Zone-Based Statistics from 2018 CQ WW SSB and CQ WW CW logs

Zone Pairs

We start by looking at the number of QSOs for pairs of zones from the CQ WW contests for 2018. The plots are created from the augmented file (cq-ww-2005--2018-augmented.xz; see here for details of the augmented format) derived from the public logs.

The procedure is simple. We consider only QSOs that meet the following criteria:
  1. marked as "two-way" QSOs (i.e., both parties submitted a log containing the QSO);
  2. no callsign or zone is bust by either party.
A counter is maintained for every pair of zones (i.e., 1-1, 1-2, 1-3 ... 40-39, 40-40) and the pertinent counter is incremented once for each distinct QSO between stations in those zones.

Separate figures are provided for each band, led by a figure integrating QSOs on all bands. The figures are constructed in such a way as to show the results for both the SSB and CW contests on a single figure. (Any zone pair with no QSOs that meet the above criteria appears in black on the figures.)

It is clear from these figures, as from those for earlier years, that CQ WW is principally a contest for intra-EU QSOs, and secondarily one for QSOs between EU and NA. This format is undoubtedly popular, as CQ WW, in both its SSB and CW incarnations, would seem by any measure to be the most popular contest of the year.

Zones and Distance

We can also examine the distribution of distance for QSOs as a function of zone.

Below is a series of figures showing this distribution integrated over all bands and, separately, band by band for the CQ WW SSB and CQ WW CW contests for 2018.

Each plot shows a colour-coded distribution of the distance of QSOs for each zone, with the data for SSB appearing above the data for CW within each zone.

For every half-QSO in a given zone, the distance of the QSO is calculated; in ths way, the total  number of half-QSOs in bins of width 500 km is accumulated. Once all the QSOs for a particular contest have been binned in this manner, the distribution for each zone is normalised to total 100% and the result coded by colour and plotted. The mean distance for each zone and mode is denoted by a small white rectangle added to the underlying distance distribution.

As usual, only QSOs for which logs have been provided by both parties, and which show no bust of either callsign or zone number are included. Bins coloured black are those for which no QSOs are present at the relevant distance.

The resulting plots are reproduced below. I find that they display in a compact format a wealth of data that is informative and often unexpected.

Non-Zero Zone Pairs

The activity between pairs of zones in the CW and SSB CQ WW contests over the period from 2005 to 2018 may be usefully summarised in a single figure:

There are 820 possible zone pairs: (z1, z1), (z1, z2) ... (z1, z40), (z2, z2), (z2, z3) ... (z39, z39), (z39, z40), (z40, z40). The above figure shows the number of different zone pairs actually present in the public logs, for each mode and for each year for which data are available, separated on a band-by-band basis and presented in the form of percentages of the maximum possible count (i.e., 820).

The top two lines require some additional explication: the line marked "MEAN" is the arithmetic mean of the results for the six separate bands for the relevant year and mode. The line marked "ANY" is also constructed from the data for the individual bands, but such that any give zone pair need be present on any one (or more, of course) of the individual bands to be included on the "ANY" line.

Half-QSOs Per Zone for CQ WW CW and SSB, 2005 to 2017

A simple way to display the activity in the CQ WW contests is to count the number of half-QSOs in each zone. Each valid QSO requires the exchange of two zones, so we simply count the total number of times that each zone appears, making sure to include each valid QSO only once.

If we do this for the entire contest without taking the individual bands into account, we obtain this figure:

The plot shows data for both SSB and CW contests over the period from 2005 to 2018. As in earlier posts, I include only QSOs for which both parties submitted a log and neither party bust either the zone or the call of the other party. The black triangles represent contests in which no half-QSOs were made from (or to) a particular zone. By far the most striking feature of this plot is the way in which activity in EU overwhelms that in the rest of the world.

We can, of course, generate equivalent plots on a band-by-band basis:

The activity from zones 14, 15 and 16 so overwhelms these figures that in order to get a feel for the activity elsewhere, we need to move to a logarithmic scale:


Statistics from 2018 CQ WW SSB and CQ WW CW logs

A huge number of analyses can be performed with the various public CQ WW logs (cq-ww-2005--2018-augmented.xz; see here for details of the augmented format) for the period from 2005 to 2018.

There follow a few analyses that have interested me. There is plenty of scope to use the files for further analyses.


Number of Logs

The raw number of submitted logs for SSB has been relatively flat for several years; the logs submitted for CW continues to show a fairly steady annual increase:

One not infrequently reads statements to the effect that the popularity of contests such as CQ WW has been increasing for the past several years. Certainly it is true that, for CW, the number of logs has generally increased year-on-year, but the above plot shows that the same cannot be truthfully said for SSB, for which the number of logs has shown no systematic variation for the last half-dozen years.



By definition, popularity requires some measure of people (or, in our case, the simple proxy of callsigns) -- there is no reason to believe, a priori, that the number of received logs as shown above is related in any particular way to the popularity of a contest.

