Nets – What is a Net?

Many hams may be familiar with nets but new hams and even some veterans may not be familiar. I will do my best to explain nets, what they are, how they are useful and how they work. This article is not intended to all inclusive but I will do my best to make it informative.

The first question is “What is a net?” Essentially a net is a network of amateurs that meet on a specific frequency (or repeater) at a scheduled time. Nets can serve many different purposes: information, ragchew, NTS traffic, public service, weather spotting, emergency communication and more.

While some nets are informal, many nets are formal with a net control station (NCS). In formal nets with an NCS, all traffic goes through the NCS and they get it directed appropriately. This is especially important in public service, weather spotting and emergency communications. It helps to ensure very orderly operations.

I am going to specifically discuss information and ragchew nets this week. EARS has each of these types of nets weekly: the Monday night information net and the Saturday morning breakfast net. Both are formal, controlled nets. They each operate similarly but serve completely different purposes.

The Monday night information net has a purpose to inform local amateurs about EARS events and other local information. The NCS starts off taking check-ins with traffic or announcements. Hams check in by giving their callsign, then their callsign phonetically, their name, their location and finally whether or not they have traffic for the net. If they do not have traffic, they can state “no traffic”. Once the NCS finishes with check-ins with traffic, they will read back the callsigns of those that checked in. Once that round is complete, the NCS will take check-ins with or without traffic. The NCS directs the net or “show” so please listen and the flow is pretty easy to follow.

The Saturday morning breakfast net is a ragchew net. The net started during COVID when the group that meets for breakfast on Saturday mornings were unable to meet. It has continued even through breakfast is happening again. For this net, the NCS takes a round of check-ins and then goes to each check-in one at a time. Each ham has a chance to say whatever is on their mind. It can be amateur radio related, or not. Once they are done, they turn the net back over to the NCS and they go to the next person on the list. When the NCS gets to the bottom of the list, they usually ask if there are any additional check-ins. After giving those hams a chance to talk, there is usually a “73 round” to finish the net. This round operates the same way. Ragchew nets are just a way to chat with other hams and say whatever is on their minds.

Hopefully this is a good primer on nets. Next week, I will elaborate some on some of the other types of nets.

Another source that has a good primer on nets is this article on the OnAllBands blog:

Steven, N5ZQ

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