CW Nets 101

Joe Burnett, W4BUR
40m CW Net Coordinator

One thing that’s confusing to a newcomer to the CW nets is the protocol used. The CW nets operation is different than the SSB nets, so I thought I’d provide some information to help you understand what’s going on when you check in for the first time.

Generally, the Net Control Station (NCS) comes on the net frequency ten or fifteen minutes prior to the published net start time. The NCS will transmit “CQ CQ CCN CCN DE W4BUR/NCS {or whatever the NCS call is} QNI QNI K”.

This is an invitation to stations to get on a ‘prelist’ – “QNI” is a request for net stations to check in. The NCS will assign check-in numbers as stations respond.

At the published net start time (or a couple of minutes thereafter) the NCS will transmit an abbreviated preamble, similar to the following (note that “BT” is a CW abbreviation for a break between sentences): “WELCOME TO THE 3905 CENTURY CLUB CW NET FOR WAS AND AWARDS BT ALL ARE WELCOME BT FOR MORE INFO PSE VISIT OUR WEB SITE AT WWW.3905CCN.COM BT PSE QSL VIA WM9H BT NW QND PSE QNZ (series of “V”s followed by a steady carrier) BT NW QNI DE W4BUR/NCS K

The abbreviations may require some interpretation… “NW” means ‘NOW’; “QND” means that this is a directed net; “PSE” means ‘PLEASE’; “QNZ” means to ‘zero beat’, or make sure your frequency is the same as NCS – the “V”s and the steady carrier enable stations to fine tune their transmitters to the NCS frequency.

Following the abbreviated preamble the NCS will look for more check-ins and will continue to assign check-in numbers. Depending on propagation the NCS may ask other stations to look for check-ins using the following CW abbreviation:


At this, AA1NZ will transmit “DE AA1NZ QSP (QSP means “relay”) QNI QNI K”. If AA1NZ gets any check-ins he will give them check-in numbers and then relay the information to NCS.

When the NCS believes that all stations wishing to check in are on the list, s/he will transmit the following: “DE W4BUR/NCS (or whatever the NCS call is) QNC (all stations copy) QNS (following stations are on the list) BT LIST FOLLOWS BT”. The check-in list will then be transmitted by NCS in a manner similar to the following: “NR 1 AA1NZ AA1NZ BT NH NH BT OP TOM TOM NR 1 AA1NZ BT BT NR 2 N1RR N1RR BT MA MA BT OP CHAS CHAS NR 2 N1RR BT BT”.

The NCS will continue through the numbers until all checked in stations have
been listed, and will then again ask for check-ins by transmitting “DE W4BUR/NCS
QNI QNI K”. Additional stations will be checked in and assigned check-in
numbers. Following this NCS will transmit “DE W4BUR/NCS QNC NR (followed by
the check-in number, station call sign, location and name).

The NCS will then place him/herself on the list and will notify the net of check-in number, location and name.

When the check-in list is complete the NCS will transmit “DE W4BUR/NCS LETS ROLL” (or “LETS GET STARTED”, or something similar) to let the stations on the net know that it’s time to begin making contacts. The NCS will transmit “DE W4BUR/NCS NR 1 AA1NZ K” (may also add “UR TURN”, although this isn’t necessary – stations are expected to realize that it’s time to start making contacts and that it’s their turn to make a call).

A typical exchange of information goes like this: “DE AA1NZ GE (good evening) ALL BT NR 2 N1RR N1RR DE AA1NZ AA1NZ UR 599 599 K”. The response from N1RR will be: “AA1NZ DE N1RR TU QSL 599 599 UR ALSO 599 599 K”. Then AA1NZ will transmit: “DE AA1NZ QSL ALSO 599 TU BTN K”. What has just gone on is that AA1NZ said good evening to everyone on the net and then called check-in number 2, N1RR, giving him a signal report of 599.

At this, N1RR will say thank you, I QSL the 599 signal report, and you are also 599. AA1NZ will identify, acknowledge the ‘also 599’, say Thank You (TU), and turn it over to the net control (“BTN” means “Back To Net”). The NCS will transmit “CFM” (confirm) to let the net know that the contact was a good one and will call the next check-in on the list for his/her turn to make a call.

You’ll note that the signal reports exchanged in the example contained three digits. The first two digits are the same as is used on SSB, Readability and Strength. On CW, the third digit is used to let the other station know what kind of ‘Tone’ is being transmitted. A ‘9’ is the best, indicating a perfect tone with no distortion. Ordinarily you won’t hear anything except a “9” as the third digit, but occasionally someone will have a transmitter problem and should be made aware of it. The following is from the ARRL Handbook for Radio Amateurs describing the numeric codes used for tone (the third digit in a CW signal report).

1 – Sixty-cycle ac or less, very rough and broad.
2 – Very rough ac, very harsh and broad.
3 – Rough ac tone, rectified but not filtered.

4 – Rough note, some trace of filtering.
5 – Filtered rectified ac but strongly ripple-modulated.
6 – Filtered tone, definite trace of ripple modulation.
7 – Near pure tone, trace of ripple modulation.
8 – Near perfect tone, slight trace of modulation.
9 – Perfect tone, no trace of ripple or modulation of any kind.

The above examples are just that – examples. Actual exchanges of information will vary depending on the operator and what s/he has to say or add to the signal report data.

I hope all this is helpful and will give you some encouragement to join us on the CW nets. Don’t worry about making mistakes – we all do that. The last perfect man died 2000 years ago…..

CU on CW

Hello All… I hope this info will be helpful to some who are not familiar with Net “Q” signals. These are from the ARRL Net Directory with a couple more included. This is not a complete list, but a collection of the most popular…

QNA Answer in Prearranged Order
QNC All Net Stations Please Copy
QND Net is Directed (has NCS)
QNF Net is Free (not or no longer Directed)
QNG Take Over as Net Control
QNH Your Net Freq is High
QNI Net Stations Check In
QNL Your Net Freq is Low
QNN Net Control is _______
QNO Station is Leaving the Net
QNP Unable to Copy_______
QNS Following Stations are in the Net (list)
QNX Station is Excused from the Net
QNZ Please Zero Beat ur Freq with Mine

We also use:

QRU Do You Have Anything for Me ?
QSP Please Relay
QSX Please Listen for _____

And a couple of my personal Favorites ( which are seldom heard on the 3905 Nets )

QPP I Have to take a Nature Break (sometimes when I’m NCS)
QTT Same as QPP
QLF Are You Sending With Your Left Foot ?
TOF Try Other Foot (Only used if answer to QLF is yes)