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What is Packet Radio?

MB7NAF Packet Node, with a TNC and Radio

Packet Radio gained popularity in the amateur radio community in the 80s and 90s as a method of transmitting data split into “packets” across the country and even further afield, before the internet was widely available.

Various modulations and encodings exist, but the most popular proved to be AX.25 over 1200 Baud AFSK over VHF/UHF links, and 300 baud FSK over HF. To get a packet from one end the country to another, networks of “nodes” popped up that could relay a packet to other neighbouring nodes, over either a shared channel, or a direct link with a dedicated frequency to avoid collisions. Over time, additional protocols were implemented to route packets automatically and improve efficiency.

As the internet gained popularity, interest in packet radio dwindled and nodes slowly shutdown until packet radio in the UK was all but extinct. However, in the last couple of years there has been a renewed interest in packet radio, as radio amateurs seek out ways of building data networks that do not depend on the public internet.

What can I do with Packet Radio?

National Packet Network project

Following a successful TNC group buy, OARC members (and others) are attempting to re-establish a UK-wide packet network primarily using amateur RF. Since the arrival of the NinoTNCs, new packet nodes and ports have sprung up, and the project is rapidly gaining momentum.

If you're interested in getting involved join the OARC Discord Server if you haven't already, and check out the #national-packet-project channel.

You can also join our mailing list, if Discord isn't your thing:

If you want to take part, check out these two new guides:

Project Updates

Node Directory

We're starting a listing of known packet nodes in the UK, operating under NoVs, i.e. the “permanent” packet network:

Node Directory

NinoTNC Group Buy / Build

A building block of packet radio is the Terminal Node Controller, also known as TNC. Similar to a modem, the TNC interfaces with a radio to do the required modulation and demodulation and trigger the PTT so data can be sent via a radio.

The NinoTNC is a modern hardware TNC kit, connected by USB. It supports traditional 300, 1200 and 9600 baud packet as well as some more modern experimental modes designed to be more efficient that also include forward error correction.

OARC recently organised a group buy of almost 50 NinoTNCs to help people get started with packet radio. See the build-along pages here.

Useful Documentation


packet.txt · Last modified: 2023/05/20 18:10 by m0lte