Net Tip #1 — NCS Is Always On Correct Frequency

Nets generally have an assigned net frequency. Under normal circumstances, the net control station (NCS) will call the net on the published net frequency. All of the net member stations will set their frequency to the same net frequency and all is well.

There are a few things that will cause the net frequency to vary from the published frequency. The most common occurrence is if there is another station already operating on the published net frequency. The net does not have a right to the net frequency at any time. If there is a QSO going on, the net control station is required to find another nearby frequency on which to hold the net.

Their are other things that can cause the NCS to call the net off of the published net frequency. The NCS may have strong local interference that prevents them from using the published net frequency. The NCS may be having rig problems that cause a frequency shift. The NCS may have accidentally bumped the frequency dial off frequency and not noticed.

In all of these cases, it is the duty of net members to zero beat their frequency to whatever frequency the NCS is operating on. This is the net frequency for that net session. If you don’t hear the net call-up on the stated net frequency, search up and down the band a few kilohertz and try to find the net. When you find the net call-up — that’s the net frequency. The correct net frequency is always the frequency the NCS is on!

Make It Easy – Log It!

NTS message traffic handlers are encouraged to file a Station Activity Report (SAR) monthly and a Public Service Honor Role (PSHR) report when qualified. These reports require you to know how many nets you checked into, how many messages you handled, and other detailed information about your networking and message handling activities. In addition, it is occasionally necessary to find a previously handled message and determine when and where it was sent or to resend it.

The easiest and best way to make these tasks easy is to maintain appropriate logs of all your network and message handling activity. I searched the web for something I could use and didn’t find any examples that I thought adequately fit my needs. So I did what any web user would do – I ‘borrowed’ what I found online, tweaked them a bit, and came up with my own forms.

I decided that the first log I would need would be to log the traffic nets that I checked into. This contains information about each net I check into, who the net control station is, date, time, and frequency of the net, and other relevant information. The net log I use is Station_Net_Log_04MAR2015. It is fairly self-explanatory how to use it. I generally write in the current year on each page below the word “Date”. I use abbreviations in the “Net” column for brevity. I use BNE for the early Buckeye Net and 8RNL for the Eighth Region Net late CW session, etc. Feel free to use whatever is appropriate for your purposes. I generally use the comment section to note that I’m 8RN TX rep or BN RX rep or whatever role I might be in the net. I keep my Station Net Log in a pocket folder along with net rosters, Q-signal lists, net schedules, and other working aids. This keeps it very handy when net time comes along.

The second log form I use is for messages I originate from my station. For me, this is mostly net reports, SARs, and PSHRs. The purpose for the Message Origination Log is to keep track of my message numbers, identify my messages, and show who I sent them to and when i sent them. The form I use is Message_Orig_Log_04MAR2015. It’s use is self-explanatory.

The third log I use is a Received Message Log. I log every message I receive into my station on this log. The log is divided into one section for information about the received message and another section for what I did with the message. Every message that you receive must have a particular disposition. If it’s a message addressed to me, then I check the “Self” column in the disposition section. If it is a message for me to deliver, I check the “Dlvd” column. If the message needs relayed to another net, I check the “Sent” column. If I can’t send or deliver it, and it’s not addressed to me, then I generate a service message and check the “Svcd” column. I then log the service message in my Message Origination Log and mark it sent in that log when I send it on. The Received Message Log I use is Received_Message_Log_2014.

I use the Message Origination Log and the Received Message Log to count the messages for the monthly SAR. Any messages that count as Originated will be found in Message Origination Log. Note that the service and report messages I generate on my own behalf are NOT counted as originated. They can only be counted as “Sent”. So, the Message Origination Log gives me a total number of “Originated” messages and part of my “Sent” messages. I then go to my Received Message Log for the remainder of my SAR message count. I count the number of messages marked as “Sent” and add that to the “Sent” count from the Message Origination Log. I count all the messages logged and this is my “Received” message count. I count the checks in the “Dlvd” column and that is my “Delivered” count. Add them all up and that is the message total for your SAR.

I keep the Received Message Log and Message Origination Log in their own file folder and file the messages, in log order, behind the log sheets. This makes it very easy to find information on every message that passes through my station quite rapidly, should the need arise. It also enables me to easily keep an accurate count of my message traffic handling. This, in turn, makes my station reporting accurate and easy to do.

