FT8/JT9 activation from OK/KA

Next week (August 13th - August 20th) I’m going to be on vacation in OK/KA area. Besides common activation of some peaks on CW I’d like to also give a try to FT8 and JT9 modes. For this kind of activities I could be most likely available around 18:00 UTC on 20/30/40 meters from OK/KA-001 on some days.
Anyone who’d like and be available to go for S2S?

Mirek, OK1CYC

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I probably can’t get out to a summit with FT8 but more than happy for a contact from home.

Have you seen the suggested FT8 message format for SOTA use on the SOTA Australia Yahoogroup? If not I can re-post it here.

73 Ed.

Hello Mirek,

This is quite a coincidence. From 14 to 19 Aug I will be attending the annual YO SOTA Marathon and I will try to activate all the 15 summits in FT8 (while other activators will be on SSB / CW). We expect to be finished with the activations (3 each day) by 18:00 UTC, but I am sure we can arrange some FT-8 S2S - worst case scenario, I will try to chase you from the camp. On 19th Aug we will do only chasing.

The second part of the coincidence is that 3 operators from OK are attending the event as well.

Send me an email to yo9irf at gmail so we can keep in touch.

Razvan M0HZH / YO9IRF

PS: Ed, it would be great to post that suggested format here (or in the FT8 thread).

Hi Razvan.
Great! Sounds as a really good match.
Definitely, let’s keep in touch. As it’s family vacation the plans are not strict and can change in either way, hi. So, also the move to earlier hour may be feasible on my side.
Mirek OK1CYC

PS: Ed, would be nice if you can share. If there is dedicated thread for FT8 that would be the best place to discuss further I think.


I havent and would love to see the suggested format.

I did 8 FT8 activations in Colorado/Wyoming last week. Fun to do even factoring in another 7-8 lbs of gear hiked in over many many miles!


HI Paul,
Ron VK3AFW has come suggested the following usage of the FT8 messages when transmitting from a summit, so that the summit reference can be included without “breaking” any of the existing format.

Start by using the standard messaging after adding the the summit grid square in the setup.

Change message 6 to be
CQ SOTA/VK3AFW QF22 where the grid square is as per the summit reference.

and the last message you send, message 5 to, to be, for example,
VK3/VC-023 73

ie SOTA Summit Reference plus 73. In this format it should not be mistaken for a call sign, Chasers, having seen the CQ SOTA and hopefully your SOTAWatch alert and maybe a spot will know exactly what it means. Other (non SOTA people receiving the transmission) can Google it and find the info.

The auto sequencing works OK with this and the log prompt comes up for you to act on.

You can add a prefix to your call if required by law in the setup when you put the grid square in and it will still work OK.

I experimented with a few methods as follows;

  1. CQ W6PNG SOTA (drop the grid square which didn’t seem to bother anyone noticeably)
  2. Send a free format message part way through the sequence as follows “SOTA W7YSW001” or “PEAK W7YSW001” - this did seem to confuse some people as it messed up the auto sequencing and probably wasn’t easily seen at the other end as without their call sign the message is not displayed with a red background
  3. Over the weekend while at home I also came to the conclusion of sending the summit code with the 73.

I don’t think message 6 will work as it exceeds 13 characters which I think is software limit in WSJT-X but I might be wrong.

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Thanks Ed.
I haven’t gone deeply into it yet but see the issue with /P suffix required on my side for portable operation. Then I’m too long for initial CQ. Without /P it will for sure work.
For that reason my initial idea was to keep all standard like CQ OK1CYC/P JO60, etc. And just replace for example every second CQ message with free text SOTA OKKA001. Would look similar to CW where I’m also giving SOTA reference once per few QSOs. Here since QSO are longer it would be once per 2 QSOs

Hi Paul,
I would not drop the Maidenhead locator as it is used by PSK reporter to show where you are operating from.
13 characters is the message size limit in FT-8.

Hi Miroslav,
Ron suggests that prefixes (e.g. DL/ ) and suffixes ( /P ) should work OK in some of the messages but I haven’t tried them myself and I guess the message length might become a problem if it exceeds 13 characters.

A lot of this depends on what is decoding the messages - if it’s the auto send routine in WSJT-X then changing to a format that it doesn’t recognise will mess up the sequence, if others are receiving the data through skimmers or SDR radios and decoding the data, these could have issues with any changes.

73 Ed.

The best way to find out - try the sequences (but not on a live activation!)

Thank you Ed, i will try to run a few tests with these setting and see how it goes.

Ideally I should let everyone know on what summit I’m on from the beginning - especially since I will be activating for the whole week, multiple summits every day. For this reason (and to not confuse regular FT8 users) my first plan was to do as Mirek suggests - send free form message with something like “SOTA YOWC001” inbetween QSOs. But VK3AFW’s method seems more efficient, as the chasers can see the last message from the previous QSO, which includes the summit.

I think prefixes and suffixes for callsigns are not necessary, as you are giving your location anyway - maidenhead locator plus summit reference. These would lead to an easy deduction that you are operating portable and even that you are in another country.

Razvan M0HZH / YO9IRF.


Yes you can exceed the 13 characters but only if you “hack” the format.

The following works because it uses special coding to send 17 characters in a 13 character space…


As the format allows for a 4 character prefix, which is handy as
CQ SOTA/VK3AFW QF22 also works

That’s 19 characters.
But there may be regulatory issues with such a prefix. I don’t expect a blue ticket if I use it on VK but maybe elsewhere it would not be accepted. It does show there is scope for “hacking”.

To avoid being in trouble I suggest setting up your actual prefix if appropriate and the summit grid square. Select standard messages.

