Europe Guideline

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You might have already noted a few European callsigns in the NTSD stations list. Europe has it's own NTSD routing domain NTSEU together with an MBO and several DRS which are a fully integrated into the NTSD infrastructure. These stations offer the opportunity to exchange traffic between amateurs in North America and Europe on a daily basis.

The extension of NTSD to Europe is mainly thanks to David Struebel (WB2FTX) the Eastern Area Digital Coordinator.

Which traffic to send

This paragraph is rather lenghty and detailed. The summary for the impatient reads:

Please send amateur to amateur traffic only and refrain from sending third-party traffic except for emergencies.

This rule is to be obyed for traffic in both directions between North America and Europe and the control operator at the station of origin is responsible to enforce it. Messages violating this rule may be discarded and serviced back accordingly.

You may skip the rest of this paragraph.

Rules all the way

An NTS message from North America to Europe (or the opposite direction) makes it's way through several intermediate stations at least one stateside MBO and the European MBO. Thus it is subject to all the regulations on it's way at least those of the US and Germany. Other countries may be involved as well. Think for example of an NTS message from an amateur in Canada to another amateur in Great Britain which is typically subject to regulations in Canada, the USA, Germany, and Great Britain.

The below section on international regulations explains how it is possible to have international traffic under these conditions.

Except for emergencies the FCC requires a special agreement between the US and the other country to allow for traffic with non-amateurs usually referred to as third parties. Third-party traffic (i.e. traffic on behalf of third parties) is not allowed in international NTS communications because there is neither such agreement with Germany nor with most other European countries.

You can find a list of countries having a third-party traffic agreement with the US on the ARRL website. Please note: Although this shows a third party agreement with the UK it is restricted to those stations with a GB callsign. Those are usually special event stations. Hence these are the only UK stations allowed to exchange third party traffic with the US.

However both the US and Germany allow for international amateur to amateur traffic.

Details on FCC rules

The FCC rules define third-party traffic as "a message from the control operator (first party) of an amateur station to another amateur station control operator (second party) on behalf of another person (third party)." (FCC 97.3, Definition 47). Note that being a "control operator" is FCC speech for having a valid amateur radio license.

The FCC rule on third-party traffic (FCC 97.115a) is a bit lengthy and says in a nutshell that

  • international third-party traffic requires a special agreement betweeen the US and the other country except for emergencies
  • international amateur to amateur traffic is not third-party but second-party traffic

Find the full text (bold font by the page author) below.

97.115 Third party communications.
(a) An amateur station may transmit messages for a third party to:
(1) Any station within the jurisdiction of the United States.
(2) Any station within the jurisdiction of any foreign government when transmitting emergency or disaster relief communications and any station within the jurisdiction of any foreign government whose administration has made arrangements with the United States to allow amateur stations to be used for transmitting international communications on behalf of third parties. No station shall transmit messages for a third party to any station within the jurisdiction of any foreign government whose administration has not made such an arrangement. This prohibition does not apply to a message for any third party who is eligible to be a control operator of the station.

Thus amateur to amateur messaging/ communication is clearly defined as second party communications. Together with the statement that the prohibition of third party traffic does not apply for any third party who is eligible as a control operator (i.e. has a valid amateur radio license) clearly shows that any amateur to amateur communications is second party and does not depend on the location or jurisdiction of any station. Any direct amateur to amateur communications is clearly not third party.

Background on international regulations

With every country establishing her own rules on the operation of communication systems the regulations of two countries will hardly ever match and allow for international communications. Mutual agreements between some hundred countries are obvioulsy not a good idea to mitigate this. Therefore international communications (except for the internet) have been governed by international conventions since the 1860s. Today the Constitution and Convention of the ITU are common ground for the national administrations to establish regulations on international communications. The ITU "Member States are bound to abide by the provisions of this Constitution, the Convention and the Administrative Regulations in all telecommunication offices and stations established or operated by them which engage in international services" (Constitution and Convention of the ITU, Nr. 37, 2011 ed.).

