The first FT8 Roundup over the December 1 – 2 weekend attracted some 1,300 logs from those taking advantage of the ever-more-popular digital protocol. This, despite its having been announced on fairly short notice and with other contests such as the ARRL 160-Meter Contest under way on the same weekend. More than 400 logs were from US radio amateurs in the 48 contiguous states, plus the District of Columbia. Overall, some 131,200 contacts were recorded. Participants from 91 countries submitted logs, testifying to the fact that FT8 is not just an US phenomenon.
“The FT8 Roundup was the last shakedown for the WSJT-X 2.0-rc5 beta software,” said well-known RTTY contesting enthusiast and expert Don Hill, AA5AU, an FT8 Roundup cosponsor with Ed Muns, W0YK. “It performed with no major complications.” The general availability release of WSJT-X 2.0 is now out, and it’s not backward compatible with WSJT-X 1.9 or earlier versions. Developer Joe Taylor, K1JT, has urged users to upgrade by January 1 to what now is new world standard.
Muns, who’s NCJ “Digital Contesting” contributing editor, said FT8 Roundup participation compared favorably with that for the ARRL RTTY Roundup, which has averaged around 1,700 logs in recent years.
“Don and I expected the contest to be popular,” Muns said, “but the participation far exceeded our expectations. I think it bodes well for future FT8 contesting. Don and I are pretty bullish about continuing the FT8 Roundup on the first full weekend of December each year.” Nonetheless, Muns said he doesn’t believe FT8 will “really take off” and displace RTTY until the contact rate can be significantly increased through parallel QSO techniques.
Hill agreed on the event’s popularity. “I have to say it was a huge success,” he said. “Ed and I never dreamed it would be this popular. It didn’t make sense to continue the Ten-Meter RTTY Contest during this part of the sunspot cycle. Replacing it with an all-FT8 HF contest was the logical choice.” Hill and Muns also co-sponsor the Ten-Meter RTTY Contest.
Hill told ARRL that final results of the inaugural FT8 Roundup should be out in a few days. “After the New Year, we hope to have downloadable online certificates available to all participants. We will definitely do it again next year,” he said.
The 2019 ARRL RTTY Roundup will permit the use of FT8.
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