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Definative Ruling on Remote Receivers Please?


#1

Can someone in the management team please give us a definative ruling on the use of remote receivers for SOTA use please? Not personal views, but a ruling.

The rule may not be enforceable, but we still need one. It may just change the way vhf/uhf operations are handled too (ie activator transmits to an echolink enabled repeater but takes chasers on a different frequency (or same but simplex)).

I can also see my SWL score rising astronomically too.

Ian
G7ADF


#2

Off to GM tomorrow, so doubt I will have chance to contribute to any MT discussion about this subject this week. So you might need to be patient Ian!

Whatever the outcome for activating/chasing, the SWL section is a different kettle of fish anyway. In activating and chasing, however you hear 'em, you still have to transmit back to 'em! In SWLing, this is not the case, and SWL activities have always run on an ‘honour’ system. As organiser of the SWL section, I personally think that allowing remote receivers for this aspect would make a nonsense of it. I very much doubt that the existing participating SWLs would have any interest in using someone else’s receiver via the internet for the SWL section. The joy of SWLing is setting up you home receiving station to capture those signals yourself.

You specifically asked NOT for an opinion Ian, but there’s mine anyway, as I won’t be involved in discussions for over a week.

Another opinion of mine is as follows. My understanding is that this topic came about through people posting spots after hearing SOTA stations via remote receivers and the 'net. I don’t see anything wrong with this, it’s just sharing of information, and not really different to someone telephoning someone and asking them to put a spot on. To claim chaser points, you would have to be able to transmit back to the station anyway, and no-one who spotted in this way has claimed SWL points.

Tom M1EYP / ISWL G-20843 / BRS180710


#3

In reply to G7ADF:

It may just change the way vhf/uhf operations are handled too
(ie activator transmits to an echolink enabled repeater but
takes chasers on a different frequency (or same but simplex)).

Such operations are already clearly classified as non-scoring in Rule 3.7.1 paragraph 10 for activators (QSOs via terrestrial repeaters do not count towards the QSO total), in Rule 3.8 paragraph 4 for chasers (QSOs via terrestrial repeaters do not count for points) and in Rule 3.9 paragraph 4 for SWLs (QSOs via terrestrial repeaters do not count for points).

As regards the use of remote receivers at HF, such as the Dutch SDR which has been mentioned several times on the Reflector, there is no SOTA rule applicable at present. The subject has not yet been discussed within the MT other than in passing, and such a discussion is unlikely to occur for at least a week, possibly longer, due to other commitments and priorities. Whether a ruling will be made following any such discussions is obviously impossible for me to predict.

It is fair to say that similar questions are being asked of many other award and contest organisers. In many ways it would be sensible for SOTA to await the decisions of the “big hitters” such as ARRL, RSGB and CQ Magazine before making a definitive ruling for or against such usage.

In the meantime, I suggest that using the SDR comes under the category “the spirit of SOTA”, and as such is subject to personal choice, although I personally do not see much advantage in doing so on a regular basis. As those who have raised the question previously seem disapproving, I also suspect that very little use will be made of the SDR by the vast majority of SOTA chasers either.

Whilst this may not be the definitive ruling you seek, the MT are aware of the matter and will reach a conclusion in due course.

73 de Les, G3VQO


#4

In reply to M1EYP:

I dont mind if it takes time as to get a group of people together and discuss (even via emails) takes a certain period of time so I can be patient.

My points being more specifically, my 100+Watts vs 5W from activator and also can the activator claim to have worked the chaser? The other points made in the original post were more how variances across the program could get introduced when I guess the aim would be to keep all levels on the same ruleset if possible.

Spotting using the system (as far as I’m concerned isnt an issue).

Personal views aren’t a problem (and are probably needed), just at the end of the debate an official ruling would be nice.

Thanks for the quick reply.

Ian
G7ADF


#5

In reply to G3VQO:
Sorry Les, I didnt see your reply as I was typing a follow up to Toms reply.

Thanks

Ian
G7ADF


#6

In reply to G7ADF:

Discussions have commenced within the MT, but I think it would be valuable for discussions to take place on this reflector, too.

