Hello and newb question about calling cq

Hello all,

I’m a relatively new op, having gotten my ticket at the end of Sept this year. I’ve always loved peak bagging so it was inevitable that I’d eventually find SOTA. I live in relatively flat area, so my SOTA activations are going to be confined to travels, sadly. I have a trip coming up at the end of the week, though, which will bring me to an area with lots of peaks, and I’m hoping to get a few activations in. I’ve a number of park activations, but these will be my first SOTA ones.

My question is about the standard procedure for calling cq. I assume you at least add “SOTA” to the call, but I don’t know if you also add the peak ID/ref. And just to be clear, the peak ID/ref is the complete “W0M/SF-004” (for instance)? I’m interested in hearing the answer to this in reference to both ssb and cw.




If you are using voice, give the reference with the report.
If you are using CW, give the reference every few QSOs.

Most people will get the reference from SOTAwatch as soon as you are spotted.

Have fun.


Thanks much!

Not much more to add to what was already said. This is what I do on SSB:

CQ SOTA, CQ SOTA, CQ SOTA Kilo Seven Echo Echo Xray, Kilo Seven Echo Echo Xray, CQ SOTA, CQ SOTA, CQ SOTA

If I haven’t been spotted yet I will throw in the summit reference or the term “for Summits on the Air” someplace in my CQ call. Once I’ve got a pile up going, I just throw out my callsign every couple of QRZ’s. I’ll also ask if chasers need the summit reference number occassionally.


Hi Joe

Welcome to this SOTA world here!

I had checked out many SOTA videos on Youtube in my start-up period, some of them show even operating details and may be helpful for you. One can learn from “good” and “bad” practise.

Good luck, and enjoy!

Vy 73 de Markus, HB9DIZ

Excellent idea. I’ll take a look.

73 de Joe KD9JLV

When I started chasing phone, I couldn’t figure out when to call. The idiomatic use of “QRZ” was really confusing. It isn’t used for “who is calling me?”, but rather “ready for the next caller”.

On phone, there is no real downside to repeating the summit designator every two or three QSOs. Giving it is faster than asking the chaser if they need the designator.

Also, it seems like all the signals I hear are 33, so I need a few repeats to get it. If I can copy the designator from earlier QSOs, I might get mine finished before the QSB buries the activator’s signal.


PS: The IARU “Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur” uses a lot of ink fighting this use of QRZ, but I think that battle is already lost. In general, that doc is pretty good, though the section on repeaters is quaint. http://www.hamradio-operating-ethics.org/

Operating CW I suggest: CQ CQ CQ de KD9JLV KD9JLV KD9JLV SOTA K.
I understand that this format will facilitate being picked up and spotted through the Reverse Beacon Network. That assumes that you have created and posted your Alert.
Have fun and 73

Welcome onboard, Joe.
My way and my advise for you is:
Call on phone CQ SOTA CQ SOTA your-callsign your-callsign QRZ SOTA?
Call on CW CQ CQ SOTA your-callsign your-callsign SOTA K
On phone or CW, give summit reference on every QSO at the begining of the activation until you have seen on SOTAwatch that a SPOT for you with the right info i.e. callsign, frequency, summit ref., is in place, in which case I only send the summit reference from time to time and always under any chaser request.
I also send callsign and summit reference when announcing QSY to other band/mode as well as for QRT.
If you can’t have access to SOTAwatch and you can’t see whether a SPOT for you is in place, don’t worry, as you’ll easily notice it when a pile-up of several hams calling you builds up quickly.

Good luck and best 73,


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Very well put, Guru.

The only variation I have to that advice is, when I’m on phone, that I say “CQ SOTA CQ SOTA CQ SUMMITS ON THE AIR” for the benefit of listeners who might not be familiar with SOTA. I’ve had a number of people reply after they have looked it up on Google and understood that I was on a mountain top, and that it wasn’t just another contest call. I’m happy to slow down and chat a bit with those folks. You never know where a new chaser or activator may come from! If there’s a real pileup, I’ll try to curtail it somewhat, after explaining that there are others waiting, and some may even be on a different summit. I’ve actually had a couple of emails from these drop-in contacts who said they got a vicarious thrill as they listened to the S2S exchange. Ham radio doesn’t get any better than that!

