Taking Part in an Amateur Radio Net

The 2mFM.uk introductory guide to amateur radio nets.

What is a Net?

An amateur radio net is an “on-the-air” gathering that either takes place regularly at a pre-arranged time or, runs continuously with a station (or stations) prepared to handle communications at any time.

Nets are set up for an array of different reasons. At one end of the spectrum nets are arranged to coordinate disaster relief or humanitarian efforts. At the other end of the spectrum, nets are arranged as opportunities to socialise. Many amateur radio clubs will have their own nets to discuss club business or allow members to give updates on their recent endeavours.

Some nets are formal and others much less so. A formal net will have Net Control Station (NCS) that starts and ends the net in an orderly fashion. The NCS will maintain order for the net’s duration and direct its participants. Formal nets are also sometimes called directed nets. The Lunch on the Air net will be fairly informal, with a minimal amount of direction to try and make sure anyone who wants to get involved, can do so.

Nets usually involve three or more stations and on amateur radio frequencies, these stations will be licensed radio amateurs.

How to Participate in a Net?

If you are thinking about participating in an established net, the best advice I can give, is to listen for a while first. By listening, you will get a good feel of how the net is run and how you can best take part.

Some nets will take place with pre-designated stations taking part. You may need to search for details on-line and/or contact the organiser of the net (off-air) before jumping in.

Conversely, many nets will welcome stations that join them on air.

Usually, at the start of the net, the Net Control Station will begin by identifying themselves and announcing the net, along with its regular date, time and frequency. The net control station may also state the purpose of the net. Once that announcement is made, there will sometimes be a call for stations to check-in. The net control station will attempt to record each participating station’s call sign and/or attendance. With a voice net, it is best to give the call sign phonetically, and be prepared to repeat it if the net control station is struggles to hear it properly.

Once the Net Control Station believes all the participating stations have checked in, they will call again to catch any late comers.

Less formal nets will dispense with the check-in, and instead start with a conversation (QSO) between the Net Control Station and the first station to respond. The Net Control Station and that first station will leave pauses between their transmissions (overs) giving other stations the opportunity to “break in”. See the later section called “Breaking In”.

How the net then proceeds, will depend on the type on the type of net - whether it is a free net, directed net or round robin net.

Free Nets

In a free net, any participating station may communication with any other participating station, without obtaining permission from the net controller.

Directed Nets

In a directed net, the Net Control Station will invite each participant in-turn to transmit. Other stations must wait their turn, or obtain permission from the net controller if they wish to interject.

Round-Robin Nets

Some semi-formal, socially orientated nets, after the initial check-in, establish a running order, where by the participants will each take their turn transmitting. The Net Control Station will simply maintain that running order as the net takes place. This allows the conversation to meander freely, whilst giving each station the opportunity to speak. It also prevents two stations from transmitting at the same time or interfering with each other.

“Breaking In”

Some nets, including many of the social and less serious/formal nets, will allow stations to break-in and join in the conversation.

It will be customary (and good practice) for stations taking part in a net, or any QSO for that matter, to leave a short pause between each transmission (over) so that other stations have an opportunity to “break-in” and join the net. They will do so by waiting for a pause between transmissions (overs) and then giving their call-sign. Depending on how the net is usually run, either the net control station will interject and acknowledge the joining station, or the station due to take an over will.

Then, again depending on how the net is usually run, either the net control station will bring in the joining station and advise them who they need to hand over to at the end of their over, or the station transmitting immediately after break station will hand over to the new station at the end of their over.

How exactly this happens will vary, and more formal nets may not leave pauses or welcome break stations. Again, listening is important in trying to establish how the net is operated.

If you are unsure, once again I would always recommend that you search on-line for details of the net. It is possible the organiser as contact details published and your inquiry will more than likely be welcomed.

www.qrz.com is always a good place to look-up an operators details - all you need is their call sign. A QRZ account will be needed before you can view another operators email address or message them directly.

Net Etiquette

The etiquette you follow will vary, depending on the type of net, how it is directed and how other operators participate. There are a few simple rules you should always follow.


This guide is not a definitive guide to amateur radio nets. They are incredibly varied - and whilst some will have very well established conventions and operating procedures which are more strictly enforced, others will be much more relaxed affairs where the minimum of conventions are maintained to keep things orderly. Again, in the case of an established net, I would urge any potential net newcomer to take their time and listen before getting involved.

Lunch on the Air

Lunch on the Air takes place each and every Wednesday. It starts at 12:30pm BST/GMT and should take place on the 2m band, using a frequency of 144.700 MHz.

If that frequency turns out to be in use at that time, there is an alternate frequency of 145.375 MHz.

Anyone with an amateur radio license and a 2m FM transceiver is welcome to take part.

There will be a check-in for stations at the beginning of the net to establish the running order.

If there are a small number of stations taking part, then they will be given the running order and each asked to handover to the station that follows them in that order. If a larger number of stations are taking part, then I will look to offer a bit more direction, bringing stations in each in-turn.

Participants will be encouraged to leave short pauses between their transmissions to allow other stations to join in.

If you are planning to join us, then I look forward to meeting you!

Until next time, 73