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Chapter One: National Traffic System

Chapter One: The National Traffic System

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.

Nets may sometimes find it necessary to adopt temporary measures to ensure the movement of traffic, and this is considered improper operation only when no attempt is made to return to the normal schedule. Nevertheless, improper operation of any NTS net is the concern of all NTS nets, and every effort should be made to assist in returning any non-functioning or improperly functioning net to its normal operation.

1.1 Membership in NTS

Individual station participation in NTS is recognized by issuance of certificates, and by appointment to the field organization's traffic handling position, the Official Relay Station. Organizationally speaking, the "members" of NTS are the nets and digital nodes which participate therein. Most nets and many of the NTS-sanctioned nodes were created and organized for NTS purposes only and operate for specific purposes to be described later. Procedures are somewhat specialized, particularly at Region, Area and TCC levels.

Frequently, ARRL Headquarters is asked how a net or digital node (BBS) may become a part of NTS. This usually isn't easy, because NTS is not a "club for nets" which any existing net may join at will. In addition, making nets a part of NTS is less a matter of official action than a "state of mind" of the net itself. In this connection, the following points deserve mention:

  • Nets or packet nodes (BBS's) operating within ARRL section boundaries, or otherwise at local or section level, may become a part of NTS by performing the functions of such.
  • Nets whose coverage extends beyond section boundaries but within region (roughly, call area) boundaries may become a part of NTS only by foregoing their general membership and setting up to operate as a session of the region net. Such nets would act as one of that region's net sessions and would be under the jurisdiction of the region net manager appointed by ARRL. All present NTS region nets were organized specifically at the outset for NTS region coverage.
  • HF digital stations capable of storing-and-forwarding NTS messages in a system of such stations may be certified as NTS Digital Relay Stations by NTS Officials known as Area Digital Coordinators. They are responsible for handling NTS traffic to the same high standards as their counterparts in the traditional system.
  • Since operation at the area level is so specialized, it is not possible for nets whose coverage extends beyond region boundaries to be a part of NTS at any level.
  • Any net or digital node which becomes a part of NTS is expected to observe the general principles of NTS procedures.
  • Generally speaking, participation in NTS is best performed by individual-station participation in an already-existing NTS net, at any level.
  • Lack of recognition as an NTS net does not imply that such a net is without ARRL recognition or support. Many public service nets on which information is received are included in the League's on-line Net Directory, and activities are often summarized in the appropriate part of the ARRL Web. Although NTS is the League-sponsored organization for systematic traffic handling, it is far from being the League's only interest in public service communication.


1.2 Mode

The National Traffic System is not dedicated specifically to any mode or to any type of emission, nor to the exclusion of any of them, but to the use of the best mode for whatever purpose is involved. The aim is to handle formal written traffic systematically, by whatever mode best suits the purpose at hand. Whether voice, CW, RTTY, AMTOR, packet or other digital mode is used for any specific purpose is up to the Net Manager or managers concerned and the dictates of logic. There is only one National Traffic System, not separate systems for each mode. Modes used should be in accordance with their respective merits, personnel availabilities and liaison practicalities. Whatever mode or modes are used, we all work together in a single and thoroughly integrated National Traffic System.


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