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Winlink, also known as the Winlink 2000 Network, is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies to provide radio interconnection services that include email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, and message relay. The system is built and administered by volunteers and administered by the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation Inc., an American charitable entity and 501c(3) non-profit organization.[1]


Winlink networking started by providing interconnection services for amateur radio (also known as ham radio). It is well known for its central role in amateur radio Emcomm (a contraction of "Emergency + Comms" (or communications) that is commonly used by amateur radio operators) messaging.[citation needed] The system runs several central message servers around the world for redundancy. A subset of HF (High-Frequency: generally 3Mhz to 30MHz) gateway stations have operated since 2013 as the Winlink Hybrid Network, offering message forwarding and delivery through a mesh-like smart network whenever internet connections are damaged or inoperable.[2] During the past decade[when?] it increasingly became what is now the standard network system for amateur radio email worldwide. Additionally, in response to recent[when?] needs for better disaster response communications, the network has been expanded to provide separate parallel radio email networking systems for MARS, UK Cadet, Austrian Red Cross, and other communities.

Amateur radio HF email[edit]

Generally, email communications over amateur radio in the 21st century is now considered normal and commonplace.[citation needed] Email via High frequency (HF) can be used nearly everywhere on the planet, and is made possible by connecting an HF single sideband (SSB) transceiver system to a computer, modem interface, and appropriate software. The HF modem technologies include PACTOR, Winmor, and Automatic Link Establishment (ALE).

Amateur radio HF email guidelines[edit]

Amateur radio users in each country follow the appropriate regulatory guidelines for their license. Some countries may limit or regulate types of amateur messaging (such as email) by content, origination location, end destination, or license class of the operator. Origination of third party messages (messages sent on behalf of, or sent to, an end destination who is not an amateur operator) may also be regulated in some countries; those that limit such third party messages normally have exceptions for emergency communications. In accordance with long standing amateur radio tradition, international guidelines and FCC rules section 97.113, hams using the Winlink system are advised that it is not appropriate to use it for business communications.


The Winlink system is open to properly licensed amateur radio operators. The system primarily serves radio users without normal access to the internet, government and non-government public service organizations, medical and humanitarian non-profits, and emergency communications organizations. Duly authorized MARS operators may utilize the MARS part of the system. As of July 2008, there were approximately 12,000 radio users and approximately 100,000 internet correspondents. Monthly traffic volume averages over 100,000 messages.[3]

Supported radio technologies[edit]

Technical protocols[edit]

PACTOR-I, WINMOR, HSMM (WiFi), AX.25 packet, D-Star, TCP/IP, and ALE are non-proprietary protocols used in various RF applications to access the Winlink network systems. Later versions of PACTOR are proprietary and supported only by commercially available modems from Special Communications Systems GmbH. In amateur radio service, AirMail, an email software program used by the Winlink system, disables the proprietary compression technology for PACTOR-II and PACTOR-III modems and instead relies on the Open FBB protocol, also widely used by packet radio BBS forwarding systems in US.

US regulatory issues[edit]

In 2007, a US amateur radio operator filed a formal petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)[4] aimed at reducing the signal bandwidth in automatic operation subbands; but, in May 2008 FCC ruled against the petition.[5] In the Official Order, FCC said, "Additionally, we believe that amending the amateur service rules to limit the ability of amateur stations to experiment with various communications technologies or otherwise impeding their ability to advance the radio art would be inconsistent with the definition and purpose of the amateur service.[5] Moreover, we do not believe that changing the rules to prohibit a communications technology currently in use is in the public interest." [5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Amateur Radio Safety Foundation, Inc". 
  2. ^ "Home - Navy Mars" (PDF). Navy Mars. Retrieved 4 April 2018. 
  3. ^ "Winlink System Traffic". 
  4. ^ "FCC Petition RM-11392" (PDF). US Government Federal Communications Commission FCC. 
  5. ^ a b c "DA-08-1082A1" (DOC). US Government Federal Communications Commission FCC. 

External links[edit]