Global Radio Relay Network

Started by swxx, August 28, 2017, 02:20:38 PM

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If we look at a few logical points: in the event of a Major World Event the break down of communications which have never been so centralised in all history, dependent upon a few important nodes on the internet and satellites, and the fact that these will almost certainly collapse in the event of a major disaster such as a nuclear war, or a major environmental or other catastrophe, then we know that the most likely communications to survive long-term is low-power and predominantly CW communications.

However, with low power and modest antennas (forget 7 element yagis up 30m post TEOTWAWKI) the reality is that even on CW communications will only be reliable, especially for the many coming years of this solar cycle minimum, only for one or two hop E or F layer propagation. Before anyone says ahh but I often work DX using 5W on HF, yes indeed, but not to other QRP and with both sides being QRP also in antenna terms. In this case, during solar minimum, and on frequencies below 10, 12, 15 and 17m (which are not so often open), it is not at all easy and certainly not reliable to have communications beyond a couple of F layer hops or 3,000km or 3,000 miles.

So, let us consider, post TEOTWAWKI, with all broadcast stations on HF either off air or just broadcasting unreliable information or propaganda, how would one get information from OTHER parts of the world, from citizens, using QRP? There are several problems that will make that a very sporadic, difficult and hit and miss affair: days and weeks of endless trying! If you have to listen for 3 weeks to find some news from Australia while you are in Europe, and if you have to transmit for a total of 10 hours to get one single message through to a distant location (calling, calling, repeating, failing, re-arranging etc) then let us calculate: 10 hours of TX at 500mA = 5Ah. 3 weeks of RX at 100mA = at least 33A assuming 16 hours a day desperate listening around. If you had 100W and a 7ele Yagi up 30m, you could likely have done all this with a saving in power! BUT we do NOT have that luxury and we have to prepare accordingly.

For many of us, it is not just important to find out what is happening 10km, 100km, 1000km away, important as that naturally would be, but also, to find out whether there are other parts of the world that are in better shape, loved ones in remote parts of the world may they still be alive (not about getting through to them specifically, that would likely be impossible without normal communications infrastructure working, but just to know whether all of America was wiped off the face of the earth or not, is Australia still an island afloat, is Africa a place to head for from Europe or should it be Scandinavia, etc). So how do we do long distance communications reliably and effectively with QRP power and QRP antennas? VIA RELAYS.

If we have a network of stations running QRP who are one or at most two hops apart, who have pre-arranged schedules, nets, frequencies, and above all procedures and skill in sending, receiving and relaying written messages, then we are able to do this, if we do not, we really are not able to do this.

It is a generally much overlooked reality that on CW "Chinese Whispers" is doomed to failure. Passing a message even with one relay between almost all radio amateurs ends with the message being incomplete or changed. ONLY those who have previous professional experience in formal messaging, and even they are often having no experience of relaying messages, and particularly those radio amateurs who have sufficient experience in "traffic nets" are able to do so. It is very common for "good CW Operators" to think that if SHTF they will be able to relay messages: the reality, proven time and again, is that when they hear <CT> they don't grab a pen and write down, and even if they do, they do not know how to efficiently get fills for missing letters and words, how to check whether the message they have is actually accurate or not, how to avoid confusion in poor Signal-to-Noise Ratio, QSB, QRM, etc. All this is really only learned by on air training in the art.

It would be very good for Radio Preppers to form some new, or join, some existing CW traffic nets, and to start building a relay bridge that can potentially span the globe.

Let us consider some human realities: in a SHTF most of us are not going to be altruistic, willing to use up our batteries passing messages for others! Most if not all of us are going to want INCOMING information, and less willing to give OUTGOING information (which is required for incoming information elsewhere) and almost no one is going to be willing to RELAY information between two OTHER stations. Most will be listening, few willing to send. So HOW do we overcome that? Quite simple! BENEFIT.

If you act as a relay and take part in such a network, you benefit by getting information that you will only get, if you participate and in return, you too are able to send and receive information. By just listening, sure, you will pick some up, but there will be many gaps, incomplete messages, and you won't be entitled to just come on air and ask for this and that repeats and information if you are not yourself an active participant helping the others.

What I'm talking of here though is not an ordinary traffic net, but a relay network. Not everyone is necessarily on the same frequency at the same time. But each sked is to a single hop destination in different directions. A system to route messages is required. A format for the messages to avoid confusion and to ensure reliability. A procedure to ensure accuracy of count, and to find out which word is missing without an entire repeat. I am not going to, here right now, give all that information, you can find it at sites such as Communicators Without Borders and Radio Relay International.

