Sota SMS format, help please

Hi all
Can anyone remind me of the format for submitting spots on the Mm0fmf SMS system. I have registered and used it in the past but have changed phones and can’t remember how to do it!

Thanks Chris

Andy provided a bunch of SMS spotting info on this reflector… here is a summary…

Information gathered from various sources but mostly the SOTA UK Reflector…

How to register on the N.A gateway…
Subject: Please sign me up for your SMS to SOTA spot gateway

    Your email address: or whatever your email address is
    Your call sign: W1AWX
    Your cell phone (SMS source) number: 908 507 XXXX

To use the gateway you must be registered. Once you receive an email confirming registration you can use the gateway.

Where possible you only need to enter alphanumeric characters.

Special characters are ! % $ . : , and the space character.

The ’ ’ character is used to separate entries. This is easy to find on all phones.

The ‘!’ and “$” character is used as a shorthand for your callsign. The gateway works out your callsign from the phone number
that comes with each SMS. The keystrokes for this is relatively easily found on Nokia phones.

An alternative to ! is to use % instead. When you use either of these characters a /P will be
added onto your callsign.

The ‘.’ or ‘:’ or ‘,’ characters are used when entering the frequency. ‘:’ and ‘,’ are offered as
these characters are often conveniently available when a phone is put into numbers mode.

You can also use ‘%’ instead of ‘!’.

You can spot either yourself or any anyone else. I normally expect this gateway to be used to spot yourself which is why the ‘!’ feature exists.

So the format is:
callsign association summit frequency mode comments

*) Callsign can include modifiers, i.e. MW/DL6FPK/P is valid.

*) Association is standard SOTA abbreviation.

*) Summit is the standard summit reference. However, the ‘-’ is voluntary, if you don’t use it the gateway will insert it.

*) Frequency is the frequency in MEGAHERTZ, only use one ‘.’ in it. Or use ‘:’ instead of ‘.’

*) Mode is operating mode, same as any spot.

*) Comments. After the mode there is space for 60 characters of comment. The gateway inserts who sent the SMS into
this field so keep it short.

Time for some examples.

If I sent this:

! gm ws001 145.450 fm qrv now

then the spot would be:

Thu 17:07 MM0FMF/P on GM/WS-001 145.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF qrv now (Posted by SMS)

You can use ‘:’ instead of ‘.’ so ! gm ws001 70:450 fm qrv now gives

Thu 17:07 MM0FMF/P on GM/WS-001 70.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF qrv now (Posted by SMS)

$ gm ws001 145.450 fm qrv now

would give my call without a /P

Thu 17:07 MM0FMF on GM/WS-001 145.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF qrv now (Posted by SMS)

Similarly if I sent this: ! gw nw-027 5.3985 ssb in 10 mins

then the spot would be:

Thu 17:07 MW0FMF/P on GW/NW-027 5.3985 ssb
*Spotter: MM0FMF in 10 mins (Posted by SMS)

The system understands UK callsigns (Mxxxx, Gxxxx, 2xxxxx) and the secondary locator rules. It also understands UK
club callsigns and their secondary locators. What this means is that for 99.999% of UK activators on UK hills they
only need to enter a ! for their callsign and the gateway will munge this to be correct. If you do not have a UK
callsign the gateway will not attempt to modify the callsign it sends.

You can spot someone else if you want, enter their callsign not “!” or “$”

GT3PYU/P gd gd001 5.3985 ssb in 10 mins


Thu 17:07 GT3PYU/P on GD/GD-001 5.3985 ssb
*Spotter: MM0FMF in 10 mins (Posted by SMS)

The spotter will always be your home call registered with the system.

If you travel to a different country to your home country you must enter the prefix needed. If I visit Germany
I must add DL/ to the start of the call so I would send

DL/MM0FMF dm bm001 145.450 fm qrv now

and that becomes

Thu 17:07 DL/MM0FMF/P on DM/BM-001 144.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF qrv now (Posted by SMS)

I log the SMS text received to a file, I log what I send to Spotlite and Spotlite’s response. If we have problems
with spots not working I should be able to diagnose what is broken as long as you know roughly when you sent the SMS.

