[CQ-Contest] Distributed Contesting

Peter Bowyer peter at bowyer.org
Tue Oct 6 04:08:53 EDT 2020

That's a good thought-provoking post, Paul - our views may not
eventually agree but yours are well-expressed and should kick off some
sensible discussion.

73 Peter G4MJS

On Sun, 4 Oct 2020 at 20:21, Paul O'Kane <pokane at ei5di.com> wrote:
> Last month, W3LPL and K3LR announced that they had decided not to
> compete in any multi-op category in the 2020 CQ WW contests.
> http://lists.contesting.com/archives//html/CQ-Contest/2020-09/msg00036.html
> They went on to say they "remain hopeful that science will allow our
> teams to resume Multi Multi operations in 2021"
> There are at least two ways in which science will permit this.  The
> first depends on the availability, and uptake, of effective vaccines
> within the next 12 months.  Right now, that's uncertain.  The second is
> that science, or rather technology, will help remote multi-op entries to
> be competitive.
> There are many positive aspects to remote contesting, including -
>    It gets more people on the air - meaning more QSOs and more contest
> entries.
>    It saves the ops time and money - they don't have to travel to the
> station.
>    It's safer - no close contact between operators, whether day or
> night, over several days.
>    The RF is exactly the same, no matter where the operators are - so
> what's not to like?
> There are some disadvantages -
>    It's expensive, and technically challenging, to configure a station
> for competitive remote entries, and particularly so for multi-op.
>    Latency can be a problem, especially for CW - though 5G may provide a
> solution.
>    As those who work remotely know, team spirit can be affected - it's
> "just not the same".
> Regardless of these disadvantages, it's likely that multi-op contest
> stations/owners generally are gearing up for remote operation - if only
> to have the option in future.
> So, it's all good then - or is it?
> Not quite.  We're in the early stages of what I call Distributed
> Contesting, of which remote operation is an example.  Until a few years
> ago, it was a requirement in contest rules that all station equipment
> had to be located within a given area.  With the increasing take-up of
> remote, "equipment" was changed, typically, to "all transmitters,
> receivers, and antennas" - meaning, in practice, that not all station
> equipment had to be located within a given area.  In other words,
> stations are becoming distributed.
> Further, CQ WW 160 permits the use, for SO Assisted, of one "remote
> receiver located within 100km of the main transmitter site".  For a good
> reason, of course - the rule is "designed to accommodate new technology,
> and for those who experience high noise levels at the transmitting
> site".  This is an example of the increasing distribution of stations,
> whether remote or otherwise.  If follows that, since "high noise levels"
> can apply to any band, and we all aware of increasing noise levels in
> urban areas, there will be pressure to permit this concession more
> generally.
> There is, simultaneously, an inexorable trend towards SDRs - Software
> Defined Radios.  With faster communications technology and utilities,
> there is less need for all software components of an SDR to be available
> in one discrete location.  If there's better processing power in "the
> cloud", in terms of modes supported (especially new digital modes), or
> filtering, or noise reduction - why not use it?   This represents
> distributed receivers, and they're on their way.
> Remote operators are quick to point out the disadvantages, outlined
> above, they have to live with.  What they prefer not to be reminded
> about is the opportunity value of remote capability.  They can compete
> in circumstances where others cannot even enter.
> Neither do they like to be reminded that, at all times, they are
> dependent on public utilities (internet, 4G, whatever) for their QSOs.
> Further, they are simultaneously communicating over those same public
> utilities - they require more than RF alone to have their QSOs.  This is
> easily demonstrated by asking them to disconnect from the utility, and
> then see how many QSOs they have.
> My point is that distributed-station operators, in order to realize
> their not-insignificant opportunity to compete, are obliged to abandon
> the communications-independence that  until recently has been the
> hallmark, the defining characteristic, of ham radio.
> There's nothing wrong with distributed contesting - it's the preferred
> option for many operators.  But it is different from RF-all-the-way, and
> evolving rapidly - driven partly by the constraints imposed upon us all
> due to the pandemic.  Could we have reached a tipping point?  It seems
> to me that this evolution is largely unregulated, with individual
> contest sponsors doing their best to keep up with evolving technology as
> it affects their particular events.
> My question is - will WWROF (the World Wide Radio Operators Foundation)
> help to regulate Distributed Contesting in terms of a general set of
> recommendations, including categories, for contest rules - with
> particular emphasis on the major events?  The WWROF was created "by a
> group of radio operators who saw a need for an independent organization
> devoted to the skill and art of radio operating."  Surely this is within
> their remit, and isn't "now" the right time for them to act?
> https://wwrof.org/
> 73,
> Paul EI5DI
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