Remote technology is both practical and, I believe, legal, so consider this scenario. I suffer S9 noise on the LF bands (by golly I do!) but have a friend living on a remote hillside in Wales. If I set up a remote station at my friends place in Wales operated from my desk in Birmingham, thus gaining the advantage of an RF quiet location and relief from D layer absorption on 80 m daylight contacts with Welsh activations, would this be within the spirit of SOTA? Consider then this scenario: I also have a friend in a remote cottage in, say, the Lake District. If I set up another remote station there with similar advantages in that area, does that change your answer? Bear in mind that amateur radio is a technological hobby and hams have always embraced the future (some more rapidly than others, I remember the SSB wars!) would it be within the ham spirit to place limits on the use of a technology?

Remote technology such as the SDRs are part of the future, we cannot stop them coming, all we can do is decide how to integrate their possibilities within SOTA. What we must decide is do we A)forbid, B) ignore or C) cater for the technology?

Thoughts?

73

Brian G8ADD


#7

In reply to G8ADD:

One possibility would be to rule that the transmitting location and receiving location for a QSO must be the same, for some carefully worded definition of “same”. This would allow an individual to operate a remote station (if permitted by their country’s licence) but would forbid the use of public receivers to supplement a personal transmitter.

SDR per se seems to me to have nothing at all to do with the matter.


#8

In reply to M1MAJ:

Good point: SDR is one means of realising remote operation, there are others.

73

Brian G8ADD


#9

In reply to G8ADD:
Hi all
I have to admit to finding the idea of using a remote receiver as part of SOTA chasing or SWL’ing to be distasteful. Surely part of the skill is using your own equipment and bits of wire? If we all used the remote station for receiving wouldn’t we all end up giving the activator the same report? Where is the experimentation or self education in that? Observation of propagation and the learning curve would all be redundant. The ability or inability to complete a contact because of conditions is fundamental to our hobby, hence an RST/SINPO.
For example, I find 10mhz free of QRM but 3.5mhz and especially 3.666 are very noisy and sometimes unusable. Surely thats my hard luck and not a reason to use a receiver in a different part of the country/planet? If I did, how is it amateur radio any longer?
I wouldn’t see a ruling on this as blocking technology as such. To my mind an amateur radio contact should be between two operators without the assistance of a third “virtual” operator. Wouldn’t this be like the dreaded QSP? I can see many applications for remote receivers but certainly not as part of an award scheme. I would assume that contacts made using an Echolink gateway/node would not qualify for SOTA so why would a remote receiver/transmitter?
Good to be able to take part in a healthy and respectful debate!
Cheers
Q GW3BV


#10

In reply to G8ADD:

Hi Brian .

Reading your scenario comments about SDR’s and setting them up at friends locations to gain advantage over the QRM etc, so hypothetically would it not be as easy to just set up one on each summit with a solar panel and mobile phone with internet access.
Therefore points would be available 24/7
SDR’s are as you say part of the future a similar problem was the use of sending CW by computer error free at up to 30 wpm but that may be seen by some as digital mode and not true CW.
How long may it be before there is no one to speak to on the radio as the vhf bands are getting less use these days, with the old saying use it or lose it comes to mind.

All you can hope is that no planing officers find out about it as all applications will come back no chance get an SDR .

Roger G0TRB


#11

In reply to GW3BV:

“Good to be able to take part in a healthy and respectful debate!”

Fully concur!

Using a remote receiver is perhaps less easy than using a remote station, which is why I am concentrating on that latter for the moment. Less easy because you still have to get your signal to the activator and over a longer path.

Use of a remote station is not a panacea, either. Suppose I put a remote at my hypothetical friends location in LD. I would be rewarded with an S1 to 2 noise level on 5 megs in place of my present frequent S9 buzz at this QTH, but in the present state of the ionosphere I might have the remote too close to Scotland to hear Robin on a Munro. Similarly it might be too far away to hear an activation from SW on 80 metres due to D layer absorption. It is just as if you had moved your station and your ears to LD but not your body: you would have both the advantages and disadvantages of an LD location.

