The RBN the unsung heros

Hi All,
I thought I would just add a post to thank the unsung heros making up the Reverse Beacon Network.

When I started on Sota I was operating SSB/FM and relied upon spots made by others.
This worked, but often it took some time to build a pilup. I guess many opportunities were lost from me never being found. Then came the magic telephone numbers enabling self spotting that I still use on SSB and CW. A smart phone was another big improvement allowing direct self spotting.

Then, slowly but surely, the Reverse Beacon Network has improved. I now mainly operate CW, the RBN works like magic. Very rarely does it take more than 2 minutes from my first “CQ SOTA” call to have become noticed with many chasers on my frequency. Even the lesser used bands such as 60m are now well covered. No longer do I worry about not having a phone signal on the summit!

Perhaps an article (by someone who really understands it) explaining this valuable resource would be useful for those new to CW in the hills.



Right after my first coffee of the morning I check the bands by sending CQ and callsign, then check RBN to see if the band is alive and where, if any, I have a signal.


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Does that RBN actually work on SSB, too? I didn’t know that, never tried it.
73, John

In a word - NO

What I discovered by accident is if you post an alert stating you are going to be SSB but then decide to have a play with CW “to see how far the signal will go” RBN will pick you up and post a CW alert. You may then find, after sending out your test CQ call, you get a pile up of unexpected replies.

Yes, this happened to me! :slight_smile:

The system is amazing but though I’ve read a bit about how it works on the RBN website I wasn’t left a lot wiser. Skimmers and Aggregators were involved somehow. If someone wrote a more comprehensive guide it might lead to more people contributing.

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You need to remember that the RBN is only half the story. RBN is nothing to do with SOTA, it’s merely a tool which is used by a higher level SOTA tool called RBNHole. It’s RBNHole that watches alerts and RBN reports and posts Spots to SOTAWatch. You can add special text to your alert to control how RBNHole spots (or doesn’t spot) you.


I guessed that but it is how the RBN network itself works which remains much of a mystery to me. I understand when running say WSJT-X on my PC and it receives say an FT8 signal then it uploads it to PSK Reporter. But RBN seems to work over very wide bands and it is how it does this and with what software which I was interested in. The description on the RBN website is a bit short of detail as I think it only covers half the story. There is another element or two missing. :slight_smile:

Hey John, you operating during Field Day this year?

This might help:


You need to read about “CW Skimmer” which is the software that actually processes the signals and decodes the CW into characters. It uses an SDR receiver so it can listen to the whole of the CW segment of a Ham band at once rather than just the few kHz that a normal Rx can hear.

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Yes, I love getting automagically spotted on CW after an alert. There’s some nice information here


Thanks for the information, the mists of my ignorance have been cleared (a bit).

Last Wednesday I undertook 3 CW activations on 30 and 60m. The network found me and correctly spotted my location within a couple of minutes, even though my activations overlaped the notification windows. All very impresive.

To those unsung heros once again, my thanks.



This thread has just prompted me to donate to RBN. Many thanks for reminding me what a brilliant service it does. :slight_smile:

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