Bruce - WB8OGK


Hi Bruce,
I didn’t include that in my advise but I actually do say very often CQ SUMMITS ON THE AIR too.
When playing and enjoying radio fully relaxed on a summit with time and good weather, a lot of variations can be freely introduced.

Best 73,


I’ve found that the RBN triggers on ‘DE’.

The call sign following the ‘DE’ will be decoded and spotted.


The RBN doesn’t care about CQ SOTA :slight_smile:

73, Colin

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For CW, I do “CQ SOTA SOTA DE N4ADK N4ADK K” sometimes I’ll add in an extra CQ. For SSB or FM you can get more creative.

I hadn’t really thought about that - must make sure that I put the “DE” in as I have no standard format when sending on CW on a summit. There is usually enough to cope with by way of the inclement Scottish weather! Sometimes I know I send rubbish, but freezing cold hands don’t help and neither does the horizontal sleet… and that’s on a good day. :wink:

73, Gerald G4OIG (usually GM4OIG/P)

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This is how I do it on SSB:

CQ SOTA CQ SOTA this is [callsign] [callsign], SOTA activation from [reference] [reference], QRZ ?

Normally I’m spotted and the pileup quickly builds up, but I still repeat my call and reference every 2-3 QSOs.

Razvan M0HZH.

RBN actually triggers on a combination of 1. “CQ”, “TEST”, “QRZ” type terms and 2. Callsign

RBN is very active during CW contests and “de” is often omitted by the cq’ing station during contests.

73, Barry N1EU

The automated “CW Skimmer” receivers will decode any transmission beginning with CQ or other words indicating the station is soliciting QSOs. i.e. “running.” CQ words include TEST or QRZ, for example. The CQ word may have one other word between the CQ word and the call sign. For example, “CQ TEST”, “CQ SEQP”, “TEST SEQP”, “QRZ SEQP”, and so forth will be detected as a CQ if they are followed by a call sign. “CQ TEST N0AX” or “CQ SEQP N0AX” will work equivalently. It is important, however, to send the entire message at the same speed and do not speed up parts of the message in order to save time.

In addition to the CQ-equivalent keyword, the Skimmer programs must be “convinced” that the callsign is really a callsign. For this purpose Skimmers use a file which determines whether a prefix pattern has been used on the air recently, and divides prefixes into 3 classes - unknown, encountered infrequently, and common. Calls with unknown prefixes - such as some of the special commemorative prefixes beloved by Europeans - can require up to 4 repetitions before they are spotted, while other common ones like N4 can require as few as two.

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A really good way to find answers to operating questions is to listen to other activators and make contacts with them. The procedures will seem obvious once you’ve made a dozen chases and listened to activators making successful contacts.
Good luck and stay safe.
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH



It seems as though information about the mechanics of the RBN is not easy to find.

I can say with certainty that ‘DE’ is definitely a trigger. There is apparently a list of ‘key’ words, although what those words are, I can’t find out. It seems as though there is some clever programming behind the RBN and it applies rules to identify CQ calls. Multiple instances of ‘CQ’ within a short time period and also ‘TEST’ is a trigger as you state.

One thing for certain is that there’s more to the RBN than someone might think!

I always worried about sending ‘CQ SOTA’ because I thought it would prevent the RBN from spotting me, but as I have found out, ‘DE’ is one of the key words, so it doesn’t hurt to use it!

73, Colin

Just a quick note to thank you all for the help and warm welcome!

The wx didn’t cooperate yesterday, but I am hoping to do my first activation(s) on Tuesday.

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Yesterday it was the first time I tried my beginner’s CW from EA5/AT-099 with a rather bulky MFJ-550 straight key. I used the call “CQ CQ CQ SOTA DE EA5IYL EA5IYL PSE QRS K”, before reading these posts, so look like I got it quite right (my doubt was whether I should add EA5/AT-099, but didn’t because it was so long). I added “PSE QRS” because I still have trouble decoding. People were really, really cool and did nicely slow down for me, thanks OE3PHI, PA1BR, SV2OXS, DJ2MX, DJ5AV, OM1FU. You rock! My CQ phrase actually got automatically spotted by the Reverse Beacon Network.
Mikel EA5IYL