Now the bit you need is the phone number:

Users in UK, Europe and everywhere but North America should use 07903 533046 (+447903533046 )

In North America the number is 1-530-430-SOTA (1-530-430-7682)

Thanks for this… just tested it and works fine. Ready for some activity on Tuesday
73 om

1 Like

Richard N2GBR

Please stop posting that OLD, OUTDATED, INCOMPLETE and just WRONG in places SMS summary. Actually, please DELETE it, and I will post my complete, comprehensive, tested SMS Spotting Manual. Please feel free to post a copy of my manual wherever and whenever you feel it can be helpful.

Glenn AB3TQ

Activaton Spotting Manual for the MM0FMF SOTA SMS Gateway

The goal of this document is to be a comprehensive information source for the SMS SOTA spotting Gateway provided by Andy MM0FMF. Take note that updates will be incrementally identified at the beginning and end as: (Version Control #007)

The Summits On The Air (SOTA) Short Message Service Gateway enables SMS registered users to post spots in real time to the site for SOTA activation attempts, by way of properly structured TEXT messages. Spots can only be sent when you have adequate cellphone coverage from a service provider. This text based service can be your primary spotting tool, or it can be an emergency backup when marginal signal strength does not support a web based spotter. Also, the Gateway does not check the database for summit info - allowing it to spot even if the database is temporarily unavailable / down.

To register for the Gateway, send Andy MM0FMF your callsign and cellphone number. Expect to receive a return email confirming your SMS registration. It is then advisable to verify Gateway access by posting a test spot before heading off on a live summit activation. Be sure to clearly note the test status of any such post in the COMMENT field. Andy MM0FMF can be found on the site.


A space character " " is used to separate the field entries. Those spaces between the fields are important, but the number of spaces used doesn’t matter. The Gateway will accept more than one space character between field entries.

Valid Special Characters in SMS Message fields (see details where applicable) are the Percent Sign “%”, the Exclamation Mark “!”, the Dollar Sign “$”, the Comma “,” the Colon “:” and the Period “.” (or Dot). Note that SMS spots to often do not post if they have been incorrectly formatted. For best results, construct your text exactly as indicated here in the manual.

CALLSIGN: You can use the “!” the “%” or the “$” character as easy shortcuts for your SMS registered CALLSIGN. The Gateway then determines your CALLSIGN from the Phone Number that came with the SMS. Be aware that those first two shortcuts will post your CALLSIGN with a /P modifier appended to it. If you do NOT wish to have your CALLSIGN end with /P, use the “$” shortcut character which will mute the /P.

Spots can only originate from an SMS Gateway registered cellphone number, but ANY operator can be spotted from a registered cellphone number. To spot for someone else, or to include special use modifiers for your own CALLSIGN, enter a complete CALLSIGN instead of a CALLSIGN shortcut. Note that MW/DL6FPK/P is a valid CALLSIGN entry. A default spot appends a /P to the end of any CALLSIGN spotted without a PERIOD “.” as a special character added to the end of it. So W6ABC will be spotted as W6ABC/P - while W6ABC. (note the trailing period) spots as W6ABC (without a /P).

The system understands UK callsigns and the secondary locator rules. It understands UK club callsigns and their secondary locators. What this means is that for 99.999% of UK activators on UK hills they only need to enter a “!” for the callsign, and the Gateway will munge this to be correct. If you do not have a UK callsign, the Gateway will not attempt to modify the callsign it spots (with the exception of an unmuted /P). The callsign field is NOT case sensitive, so a CALLSIGN from an SMS spot will always post with CAPITAL letters.

ASSOCIATION: Is the standard SOTA Summit ASSOCIATION designation. Valid examples would be G and W6. The ASSOCIATION field is NOT case sensitive, so the ASSOCIATION in an SMS spot will always post with CAPITAL letters.

SUMMIT: Is a standard SOTA SUMMIT designation, but including the “-” separator is voluntary. If you don’t use the “-” separator, it is automatically inserted for you. LD001 and LD-001 are equally suitable. Since the SUMMIT field is NOT case sensitive, the Region portion in an SMS spot will always post with CAPITAL letters.