Feel free to copy and use these log forms as is or modify them for your own use. I would be interested to hear any comments you might have about any of these forms. I can be contacted at

QNZ – What It Means And How To Do It

QNZ is an ARRL NTS prosign that is used by net control stations on CW nets to instruct net members to zero-beat their transmit signal with net control’s transmit signal. If every station does this correctly, then all stations should hear each other with a pleasant audio pitch.

Most CW nets have an assigned net frequency. In normal circumstances, all net members set their frequency to the net frequency and all is well. However, sometimes the net control station calls the net up on a frequency that is different than the assigned net frequency. This is often due to having an ongoing communication on or very near the assigned net frequency and trying to avoid interfering with that ongoing communication. The net control moves up or down a few hundred Hertz and that’s where the problems come in. Some stations stay on the assigned frequency. Some pick a nice even frequency nearby. The result is that stations spread out all over the place to the point that they may not be heard by the net control. In nets, the correct net frequency is always the frequency that net control is transmitting on. Net control is never on the wrong frequency! It is the responsibility of all net members to transmit on the net frequency.

So how do we solve this problem? By doing what is commonly called “zero-beating” the net controls transmit frequency. When you successfully zero-beat the net control’s transmit frequency, you will also be transmitting on the same frequency (or very close to it) and all net members should hear you fine.

Back in the day of separate tube-type transmitters and receivers, think Drake Twins, the transmitter and receiver frequencies could be set anywhere in their range and were not tied together like they are in modern transceivers. In order to have a CW conversation, you had to make sure you could hear the other station and that the other station could also hear you. In separate transmitters and receivers, you had a SPOT switch that, when pushed, gave you a weak signal on your transmitters frequency that you could hear in your receiver along with the other stations transmit signal. You tuned in your receiver to the tone you liked, then adjusted your transmitter’s frequency until you heard your transmit tone go away. As you approached the other stations frequency, you would hear an audio beat note that was equal to the difference in the other station’s frequency and your own transmit frequency. This beat note would get lower and lower until you couldn’t hear it any more. When you were almost exactly on the other stations frequency, you could hear a very slow pumping of the AGC and even see it on your S meter. When it stopped, you were exactly on the other stations transmit frequency. You were “zero-beat”. This was normal, every-day, CW operating procedure.

With today’s modern transceivers, the transmitter and receiver VFOs are the same. You automatically transmit and receive on the same frequency. (Actually, this is only true for AM signals. SSB signals generally have a fixed offset similar to CW mode). This is great, and very convenient for voice operations but can lead to trouble for CW conversations. If your receive frequency and the other stations CW transmit frequency are exactly the same, you hear nothing! In order to hear another stations CW signal, you must offset your receiver’s frequency by some small amount. The amount you offset, that is, the difference between the transmit frequency and your receive frequency is the audio frequency that you hear in your speaker. If your receiver is tuned 440 Hz away from the transmitter, you hear a low ‘A’ tone. If your receiver is tuned 1200 Hz away you hear a high pitched tune. Most experienced CW ops choose a tone 600 Hz to 800 Hz away from the transmitter’s frequency.

In modern transceivers, most manufacturers offset the receiver frequency in CW mode by an adjustment to the CW sidetone frequency. The transmit frequency will be the frequency displayed on the dial. The receiver frequency will be the dial frequency plus or minus the displayed frequency. In CW normal mode, it will be plus (USB). In CW reverse mode, it will be minus (LSB). For example, in my Yaesu FT-450D, I set the CW sidetone to 700 Hertz. This is the tone I like to hear on CW. When I tune my radio display to the Ohio Slow Net net frequency of 3535.350 KHz, that is the frequency that I am transmitting on. Because my sidetone offset is 700 Hz and I am in CW normal mode, the transceiver automatically adjusts the receive frequency to 3535.350 Khz plus the 0.700 KHz offset. The receive frequency I am listening to is 3536.050 KHz. If the net members want me to hear them, they must set their transmit frequency to somewhere where the difference between the transmit frequency and the frequency I’m listening on is an audio note that I can hear. If they choose to transmit on 3535.350 KHz, I will hear a 700 Hz audio tone. If they choose 3535.500 KHz, I will hear the difference between my receive frequency, 3535.050 KHz, and their transmit frequency, 3535.5 KHz, which will be 450 Hz. This is readable but lower than I like to hear. On the other hand, if a net member transmits on 3535.000 KHz, I will hear them on 3536.050 KHz minus 3535.000 KHz which is 1.050 KHz, readable, but uncomfortably high for my taste.

