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National Traffic-NTS

The National Traffic System (NTS) is an organized network of amateur radio operators sponsored by the American Radio Relay League for the purpose of relaying messages throughout the US.

During normal times, these messages are routine greetings ("Happy birthday Aunt Mary") and keep the system well oiled and the operators trained so that everything works when needed. When there is an emergency or disaster NTS works closely with the Amateur Radio Emergency Service to provide emergency communications. The most common type of disaster-related messages are "health and welfare" inquiries and notifications into and out of the area affected by the disaster.

In time of disaster, it is easy to expand the system by simply creating additional meeting times for the nets with high volume, or by setting up a specific "trunk line" between two points.


The National Traffic System (NTS) is a structure that allows for rapid movement of traffic from origin to destination and training amateur operators to handle written traffic and participate in directed nets. These two objectives, which sometimes conflict with each other, are the underlying foundations of the NTS.

NTS operates daily, even continuously with advanced digital links.

The personnel consists of operators who participate for one or two periods a week, and some who are active daily. The National Traffic System is an organized effort to handle traffic in accordance with a plan which is easily understood, and employs modern methods of network traffic handling in general acceptance today.

NTS is not intended as a deterrent or competition for the many independently-organized traffic networks. When necessitated by overload or lack of outlet for traffic, the facilities of such networks can function as alternate traffic routings where this is indicated in the best interest of efficient message relay and/or delivery.

One of the most important features of NTS is the system concept. No NTS net is an independent entity which can conduct its activities without concern for or consideration of other NTS nets. Each net performs its function and only its function in the overall organization. If nets fail to perform their functions or perform functions intended for other nets, the overall system may be adversely affected.

NTS is defined using geographic areas. The US is divided into areas that approximate time zones. Areas are divided into regions, and regions into sections that correspond to a state. Each of these subdivisions has nets for collecting and distributing traffic. A net is nothing more than a time of day and a radio frequency where the appropriate group of amateur operators can meet to send the messages on their way.

The process of traffic passing is best explained by an example. Let's say that someone in Minnesota wants to send a birthday greeting to Aunt Mary in California. They telephone their local ham friend and give him the message.
  • At 6:30 local time, the Minnesota ham attends ("checks in to") the Minnesota Section net. One station there has been designated to accept all outgoing messages, and Aunt Mary's message is sent to that station.
  • At 7:45, the station who received the message checks in to the Region net. This net consists of representatives from all the section nets in the region, and one station has been designated to accept all traffic that flows out of the region. Aunt Mary's greeting will be sent to this station.
  • At 8:30, the station from the region checks into the Area net and sends Aunt Mary's greeting to the designated representative from the Pacific area.
  • At 8:30 Pacific Time, the Pacific Area net meets. (All the area nets meet at 8:30 local time; since they are in different time zones there is no overlap.) At this point the process is repeated in the opposite order
    • The area representative sends the message to the appropriate region representative,
    • The region representative meets a later session of the region net and sends the message to the appropriate section representative,
    • The section representative meets a later section net and sends the message to the closest operator to Aunt Mary's home
  • The final recipient calls Aunt Mary on the telephone and delivers the greeting.

Perhaps this sounds rather complex, but it really isn't. Each net uses the same procedure and operating techniques, so as novice operators gain experience they can "graduate" from section to region to area nets. Every message is placed into the same format. The operation is disciplined but not unduly complex.  In times of great emergency or disaster this has been proven time and again the best way to handle the task of reliable message handling.


Kentucky NTS Information

  • KEN - The Kentucky Emergency Net is held every Monday night at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, 6:30 p.m. Central time on 3972.5 kHz. The purpose of this net is training for emergency and is an ARRL sponsored net. Net Manager is Kentucky Section Manager KY4Z.
  • KDN - The Kentucky Digital Modes Net is held every Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, 7:30 p.m. Central time on 3585 kHz using PSK31. The purpose of this net is training in the use of digital modes. Net Manager is Jim Rayburn, KC4BQK.
  • KDN-2 The Kentucky Digital Modes Net 2 is held every Monday night at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, 7:30 p.m. Central time on 3585 kHz using PSK31. The net follows the weekly KEN on Mondays, and you can find some of the regulars hanging out on the KEN frequency of 3972.5 kHz offering help to those with questions about the operation and use of digital modes on the KDN and KDN-2. The purpose of this net is training in the use of digital modes. Net Manager is Jim Rayburn, KC4BQK.
  • KYN - The Kentucky CW Net is held at 9 PM ET daily on 3535 kHz and runs at about 15 WPM. Information is available from the Net Manager for the format and procedures of the net. Net Control Stations will send to match the speed of those who check in. For more information, contact Net Manager John Farler, K4AVX.

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