FT8 and the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN)

The rise of FT8 over the past year or so leads one to wonder how FT8 activity compares to other modes. I thought that the RBN would be an ideal vehicle to make an objective comparison between , say,m FT8 and CW. After all, although the RBN documentation is rather vague on the subject of FT8, the web site does contain clear instructions as to how to upload FT8 posts to the RBN. The web-based spot filter also allows one to select FT8 posts:

Using the historical, archived RBN data, It's easy to create a plot showing the percentage of spots in particular modes as a function of time, from the beginning of the RBN's existence in 2009 to the present day (late 2018):

One immediately sees that there is a major problem with this plot: although FT8 is present, it appears for only a short span in the first half of 2018.

This prompts us to look at the actual historical data, to see when FT8 activity has been recorded.

The first FT8 post was on the 19th of February, 2018:

[HN:2018] rbncat 2018 | grep ",FT8," | head
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,K0ERE,K,NA,CQ,8,2018-02-19 23:42:16,6,FT8,20180219,1519083736
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,K8SIA,K,NA,CQ,13,2018-02-19 23:42:16,6,FT8,20180219,1519083736
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,WS9V,K,NA,CQ,13,2018-02-19 23:42:16,6,FT8,20180219,1519083736
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,K5MAF,K,NA,CQ,17,2018-02-19 23:42:31,6,FT8,20180219,1519083751
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,KI1P,K,NA,CQ,6,2018-02-19 23:42:31,6,FT8,20180219,1519083751
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,N1KDO,K,NA,CQ,22,2018-02-19 23:42:31,6,FT8,20180219,1519083751
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,WX2U,K,NA,CQ,7,2018-02-19 23:42:31,6,FT8,20180219,1519083751
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,YV2GAW,YV,SA,CQ,8,2018-02-19 23:42:31,6,FT8,20180219,1519083751
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,N4XPZ,K,NA,CQ,2,2018-02-19 23:43:01,6,FT8,20180219,1519083781
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,VA2FW,VE,NA,CQ,3,2018-02-19 23:43:06,6,FT8,20180219,1519083786

This aligns with the start of the yellow blip in the plot above, and presumably coincides with the date when the RBN first permitted FT8 posts.

However, the most recent FT8 post (I am writing this on the 12th of November, 2018) was on the 12th of June, 2018:

[HN:2018] rbncat 2018 | grep ",FT8," | tail
KM3T-2,K,NA,7074,40m,AC9HP,K,NA,CQ,-20,2018-05-29 11:47:01,6,FT8,20180529,1527594421
W3OA,K,NA,7074,40m,KK9G,K,NA,CQ,-12,2018-06-13 11:02:02,6,FT8,20180613,1528887722
WZ7I,K,NA,10136,30m,EW8W,EU,EU,CQ,-21,2018-06-13 11:02:03,6,FT8,20180613,1528887723
WZ7I,K,NA,10136,30m,VA3HP,VE,NA,CQ,-16,2018-06-13 11:02:03,6,FT8,20180613,1528887723
WZ7I,K,NA,7074,40m,KK9G,K,NA,CQ,0,2018-06-13 11:02:03,6,FT8,20180613,1528887723
WZ7I,K,NA,14074,20m,GW0DSJ,GW,EU,CQ,-4,2018-06-13 11:02:23,6,FT8,20180613,1528887743
WZ7I,K,NA,14074,20m,PD3WDK,PA,EU,CQ,-18,2018-06-13 11:02:23,6,FT8,20180613,1528887743
WZ7I,K,NA,14074,20m,SP7FFY,SP,EU,CQ,-16,2018-06-13 11:02:23,6,FT8,20180613,1528887743
WZ7I,K,NA,14074,20m,UA6FZ,UA,EU,CQ,-12,2018-06-13 11:02:23,6,FT8,20180613,1528887743
WZ7I,K,NA,18100,17m,GI3SG,GI,EU,CQ,-11,2018-06-13 11:02:23,6,FT8,20180613,1528887743

(And we see that prior to the 13th of June, the next most recent post was on the 29th of May.)

It seems that, after a relatively brief period during which FT8 posts were allowed, the controllers of the RBN silently decided to ban them -- even though one is still permitted to select such (now non-existent) posts on the web interface . Consequently, at least as of the current date, the RBN appears to be essentially useless as a resource for determining any metric related to current or historical FT8 activity.

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