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Time for a Two Tier Scoring System?


FT8 may be easy for making contacts from the home station, however it is far from easy when operating portable under SOTA rules. Very few operators have so far succeeded in making FT8 QSOs from summits, mainly because of the operational difficulties involved and the amount of ancillary equipment that needs to be carried. I do not believe FT8 will ever overtake CW, SSB and FM as the mode of choice for SOTA activations.

Walt (G3NYY)


Hi Walt,

If there’s one thing Radio Hams are notorious for, it’s their resourcefulness. Thirty years ago, if you wanted to work portable from a hill, you lugged a boat anchor and a couple of car batteries to the summit. Along came the 817/857 and everything changed. The same will happen with FT-8, it’s only a matter of a very short time.

73 Mike


But bear in mind that you are talking about a non-verbal mode. If you look at the statistics, SSB+FM+AM contacts outnumber all the other modes put together, including CW. FT8 is not about to replace voice modes - many hams like to talk to each other, it is nice to hear the other guys voice when you are operating from places well above the normal human world. As the old BT advert had it, “it’s good to talk!” For those who like to talk into their radios and hear talk coming back, often from familiar voices, FT8 is not going to change a thing. I accept that FT8 is a marvellous tool but it has no attraction for me - not that I am against digital, I have had many digital SSTV contacts, and when a digital speech mode comes along that significantly outclasses SSB I will embrace it, but FT8 and its ilk just doesn’t hold any attraction for me.


I agree Mike; but it’s already there. The database shows seven mode-specific tiers already; FT8 is combined with other modes in the “data” category. I doubt if any CW or FT8 operator round here will come close to emulating your astonishing DX success on SSB.


Amen brother!

Ham radio is about talking to people…CW or SSB…verbal communication, person to person, in a language a person can decode in their head. Digital is technology talking to technology, it is not Ham Radio.

When I run digital, using my cellphone, I do not log it as a contact.

founder and only member of 3D (Don’t Do Digital)

(and yes, I am I dinosaur, but that still doesn’t make the Digital modes real ham radio)


The phrase “opinion stated as fact” springs to mind.


The attraction of FT8 to me is the potential for ten’s of dBs of enhanced weak signal readability. This translates into running lower power, lesser antennas, greater DX, etc.

I’d like to do sub-watt across-the-pond summit-to-summit FT8 at the bottom of the sunspot cycle.

Barry N1EU


Honestly, there are so many variables in SOTA that make things unequal so to speak not only from the various modes that are used, but even the locations. Even each region has difference with what a ten point summit might be. Even in the same region there are differences between a 4 point summit versus an 8 point summit. Yesterday was my most difficult summit to activate in terms of access, and yet it was only 4 points. I have easily activated 8 point summits. So in reality there is no across the board way to make things equal to everyone. This is not a contest against each other (although fun to compare results). Its only a points scheme for individuals. I do not believe that any adjustments need to be made in the scoring, although some Associations may continue to tweek criteria for bonus points. I use to focus on higher point peaks (6 or above), but no more. I will embrace the on point as much I do the 8 or 10 pointer. Its just fun to get out there to learn new things! SOTA has allowed me to reach peaks I never would have (I took a mountaineering course). This year I hope to learn CW. SOTA is really just a good reason for us to get out and play with our radio and learn new things!


Hi Barry,
I think what annoys me (and perhaps some others) is the non-conversational, pre-formatted, standard message automatic exchange implemented by the WSJT-x program. One might call it “digital for dummies” in that form.

What would be nice to see would be a conversational mode - still using the FT-8 protocol to keep all the advantages of low signal communications but returning it to a more natural method to communicate - hey even have “chin-wags” with mates!

Perhaps it would gain acceptance by calling the current set of standard messages “contest mode” and the freeform use of the protocol “conversational mode”. This would, if we are honest, then echo the way CW (or SSB for that matter) is used today.

73 Ed.

PS perhaps this conversation should be happening on the FT-8 thread, not this one about a two tier scoring system?