So we look at the number of calls in the logs as a function of time, rather than positing any kind of well-defined positively correlated relationship between log submission and popularity (actually, the posts I have seen don't even bother to posit such a relationship: they are silent on the matter, thereby simply seeming to presume that the reader will assume one). 

However, the situation isn't as simple as it might be, because of the presence of busted calls in logs. If a call appears in the logs just once (or some small number of times), it is more likely to be a bust rather an actual participant. Where to set a cut-off a priori in order to discriminate between busts and actual calls is unclear; but we can plot the results of choosing several such values. 

First, for SSB:

Regardless of how many logs a call has to appear in before we regard it as a legitimate callsign, the popularity of CQ WW SSB in the past few years has fallen to a level rarely (if ever) seen in the public logs. It is certainly difficult to argue, on the basis of the above plot, that this contest is now more popular than it was at a similar point in the last solar cycle -- indeed, it appears, on its face, that the opposite is true.

[I note that a reasonable argument can be made that the number of uniques will be more or less proportional to the number of QSOs made (I have not tested that hypothesis; I leave it as an exercise for the interested reader to determine whether it is true), but there is no obvious reason why the same would be true for, for example, callsigns that appear in, say, ten or more logs.]

Moving to CW:

we see a similar story to SSB, except that any decrease in participation since the same point in the last cycle appears to be very small: participation in the CW event in the current inter-cycle doldrums seems to be more or less the same as at the corresponding point in the last cycle.


Geographical Participation

How has the geographical distribution of entries changed over time?

Again looking at SSB first: 

Zone 28 continues to show a gradual but sustained increase in the number of logs submitted. Nevertheless, compared to the behemoths like zones 14 and 15, the number of logs from zones such as 11 or 28 is miniscule. This can be seen more clearly if we plot the percentage of logs received from each zone as a function of time:

On CW, most zones evidence a long-term increase:

But the relative increase seems to be spread more or less evenly across all zones, with the percentages of logs from each zone barely changing over the years 2005 to 2018:



Total activity in a contest depends both on the number of people who participate and on how many QSOs each of those people makes. We can use the public logs to count the total number of distinct QSOs in the logs (that is, each QSO is counted only once, even if both participants have submitted a log).

For SSB: 

The total number of distinct QSOs in the current inter-cycle doldrums is essentially the same as at the same point in the last solar cycle, although if last year is anything to go by, the next year or two may show even fewer QSOs than the last solar minimum.

And for CW:

On this mode there appears to be an underlying upward trend (on which the effect of the solar cycle is superimposed). Despite the claims I see that CW is an obsolete technology in serious decline, the actual evidence, at least from this, the largest contest of the year, is quite the opposite. (This is a good reminder that when someone makes a claim whose truth is not self-evident, one should examine the underlying data for oneself. I have found that all too often it transpires that no defensible evidence has been put forward for the conclusion being drawn.) The evidence certainly seems to indicate that CW activity is faring better than activity on SSB, at least insofar as CQ WW is concerned.


Running and Calling

On SSB, the ongoing gradual shift towards stations strongly favouring either running or calling, rather than splitting their effort between the two types of operation, continued in 2018:

I have not investigated the cause of the continued decrease in the percentage of stations strongly favouring running, although the public logs could readily be used to distinguish possibilities that spring to mind, such as more SO2R operation, more multi-operator stations, and/or a reluctance of stations to forego the perceived advantages of spots from cluster networks.

On CW, the split between callers and runners continues to be much less bimodal on CW than on SSB (on SSB, fully 30% of entrants have no run QSOs; on CW, the equivalent number is below 10%). Indeed, the difference in call/run behaviour on the two modes (and the difference in the way that the behaviour has changed over time) is profound, and probably worthy of further investigation. CW continues to appear to have what would seem to be a much healthier split between the two operating styles:

Inter-Zone QSOs

We can show the number of inter-zone QSOs, both band-by-band and in total. In these plots, the number of QSOs is accumulated every ten minutes, so there are six points per hour.

As expected at this point in the cycle, there were a negligible number of QSOs on 10m, in either the SSB or the CW events.

In 2018, activity decreased substantially on 15m as compared to 2017. We certainly seem to be very close to the bottom of the cycle. Perhaps by next year there will be a slight improvement in conditions.

Especially on CW, 20m was the place to be, on both days showing more activity on CW than in any prior year for which we have data.

As usual, CW dominates on 40m (and the other low bands). Usually, the bulk of CW activity is in the first six hours of the contest; in 2018 the last few hours also showed strong activity.

80m was also dominated by CW, with, as usual, the bulk of activity in the first six hours.

160m paints a similar story to 80m, although the raw QSO counts are much smaller. 2018 appears to be the strongest year on record for CW activity on 160m in the first six hours of the contest.

The overall picture seems to be one of typical low bottom-of-cycle activity.