Frequently Asked Questions


Q: How can I get on the roster?

A: Send a request in radiogram format to the Personnel Officer, or if none is specified, the Net Manager. Include your full name, call sign, address, and telephone number, unless you don't want your phone number to be listed in the roster.

Q: I'm interested but I don't know if I'm ready for real traffic. How can I learn more?

A: The best way to learn is by listening, and practicing by writing out messages as they are sent over the net. It's easiest if you start by writing the messages on preprinted Radiogram forms. It's available at the bottom of our References page.

Q: What is a Radiogram?

A: The radiogram is a standard format for sending messages. It makes sending traffic more efficient by providing a template for messages. The four parts of the radiogram are the preamble, the address, the message text, and the signature. The ARRL is responsible for the Radiogram form, and also offers guidelines (FSD-218) for originating and handling formal radiogram messages, including precedences, handling instructions, QN signals, Q signals, abbreviations, prosigns and prowords. We have copies on our References page.

Message Handling

Q: What can I do to prepare for traffic handling under emergency conditions?

A: In an emergency situation, traffic may be handled on simplex, because repeaters may not have emergency power. In simplex, stations send and receive on the same frequency. The signal from a station must be able to hit the receiving station directly. A better antenna or more power will improve your simplex ability. Sometimes, increasing the squelch may let you catch more remote stations. A 3-4 element 2 meter beam antenna may work better than a vertical antenna because you can turn it towards the sending station.

Q: Why does the receiving station call the sending station?

A: There has to be an accepted protocol so both don't call each other. It's easier and more efficient for Net Control to follow this rule, instruct the receiving station to call the sending station. The receiving station may need preparation time, to get paper and pencil, and possibly going to another frequency, before calling the sending station. Once the receiving station says - OK, I'm ready for your traffic - sending goes ahead. This structure is practice in being efficient.

Q: Net control just asked someone to pick "through traffic", what is that?

A: Sometimes, Net Control will ask someone to "call station X and pick up 4 through". This means messages that are to be passed to a higher level net, via the Section Net Liaison. This terminology is only used when the destinations have already been listed by Net Control, i.e. "Currently holding 2 Toledo, 1 Florida, and 1 Oklahoma."

Q: I have some traffic to bring to the net - how do I tell Net Control where it is going?

A: When Net Control asks for stations with traffic, stations respond with their call sign. When recognized, the station will list how many for each destination. If the destination is outside Ohio, list the state only (Florida); in Ohio, list the city only. For a message to another amateur, you may or may not need an address, for example, if the ham is a known traffic handler, may not need the address. When listing traffic to our local area, specify by the city or call sign. Out of area traffic is specified by either the city or the state.

Q: Why does the message have the letter A after the message number?

A: Split messages are sometimes received. MARS messages can have 50 words and be split into A and B. The same may occur with a split net that used two frequencies. The net reports have A and B appended to the net date.

Q: I delivered the message, but the receiver has moved and has a new phone number. Should I sent it back to the place of origin?

A: When the person the message is going to has moved or has a new phone, that person should be the source of a message back to the sender with updates. The ham can suggest a reply with the new information, but should not originate that reply. Recipient may not want to share info with sender.

Q: My message doesn't have a phone number - what do I do?

A: When a message comes in without a phone number, you can use online ham callsign lookups or local phone books.

Q: How long should I keep trying to deliver a message?

A: When delivering a third party message, attempt to deliver the message over a time frame of 3-4 days to 1-2 weeks, depending on content. It's OK to leave a message that you have a radiogram for them and ask them to call you back. Keep trying, and if it can't be delivered, service it back to the sender (ARL SIXTY SEVEN). The standard time is usually 3-4 days. With answering machines and also with email), it is impossible to tell if the message was actually received.

Q: What about the precedence - when should I use it?

A: Message precedence - R or other - is not added to acknowledgment of message, or in referencing a message in text. A service message, a reply back to sender indicating that the message is undeliverable, should include the apparently wrong information so the sender can verify if it was sent correctly. Message number should include an S (following) to indicate it is a service message.

Q: I hear other unusual terms like zed and niner - what are they?

A: Sometimes, Zed is used instead of Zulu, as is niner instead of nine. Zed is a single syllable with a unique sound, and is easy to distinguish that it means a Z. Niner for nine, and fife for five are used to separate these numbers.

Q: Why do I hear word groups like Charlie Romeo Mike ?

A: It is common practice to use standard ITU phonetics for spelling an unusual word or group of letters. The words make it easier to tell which letter is being sent. The ITU phonetics are: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, October, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu.

Q: There are a few valid reasons for refusing to take a message: it is being sent to a non-third party country, which is not legal; if there appears to be monetary value gained or business conducted on the air; if the message exceeds 25 words.

A few more may be ok if going a short distance - but not if it will be sent CW.

Q: What is common text traffic?