All of the above assumes that all net members’ transceivers are transmitting with the same receive frequency shift. Not all transceivers act the same way, however. In my FT-450D, I can select the CW receive offset to always be above the transmit frequency, always below the transmit frequency, or in auto CW mode which sets the receive frequency below the transmit frequency on the 160m, 80m, and 40m bands and to above the transmit frequency on the 30m and higher bands. The ICOM IC-718 behaves like the FT-450D’s auto mode. It automatically sets the receive offset below the transmit frequency for the low bands and above for the high bands. If you want to be on frequency on a CW net, you must know whether your receive offset is above or below the transmit frequency and make sure it is set the same for all members of the net. Modern usage is to always use a receive offset above the transmit frequency.

Most modern transceivers put out their CW transmit signal on the dial frequency and shift the actual receive frequency by the frequency of the transmit sidetone. Most modern transceivers allow you to set the transmit sidetone to a frequency within a range, typically around 300 Hz to around 1000 Hz. Some rigs, particularly older rigs, have a fixed offset. Fixed sidetones are often 600 Hz, 700 Hz, or 800 Hz. Check your operating manual to be sure. If yours is adjustable, set it to the pitch you like to hear.

Most transceivers allow you to operate your key or keyer without transmitting a signal on the air. On the FT-450D, you can turn the break-in function off. When the net control station tells you “QNZ”, all you have to do is turn off break-in, key your sidetone, and tune your receiver until the net control’s received signal pitch is the same as your sidetone pitch. When you arrive at that point, your dial will show your transmit frequency and that frequency will be equal to or very near the net controls actual transmit frequency. If all net members follow this procedure, everyone will hear everyone else at their chosen (or fixed) sidetone pitch.

Note, if you are fortunate enough to own a high end transceiver, you may have several different ways to tune in the CW signal. The FTDX-3000 has an auto zero-beat function where you tune in the CW signal, push the right button and the radio automatically tunes the rig to the proper frequency. The Kenwood TS-2000 has a similar function.

Being exactly on another stations transmit frequency is not always an advantage. In CW contest operation, you may gain an advantage by deliberately tuning off the other stations frequency a bit. This will make your signal sound a little different than all the satations tuned exactly in and you may get noticed sooner.

In any case, having the knowledge of how your rig works in CW and the skill to zero-beat a signal will make you a better CW operator and, hopefully, increase your success and enjoyment of this oldest of communications modes.

Public Service Honor Roll Report – PSHR

From the ARRL web site:

Each month in QST‘s Field Organization Reports column, the Public Service Honor Roll (PSHR) recognizes the efforts of Amateur Radio operators who are active in many aspects of public service. This includes net operations, traffic handling, emergency operations and public service communication support. There are chances that you’re already involved with some aspect of Amateur Radio that would apply to the Public Service Honor Roll (PSHR).

The PSHR report is how you inform the ARRL that you have earned recognition. The PSHR report is sent monthly, at the beginning of the month, to your Section Traffic manager (STM) reporting your qualifying activity from the previous month.

To qualify for recognition you must accumulate 70 or more points in a month. The points are assigned from six categories. These categories are as follows:

1. Participation in a Public Service net.

You are awarded 1 point for each public service net you participate in up to a maximum of 40 points. A public service net would be any NTS net or independant net that handles formal radiogram traffic and is a regularly scheduled net.

2. Handling formal radiogram messages.

You are awarded one point for each formal radiogram message handled up to a maximum of forty points. The counting of messages is the same as used for the Station Activity Report and is detailed in Appendix B of the ARRL Public Service Communication Manual (PSCM).

3. Serving in an ARRL-sponsored volunteer position: ARRL Field Organization appointee or Section Manager, NTS Net Manager, TCC Director, TCC member, NTS official or appointee above the Section level..

You are awarded 10 points for each qualifying position you hold up to a maximum of 30 points.

