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APRS Message Exchange = Contact? No. Yes. No.

Can a direct exchange of APRS messages qualify as a contact for activation purposes?

I’m clear that any message passing through an igate or other 3rd-party station can’t be used. But if two APRS stations exchange APRS messages directly, and one of them is on a summit, can that count as a contact?

At first, I said, “No,” because I was thinking of traffic passing through an igate, and that’s a type of repeater.

Then I remembered that my APRS-enabled HT can send messages directly to other APRS stations, and I said, “Yes.”

Then I decided that you can’t really provide a signal report, and that’s a required part of a SOTA exchange, and I said, “No, it doesn’t qualify.” OTOH, if you received the message, perhaps signal report is implicitly, “adequate.”

This is not strictly an academic question. I received an APRS message today, while on-summit. I didn’t notice it until I was off-summit, so it doesn’t matter today, but the day is coming when it will.
73 DE K4KPK / Kevin

Hi Kevin,
I’ve double checked in the general rules and as you say a minimum exchange consists of callsigns and signal reports. My reading on APRS is, if it doesn’t include a signal report it isn’t a valid contact - but what is stopping the chaser and activator from adding the signal report in the text portion of the Amateur Packet Reporting System record? Packet infers data transfer (note in many cases APRS is used for position reporting but thats only ONE of its capabilities). So as long as each partner includes the signal report, this is then a digital mode like PSK which gets used from summits, from time to time.

73 Ed.

By definition if you can read the message without error it must be at least 51 (perfectly readable). The only doubt is the strength.

I’m of the opinion messages demonstrably received direct and from different stations should count. But that is a personal opinion only.

I may be splitting hairs, but the rules say “signal report” and not “accurate signal report” and not “precise signal report” and definitely not “RST”. Many real life signal reports are unrelated to the actual signal quality. e.g. The “contest 59”.

I think that setting the stations to NO PATH and exchanging “(his call) DE (my call). clear signal,” would constitute a valid and truthful exchange. Actually, the way messaging work (at least on the Yaesu VX-8GR), you enter the destination call sign into the destination field and the radio supplies your pre-entered call sign in the APRS sender field, so the only necessary content of the message would be “clear signal.”

I think a minimal exchange would look like:

  • [Me] To: (his call). Msg: QSL? Pls reply w/CLEAR SIG. SOTA activation
  • [He] To: (my call). Msg: CLEAR SIG
  • [Me] To: (his call). Msg: CLEAR SIG. TNX

I think that meets the spirit and the letter of the rules.

As I said Kevin, there’s nothing to stop the signal report (however it’s expressed) being in the text portion of an APRS message and I believe that would fulfill the stated requirements. A GPS location only type exchange would not for example fulfill this need.

A suggestiion to expand on your suggested text - the reply from the activator could be

[He] To: (my call). Msg: CLEAR SIG from [SOTA Reference]

73 Ed.

A signal report of 5X means perfect readability of strength X. Packet is error checked, so if there are any bit errors in the reception, the packet message will not decode. Therefore, by definition, if you can receive a message from another packet system, the report must be 51 or better. If it wasn’t a 5X then you would not decode the message. Demonstrate you sent 4 packets to 4 different stations direct and you hvae 4 QSOs. Well you would in my book.

I have previously accepted a signal report or “loud & clear” as acceptable from a station with no S meter. It was a signal report so satisfied the rules to my mind. Similar thinking to an APRS QSO id say.