One of these "Administrative Regulations" alluded to above are the Radio Regulations (RR) which "shall be binding on all [ITU] Member States" (Const. and Conv., Nr. 31, 2011 ed.). They contain all international rules on radio and define the amateur radio service as "a radiocommunication service for the purpose of selftraining, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs" (RR 1.56, 2004 ed.).

The key term here is intercommunication which means that radio amateurs are communicating with each other only. Non-amateurs are referred to as third parties although this term is not defined by the Radio Regulations. According to the RR "Amateur stations may be used for transmitting international communications on behalf of third parties only in case of emergencies or disaster relief." (RR 25.3, 2004 ed.).

Summing up the standard on international communications in the amateur radio service is amateur to amateur traffic which should be allowed for by all ITU member states. You are expected to find this rule (or an even less restrictive version) in all national regulations on amateur radio.

Stateside Traffic for Europe

Some notes on message forms

European amateurs involved with NTS like DRS operators are naturally familiar with the NTS message form. Send traffic to them as usual.

Traffic for others may be delivered through one of the European nets mainly operated by national emcomm groups. Those nets handling formal traffic generally use the IARU message form instead of the NTS form and your traffic will show up there just as you sent it.

The good news is that both the NTS and the IARU message forms are very akin to each other and that your messages will by and large be understood. However there are a few points which might help you to compose even better messages for recipients in Europe.


The preamble of both message forms is very much the same including message precendences.

The time field which is optional in the NTS form is mandatory in the IARU form. Fill it in if you would like to be compliant with the IARU form.

Furthermore handling instructions are not part of the IARU message form. You should be aware that they are optional in NTS anyway which is why they should be used with care. The ubiquitous HXG is rarly useful for traffic to Europe. The most needed and useful instructions are HXC and HXE.

You may use an op note following the address instead of a HXC instruction e.g. "OP NOTE REPORT BACK TIME OF DELIVERY" or something similar.

The HXE instruction can either be replaced by an op note or made part of the message text if required.


Please always mention the recipient's callsign in the address to assure those handling your message that it is destined to an amateur. The above section on acceptable traffic explains why this is important.

Callsign and name e.g. "PETER DL4FN" are sufficient for messages to well-known NTS participants in Euorop.

When in doubt try to find out a postal address with or one of the callbooks accessible through the NG3K wesbite.

Many European languages have additional characters besides A...Z. Diacritic characters are to be replaced with their stem characters respectively except for German umlauts which are transliterated according to the following table.


So the address line "Straße zum Löwen 16" becomes "STRASSE ZUM LOEWEN 16".

Please do not waste any time to figure out phone numbers for message recipients in Europe. If a DRS operator wants to deliver traffic by phone in his country he will know how to find out phone numbers.

The address part may need to be complemented by the indication of a DRS to put your message on NTSD. For details see below .

The section on message delivery contains further useful information.


Please be aware that the ARRL Numbered Radiogram List (ARL) is not widely known outside NTS. When in doubt use plain text instead of ARL codes. Lengthy texts are fine as the IARU message form does not impose a limit on the size of the text.

English is a foreign language for most people in Europe. Therefore use simple words when you are not sure about the language capabilities of the message recipient.


Please include your callsign in the signature to assure the recipient and the intermediate stations that the message originates from an amateur radio operator. The above section on acceptable traffic explains why this is important.

Furthermore keep in mind that abbreviations related to the ARRL field organization (SM, STM, OO etc.) are rarely known in Europe. Use longer explanatory versions instead e.g. "SECTION TFC MGR" instead of STM.

How to send your traffic

Traffic for Europe is mainly digital. Digital Relay Stations (DRS) being the interface between non-digital NTS nets and NTSD thus place messages for Europe on NTSD.

Using a target station

Target stations are digital stations offering additional services besides their main function as DRS or MBO.

One of these services is to forward messages from non-digital NTS nets to stations in Europe which is the preferred way to send your traffic there. Those target stations are listed on the target stations page .

Currently both K6JT and WB2FTX provide this service and it is recommended to use

  • K6JT for messages originating from stations in PAN and CAN
  • WB2FTX for messages originating from stations in EAN

To send a message this way you may add a C/O part in the address e.g.


and send it to WB2FTX. He will care to forward it to DL4FN.

