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 –
- no remote operation of any kind permitted
- all remote operation is permitted
- 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!
obo SOTA Management Team