4. Participation in scheduled, short-term public service events such as walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons, parades, simulated emergency tests and related practice events. This includes off-the-air meetings and coordination efforts with related emergency groups and served agencies.

You are awarded 5 points for each hour or portion of an hour that you coordinate or participate in the qualifying event. There is no point limit for this category.

5. Participation in an unplanned emergency response when the Amateur Radio operator is on the scene. This also includes unplanned incident requests by public or served agencies for Amateur Radio participation.

You are awarded 5 points for each hour or portion of an hour you are actively involved in the incident response. There is no point limit for this category.

6. Providing and maintaining a) an automated digital system that handles ARRL radiogram-formatted messages; b) a Web page or e-mail list server oriented toward Amateur Radio public service.

You are awarded 10 points for each item you provide.

More complete and detailed information is available at the ARRL web site here.

The PSHR report should be forwarded to your STM monthly in the desired format. For example, the Ohio STM requests the following format for the PSHR.

PSHR DECEMBER 40 40 10 0 0 10 TOTAL 100

The numbers are reported in the order listed above. For the month of December I participated in about 90 net sessions so I get 40 points maximum there. I handled 99 pieces of traffic so I get a maximum of forty there. I have been appointed as an Official Relay Station so I get 10 points for that appointment. I did not participate in any sort term events so I get zero points for the fourth number. I also did not participate in a real emergency event so no points for the fifth number. Maintaining this blog gets me ten points for number six. Add them up and the total is 100 points for the month. Since that is 70 or more, I’ll be listed in the QST column in a few months.

If you qualify for and report the PSHR for 12 months in a row or for 18 months out of 24, you are eligible to receive a one time certificate from the ARRL. See the ARRL link above for complete details on how to a[[ly for the certificate.

Station Activity Report – SAR

The Station Activity Report, or SAR, is a report of the traffic handled at your station. It is filed monthly, normally with your Section Traffic Manager (STM). In the report, you provide a count of the message  traffic handled by your station for the previous month. This information is used by the STM to get an idea of the amount of traffic handled in the section and of the trends (if any) in the traffic flow. Most STMs request that the SAR for each month be submitted in the first two or three days of the following month.

Traffic in the National Traffic System (NTS) is counted in a specific way. There are four categories of traffic handled in the NTS. These are originated (ORIG), sent (SENT), received (RCVD), and delivered (DLVD). You get credit for the appropriate categories for each piece of traffic handled.

An originated message is a message that is generated for a third party (someone other than yourself) and is a function not performed on the air. If you are at a Field Day event, for example, and a visitor comes up to you and asks to have you send a greeting from the field day site, that would be an originated message. For originating a message, you would receive one ORIG point.

A received message is a message you receive over the air formatted in the ARRL radiogram format. The message may be for you, it may be for delivery, or it may be relayed to another station. In any of these cases, you receive one RCVD point.

A sent message is a formal ARRL radiogram formatted message that you pass to another over an amateur traffic net. When you send a message on, you receive one SENT point for the message.

A delivered message is not done over the air. You receive a DLVD point for each message that you deliver to a third party, whether by email, telephone, or in person. A message given to another ham over the air is counted as sent, not as delivered, even if they are the addressee of the message.

These are the raw numbers you need in order to send a SAR to your STM. More information on counting messages is contained in Appendix B of the NTS Public Service Communications Manual (PSCM) available at the ARRL web site.

The format of the SAR varies from section to section. Appendix B, Chapter Seven of the PSCM has several examples showing separate ORIG/SENT/RCVD/DLVD types of SAR.

In the Ohio Section, the current STM only requires the traffic total in the SAR. The desired format is as follows:


In December, I had 0 originations, 33 sent, 48 received, and 18 delivered. Add them all up and they equal 99. That is the number that is reported in the SAR I sent to my STM.

Check with your STM for the desired format and timing of the SAR in your section.


Operating Signals

Operating signals, also called Q and Z codes, are used throughout the world. They are used by both civil and military organizations. The most complete list of both Q and Z signals is found in ACP 131(F). This is the standard guide for use by the NATO military forces.

Q signals are normally used in Morse code transmissions. Z signals are generally used only in military digital transmissions. We will ignore the Z signals and concentrate on the Q signals.

Q signals are three letter codes that begin with the letter ‘Q’. They range from QAA to QZZ. The Q signals are divided up into several different sections and allocated to particular uses. The series QAA through QNZ are defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization for aeronautical use. QOA through QQZ are reserved for maritime use. The series QRA through QUZ are defined by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and are in use at virtually every civil station throughout the world.

Amateur radio has adapted some of these Q codes for use in amateur communications. These Q codes come from the ITU civil series QRA through QUZ. Most of the meanings are identical to the ITU definitions, however, they must be looked at in the context of amateur communications. For example, QSJ? asks what the charges are for sending the telegraph. Since amateur communications are without charge, this Q code would not make sense.

Q codes are either sent with or without a question mark (cw ..–..). A Q code with a question mark is to be understood as asking a question. A Q code without a question mark is to be understood as an affirmative answer to a question asked or as a direct statement. For example, if you say QRA?, you are asking the question: “what is the name of your station”. If you are asked this question, you could answer: “the name of my station is WB8AAA”. In a maritime service, you might have answered QRA Newport, meaning that the name of your station is Newport. In the context of an amateur radio conversation, the name of your station is commonly understood to be your station callsign. Always keep in mind that radio amateurs are communicating in an amateur radio context and that Q codes should be interpreted in that context.

Amateur radio actually has adapted two different sets of Q codes. The one in most common use is the Q codes From QRA through QUZ. The second set is the set of Q codes, used only in ARRL NTS nets, that begin with QN. These Q codes generally have no equivalent in the ACP 131 publication and are specifically defined only for use in in NTS nets. They are not used in casual amateur radio communications.


QRA   What is the name of       The name of my station
      your station?             is _____
QRG   What is my exact          Your exact frequency
      frequency?                is ____  (KHz or MHz)
QRH   Does my frequency vary?   Your frequency varies.
QRI   How is my tone?           Your tone is _____
                                  1 Good
                                  2 Variable
                                  3 Bad
QRK   What is my signal         Your signal intelligibility
      intelligibility?          (or that of ___) is ____.
                                   1 Bad
                                   2 Poor
                                   3 Fair
                                   4 Good
                                   5 Excellent
QRL   Are you busy?             I am busy.
QRM   Are you being             I am being interfered 
      interfered with?          with ____.
                                   1  nil
                                   2  slightly
                                   3  moderately
                                   4  severely
                                   5  extremely
QRN   Are you troubled by       I am troubled by static ___.
      static?                      1  nil
                                   2  slightly
                                   3  moderately
                                   4  severely
                                   5  extremely
QRO   Shall I increase          Increase tranmitter power.
      transmitter power?
QRP   Shall I decrease          Decrease transmitter power.
      transmitter power?
QRQ   Shall I send faster?      Send faster.
QRS   Shall I send slower?      Send slower.
QRT   Shall I stop sending?     Stop sending.
QRU   Have you anything         I have nothing for you.
      for me?
QRV   Are you ready?            I am ready.
QRW   Shall I tell _____ you    Tell ____ I am calling him.
      are calling him?
QRX   When will you call        I will call again at _____.
QRZ   Who is calling me?        You are being called by ____.
QSA   What is my signal         Your signal strength is ____.
      strength?                    1  scarcely perceptible
                                   2  weak
                                   3  fairly good
                                   4  good
                                   5  very good
QSB   Are my signals fading?    Your signals are fading.
QSD   Is my keying defective?   Your keying is defective.
QSG   Shall I send _____        Send ____ messages at a time.
      messages at a time?
QSK   Can you work breakin?     I can work breakin.
QSL   Can you acknowledge       I can acknowledge receipt.
QSM   Shall I repeat the last   Repeat the last message sent.
      message sent?
QSO   Can you communicate       I can communicate with
      with _____ direct?        _____ direct.
QSP   Will you relay            I will relay to _____.
      to _____?
QSV   Shall I send a series     Send a series of V's.
      of V's?
QSW   Will you transmit on __?  Transmit on _____.
QSX   Will you listen to        I am listening to ______
      ______ on ____?           on ________.
QSY   Shall I change            Change frequency to _____.
QSZ   Shall I send each         Send each word/group twice.
      word/group more           (or _____ times)
      than once?
QTA   Shall I cancel            Cancel number _______.
      number _____?
QTB   Do you agree with my      I do not agree with your word
      word count?               count. I will repeat the
                                first letter or digit of each
                                word or group.
QTC   How many messages do      I have ____ messages to send.
      you have to send?
QTH   What is your location?    My location is _______.
QTR   What is your time?        My time is ______.
QTV   Shall I stand guard       Stand guard for me on _____.
      for you on ______?
QTX   Will you keep your        I will keep my station open
      station open for furthur  for further communication
      communications with me?   with you.
QUA   Have you news of _____?   Here is news of ______.