FREQUENCY: This MUST be your chosen spot FREQUENCY in Megahertz. A valid numeric separator is REQUIRED ( a Period “.” a Comma “,” or a Colon “:” ). You will not get a spot without a valid numeric separator. You also will not get a spot with a FREQUENCY that includes more than one separator character. Thus 5.3985 7,190 and 14:283 are all suitable for the FREQUENCY. While not typical, a spot of 10106.0 (actually a spot for 10.106 GHz) is also valid. A correctly formatted SMS spot that does post to sotawatch will always display with a Dot “.” as the numeric separator.

MODE: Is the operating MODE. Examples include, but are not limited to, am, fm, ssb, cw, psk, rtty, data, and dv (digital voice). The MODE field is NOT case sensitive, always posting the MODE field from an SMS spot with lower case letters.

COMMENT: The COMMENT field can display up to 60 characters, but some of that total is used to identify the message spotter. Excess COMMENT characters are cut off, so be mindful to keep COMMENTS short. COMMENTS are optional. There is no requirement to include one, so just leave it blank if you don’t have anything extra to say.

WARNING: The COMMENT field must NOT contain an Apostrophe/Quote ( ’ ) or the spot WILL NOT POST - and anything that follows after a Comma ( , ) in a COMMENT will be CUT OFF. Tested valid punctuation is # : = * % / ! @ & ? . - + ( ) and Numbers. If in doubt, leave some punctuation out. The COMMENT field is case sensitive, and an SMS COMMENT will post with both upper and lower case letters.

Some valid SMS examples for clarification:

If I sent this: ! gm ws001 145.450 fm QRV in 10 Mins - - then the spot would be:

Thu 17:07 MM0FMF/P on GM/WS-001 145.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF QRV in 10 Mins (Posted by SMS)

Similarly for this: % gw nw-027 5,3985 ssb qrv in 10 mins - - the spot would be:

Thu 17:07 MW0FMF/P on GW/NW-027 5.3985 ssb
*Spotter: MM0FMF qrv in 10 mins (Posted by SMS)

If you do not want /P appended to your callsign shortcut, do this:
$ gm ws001 145:450 fm QRV now - - then the spot would be:

Thu 17:07 MM0FMF on GM/WS-001 145.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF QRV now (Posted by SMS)

If you don’t want /P appended to a full callsign entry add a Period “.” to it:
DL/MM0FMF. dm bm001 145.450 fm qrv now - - and that becomes:

Thu 17:07 DL/MM0FMF on DM/BM-001 145.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF qrv now (Posted by SMS)

For the Frequency you can use “,” or “:” or “.”
! gm ws001 70,450 fm in 10 Mins results in:

Thu 17:07 MM0FMF/P on GM/WS-001 70.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF in 10 Mins (Posted by SMS)

! gm ws001 70:450 fm in 10 Mins also results in:

Thu 17:07 MM0FMF/P on GM/WS-001 70.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF in 10 Mins (Posted by SMS)

The SMS spotter will always use your home call registered with the system. If you travel outside your home country, you must enter the needed prefix. If I visit Germany I must add DL/ to the start of the call. So I would send:
DL/MM0FMF dm bm001 145.450 fm qrv now - - and that becomes:

Thu 17:07 DL/MM0FMF/P on DM/BM-001 145.450 fm
*Spotter: MM0FMF qrv now (Posted by SMS)

You can spot for someone else by entering their callsign (not “!” or “%” or “$”)
GT3PYU gd gd001 5,3985 ssb in 10 mins - - becomes:

Thu 17:07 GT3PYU/P on GD/GD-001 5.3985 ssb
*Spotter: MM0FMF in 10 mins (Posted by SMS)

GT3PYU. gd gd001 5:3985 ssb in 10 mins - - becomes:

Thu 17:07 GT3PYU on GD/GD-001 5.3985 ssb
*Spotter: MM0FMF in 10 mins (Posted by SMS)