Then add some extra things to the message 5 “bank” to be selected as you please. I will have the summit reference and 73 which just takes 13 characters plus the alternative CQ call as above. That way I can run in standard format but mix in the extra info and put out a different CQ call.

The receiving software figures out which country you are in (assuming you used the standard message format) and adds that to your CQ call so that’s a reason to maybe alternate the standard message 6 and the hacked CQ SOTA/ version in the message 5 bank.

So you might see CQ VK2/VK3AFW QF44 AUSTRALIA
which is a whole lot more than 13 characters.

Once QSO starts you need to bring up the modified 73 message in message 5 to avoid upsetting the logging yet still give your summit. You can add any other summit details to the log for S2S.

The bottom line is you need to have your call (and prefix) and grid locator in some CQ calls for spotting on FSK Reporter and the Summit Reference Number for the chasers in at least one message.

It’s not all totally automated!

Unfortunately 1800 hrs is a bit early for me but VK is a possibility on 4o m at that time.


@ Ron VK3AFW

  1. CQ format

I tend to think both the CQ W6PNG SOTA and CQ SOTA/VK3AFW QF22 should be avoided independent of any regulatory compliance. To me, both messages are a little confusing for the uninitiated. With what I tried potential chasers may wonder if SOTA is a grid or just wonder why a grid isn’t including. With yours and to your point it is bastardizing a legitimate format such as J6/W6PNG or MM/W6PNG.

  1. Including a grid in CQ line

WSJT-X will do this in the auto generated messages but its not essential for a QSO. I agree PSKReporter et al will key of this but that in essence is a nicety for us, the activator, in knowing where we are being heard. Last week I was thrilled that 7 watts FT8 from Wyoming was heard in Tenerife of the West African coast. I’m not sure it will drive chasers to chase me but its early days so I could well be wrong. During the eight FT8 activations I did last week in CO/WY the vast majority of chasers have come because I spotted myself to SOTAWATCH (I know the callsigns are SOTA chasers) and I presume the remainder from staring at the left hand decode page on WSJT-X.

  1. 13 character limit

I certainly have seen messages that are longer than 13 as in your example CQ DX VK3AFW QF22 (17 to be precise)

I still need to do some homework here as;

3.1) If you hover your mouse over message 5 in the lower right hand side of the WSTJ-X main page it displays a pop up box that reads “Enter a free text message (maximum 13 characters)…”. I guess the CQ DX… is defined via the TX Macros in the configuration page and then made available in message 5 as drop downs.

3.2 One place that I seemed to momentarily mess up on was in my free message exchange (set via a macros) that was of the format “PEAK W7Y/SW006” which seemed to yield “PEAK W7Y/SW00” on the air. I lost the trailing 6 for a total of 13 characters. Guy N7UN suggested I shouldn’t be using / anywhere outside of a real call sign.

  1. Modified 73 - I agree this is possibly the best way to exchange the summit reference. The biggest draw back to dropping their call sign in the 73 is it messes up the auto message sequence and isn’t highlighted in red (or whatever color you have configured) possibly causing confusion

Bottom-line for me is to keep experimenting with both FT8 and WSJT-X as an activator and build awareness while gravitating toward a good workable message exchange.

Ron, thanks and maybe I can chase you across the 7,000 miles of so of water to the immediate left of my QTH.


FT-8 mode might need to be added to the mode options for spotting on SOTAWATCH, SOTAGoat, etc. Otherwise the FT-8 community would have to recognize it as such by the combined mode of ‘DATA’ and the FT-8 frequency (XXX.074) being spotted/alerted. My $0.02 -Dean K2JB

Hi Ron,
yeah, 1800 sounds like quite early morning in VK.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I can stay on the peak for really long time. As I mentioned it’s my family vacation, so maybe I have some troubles to get back into the hotel room if coming too late :smiley:

Mirek, OK1CYC

Adding it certainly could help and I post an alert to stopwatch with pretty much what you have listed. Frequency is 14.074 (or whatever), mode is DATA and notes/comment includes FT8 FT8 FT8 FT8 many times over!


For anyone who is interested there is a Facebook group on FT8 that is potentially a good watering hole and oracle.


Yes Paul, you exceeded the 13 character limit in 3.2. The software cuts you off at 13 if you use free text. Spaces and / all count as characters. As I’ve mentioned you can make use of the clever coding that is used to exceed this.

Joe and his team have coded messages such as RR, 73, CQ as special single symbol codes thereby allowing more characters in the rest of the message, providing RR and 73 are the last bits and CQ is the first bit. Prefixes can be 4 characters plus a / . Grid squares are also apparently specially encoded to save space in the transmission “sentence”.

If you type stuff into say message 5, select that and “TX enable” (with the rig off) it will show in the top right window what it is sending. You can spend a lot of time fiddling around to see what works and what doesn’t without bothering anyone with your odd looking messages! :grin:

Go to File, Settings, TX Macros and type in and save the working messages you want to keep at the ready.

Note that for message 5. provided you put 73 at the end and do not exceed the character limit the system will sequence properly.
Hope to see some DX summits on my screen soon.


FT8 can be included at the start of the comment in a Spot or Alert at Sotawatch to make clear which data mode is planned. What would be nice would be if RBNHole could possibly be extended to look at the PSK reporter as well as the RBN and auto-spot SOTA FT8 stations heard by the PSK reporter network. I have no idea how difficult this would be or even if there is an API into the PSK reporter but it certainly would help FT8 activators, in the same way as RBNHole helps CW activators at the moment.

73 Ed.

Maybe. There’s about 300 other things I need to get to before that though :smiley: