Conducting Net Calls
A net call or simply “ham net” is on-the-air gathering of amateur radio operators. It can also be used during emergencies or calamities to report situations in their respective areas. The net call is similar to a typical classroom scenario where the teacher is the net controller while the students are the stations.
2. Net Control Station (NCS)
The NCS operator calls the net to order at its designated start time, periodically calls for participants to join, listens for them to answer (or check in) keeps track of the roster of stations for that particular net session, and generally orchestrates the operation of the net.
3. Getting Started
The NCS should have the following:
A. A log book for logging contacts. This is the one I’m currently using during my net calls. You could also use logging software or Excel.
The contents of a logbook are as follows:
- Call sign of the station checking in. also the frequency that I checked in as well as the club station
- The name of the operator
- Location where the operator is transmitting
- Any additional info (club affiliation, QSA report, important traffic, etc.)
- Time of the station contact
B. A fixed station with an external antenna and radio with adequate power for optimal transmit and receive performance. Also a smart phone with Echolink app for checking the stations that are checking in via Echolink. In my first NCS days, I’m only using a HT similarly to the ones mostly use (left). Currently using a Radio Shack HTX-242 base radio during my netcalls (right)
C. Generally quiet station surroundings. Ask for a QSA report prior starting the netcall.
4. Conducting the netcall
The NCS will start the net call with a preamble then calls for any station with emergency or priority traffic. If there is any, the net controller will assist the contact station for any assistance needed. Then the NCS will ask for any announcements from PARA or any amateur radio club. If there is any, the NCS will prioritize the station with announcements. After the announcement part, the NCS will remind that the net call is a supervised net, meaning all messages must pass through the net controller. Also it reminds that the 10-codes are not used in the amateur band, only Q-codes or plain language will be used. Then the NCS will announce that the net call is now started.
5. Order of priority of pulling out stations calling in
The first priority of the stations to be called is the stations checking in via Echolink. The order of pulling out will be based on the appearance of the stations on the Echolink. If the NCS does not have an Echolink app, he/she may ask other hams for pulling out stations via Echolink (QSP). There is a 3 to 5 seconds gap between transmit and receive via Echolink. Next will be the stations that are on mobile and portable.
If the scenario that a station called in is on portable and another is in mobile. The station will be pulled out first is the mobile station because it is constantly moving and might lose its signal depending on the location is travelling at.
The next stations will be on the fixed stations. If another ham receives a station while the controller does not, that station will ask permission for a QSP (station pullout). Then the contact station will relay the station to the net controller the info of the station pulled out by a contact station.
6. Acknowledging the station
In acknowledging the station, the NCS will listen for any traffic being sent by the station calling in for his QSA report, message (if any). Then the NCS writes the station into the logging software or in my case, written in my log book. The NCS will say that the station checking in has been acknowledged and logged. Then the NCS will call the next calling station.
This is the common scenario during a net call where more stations are waiting to be called by the NCS. The way to manage the pile ups is by saying “all stations please standby” then saying the number of new stations checking in and their respective call signs. I have a piece of scratch paper for the stations checking in then telling them to please standby and the number of stations that are currently checking in.
8. Closing the netcall
The NCS will tell the current time during the net call. If there are stations checking in until the last minute of the net call, The NCS will acknowledge the stations checking in for late check. If there are no more stations checking in, the NCS will say “the net call is officially closed and the frequency is back to normal use” The NCS will say the closing remarks for the net call.