Statistics from 2020 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--2020-augmented.xz; see here for details of the augmented format) for the period from 2005 to 2020.

As usual, there follow a few basic analyses that interest me. There is, of course, plenty of scope to use the files for further analyses, some of which are suggested by the figures below.

Below are some simple analyses of basic statistics from the logs. The 2020 versions of the contests were, of course, run under the unique circumstance of a world-wide pandemic. So we can expect the data for 2020 to be unlike those for any other year. Whether 2020 changes any long-term trends will take a year or two to become clear.


Number of Logs

Until 2020, the raw number of submitted logs for SSB had been relatively flat for several years; the logs submitted for CW showed a fairly steady annual increase. In 2020, unsurprisingly, the number of logs in both modes increased:

One not infrequently reads statements to the effect that the popularity of contests such as CQ WW has long been increasing. This plot suggests that this has not been true for a number of years prior to 2020 (and even when it was true, there are alternative explanations for the year-on-year increase, such as increasing ease of electronic log submission). This year, because of the unique circumstances, one would reasonably expect that there really were more people sitting at home and spending at least a portion of the weekend(s) on the air. But, as we see in the next section, that doesn't really seem to have been the case.



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 true that 2020 saw an uptick, but the increase is slight (surprisingly so in light of the number of people around the world who were confined to home and might be expected to escape boredom by getting on the air for the largest contest of the year). 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. The uptick in 2020 was considerably higher than for the SSB weekend, which on the face of it seems rather surprising: I expected that if a substantial number of people returned to the contest because of the pandemic, they would prefer the SSB weekend; the data show, however, that that expectation was not borne out.


Geographical Participation

How has the geographical distribution of entries changed over time?

Again looking at SSB first: 

Zone 28 has resumed its increase in the number of logs submitted, and the absolute number is now considerably higher than it was five or more years ago. The number of logs from zones outside EU or the US (and, to a lesser extent, JA) is miniscule. This can be seen more clearly if we plot the percentage of logs received from each zone as a function of time:

2020 shows a clear increase in western Europe -- the place that already dominated the submissions -- presumably because of the pandemic, and a continuation in Indonesia of the increase that has been ongoing for a number of years now. Of course, this comes at the cost of a decrease in other areas, particularly, it seems, Japan.

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 2020 (although again what increase there is seems to be most pronounced in western Europe):


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.

And for CW:

On this mode there appears to be a long-lived underlying upward trend (on which the effect of the solar cycle is superimposed), perhaps augmented somewhat by the pandemic in 2020. 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 rather 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, finally appears to have reached some kind of equilibrium, with essentially no change between 2018 and 2019, and even a slight reversal of the trend in 2020:

I have not investigated the cause of the 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 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:

Assisted and Unassisted

We can see how the relative popularity of the assisted and unassisted categories has changed since they were introduced:

On CW, there are essentially equal numbers of assisted and unassisted logs, while on SSB the unassisted logs handily exceeds the number of assisted logs. My guess, for what it's worth, is that CW assistance is more widespread partly because it (partially) absolves stations from actually being able to copy at high speed, and partly because the RBN is so effective that essentially all CQing stations are spotted.

I find it particularly interesting that the number of CWU logs has remained essentially unchanged ever since the unassisted category was created.

Looking at the number of QSOs appearing in the unassisted and assisted logs:

(The lines are for the median number of logs; the vertical bars run from 10% to 90%, 20% to 80%, 30% to 70%, 40% to 80%, with opacity increasing in that order.)

A long-term downward trend in the numbers of QSOs in the assisted logs ceased in 2016, and since then the median number of QSOs in the assisted logs has remained essentially unchanged. The more or less constant difference of roughly one hundred QSOs between CW and SSB logs (in favour of CW) continues.

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, I wrote:
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.

That slight improvement did in fact occur in 2019 and continued into 2020, so it does seem that the new cycle is making itself felt, which bodes well for 2021. (In fact, by this metric, 15m was about as good as it ever gets in this late-November contest on CW.)

20m was a victim of the propagation on 15m, but still saw plenty of activity, especially on CW.

As usual, CW dominates on 40m (and the other low bands), and the bulk of CW DX activity was in the first few hours (unlike 2018, which was exceptional for the activity on the last few hours of the contest).

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

160m paints a similar story to 80m, although the raw QSO counts are much lower. DX QSOs in 2020 were well down on the numbers in the prior couple of years.
The overall picture at last shows increases in the numbers of DX QSOs, especially on CW.

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