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NTS Packet Information

by David Struebel, WB2FTX 
     Section Traffic Manager -  Northern NJ

Quick Index for this Page

Initiating an NTS Message on Packet

NTS Packet Delivery in NJ and Morris 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).

Initiating an NTS Message on Packet

Packet NTS messages can be sent from most PBBSs . The format is as follows:

bullet 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.)

bullet When the PBBS responds with the "Title/Subject" prompt enter:
"QTC AAAA BBB-BBB" , where "AAAA" is replaced with the destination city/town (e.g. CHAT) and "BBB-BBB"  is replaced with the destination telephone area code plus the three digit exchange (e.g. 973-635).

bullet When the PBBS asks you to send the message, type in the NTS message in  standard radiogram format. For example:


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.

bullet 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 Morris 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 2 major areas, each handled by a different public NTS PBBS acting as a "hub". 

For northern NJ zip codes, the NTS packet hub is my WB2FTX-4 station in Butler.  For southern Jersey, the hub is KC2QVT-4 in Burlington 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 procedures below). 

Morris County:  

bulletMessages destined for zip codes in Morris County stay at the WB2FTX-4 hub for pickup.

Picking up an NTS Packet Message for Delivery

bullet The WB2FTX-4 mailbox is not available directly. It is only available via the FlexNet background network. That means you need to access a FlexNet node to be able to get to WB2FTX-4 to pick up NTS messages.

1. Connect  to a Flexnet  packet node near you, e.g. WA2SNA on 145.01 MHz or WB2SNN (Sayreville) on 145.51. (List of Flexnet and Neighboring non-Flexnet Nodes)

2.  Then, while connected to the node, connect to WB2FTX-4 by sending a "C  WB2FTX-4"  statement in Converse mode (not Command mode).  FlexNet nodes are "smart" and will find a route to WB2FTX-4 via intermediate nodes if WB2FTX-4 can't be heard directly... so you don't need to provide a route.


C  WB2SNN   (in COMMAND mode), then after connecting,
C  WB2FTX-4    (in CONVERSE mode)

The Flexnet node (in this case WB2SNN) will first respond with

          link setup...    
and then
          *** connected to WB2FTX-4

(In this example, since WB2SNN can't hear WB2FTX-4 directly, it used WA2SNA to relay to WB2FTX-4. The relay step is invisible to you. For more information about FlexNet in the northeast USA go to )


bullet After you connect to WB2FTX-4 and receive its welcoming messages (and sign in request if this is your first visit), send the List Traffic command:   LT

WB2FTX-4 will send you a list of all pending NTS traffic.

Look at the status codes for each message on the list. They will be either TF, T$, TN, or TY.
bullet T$ means that the message is waiting to be forwarded to another PBBS.
bullet TN means that the message is waiting to be taken by anyone for delivery. 
bullet TY means that someone has read the message but did not kill it.
bullet You can read a TN or TY message with the command "R  ######", where ###### is replaced by the message number assigned by the PBBS.
bullet 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.

bullet When you're done, sign off WB2FTX-4 with the B (BYE) command.
bullet Then sign off the Flexnet node with the Q (QUIT) command.

NTS  Radiogram Format For Packet:

The table below shows the expected format of a typical packet Radiogram:        


Sample Text

Preamble NR 351 R HXC K3RXK 21 WALKER MD FEB 21
Address  108 ELLIOTT CT
City State ZIP CALIFORNIA MD 20619
Telephone 301 862 3201
Prosign BT
Text in lines of five or ten words CAN YOU ATTEND THE JUNE
Prosign BT
Signature  TONY K3RXK
Prosign AR

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 originated; a "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 these.

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 received. 

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":

bullet HXB - (Followed by a number.) Cancel message if not delivered within
(the number) hours of filing time; service originating station.
bullet HXC - Report date and time of delivery (TOD) to originating station.
bullet 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.
bullet HXE - Delivering station get reply from addressee, originate message
bullet HXF - (Followed by a number.) Hold delivery until (the number).
bullet 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. 

bullet "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! 



[email protected]
Section Traffic Manager for Northern New Jersey

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Last Updated: 05/30/2010