If you have questions, ask away and I’ll do my best - Andy MM0FMF / GS3PYU

SMS transactions are logged to a file. If there is problem with spots not working, as long as you know roughly when you sent the SMS, I should be able to diagnose what is broken. Now the last bit you need are the phone numbers:

Australians can use 0447 568667 ( +61447568667 )

European spotters should use 07903 533046 ( +447903533046 )

For North Americans the number is 1-530-430-SOTA ( 1-530-430-7682 )

This SMS spotting manual is a compilation drawn from multiple sources, which has then been edited into one cohesive document. Any additions, corrections or clarifications will be welcomed by the “publisher”, Glenn AB3TQ (good on QRZ). Most welcome would be any new spotting service Phone Numbers. (Version Control #007)


I don’t understand why you would reply in this way. The basic information provided by Andy has been used by 100’s of SOTA hams to access and use the SMS self spotting function. I reproduced only that information and it’s already available elsewhere on this site.

Richard // N2GBR

btw … I used to live just down the road from you in Bramley… :smile:

Richard // N2GBR

So then you moved to the West side to be closer to the big hills? My friends and I have been racking up the Frequent Flyer Miles back and forth in a fruitless attempt to keep up with you. I am glad it’s not a competition.

Now about that summary. Andy does many things well. Writing clear complete concise instructions is not one of them.

You want to spot for a friend without tagging a /P to his Callsign. How do you do it. It isn’t in “your” version. Read mine and find out. I put “yours” in quotes, because you did not actually write it. I missed several early confirmations because of the /P problem. Someone went out of their way to tell us how to fix that. I am trying to pass on their good deed.

There have been recent SMS discussions. I keep up with every development I become aware of. When was the last time something new was added to “yours”?

Try spotting with a comma in the FREQUENCY as your version suggests. Good luck with that, but it will NOT post. Obviously you have not tested everything. I do. I HAVE LEARNED THIS FEATURE WAS BROKEN (In North America) IN A RECENT REGRESSION. IT SHOULD WORK PROPERLY AGAIN SOON. I will update my manual when it does.

Which punctuation marks are to be avoided in the COMMENT Field? Read mine and find out.

Your version still mentions Spotlite. That specifically named resource will be going away, so I no longer mention it by name.

What about “your” missing Phone Number?

Those are just noticed problems from a quick read through. Not to mention that I go to great pains to explain EXACTLY what I mean. It is not just a quick reference for experienced users. It is written for the first time user who knows nothing, and does not catch all the implied assumptions you have to make to follow everything good that is in there.

In short, mine is better. “Yours” is crap. That is not a criticism of you. Only a plea for you to stop posting it. I hope that helps explain my previous reply.

Glenn AB3TQ

@N2GBR @AB3TQ Guys, let’s keep this civil, please. I haven’t followed this thread but I don’t want it to get out of hand.

Thanks, Guy/n7un with my Moderator hat on…

Boys boys please… thanks for the information Richard, it gave me what I wanted! Thanks also Glenn for updating the info! 73

You can use commas too.

To avoid having to remember this, I created a new entry in my phone contacts list for the SMS Gateway number that I use to self-Spot for SOTA. Then I added some notes with some known good/tested spots (that I can cut & paste) plus additional instructions. Evernote, ColorNote, etc., is also good for this.
I spot via raw SMS and also using the SOTA Spotter APP (Android)

For those that are new to SOTA and SMS/texting: SMS/texting is usually more available and more reliable than cellular data services (3G/4G/LTE/etc) including Internet browsing and APPs that use TCP/IP, UDP, etc.

Bruce W2SE

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Now commas have been supported in the frequency format for a long time and so this comma not supported puzzled me. I fired out a quick test last night and as sure as grits ain’t grocery up came my spot with the comma fixed. Glen AB3TQ pinged me with a funny message that commas didn’t work.

I had a look and realised there was a regression on the US server compared with the other server. Now the US server handles emailed copies of the SMS sent by Google Voice and that was changed recently when the email format changed and I thought that would be the cause of the regression. It wasn’t. :frowning: Too late, bed time.

