Your questions and the answers above are very appropriate! A couple of points:
The RBN itself is independent of SOTA and SOTAWatch. The RBN will spot you, whether you have an alert or not. It will spot you if you call CQ at home. The original idea of the RBN was to spot DX stations.
If you’re a chaser, looking for a particular activator, you don’t need to look at SOTAWatch at all - you can just look at the RBN and type in the activator’s call as the DX Station.
The RBN is very fast - delay is less than a minute, maybe just seconds, if you are putting out a decent signal. I sometimes get 5 or 10 spots within less than a minute from my first CQ. I only run 10 watts (max) and an end-fed 66-foot wire at 20 feet or less.
Unfortunately the RBN is selective about spotting some calls. I don’t know why, but it’s a shame. The RBN people have their reasons, whatever they are. My call KX0R gets spotted easily and often, while WG0AT does not get spotted very often.
You MUST call CQ, or send certain similar phrases, to be spotted by the RBN. I don’t know much more than that. I call like this, more or less, to get spotted:
CQ CQ DE KX0R KX0R SOTA
This is enough I believe:
CQ DE KX0R
QRZ DE KX0R
The critical part is the DE KX0R, or DE KI4TN, or whatever. I believe that the other words are mostly ignored. If you don’t send DE and then YOUR CALL, with good spacing, you might not get spotted by the RBN.
I look at a lot of RBN spots for activators - often after the sessions, when I get home from my own activations, and I see these mysterious things:
I often get more than 100 spots on the RBN. Reasons why:
A) I call CQ correctly and often, several times per band
B) I have a RELATIVELY efficient system - much of my 10W of RF is actually being radiated
C) I operate an several bands
D) I do long activations
HOWEVER, if you saw some of my activations, with the end-fed wire running through tree branches, over rocks near the summit, sometimes touching the ground or running a short distance across the snow, usually no counterpoise (other than the KX2, tiny tuner, headphones, key, connecting cables, and my body), often half the wire is less than 8 feet high, end tied to a bush or rock cairn near the ground, etc., you wouldn’t believe how good the spots are.
With our current ionospheric conditions, at mid-day, near winter solstice, no sunspots, low solar flux, mostly quiet geomagnetic field, you can judge the RBN spots by one simple rule:
The “Good Activators” have a majority of their RBN spots in double-digits of db than the “Poor Activators”, who have mostly single-digits of db, or very few spots.
Some of the spots are 30 db or more on the best bands, like 40-30-20M. Quite a few spots are 20db or more.
Some of the “Good Activators” have very few spots, even though they have good signals, because:
They don’t call CQ much, or send DE and then their call. Just sending their call and the word SOTA doesn’t result in a spot.
They have weird calls that the RBN doesn’t like
Most of the serious chasers prefer that you indicate your intended frequency. You just need to be close, within a few KHZ. We tune around and look. Many of my chasers are waiting and call as soon as I get on the air, IF I’m on time and at my alert frequency.
Any alert is much better than none.
If you don’t put up an alert, you won’t get spotted by the RBN HOLE, even if the RBN spots you!!
You don’t have to list your frequencies or even your bands to be spotted by the RBN Hole! You MUST do an alert and you MUST be within the broad time window!
I’m missing MANY S2S contacts I could otherwise get because some activators do these things:
- No frequency listed on alert
- Activators using weird freqencies outside the narrow band areas most of us like
- Activators using frequencies with lots of QRM, like 14.060, 7.030, etc. Lots of stations just jump on these frequencies and call CQ, destroying an activation they can’t or don’t hear.
Many chasers and activators don’t use smartphones, or don’t have cel coverage, so we’re not all seeing the spots on SOTAWatch when we’re on the summits.
If you want to get in my S2S logs, do a good alert for a popular SOTA frequency, and be there, and I’ll have a better chance of finding you.
Also tune around and hunt for other activations, as you and many others do, and just call me and we’ll do a fast S2S!
73 and Merry Christmas!