Zone-Based Analyses from 2021 CQ WW SSB and CQ WW CW logs

A large number of analyses can be performed with the various public CQ WW logs (cq-ww-2005--2021-augmented.xz; see here for details of the augmented format) for the period from 2005 to 2020.

As usual, there follow a few analyses that interest me. There is, of course, plenty of scope to use the augmented files for further analyses.

Below are some simple zone-based analyses from the logs.

Zones and Distance

As in prior years, we can 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 2021.

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.

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.

Zone Pairs

As in prior years, We can examine the number of QSOs for pairs of zones from the 2021 contests using the augmented file.

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 the East Coast of North America. This format is undoubtedly popular, as CQ WW, in both its SSB and CW incarnations, would seem by any reasonable measure to be the most popular contest of the year. But one does wonder whether there isn't some other format that would more strongly encourage participation from other parts of the world, instead of concentrating activity in these limited areas.

Non-Zero Zone Pairs

The activity between pairs of zones in the CW and SSB CQ WW contests over the period from 2005 to 2021 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 2021

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 2021. 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:

The figures speak for themselves.


Statistics from 2021 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--2021-augmented.xz; see here for details of the augmented format) for the period from 2005 to 2021.

As in prior years, there follow a few basic analyses that interest me. There is, of course, plenty of scope to use the log 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 2021 versions of the contests were, of course, run under the circumstance of the world-wide pandemic, rather similar to the contests in 2020. So we can expect the data for 2021 to be unlike those for any other year except, possibly, 2020. Whether 2020 and 2021 presage changes in any long-term trends will take another 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 to new records; CQ WW SSB 2021 set another record; on CW, the number of logs decreased slightly, but would still have been a record were it not for 2020 :

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 had 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). For the past two years, because of the circumstances of a worldwide pandemic, 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, despite non-infrequent conclusory statements to the contrary.

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 since the start of the pandemic has surely increased from the doldrums of the prior few years. Whether this contest is more popular than it was at a similar point in the last solar cycle is unclear, but it does seem to have held its own.

[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:

Apart from the uptick in 2020, presumably due to the novelty on being forced to remain at home during the pandemic, participation in the CW event 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 an increase in the number of logs submitted, to the point where it is now not dissimilar to the number from zone 25. Still, the number of logs from zones outside EU or the US continues to be very small. 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 came at the cost of a decrease in other areas, particularly, it seems, Japan. 2021 seems to show that 2020 was an aberration, and, apart from the increase in entrants from zone 28, the geographical areas with the most entrants seem more or less the same as in pre-pandemic years.

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

And 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 2021 (although again what increase there is seems to be most pronounced in western Europe):

It is, I think, of some interest that the change in participation in zone 28 that is obvious on SSB is essentially absent on CW.


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 is essentially the same as at the same point in the last solar cycle.

And for CW:

On this mode there continues to be, it seems, a long-lived underlying upward trend (on which the effect of the solar cycle is superimposed), perhaps augmented somewhat by the pandemic in 2020 (but not in 2021 for some reason). 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, continues to be 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 healthy, at least insofar as CQ WW is concerned.

It is worth noting that, during the 2021 running of the SSB contest, it is quite clear that cycle 25 had an impact, whereas a month later on CW conditions had returned to the doldrums.


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 and 2021:

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. A more or less constant difference of roughly one hundred QSOs between the median 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 the CW event, although there were some on SSB (as is reflected above, in the Activity section). The CW event suffers by a month later in the year. [I do not understand why the CQ WW committee do not alternate the weekends of the SSB and CW modes; but then, I don't understand a lot of what they do or don't do.]

It is clear that in 2021 15m was outstanding for the first day of the SSB event. There were many fewer QSOs on the second day, perhaps at least partly in response to the propagation on 10m, which allowed at least some QSOs on the second day. For the CW contest, it is clear that 2021 simply had poorer conditions than 2020. 2022 is presumably likely to see a return to good conditions on 15m for the CW event; at least one hopes so. 

20m was more or less a repetition of 2020 on both modes.

As usual, CW dominates on 40m The first few hours, which generally dominate the activity for the weekend, in 2021 saw only somewhat more activity than the other two active periods (which correspond to evening in Europe).

80m was also dominated by CW, with, as usual, the bulk of DX activity in the first six hours; indeed, there was relatively little activity at all in the second day of the contest.

160m paints a similar story to 80m, although the raw QSO counts are much lower and the second day is almost devoid of QSOs.

The overall picture shows the influence of the new solar cycle on SSB; but, as noted above, in 2021 CW saw a somewhat of a decrease in inter-zone QSOs as compared to 2020.