NTS- From a guest Blogger

Todays posting comes to us from the Ontario Section Traffic Manager VE3GNA

Who says NTS is obsolete?

In this era of cellphones and instant communications, it is refreshing to hear of instances when the tried and true methods of communications can hold their own. Two instances are chronicled here.

On December 17, 2009, the net manager of the Ontario Phone Net (OPN) , Bob Sharp VA3QV, originated several messages containing Christmas greetings. One of these was addressed to Ian MacFarquhar VE9IM, in Rothesay NB. The traffic was passed on the net to the liaison for the Second Region Net (2RN), Glenn VE3GNA. At 7:45 pm, the Cycle 4 session of 2RN convened on CW. The message was passed to Lyle Bates, VE1VAU at that time. As the local session of the Atlantic Provinces Net (APN) completed somewhat earlier, the message was passed the following day, the 18th to Wade Wall VE1TAY in nearby Taymouth NB.

On December 21st, a message from VE1TAY originated on the 20th at 2300Z confirming delivery of the greeting to Mr MacFarquhar was received by VE3GNA and relayed to VA3QV on OPNon the 22nd.  The message went on to state that Ian returned similar greetings to the stalwarts of OPN.

From Ottawa ON to Rothesay NB and back in under 74 hours ( OPN meets at 2100Z daily, and the return message was created at 2300Z on the 20th) . Even allowing for the delay in getting the traffic into OPN on the 22nd still is just over 96 hours turnaround. Better than Canada Post.

The second instance is even more amazing. Glenn VE3GNA, does weekly updates of his personal database of amateurs in Canada, and creates NTS traffic welcoming new hams to the hobby. One of these was David Bruce Peer VE3RIE of Ottawa. The message was given to VA3QV on the 26th of December and phoned to Mr Peer the same evening.

It turned out that David had only recently written his exam, and had been told on the 22nd that he had passed. He was still awaiting confirmation of his assigned callsign by IC and the message was the first he had heard of it. The greeting confirmed that his first choice of callsign was approved, even before the actual letter arrived from Industry Canada, in the SAME city.

Oh yes, Virginia, NTS does work, and should be wholeheartedly supported by all hams, whether directly or indirectly. Why not utilize the system to extend greetings to Aunt Sarah in Whitehorse, or Uncle Don in St Johns, NL? Granted it is easier to text or phone. But there is still something exciting about receiving a message from a loved one via radio, and it gives the delivering station a thrill to participate. Not to mention the practice in case our services are ever needed in a real emergency. Practice makes perfect.


Glenn Killam, VE3GNA / VA3OPN  Ontario Section Traffic Manager


I would like to thank Glenn for taking the time to give us this article

73 Bob Sharp VA3QV OPN Net Manager


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2 Responses to “NTS- From a guest Blogger”

  1. Peter Gamble Says:

    So Amateur radio is faster than land based Canada Post. I assume someone has taken this to clients like the Red Cross and said, we ca get a message to anywhere in Canada in 2 days and have your response in another 2 days. I’m sure clients everywhere are amazed that using wireless communications, we can successfully slow the process down, so that a courier can send the original printed message faster, with tracking and signature.

    This is another example of Amateurs failing to realistically analyze what clients need against what we do. NTS is dying because it’s fundamental purpose (overcome poor reliability and limited availability of phone service) no longer exists. There is nothing wrong with having fun sending messages via the NTS, but lets stop pretending that the world will be impressed by these delivery times.

    Satellite phones, data terminals (VoIP phone & email), plus new satellite push to talk trunking, offer real time, Nation wide coverage. Long haul communications is not where Amateur radio is needed, or has applied itself well for years. Local communications supporting humanitarian relief is where we are needed and fit really well.

    Peter – VE3BQP
    EC Ottawa ARES

  2. Peter Gamble Says:

    I would like to add a bit more information on my last post.

    There is an interesting article, written in 2005 that makes some interesting points;

    Item 7 is one that needs to seriously be considered. “In recent years, the ARES/RACES has not made serious use of NTS. During
    “emergencies” direct paths are usually set up, by-passing the NTS schedules.
    Customers want the shortest delivery time possible, along with 100% accuracy.
    Non-relay voice (phone or radio) and email first….other methods second.
    Processes, which include ANY manual handling of a radiogram, come in Last

    How many NTS operators have heard that NTS is important to ARES, but have never heard from the local ARES group? In Ottawa, the City has identified that they are not looking for us to provide communications across the Province or Country and we have no plans to use the NTS. If we did need to get a message out, we would find the shortest radio path possible and then get the end station to phone or send an email.

    We have limited resources, so we need to be part of the big picture and get involved and build solutions to meet clients needs. Sure Ottawa could be hit by a massive earthquake and only Amateur radio is left as a means of getting out a message. Equally, someone in Ottawa may be struck twice by lightning. How long are people willing to do these nets for something that is unlikely to ever happen and if you are willing to do it, don’t expect clients to thank you for doing something they are not asking you to do.

    Local communications is where Amateur radio can shine. FM repeaters, portable repeaters, cross band, simplex, multiple bands, allow us to provide services to groups like the Red Cross. It is unfortunate that some Amateurs see serving the Red Cross as being relegated to the bottom of the pile.

    The days of message relay are nearly gone. If you enjoy doing it, please keep it up. Like CW, it will never die, but it will never again be the mainstay of communications. Groups like the Red Cross are investing in alternate technologies for their long haul communications, because they work, they can control them and they offer far greater capacity than Amateur radio. There is still lots of room for Amtaeur radio, but we need to do what people need, not what we would like to do, what we think is neat to do or what we always did before.

    I’m not anti NTS, but I do not support the notion that NTS is a critical part of emergency communications.

    Peter – VE3BQP

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