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Self-Spotting from a Smartphone a Fair Means?


APRS uses internet based linking extensively nowadays. I’d be very surprised if any APRS messages from central Europe could get to the APRS2SOTA server in the UK without using APRS-IS somewhere. CW skimmers also use internet linking to report what they are hearing, but they are, in reality, no different to normal chasers. Chasers and skimmers listen to radio and spot what they hear, one automatically and one manually.

If you are taking a purist view of using RF not internet linking etc., which is how I read your comments, then you should probably avoid using APRS.


Please do not misunderstand me; I do not take a purist view, at least not strictly. I just think that standing on the top of a mountain and scheduling a short QSO by a smartphone app is a bit too extreme for my taste. I mean, often people ask us why we erect large antennas as if we did not know there was the Internet and Fast DSL available, and then we talk of command of technology, skills, understanding, ham radio in emergency situations, etc.

Personally, I have learned from this thread that I will

  1. continue to work on my CW skills until I will feel confident enough to handle a SOTA activation CW-only and master a moderate pile-up,
  2. buy a Yaesu VX-8DE HT, build my own GPS module for it, and try to use the two available APRS2SOTA servers,
  3. work on a PSK31-based alternative; maybe it will be as simple as fetching PSK31 spots from the Telnet services of revearsebeacon.net (if they contain the raw CQ message); if not, revearsebeacon.net can at least tell the frequencies to check.

Again, thanks for all your valuable input!

73 de Martin, DK3IT


Amateurs have been arranging QSOs by phone/networking since time began Martin and certainly a long, long time before mobile phones were about. If you weren’t a member of a phone based spotting network, you could miss all the small openings on VHF etc.

It still strikes me that there’s no difference between sending an SMS via RF to the nearest cellular base station from where it’s routed over wired network to the SMS server and SOTAwatch. Or from a handheld to the nearest APRS RF gateway and thence by internet to the APRS server and SOTAwatch. Half a dozen of one and six of the other.

Before you spend serious cash on a VX8, you may want to consider using APRSdroid on a phone. You use the phone not as a phone but as a small portable terminal. You can use the built in GPS and use the program to generate and decode normal 1200bps AFSK packet tones. Connect the earphone/mic socket of the phone to your radio and you have a portable APRS system for a fraction of the cost. You don’t even need to have a SIM card or a cellular connection for it to work.


Likewise, just learn morse code and the activator will be automatically spotted provided an alert has been put up which should always be done.

Saves messing around with APRS or PSK31 which are modes not in common use by SOTA.

For those in the northern part of the world there are a lot more RBN skimmers about than here in VK land. I do not often get spotted by a local skimmer here in Australia.

For my part I have no problem with self spotting if there is mobile phone access. Saves time for both activator and chaser when doing multiple activations in one day.


Actually, this can be disabled in the comments field of an alert. I’ll leave it as an RTFM exercise for people to work out how (30 seconds searching the reflector should find it!)


Hi Andrew,

That’s good for those who think Spotting is unfair. As the World is neither Fair or Just, I’ll continue spotting and hoping to be spotted. I appreciate the RBNGate Robot. Thanks.

And one more time, when VK/ZL activators are on 40 m it’s daylight here, no propagation beyond 1,000 km or at most 3,000 km and the rest of the SOTA world is in bed asleep. So we will continue blissfully with our own protocols.



You could probably get 4 contacts using the hunt and pounce method.


It was a bit more than 30 seconds search, so for others, here is the information:

If I’m on a summit and want to tell RBNGate to stop spotting me, is there any way to do that?

Yes. Spot yourself to Sotawatch and include either of the following anywhere in your spot’s comment (without the quotes, case-insensitive): “RBNN” or “NoRBNGate”. This will disable spotting based on any of your current Sotawatch alerts or prior self-spots. Your “current Sotawatch alerts” are the ones in which the current time is within 1 hour before or 3 hours after their estimated time of arrival. If you have alerts entered for times farther out into the future, RBNGate spotting will resume for those. It will also resume if you spot yourself again and do not include “RBNN” or “NoRBNGate” in the comment for your self-spot.

I want to enter a Sotawatch alert so that the chasers will know my plans, but I don’t want RBNGate to spot me during that activation. What can I do?

Include either of the following anywhere in your Sotawatch alert’s comment (without the quotes, case-insensitive): “RBNN” or “NoRBNGate”.


Let’s get back to this concept of the “fair means”.

The “Spots” and “Alerts” facility are provided by the Management Team as a free service in the expectation that it will be useful to participants by making it less likely that an activation will be unsuccessful. Use of these facilities are permitted by the rules of SOTA, therefore by definition the use of these facilities is fair, in the sense that they are permitted in the rules and available to all participants.