The same can be achieved by using an op note instead wich improves readability in case of a full postal address e.g.

64711 ERBACH

We would like to take the opportuniy and thank Luck Hurder (WA4STO) for having established the first target station for European traffic and handling thousands of messages for European amateurs.

Using a DRS of your choice

The service offered by K6JT and WB2FTX can basically be performed by any other Digital Relay Station (DRS) as well.

If you are operating a DRS yourself you can send your traffic directly to stations in Europe. Details are given in the next subsection. When in doubt contact your Area Digital Coordinator.

If you know of a nearby DRS e.g. in your local or section net you may arrange with this station to forward your traffic to Europe. Please get in contact with the DRS operator first to ask if he is willing to volunteer for this extra work.

How to address traffic at a DRS

This paragaph is for DRS operators only and assumes that you are already familiar with Airmail adressing.

The routing domain for Europe is NTSEU and message routing inside Europe is based on callsign prefixes. The To-line has the syntax

«callsign» @ NTSEU


NTS:«callsign» @ NTSEU

where the token «callsign» is to be replaced with the actual callsign of the message recipient. Please always (yes, always) double check the callsign before sending out a message.

The subject line is at your disposal and should contain any information you consider to be helpful for the delivering station. For well-known NTS participants in Europe the callsign is sufficient here e.g.

To:       NTS:DL4FN @ NTSEU
Subject:  DL4FN

Any additional information is welcome and should preferrably be given in the standard syntax e.g.

To:       NTS:DL4FN @ NTSEU

for a service message to DL4FN.

Message delivery

Traffic handling in Europe is driven by a few enthusiasts who need your traffic to make this part of the hobby more popular.


The amateurs most open to traffic handling are those being active in emergency communications. Whenever possible we try to deliver traffic for these stations via the national emcomm nets.


Europe is a continent with some fifty nations and a similar number of spoken languages. For the delivery of messages only national phone calls are useful both because of language capabilities and costs.

Calls tend to be either rather short or very lengthy depending on the recipient the vast majority of whom has never heard of radiograms in their amateur radio life before.

Conventional mail

A letter containing the printed radiogram accompanied by some personal words is a good option to deliver a message and make the recipient familiar with traffic handling in general.

Delivering stations are asked to include an email address or phone number for follow-up questions by the recipient.


The remarks on conventional mail apply for email as well. Be aware that some recipients may consider your email as spam.

European traffic for the US and Canada

Some notes on message forms

This section is intended for European amateurs sending NTS messages to amateurs in the US and Canada and assumes that you are familiar with the IARU message form at leat. NTS messages may be routed through voice and CW nets which requires some accuracy by the message originator and this section will help you to avoid a few typical pitfalls.

This is not a primer on message forms.

Character set

The permissible characters in all parts of an NTS message are [A-Z, 0-9, /]. All other characters are either discarded or replaced with literal versions according to the table below.

CharacterLiteral version

Furthermore ordinal numbers are expanded e.g. II becomes 2ND, III becomes 3RD and so on. This is particularily important for names.


The NTS and the IARU message forms are very akin to each other including the preamble. NTS messages offer handling instructions as an additional feature most notably to ask for delivery notifications (HXC) or replies (HXE) to messages.

Append the three-letter code of your country or another geographical identifier to the place of origin e.g. "CHESTER GBR" or "ERBACH ODW". Do not use a comma to separate them.

The time field in the preamble is optional for NTS messages and usually used only when the filing time of the message is important relative to it's handling instructions, precedence, or text. The format is four digits on the 24 hour clock followed by the letter Z to indicate the UTC time zone e.g. 2115Z. Do not use any punctuation (e.g. colon) in the time field.


Use or the FCC and IC database searches both linked on the NG3K website to find the postal addresses of radio amateurs in the US and Canada. Telephone numbers are available from various websites including for the US and for Canada.

The first line of the address contains the full name and callsign of the message recipient and the last line contains the recipient's telephone number written as area code, exchange, and subscriber line number separated by blanks (e.g. 123 456 7890) or the words "NO PHONE". Note that no punctuation is used in the address except for the character "/"


Address, text, and signature are separated by the token "BT" on a single line each in digital messages. The layout of the text part is five words on each line except possibly for the last one. Groups of words within the text are separated by the token "X" which counts for the check in the preamble.