What I am advocating here is that we can start thinking of some training frequencies and skeds to practice and to build up ROUTES along which messages and thus information can be relayed. A difficult task for example: from Europe to Australia. From Australia to South America. Using QRP and simple wire antennas, via relays. Even with 7ele yagi and 1kW, the path from Australia to much of South America is currently very difficult.

So perhaps we can discuss some ideas on how we could practice these things, outside of North America and Australia where such networks exist, what do we do in Europe (so many amateurs but no such traffic nets I believe) and Asia, Africa, Latin America. Among us we may already be enough to stat building such bridges. For long distance reliable single or double hop, we are mainly looking at 40, 30 and 20m. Any ideas on how we can proceed? Are there existing networks we can join, train in and extend? Or do we need new ones that can interface with existing ones?


swxx, very nice post.  You make valid points.  Though actually agreeing to, and sticking to skeds will be the hardest, I think having procedures is the first order of business.  Traffic handling is such an old and established art that we shouldn't have to invent anything.  There must be web pages and .pdfs available to us to find the standard traffic net procedures.  Do you have any recommendations? 


Again, I'm totally up for being involved in this - but as cockpitbob says, actually agreeing to and sticking to skeds will be interesting....

The most frustrating part of amateur radio  for me has been trying to organise skeds for comms practice. 99% of my QSO's are random contacts.

I'm not preparing for the apocalypse - I just think passing messages to/from trusted contacts using set formats, bandplans etc. is a skillset all amateur radio ops should have, but very few do or have an interest in.


Quote from: scarr on August 28, 2017, 04:10:30 PM
The most frustrating part of amateur radio  for me has been trying to organise skeds for comms practice. 99% of my QSO's are random contacts.
And I'll probably be part of that frustration.  Tough job, wife, kids, house, yard irregular dinner hours...  ::) .  I confess to being pretty undependable with regards to skeds. :(


Quote from: cockpitbob on August 28, 2017, 04:25:55 PM
Quote from: scarr on August 28, 2017, 04:10:30 PM
The most frustrating part of amateur radio  for me has been trying to organise skeds for comms practice. 99% of my QSO's are random contacts.
And I'll probably be part of that frustration.  Tough job, wife, kids, house, yard irregular dinner hours...  ::) .  I confess to being pretty undependable with regards to skeds. :(

Hah - we're all guilty of it, I'm in the same boat and just can't get near the radio at certain times.


I have thought about this before, more than once, even tried to get people here to meet online. I has never worked. This is the main issue in traffic handling groups, all of them, getting people on the air at the right time, regularly. There are nets, yes, I participate in VMARS as often as I can. Those people are very dedicated.

Though Morse code is best for the task, it is slow, and we all have lives outside of radio. It is naturally difficult to get enough people to not only join, the easiest part, and actually get them to keep an air schedule.

That said, I do think there should be a telegraph radio system allowing the relay of a radiogram to anyone within walking distance of an amateur radio station. How to do it is open to debate. It would certainly take time and money, to which I would be a willing participant. Others have tried and failed. Who here has ever heard an ARRL NTS operator on the air? I haven't, and I suspect there is very little traffic of that nature on the bands.

It is a big commitment...

Let's see what comes out of this thread...



My 2 cents:

1: If we were going to make this work, the first step is agreed net monitoring times/frequencies and it doesn't have to be worldwide at one time, on one frequency.

2: In my opinion, I think it's a mistake to narrow such a net to CW only and I say that as someone who operates 90% CW. Disasters, emergencies, etc. come in all scales. Not utilising data modes means not practicing and testing a skillset that is going to be preferable in passing information for the most likely scenarios. Likewise, that doesn't mean we shouldn't use CW, or SSB, or FM or anything that works. They all have a role to play imo.

This will live or die based on the number of people involved - we need to include the largest number of people possible.

But those are just my opinions, in short I'm willing to try and participate in this - whatever way it develops.

Call it the battery net - that's one thing I think we all have in common  ;)


First, I agree with scarr.  There are so many ways to move information, and the digital modes and email over HF use low power (except for the computer ::) ) and have the lowest error rate.  It would also open this up to more preppers, which is probably a good thing.

For CW:
I did a little looking and I'm disappointed with how complicated it is.  Here's the the downloadable chapters of the NTS's Methods and Practices Guide.

Note that just the Table of Contents is 16 pages long!!!  That's nuts.  The chapter on sending messages on CW is 46 pages long.  It's actually not real bad, but I think things need to be distilled down to the bare essentials.  Especially in an emergency, or in difficult conditions, simple wins.  Realistically, none of us are likely to devote the 10hrs/month that it takes to be highly proficient at something like this.  Ideally what we do would conform to best known practices (probably the NTS's manual) but only use a small part of the manual.  Sure, things may not be uber-effecient, but it will be chaos if things are so complicated that no one can remember or follow the procedures.  If the net control station knows and uses all 26 QN signals for CW nets, most of us won't have a clue what's going on.  All together the CW chapter lists 66 Q-signals.  Too much for the average ham.