Just now, whilst waiting for a customer to get his ducks all in a row and start a Webex, I had a bash at finding the issue. It was I father who chopped down the cherry tree and broke the parser :slight_smile:

Anyway, it is fixed now, and grits are grocery once more! Commas instead of the period in the frequency are fine business. I had to fann^Wexperiment with some saved messages to ensure that SMS and Iridium based spots were working OK so apologies to SOTAwatch users who will have seen a flurry of spots from AB3TQ and EA/GI4ONL… that was me checking.

The US server does need rewriting because, like Topsy, it’s growed. It’s still Python 2 and needs bringing into the 21st Century by converting to Python 3. And simplifying. Just another job on the queue.

This jolly little story highlights the hazards of writing a specification or even a user guide based on observed behaviour. You never know whether something you have documented is

  • intended usage and behaviour
  • something that works but is deprecated
  • unintended behaviour (i.e. a bug)
  • behaviour that is intentionally left undefined

Martyn M1MAJ

To give the guide writers their due, their docs are based on the old doc you could get from my webserver. So it’s based on what I said works. It used to, too!

I think what is worse is apart from when Google Voice changed their email message format, apart from when the disk failed in the server in the datacentre and when Jon changed the URL for Spotlite, this crufty piece of hackery has just kept running. As long as the incoming data is as expected, it does an EnergizerBunny and keeps running. I should scan the GB of logs it gathers to see just how many spots have been processed, maybe a scary number.

I have a whole host of test spots built into the non-US server so I can change that and then make it test itself. The US has a fine selection of captured spots. It now has one with a comma in it!

I think my plan is that the US server will soon just accept inbound emails, verify them, extract the SMS data and POST that into the other server. The other one uses http to interface with the virtual phone number and with the VK phone number. Making the US one push data to the other means I only need to track one codebase. I never bothered because the US is like a Timex watch, takes a licking and just keeps ticking.

And that plan was implemented last night. The numbers are still the same but now the actual message checking, formatting and posting to SOTAwatch is all done in one place with the US and VK servers forwarding the message on.

Yes this creates a single point of failure but the US server can flipped back into full mode in about 30secs.

Hopefully, there should be no changes to the users…

The Twitter feed has a record of all spots since July 2009, apart from some short outages. So I can give you a lower bound from that sample.

I have around 387k tweets (some of those will be re-sends because the spot was edited). Out of those we have

13103 SMS
6402 SMS_NA

In addition, 7596 are tagged “via SpotSMS”.

RBNGate generated 42651 spots and RBNHole has done 13359. APRS2SOTA generated 6933.

Incidentally, the champion human spotter is G4SSH with 7690 closely followed by G6TUH with 7093. Nobody else has over 5000.

Martyn M1MAJ

Thanks for that Martyn. Nearly 20000 self-spots from in the field (including the tests and check spots). That’s quite impressive even if I say so myself.

The changes I did last night were well overdue but as the 2 servers basically kept working, the desire to break them so I could “fix” them was not strong. However, as I’m away for a week next week, it seemed like a good time to get everything updated. Much like updating my Win10 tablet which was moaning it hadn’t been updated for 2.5months and took 55mins to download and apply updates. Better that is done and known to be working before I go away. I’ll do some more tests to confirm it spots me tonight.

One of things we have planned for the new SOTAwatch spot is the ability to place spots into different categories. That will give us the ability to mark a spot as an equipment check so it is not listed unless you are looking for such spots. The normal spots should remain clean and only have real spots. It would have been useful when I was working last night and I do apologise for several 10’s of tests spots, some malformed, that I injected.

Hi Andy,
I usually can’t reply to posts from my smartphone, but it looks like something has changed and now I can, as I’m in a resto and I have just finished my lunch. This is great!
I wanted to say you don’t need to apologize for the testing spots you sent last night. I didn’t see them, but I feel great whenever I see them because I feel like you are working to give us more and better. Thank you once again to you and all the MT members, including the summit teams collaborators, for all your hard and good work.


If the message cannot be parsed, does the gateway reply with a help message? I guess we’d have to pay for that, but it might be useful.