If we are to outlaw use of a remote receiver or a remote station, it might be very difficult to police the ban, particularly as I guess that in time there will be a network of these remote receivers. How would we know that one had been used? I think we would have to fall back on the idea of trust.

73

Brian G8ADD


#12

In reply to G8ADD:

In reply to G7ADF:

Discussions have commenced within the MT, but I think it would be
valuable for discussions to take place on this reflector, too.

Exactly, hence my posting here rather than a private email to the management team.

My personal view is that these “remote receivers” are very valuable to amateur radio, but not for SOTA use. As Les stated previously the spirit of SOTA should guide the actions, but where there is something relatively new, then each persons judgement may be different.

I personally see these remote receivers as repeaters. Ok, they are 1 way for now, but for how long.

If I was writing a rule, and I have thought about it but obviously cannot see all the ramifications (hence the need for debate), then I would suggest :-

“The feedpoints of both the receiving and transmitting attenna should be within … (insert reasonable distance here) of your station.”

Although the definition may have to be fairly wide to accomodate those lucky devils with full-size rhombics for top-band that have switchable feedpoints for directivity.

Ian
G7ADF


#13

In reply to G8ADD:

If we are to outlaw use of a remote receiver or a remote station, it
might be very difficult to police the ban, particularly as I guess
that in time there will be a network of these remote receivers. How
would we know that one had been used? I think we would have to fall
back on the idea of trust.

That is the same with many of the rules. How do we know that someone is within the activation zone, not using a repeater, not in a vehicle etc etc. We dont, but we know the rule is there. Without the rules we would have a loose collection of people who each have their own views on what constitutes a valid activation/chase.

Ian
G7ADF

Ian


#14

In reply to G8ADD:

Hi brian

just an opinion but i am totaly against using any form of repeaters or otherwise for SOTA ,or anything else for that matter. imagine doing this for DXCC it would become a joke woudn’t it.

i would have no problem’s with using for emmercomms though an entirely different matter.

73s Alistair gw0vmz


#15

In reply to G7ADF:

That’s fine as far as it goes, Ian (and add an “I wish” for a 160m rhombic!) but in the case of a remote station the feedpoint will obey this rule but the station will still be a long way from the operator. Would you allow remoting or extend your rule in some way to make a remote illegal?

73

Brian G8ADD


#16

In reply to G7ADF:

Intriguing subject. I’m not sure why it is considered skillful to operate a local radio and non-skilled to operate a remote radio. All you are doing is turning the knobs and whether that is done through the front panel of a radio sat by you or by clicking a mouse makes no real difference. The only skill is being able to turn the correct knobs the correct amount. And if you can do that locally, doing remotely is no different.

I’m not sure using a remote receiver is an aid to chasing. On HF both you and the remote receiver have to be in the skip zone as the activator or (s)he wont he you, so the only advantage is if the remote receiver has a lower noise floor. For SWLing then I can see an advantage.

I’m not a chaser really, activating floats my boat, so I don’t mind if people don’t think my views are as relevant as the very keen chasers who exist. However, I do like Martin M1MAJ’s idea that the tx and rx antennas have to be at the same location. I’d go further. I’d allow a fully remote controlled private station not shared ones. SOTA rules state 4 contacts and if a shared remote station was used by 4 different chasers then the activator has really only had an RF contact with 1 station 4 times!

So yes to fully remote private stations with co-located rx/tx antennas and no to using a shared remote station (either for rx, tx or both).

Andy
MM0FMF


#17

In reply to MM0FMF:

“I’m not a chaser really, activating floats my boat, so I don’t mind if people don’t think my views are as relevant as the very keen chasers who exist. However, I do like Martin M1MAJ’s idea that the tx and rx antennas have to be at the same location. I’d go further. I’d allow a fully remote controlled private station not shared ones. SOTA rules state 4 contacts and if a shared remote station was used by 4 different chasers then the activator has really only had an RF contact with 1 station 4 times!”

Interesting, Andy. In your opinion does the same go for an activation where two or more hams share one rig?