So what I'm suggesting is that we follow the core elements of traffic handling, but among other things use few specialized Q signals and use "plain language" for the things that rarely come up in normal traffic handling.

Here's the manual for the Texas CW net.  I think they distilled things down fairly well.

I see there's a bunch of Slow CW Traffic Nets out there.  Monitoring some of them would probably be a good place to start.  If they are slow, they probably are also simple and geared towards beginners.


Yes - the ARRL makes everything overly complicated and centered on getting ARRL HQ Newington , Ct involved. 

However,  servicing radio traffic on a basic level in Morse is actually easy. Write the message and preamble information into the RadioGram *(attached) and it's suddenly easier.   A basic format would look like this attachment and anyone who has passed radio marine/military radio traffic recognize the basics. Naturally, this can be fine tuned to suit your particular network and WHERE the message is going needs more info, but this is for basic demonstration at this point.  I've attached the RadioGram form, assuming Morse which I used from my sailboat to marine shore stations.  It's FAST because you write the message directly, no boot-up.  Raise the message handler and send / service the message. Humans are actually very good for this sort of thing.

As for servicing traffic:

A A = "All After"
A B = "All Before"
W A = "Word After"
W B = "Word Before"

Used like this.


If I missed the word after "MESSAGE"  I would send -

and the other station would send only that word. ( 'FOR')
If I need EVERYTHING after "MESSAGE"  I would send-


The other station would send 


"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry


Quote from: gil on August 28, 2017, 04:49:25 PMThis is the main issue in traffic handling groups, all of them, getting people on the air at the right time, regularly.

Peer to peer digital works extremely well.  Given power availability - doable with solar - allows 24/7/365 monitoring and message capture.  I have done it over extended periods with Pactor before the newer soundcard modes were available, and I am told the new Winlink Express (new name for RMS Express) supports peer-to-peer on HF using sound card modes.

Asynchronous communications completely removes the need for simultaneous operating, but it isn't popular because it isn't "fun".  If the station is well configured with reliable equipment the operator is downgraded to a button-pusher.  Not much fun, but boy does it ever work efficiently.  Yes, it requires a computer, but if you have one why not use it?



PACTOR & etc. - if you can do this, is fabulous! Nothing better for amateur class stations at this time. This solved the problem of having all the right people on the right frequencies at the correct times and if there is any internet going in the region you've connected with - it goes via that if routed that way.
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry


Here is how to do this with CW (or whatever else, but CW preferred):

Instead of signing up people to create a network, we should use existing paths opened by those who hold regular skeds with friends. Ray and I were doing this for a long time, and this is the reason I thought of it... Lots of CW operators already have friends they "talk" to regularly. It would be much easier to sign-up existing pairs and map them between grid squares. This would give us a world map full of lines going from A to B in each case. Then we could connect the dots into a network! So everyone with a copy of the map would know the shortest path and alternates possible to relay a message. Every operator would try to make contact with other pairs who's sked would be published (only accessible to members). This way everyone operates at times convenient to them and frequencies that work between them, but they know who they can connect to if needed. These secondary paths would be recorded as well. So we'd have primary pairs/paths and secondary paths, the whole making a giant network.

The result would be a map and table with identification and location (approximate) of paths, times and frequencies.

Am I making sense?



Sounds really good to me Gil.

Fallback/secondary paths are a great idea - I know where I am and given my antenna limitations, it's generally easier for me to contact stations in Germany or Poland, than reach next door into the UK - and those continental stations could serve as relay for me, or I could serve as a relay for them.

I'm in IO63. 40M and up.


I love it.  Not the World Wide Web but the CWW.


Check these stats for speed and accuracy of TRANSCONTINENTAL message delivery during the Cascadia Rising exercise last year. CW ruled and ran when other systems began to (simulate) no fuel for generators & etc. as would happen in a wide area emergency. No computers, interface boxes and more needed.

Transceiver + Skills + a way to tap code = high rel, accurate communication of message traffic.

Remember:  Skills Weigh Nothing, yet carry a lot of weight.  Gil and I held a sked for two years at a distance of over 800 miles.  Power levels were anywhere from modest to ridiculously low.  One week of skeds, his entire station, antenna, spare batteries and solar panel fit easily into his cargo pants pocket for the walk in to his camp, Another sked was from a coffee shop that he peddled to on his velo.

Here is is on YouTube -
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry