. It doesn't check to see if the packets it
has digipeated are received correctly. So, if a packet -- and
it's acknowledgement -- don't both
over every "hop" of the
journey without problem, the FROM station will send the packet
over and over again, subject to the RETRIES limit. This
technique is called end-to-end
acknowledgements. The chances
that a outgoing packet and the returning acknowledgement
packet will both make it safely end-to-end could be very small, especially on a
- After you connect to a NTS PBBS, send the List
Traffic command: LT
The PBBS will
send you a list of all current NTS traffic.
- Look at the status codes for each message on the
list. They will be either TF, T$, TN, or TY.
- TF means that the message has been forwarded to another bulletin board.
- T$ means that the message is waiting to be forwarded to another PBBS.
- TN means that the message is waiting to be taken by anyone for delivery.
- TY means that someone has read the message but did not kill it.
- IGNORE all TF and T$ messages. They do not need your help in moving
them along, since the PBBS SYS OP (System Operator) is handling them.
- You can read a TN or TY message with the command
"R ######", where ###### is replaced by the message
number assigned by the PBBS.
- If you can accept a TN or TY message to
deliver locally or to relay to a local voice net, first copy or print
out the message and then use the "KT ######" command to
"kill" (delete) the message. If you don't "kill" it, the
message will stay on the list as a TY message and someone else will
eventually pick it up and deliver it again. As you can see, it's
very important to kill all messages you accept as soon as you accept them.
Likewise, note that if you accept a TY message for delivery, you run the risk that
someone else has already read and delivered it, but just forgot to
kill it from the list. Still, it's better for you to try to deliver the
message again rather than have the message never delivered at all.
- When you're done, sign off the PBBS with the BYE command.
(You would then sign off the node with a "Q" or
NTS Radiogram Format For Packet:
The table below shows the expected format of a typical
||NR 351 R HXC K3RXK 21 WALKER MD FEB 21
||AL BAROLET KJ3E
||108 ELLIOTT CT
|City State ZIP
||CALIFORNIA MD 20619
||301 862 3201
|Text in lines of five
or ten words
||CAN YOU ATTEND THE JUNE
MEETING OF THE FREDERICK AMATEUR
RADIO CLUB QUERY YOUR TRAFFIC
HANDLING EXPERIENCES ARE INTERESTING X
Components of the Radiogram
PREAMBLE: This info is for recording and tracking traffic. It includes a message number generated by the ham station where the message
originated; a precedence which indicates how important the message
is; the callsign of the station where the message
"check" which is the number of words in the
text; the place of origin; and a date. It can also include special handling
instructions and the time filed, although most messages don't have
Message Number: The ham
originating the message assigns his/her next available message number
with a "NR " prefix( some operators start over with a 1 at
the start of a new month or year ). This NTS message number must remain with the Radiogram from origination to delivery.
Note that this
number is different from any system
numbers which packet bulletin boards may assign to messages as they are
Precedence: This is where the original ham tells everybody down the line just how important the message is. Choices include Routine, Welfare, Priority and Emergency. If a message is
fiction -- for example, a test or drill message -- the precedence will be Test Routine, Test Welfare, Test Priority or Test Emergency.
Don't create improper precedences, such as Priority Welfare or Emergency
Routine. They will be meaningless to other hams.
Handling Instruction Codes
(optional) - All start with an "HX":
- HXA - (Followed by a number.) Collect landline delivery authorized by
addressee within (the number) miles. (If no number, authorization is
- HXB - (Followed by a number.) Cancel message if not delivered within
(the number) hours of filing time; service originating station.
- HXC - Report date and time of delivery (TOD) to originating station.
- HXD - Report to originating station the identity of station from
which received, plus date and time. Report identity of station to
which relayed, plus date and time, or if delivered report date, time
and method of delivery.
- HXE - Delivering station get reply from addressee, originate message
- HXF - (Followed by a number.) Hold delivery until (the number).
- HXG - Delivery by mail or landline toll call not required. If toll
or other expense involved, cancel message and service originating
Station of Origin:
This is the ham callsign of the originator.
Check: The number of words in the text including
the "X" and "QUERY" and any groups of
characters or numbers. Do not include address or signature.
Place of Origin, Time
(optional), and Date:
Written by the originating station and passed through
"as is" by all stations handling the traffic.
ADDRESS: Enter the
most complete name and address available for the recipient. Include ZIP code. Include callsign if addressed to a ham. Include telephone number with area
code, since most messages are finally delivered by local phone call.
PROSIGNS: Are used to
help the copying operator understand where one major section of the
message has ended and another will begin.
- "BT" is digital/Morse code shorthand for the word
"BREAK", which on voice nets is spoken
both after the address and after the text. It's there merely to
indicate a separation of the address from text and text from signature.
- "AR" is digital/Morse code shorthand
for "END OF MESSAGE", and goes at the very end of your
message to indicate there is nothing more.
TEXT: Limit to 25-30 words. [This is not as important when you know the message will go its entire path via packet, but you can't be sure. ] Use the letter
"X" for a period. Use the word "QUERY" for a question mark.
Note that the ARRL has also prepared several conveniently-prewritten standard texts. Save time by using these ARRL
"numbered" radiograms where suitable.
These lists are available from many sources including the back of most log books and various ARRL publications.
SIGNATURE: Name which best communicates identity of party for whom the amateur radio originating station is sending the message. Include callsign if from a ham.
That's it in a nutshell!
Section Traffic Manager for Northern New Jersey