Winlink Email around the World Without Internet

I know Winlink and Email has been discussed a few times here before, but found a video that answers the question of internet needed or not.

Most Winlink users will tell you the Winlink will not work unless there is internet in the world. This is wrong!

Typically a message will go from User to RMS station and then via internet to the CMS. I found out there are RF backbone links between some RMS stations. So it is possible for a User to send a message to one RMS and the person it is sent to receive it at another RMS station STRICILY using RF connections.

This was key for me as I wanted a system that was independent of the internet. How does a person out in the wilderness without internet get a list of RMS stations for the software to work? By using his existing list of RMS stations to download a list via RF to update his list. This option does exist in the Winlink software.

Reason I am concerned is remember the Arab Spring where the government shut down the internet and people were using MESH networks to get information out of the country. There is a small and limited number of CMS stations but many RMS stations around the world within easy reach of HF.

Many of us travel thru smaller countries where such an event could happen or it could happen in a country where a CMS is located.

Watch the video and get a much better understanding of how Winlink works and how it would be very useful for Expedition travelers. No you are not going to be able to upload all your pics to make all your friends jealous, but you will be able to get health and welfare traffic. Also notice he is only using 10 watts of power to send his messages.



Expedition Leader
Winlink doesn't need the Internet anymore than APRS or WINMOR do. You can do plenty with PACTOR and AX.25 packets without it. But email really does need it. That being in the sense that email is a TCP/IP application having no Internet gateways and mail servers makes it of limited use.

But it does make sense to structure your network on a TCP layer even if there is no Internet, such as the 2.4GHz ad-hoc networking guys doing HSMM-Mesh (which is doing 802.11 networking).

It's an intranet LAN that if it happens to find a router becomes part of the Internet. All of this is exactly why the Internet is built the way it is. That's really the way we should view Winlink, APRS, Mesh, etc., LANs built on RF links just without the public Internet. You still assign addresses and use TCP and UDP applications on the links so the client only needs to understand TCP/IP, e.g. you plug in a laptop and the browser and mail application just work.

The downside is layering TCP on top eats bandwidth and reduces link reliability. For 2.4GHz this isn't a problem but when you're doing HF at 300 baud each bit is precious. So using email to exchange point-to-point information is less desirable than a simple terminal. That's why RMS and CMS still exist, so the individual station doesn't necessarily need to implement a true TCP stack (e.g. the Winlink hybrid network model). Even 1200 baud VHF isn't ideal for trying to extend a full TCP/IP when you lose so much to framing.
Last edited:
Dave to make my point more clear. If I am in a country where a CMS server is located and something domestic happens within that country that shuts down the internet. That means no one is getting info in or out of the country via the internet. I want to send and receive messages to ANYONE in other parts of the world as long as they have internet and if they are a ham they don't need internet. As long as RMS servers maintain an RF connection then passing messaging in or out of the country is still feasible. This was the first time anyone has mentioned that as a backbone connection RMS stations use RF. I was always told the RMS stations needed an internet connection. This is so not true. RMS stations do communicate RMS station to RMS station via RF as well as use Internet. Yes message transfer would be slow but it would eventually end where it needed to go.

Now let's take it to the extreme. I will mention EMP only for the purpose of this post. It wipes out the internet world wide. I know impossible to cover the whole world with an EMP but for the purpose of the is post it did. Now how do we pass traffic ham radio to ham radio. I had my radio and electronics encased in a faraday cage buried 200 feet underground LOL. Now there are others worldwide that did the same. I can pass a message via Winlink from one ham radio station to another using RMS stations that remain on the air. I do not need for the CMS stations to be online. They exist to speed up the network and take load off of RMS stations. All CMS stations are mirror images of each other. So even if they were all offline Winlink traffic would still be moved by the RMS stations using RF for the link.

The word internet has many meanings to a lot of people but there is only one internet. Everything else is intranet in my opinion and I maybe wrong. MESH networks and Winlink type systems are intranet and are tied to internet. Yes they all use TCP layering and AX.25.

Question for you dave since Winlink is a hybrid system. When I apply for an "email address" is that stored through out the whole RMS CMS system. I know I don't have an assigned RMS station, but do the RMS or CMS stations know which RMS stations I use? Sort of like a DNS server?


Expedition Leader
Hybrid means it's a network that can traverse across to the Internet if necessary but can act in RF-only. On CMS-RMS you can pass information around within the network and it never reaches the Internet. In this context there's only one public, wide area, open "Internet" in the world. You can have a UDP/ or TCP/IP intranet that doesn't talk to the public Internet but in structure it's the same thing just lacking (or has a blocked in your political example) gateway.

The hybrid part comes in because Winlink can talk to the Internet but requires relays to do so. IOW, Winlink and APRS require some special stuff, TNCs, PACTOR, WINMOR software, HAMNET, rather than standard Ethernet and WLAN hardware. The client software knows how to work if you're on an Internet connection, though.

Your email address will be on the Winlink system email servers. It's like having an email address with your ISP, Google, your employer. Someone has to run a mail server that can talk to other Internet mail servers or at least know how to handle messages on its own network (e.g. stand-alone, passing emails to other Winlink users). Winlink isn't an ISP per say, so you can't just run any email address on it. It's a private message system, there's no DNS server, no IP address allocations, etc.
Last edited:
Yes that picture is what I would expect but with a few notes. The diagram on the left is like it says something you would see in a State or County EOC, Red Cross or the super nerdy guy at home with a intranet setup. The left diagram only displays RMS Relays going to internet but no actual RF flow RMS Relay to RMS Relay. Also at the bottom it is labeled Location with Internet Access. It is vague because it is not complete and leaves to question if the RMS Relay station must have Internet. The way it is depicted it appears that it is required, when this is not true.

I know how intranet and internet works. Sometimes I don't have the correct words but have it in my mind. I worked for an international company and each location had it's own intranet. I was responsible at our location for networking all the production machines back to a server that was connected to both the intranet and internet. All the office and administrative computers were on their own intranet before having an actual internet connection. Thank goodness I didn't have that section. Machines don't call you up and whine about why there mouse doesn't work.