As a beta test, the popular Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) has announced that it’s now offering a separate telnet feed for FT8 spots (telnet.reversebeacon.net port 7001), in addition to the current spot feed (telnet.reversebeacon.net port 7000), which will be repurposed to handle only CW and RTTY spots. In addition, a beta version of Aggregator Version 5 that can handle FT8 spots received from WSJT-Xwill be available on the RBN website, with instructions on how RBN node operators can configure their nodes to spot FT8 call signs on one or more bands; this will not interfere with the ability to spot CW and RTTY call signs, the RBN team assured in its announcement, explaining its reasoning for the move. The beta test follows a limited alpha test aimed at getting a feel for the spot load and other implications of carrying FT8 spots on the RBN.
“The most striking characteristic of FT8 spots is their sheer quantity,” the RBN announcement said, citing weekday statistics from May 23 and 24 when FT8 spots represented 86% and 87% of all spots, respectively, while CW spots were 13% and 14%, respectively, and RTTY spots were below 1%. Throughput on both days totaled some 30,000 spots.
“Whether due to the startling popularity of the new mode, or to the ability to spot stations at 22 dB below the noise level, it seems obvious that adding FT8 spots to our spot flow could have a huge impact on the infrastructure of the RBN,” the RBN announcement said. “These numbers suggest that if only 20 – 30 RBN nodes added FT8 spots, those spots could outnumber the total CW and RTTY spots being delivered by the 140 – 150 nodes currently active on the network, doubling the total required throughput.”
The RBN team said it wanted to find out whether RBN servers would be up to the task before the fall contest season. “Operators of ‘retail’ DX clusters are encouraged to offer the option of RBN spots with and without FT8 spots, as they now often give users a choice between spot streams with and without Skimmerspots, and to advertise when they begin to carry FT8 spots,” the announcement said.
A beta version of Aggregator Version 5 that can handle FT8 spots received from WSJT-X will be available on the RBN website, along with instructions on how RBN node operators can configure their nodes to spot FT8 signals on one or more bands.
“We will closely monitor how the RBN servers handle this new load, as more and more nodes begin sending FT8 spots,” the announcement said, adding that the RBN reserves the right to take any necessary steps to protect the core mission of the RBN, including shutting off the FT8 stream on major CW and RTTY contest weekends or discontinuing FT8 spotting altogether. Even then, PSKReporter would continue to carry FT8 spots, the announcement pointed out.
“We hope we’re not doing this in a vacuum,” the RBN team said, noting that it’s been collecting the views of contesters and DXers, “and we think that we’re headed in the right direction.”
The RBN team consists of KM3T, N4ZR, PY1NB, SV3SJ, and W3OA.
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