Hi Ed,

I would suggest that is the last place we take it, they’re all sold on the mode.

Okay, a good operator working with a mic, will always find takers, not always DX, but some takers. Listen to Steve G1INK when he’s on a summit…poetry in motion. Never known him resort to digital modes, however, his patience is legendry, that’s what makes him a great operator.

It’s only the Activators who are using the mode or plan to use it, who are arguing that an FT-8 contact is equal to a CW/SSB contact. I’m afraid there’s a lot of folk out there who aren’t buying it.

Someone messaged me earlier and suggested FT-8 was the ideal mode for SOTA. Simply set the laptop running at the summit and then shoot off down to the pub. Sums it up nicely.

The scoring may not change, but a specific FT-8 logging mode should be added to the database.

73 Mike


Er - am I allowed to change my opinion?:wink:


I would suggest that folks consider that it is all NOT that simple to achieve a SOTA FT8 activation, especially if you’ve configured a packable compute solution and carried it up a mountain. Perhaps we can hear from folks who have actually accomplished this?

Barry N1EU


I like that idea . HI.


Actually the general rules are pretty clear that any mode authorised by your license conditions counts for a QSO unless via a repeater, etc. Anything else is just traditional mode elitism.

As much as I enjoy the once or twice annual Let’s Change The Points System thread, it isn’t going to happen, certainly not on this basis.

SOTA is about making QSOs from or with mountain stations. DX and/or its relative ease is not a factor.

(SSB junkie, occasional CWer, no digital yet - mode agnostic)


I qualified a SOTA summit with FT8 some months ago just to prove to myself that I could do it. I had previously done a qualification with PSK, again just to show it was easy enough to do.

You only need a PC of some sort and a sound card interface of some sort in addition to the usual HF stuff you carry. Its not that hard to set up, carry etc. The biggest issue I had was ensuring that the PC was sufficiently time synched for the requirements of FT8.

It was interesting to do but pretty boring. I definately prefer the microphone method, its more personal. FT8 was realtively slow in terms of contacts per minute. From memory it took me 20 minutes to get 4 contacts.

I wouldnt add FT8 to my regular methods, but would do it if someone wanted say a S2S. For example I’m trying to get some of the locals down this way motivated to do an FT8 S2S on 23cm. My gear is all ready to go.




Personally I prefer the status quo where you can use any mode with no points differential.

Whatever the merits of the suggestion, coming up with a workable points system is a nightmare.

Are you going to rate all modes on how easy or difficult we perceive them, you could end up rating different data modes with different points.

Personally I think it is unworkable.



What a lot of hoo-hah about nothing!

Walt (G3NYY)
(QRV on SSB, FM, AM, CW, PSK, JT65, JT9, Olivia, RTTY, FT8, Feldhell, and other modes)


Ha ha.

Meanwhile, my GCSE student in Stoke-on-Trent did partake and fully engage in her maths tutoring today (Monday 30th October 2017), so that was an improvement.

It was a lovely day, so again I returned home via The Cloud G/SP-015 and set-up my ultra-light 20m GP. 5 watts of RF from the FT-817 and 45 minutes’ operating landed 17 contacts, including KG3W from over the Pond. 15 of these minutes were wasted calling and calling on SSB, with not a single contact raised. Another couple of minutes were wasted calling on 2m FM.

So it was 100% CW today, but I’ve lost track as to whether this is a revered, respected and supremely difficult mode of transmission like SSB, or something so easy and simple that it is akin to cheating, like the dastardly FT-8.


In a way this has been a refreshing change from the usual run of “let’s change things” threads. The usual recurring thread is about vain attempts to make the points scored proportional to some fundamental measure of the difficulty of the summits, this one is an equally vain attempt to link the points scored to some fundamental measure of the difficulty of the modes used. I wonder what the next one will be - how about a bonus which is inversely proportional to the power used?:wink:


How about to the length of the squid pole used?