A: Common text traffic (old was book traffic) is the same message sent to more than one person. By sending the common parts, then the unique parts of the messages, traffic is sent more efficiently.Three of the four parts are the same for each message in the group. Part 1 is the preamble, except for message number. Part 3 is the message. Part 4 is the signature. The addresses - Part 2 - are different, and are given last, along with the message number.

Q: Why do I sometimes hear the word "telephone number" or "going to" when someone is passing traffic?

A: Since we are using the radiogram standard format, you never send (say) anything you don't write: "telephone number" is not necessary in the address.

Q: What are some of the general guidelines for traffic handling?

A: When passing traffic, use correct phonetics, say only what's written, give your call after sending or taking traffic so you don't have to send every 10 minutes. Acknowledge receipt with "I acknowledge your number ##". Don't add the precedence.


Q: What is the purpose of COTN?

A: The Central Ohio Traffic Net is part of the Ohio section of the National Traffic System. We are a training net and all licensed Amateur Radio operators are welcome to participate.

Other Nets

Q: What other traffic nets are active in this area, and what modes do they use?

In addition to the Central Ohio Traffic Net, the Ohio Section has:

Buckeye Net (CW) 18:45 (3.580 MHz) and 22:00 (3.590 MHz) daily;

Ohio Slow Net (CW) 18:00 daily, 3.53535 MHz; and

Ohio Single Sideband Net (Phone) 10:30, 16:15, and 16:45 daily, 3.9725 MHz.

Message Format

Q: Why do some messages include the word XRAY?

A: XRAY is used when there isn't a clear break between thoughts or phrases. Normally there is no XRAY after ARL message numbers. Take out all XRAYs, and check the message for readability. Use XRAY only if needed for clarity. XRAY is used to separate thoughts, and is not a substitute for a period.

Q: How do I clearly communicate unusual groups of letters and numbers?

A: Non-word groups are identified as: Mixed group (25th, ), Figures (614, 857), Initial or initials (W, IM), Initial group (OK).

Q: Why do some messages use the word ARL?

A: ARL numbered radiograms FSD-3 are standardized, and allow a longer message to be sent with fewer words. If the message includes an ARL message number, the check total is preceded by the word ARL. In the message, ARL numbers are spelled out and each word is counted in the check. Example: ARL SIXTY TWO is a three count.

Q: How do I decide the place of origin?

A: The place of origin is the city where the message originates, not usually the city of the station of origin. If the message is taken over the phone, it's the location of the person you are speaking with. If the message is taken in person, it's the place where you are at the time the message is created. Recently, the ARRL and the FCC stated that station of origin is also acceptable, so either location is technically correct. This might be useful if you create a message for a friend from another state. It can help to minimize confusion when the recipient responds.

Q: How do I figure out the check?

A: The check is the number of words in the text of the message. Don't count the preamble, the address, or the signature. Phone numbers with area code count as three, unless the dash is part of the phone number, then it counts as one. Xray may be used in the message text, and indicates a break between sentences or phrases in the text; it counts as one.Web addresses and email addresses are a counted as one. Internet syntax is treated differently when calculating the message check.

The entire URL or email address, including all punctuation, is counted as one word.

Q: What's the HXG or HXC that I hear in some messages?

A: These are message handling instructions in the preamble, HX followed by a letter between A and G. HXG is the default, and tells the receiving station that delivery by mail or landline toll call is not required, if an expense is involved, cancel the message and service originating station. If it is HXE, it means to get a reply and send back to the originating station even if the message is that the recipient does not wish to reply. The preferred method of getting a reply from the addressee is to include ARL Seven in the message text, which means reply via the amateur delivering the message. This allows the recipient to decide whether or not to reply.

Tracking Traffic

Q: What is the Public Service Honor Roll, and how do I make the list?

A: There are 8 ways to get points toward the Public Service Honor Roll, and 70 points puts you on the monthly honor roll. If a station qualifies for PSHR for 12 consecutive months, or for 18 out of 24, the station can be awarded an ARRL certificate.

Q: What do I put in my monthly traffic report, and where does it go?

A: Monthly reports are sent to WA3EZN, Ohio Section Traffic Manager. Each traffic handler should send a monthly traffic report, which will have a check of 3. Example message text: November traffic 37. The first word is the month being reported, and the last word is the point count. The point count is based on the following criteria: 1 point, 3rd party message origination; 1 point, bringing the message to the net on the air; 1 point, message taken from the net on the air; and 1 point, delivery to 3rd party or amateur off the air. This gives bonus points for 3rd party contact, which is considered educational and a public service. Don't forget the point for the daily Net Manager report, and monthly reports to the Section Manager, if they are sent over the net.

Q: What are these messages that always have a check of 5 and are some numbers and a call sign?

A: They are daily net reports from the net control station for that session. They go to the COTN statistician, who compiles them for the month and sends monthly totals to Dave, STM (WA3EZN). A net report usually has 5 words but can have more. The 5 words are: date of the net, number of check-ins, count of traffic handled, total minutes for the session, and section net liaison(SNL) call sign, which may be multiple.