Several of the above Q codes can have various other items of
information added to them dependingon the context. Such
information might include times, dates, names, or

Some of the above Q codes are commonly used in ways that are
slightly different than the above formal definitions. For
example, QRL? is commonly used to mean: "Is this frequency
in use?". Remember, context matters, common usage can vary,
and amateur radio is a hobby.

ARRL QN Signals For CW Net Use

The following ARRL-defined QN signals are only for use on
NTS CW nets. They are not for use on phone nets. Say it with
words on phone nets. Q signals followed by an '*' are for
use only by the net control station.

QNA*  Answer in prearranged order.
QNB*  Act as a relay between _____ and _____.
QNC   All net stations copy. I have a message for all
      net stations
QND*  This net is directed (controlled by a net control stn).
QNE*  Entire net stand by.
QNF   Net is free (not controlled).
QNG   Take over as net control.
QNH   Your net frequency is high.
QNI   Net stations report in (by net control) or I am
      reporting into the net (by net stations).
QNJ   Can you copy me? ( or can you copy _____?)
QNK*  Transmit message for _____ to ______.
QNL   Your net frequency is too low.
QNM*  You are QRMing the net. Stand by.
QNN   Net control station is ______. or What station is NCS?
QNO   Station is leaving the net.
QNP   Unable to copy you. Unable to copy _____.
QNQ*  Move frequency to _____ and wait for _____ to finish
      handling traffic. Then send hom traffic for ______.
QNR   Answer _____ and receive traffic.
QNS*  Following stations are in the net. (Follow with list)
      or Request list of stations on the net. (If not ncs)
QNT   I request permission to leave the net for ____ minutes.
QNU*  The net has traffic for you. Stand by.
QNV*  Establish contact with _____ on this frequency. If
      successful, move to _____ and send him traffic
      for ______.
QNW   How do I route messages for ____?
QNX   You are excused from the net. (when used by ncs)
      Request to be excused from the net. (when used by
      a net station)
QNY*  Shift to another frequency (or to ______KHz) to clear
      traffic with _____.
QNZ   Zero beat your signal with mine.

The above two Q code lists, along with some other important information for traffic handlers, may be found on the ARRL web site as FSD-218.

ARRL Centennial QSO Party Coming To An End Soon

This is the 100th year since the founding of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) by Hiram Percy Maxim and others. To celebrate the occasion, the ARRL has been running a Centennial QSO party all year. It started on January first and will end on December 31.

Amateurs can contact ARRL members and collect a certain number of points for the contact. At the end of the year, you’ll have some number of points and if you have enough, you may collect a certificate. The different roles of ARRL members are worth different numbers of points. Every member is worth 1 point. A life member is worth two points. Volunteer examiners are worth 5 points, and so on until you get to the ARRL President, Kay Craigie, N3KN, who is worth 300 points (I worked her 3 times so far – thanks for the 900 points, Kay).

Certificates will be available (for $15.00) for four levels of achievement. The lowest level certificate will be available for those with at least 1000 points. The second level certificate requires at least 3000 points. The third level award is for those with at least 7500 points and the highest level certificate requires at least 15000 points.

You must use the ARRL’s LogBook of The World (LoTW) to accumulate points and only ARRL members are worth points.

There is nearly a month left before the QSO Party ends so there is still time to get started and have some fun. The last day of the QSO Party, December 31, will be a “red badge day”. You can expect many of the the ARRL members who carry red badges, and therefore worth a bunch of points, to be on the air on that day and you can, with some work and some luck, qualify for a certificate by working only this day.

Full details are available at the ARRL web site at Jump in and have some fun!