73

Brian G8ADD


#18

In reply to G8ADD:

In your opinion does the same go for an activation where two
or more hams share one rig?

Well I thought about that when I wrote my other bit. Slightly different, a chaser working both stations only gets 1 set of points.

The reason I like Martin’s idea is that it doesn’t stop innovation. Yes, remotely operated stations have been around since Marconi’s day but really nowadays it’s RF station<–internet link—>PC. So we’re not stopping someone seting up the their own private remote station and experimenting just not allowing some public shared resource. If the shared resource was a super station you may get more people using that in preference to their own station and that’s when the activator may end up working the same RF station several times.

Does that make my view clearer?

Andy
MM0FMF


#19

In reply to MM0FMF and GW0VMZ:

I’m with you, Andy, and tend to agree.

To make my own position clear, I would allow private remote stations and disallow public receivers or transceivers. What I am still mulling over is a single operator with multiple remote stations, but I think I would disallow that. I don’t know if you feel this way, Alastair, but I don’t regard a remote station as a repeater, its more like a rig with an enormously long mike lead! Repeaters of any sort I do not like, though I am not against them, I just don’t get any enjoyment from them, but they don’t belong on SOTA.

73

Brian G8ADD


#20

Following a request for a definitive ruling, the MT has been discussing the issue of remote operation as it affects SOTA. Although the matter was initially raised as a result of publicity given to the Software Defined Radio in Den Haag, there are far wider implications to consider, both now and in the future as technology develops.

The spectrum of remote operation is vast, from sitting in your garden whilst controlling the shack radio with a Wi-Fi laptop computer, to a full-blown station controlled via the Internet, possibly in another continent. I am sure that few would consider the first option as anything other than legitimate, but many would have considerable qualms about the second.

The MT does not wish to appear opposed to cutting-edge technology through purely Luddite tendencies, but it does wish to retain the essential ethos of SOTA. In simple terms, any potential rule on the subject remote operation could have three basic options –

  1. no remote operation of any kind permitted
  2. all remote operation is permitted
  3. definitions of permitted and prohibited remote operation spelt out

The MT considers that option 1 is far too draconian, as it would prohibit many quite reasonable variations in station configuration. On the other hand, option 2 is equally unreasonable, as it would be giving a carte blanche for the use of all types of remote operation, both current and those yet-to-be-developed.

That leaves option 3. The obvious problem is a need to decide, and then clearly define, just what is, and what is not, acceptable. Different participants will have different views on the subject, so a compromise would have to be reached. Wherever the demarcation line was drawn, it would require extremely complicated rules to ensure that everybody was clear on the requirements. Such rules would have to be constantly under review as technology developed, leading to frequent re-writes to address new concerns. One of the strengths of SOTA is the relative simplicity of the General Rules, and this makes it easy to translate the requirements into many languages. It would be a retrograde step to add a long section to address such a peripheral issue as remote operation.

So, the MT has decided that the General Rules will not specifically address the subject of remote operation, but that it will be regarded as coming under the banner of “the spirit of SOTA”, thus leaving demarcation lines to the discretion of the individual. That said, the MT wishes to express its interpretation of said “spirit”, and it strongly believes that all elements of the station should be co-located. The acceptable parameters of that co-location are left to the individual to decide. In the particular case of SWL claims, the MT believes that the use of any receiving equipment remote from the location of the listener is outwith “the spirit of SOTA”.

Undoubtedly there will be some participants who will feel that the MT has somehow “ducked the issue”, but they should be aware that, whatever ruling is made, there is no way that compliance can be ensured. Even the Dutch SDR, the initial catalyst for this discussion, is not as easy to check as it may appear. Although it shows who is logged-in, and the frequency they are monitoring, there is no checking of the log-in details. Thus it is just as easy to log-in using somebody else’s callsign as it is to use your own, or no callsign at all!

The MT sincerely hopes that the matter has been resolved in a manner acceptable to most, if not all, participants. It also hopes that there will be no unpleasantness on the Reflector, or elsewhere, directed at individuals who may be using various remote equipment. Remember, what you see may not be the whole truth!

Les, G3VQO
obo SOTA Management Team