As participants,. either Activators or Chasers, we are obliged to obey the rules, but as we are in effect playing a game we can if we so wish add further constraints to our activities which are not mandated in the rules but will give us personal pleasure. Thus we can ignore spots and alerts, we can use flea power, we can exclusively use CW, FM, SSB or any other legal mode, any choice which is not against our rules or the conditions of our licenses is open to us. We can preoselytize for our personal choices to persuade other participants to join us - as long as we don’t become nuisances or get snarky about it!

There is no fair or unfair, there is only within or not within the rules.


Dear all:
I changed the headline of the discussion into “Self-Spotting from a Smarphone a Fair Means?” in order to better reflect my original question. It was by no means my intention to proselytize anybody. I was just trying to understand the technical options and the SOTA community’s position on this.

This thread has shown that there is an array of technical options and a broad range of opinions on this.

As for myself, I will continue to experiment without Internet-based self-spotting, e.g. by APRS2SOTA or a novel PSK31-based spotting protocol. And I honestly admit that I would likely decide to use my smartphone for self-spotting me on a difficult summit should all other strategies fail.

Again, thanks for all your technical input and opinions. Let us all enjoy this great hobby for the fun of it, everybody to his/her own liking.

mni tnx es vy 73 de Martin, DK3IT


Except it is internet based.


Yes, but not for the first link from the operator in the wilderness to the first digipeater or i-gate. You do not need a data-plan, pay no roaming charges, etc.

As you will have noticed, I tried to take away the tension my initial question seems to have created, and I hope we can leave it with that.

Note that besides the “purists” aspect of my question, there are practical reasons to avoid a data- or SMS-based self-spotting: In the Alps, in particular at the Austrian/German or Austrian-Italian border, a single summit has often contact to multiple national cell-phone networks, and it can be a pain or a costly experience if your phone randomly connects to a more expensive one. Some providers have flat-fees per day and country, and if your phone happens to connect to two countries, you pay twice (happened to me several times already).

Since the SOTA database is Internet-based, it is clear that the Internet is an essential part of the SOTA game, but that does not render challenging the sense of operating Smartphone and rig side-by-side on the summit inappropriate.


Hi Martin,

I understand your argument. However, what I do not understand is why you are presenting it on this reflector. Surely you should have handwritten individual letters (with a fountain pen, obviously) and posted them to SOTA participants via regular mail. [*Only participants with their addresses listed in the printed callbooks, as use of QRZ for this purpose would be highly inappropriate].

Happy New Year!



They are already in the mail (Though I was unsure whether paper wasn’t too modernist and I should rather use papyrus)

73 de Martin, DK3IT

This message was written on a Sinclair ZX-81 and recorded onto a cassette tape, which was then relayed to the sota.org.uk server room on a two-horse cart.

Oh wait, I said just the first link must be “traditional”, so I wrote the draft with coal on the lime walls of the cave in which I live, then took a photo with my iPhone 7 and sent it to MM0FMF via WhatsApp.



That’s alright then :wink:


Don’t worry about the comments in this thread Martin. I don’t think anyone has been upset - it’s just the way we “ratsch” (natter) here. The SOTA part of Amateur Radio is normally the most friendly. In case you didn’t guess Martin, Tom, M1EYP is winding you up - STOP IT Tom!

I think it’s great that you are trying to validate other ways to be able to spot from a summit without using the cell phone network Martin. I know this has also been discussed before in other threads on this forum.

I guess one option might be to take a 2 metre digital radio with datacomms capability - D-Star, Fusion or DMR etc. But doing it on HF would be even better.

I can echo the point you made re-overlapping networks on the Alpine borders, luckily the networks I am with (I have a Dual-SIM phone), now have very cheap roaming costs. I have found there are summits well into the German side of the border (e.g. Falkenstein) where one can only connect to cells within Austria. I have had 6 or 7 “welcome to Austria and here are your roaming rates” messages on my phone while walking up probably 200 metres of track on the way to Zwolferkopf. Crazy - who made the technology for these cell phone systems anyway? Oh yes, that was the amateur AX25 protocol - oops… AX-25 is also used by APRS by the way.

The PSK spotting protocol you mention - is that this PSK63 one? - http://wa8lmf.net/APRS_PSK63/

In any case keep up the research as it seems no one who is reading this thread has managed to use HF APRS2SOTA to post a Spot as yet.

73 Ed.


Judging from his FB reply, I’d say that Martin knew this and enjoyed the joke!


What is this “APRS” of which you speak?

I have no knowledge or understanding of such a thing … and I’m not sure that I want or need to know about it.

Walt (G3NYY)


Trolling you are and five pounds mine I claim!


Yes his reply came while I was writing mine! -