Please keep in mind that NTS messages are limited to 25 words. Longer texts can easily be split and sent with multiple messages. Additionally you may want to use the codes from the ARRL Numbered Radiogram List (ARL) offering codes for often used texts. Note that you have to add "ARL" to the check in the preamble.

Signature and op note

Please include your callsign in the signature to assure the recipient and the intermediate stations that the message originates from an amateur radio operator. The above section on acceptable traffic explains why this is important.

Especially if you want to get a reply on your message it might be a good idea to include an op note pointing to an NTSD target station for Europe, e.g.


Please agree on this with the target station in advance. They will be happy to help you getting return traffic.

How to send your traffic

Addressing of messages for recipients in the US and Canada works as described on the AirMail Addressing page. When in doubt contact the MBO or one of the Digital Relay Station operators.

Traffic can be sent either via the Europe MBO or via one of the DRS. Please let us know your needs and requirements beforehand so that we can arrange for a suitable way (times, modes, frequencies) to take your traffic.

If you are in a country with at least one Digital Relay Station we propose to get in contact with them first. Otherwise we would be happy if you arrange for a regular sked with the MBO to take the traffic for recipients in your country.


A special callsign?

The German system for amateur radio callsigns is rather complex and distinguishes prefixes for 12 different types of use. Personal callsigns are used for personal radio contacts by the licensee only and distinguished prefixes are reserved for callsigns used for all services offered to multiple amateurs (repeaters, beacons, digipeaters, gateway stations).

Without going into details the first NTS gateway station in Germany has been assigned the callsign DF0NTS. Furthermore unattended operation requires a special permit and those stations are also assigned dedicated callsigns. To this end the callsign DB0NTS has been assigned to the Europe MBO.

Traffic routing in Europe

NTSD traffic routing in Europe uses the proven mechanism established in North America. In order to avoid any confusion with the two-letter state codes used there (see AirMail Addressing for details) traffic routing in Europe is based on the three-letter country codes defined by the ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 standard instead. A list of these codes is available on wikipedia.

Resembling the familiar syntax NTSD routing domains in Europe consist of the string "NTS" followed by the country code. Examples are NTSGBR for Great Britain and NTSDEU for Germany.

As messages for recipients in Europe are sent as @NTSEU the appropriate routing domain has to be determined by the TO part of the NTSD address. Callsigns are used at this position because there is no homogeneous zip code system in Europe. The zip code 75001 for example refers both to the city of Bretten in Germany and to Paris in France and maybe to even more places in other countries.

The Europe MBO therefore determines the routing domain of an incoming message upon reception from the prefix of the callsign in the TO part of the address and rewrites the AT part accordingly. DL4FN@NTSEU will for example be rewritten to DL4FN@NTSDEU and G0DUB@NTSEU will be rewritten to G0DUB@NTSGBR.

Messages are then routed to outlets in the recipients' country for delivery or are delivered by DL4FN as part of the operation of the Europe MBO if no such outlet is available.

The following example shows a potential path of a message from WA4STO to G0DUB delivered by the G4KUJ DRS. The station handling the message is always shown on the left and the NTSD address in place is shown on the right side of the colon.

  KB0OFD rx+tx: G0DUB@NTSEU → ... → KW1U rx+tx: G0DUB@NTSEU →
  G4KUJ rx+tx: G0DUB@NTSGBR →

Frequencies, times, and modes

The NTSD Europe MBO DB0NTS maintains links with both NTSD MBOs in the US and European user stations.

The BPQ32 software is used at the station and both the B1F and B2F application protocols as well as all Pactor protocol versions up to Pactor 4 are supported.

Times and frequencies are reviewed on a regular basis according to ever-changing propagation conditions (based on VOACAP propagation charts) and user needs. Actual operating times and frequencies are listed here.

Future plans

The next plannend major step is to integrate the packet radio port into the HamNet network.

DL4FN (talk)