Statistics from 2023 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--2023-augmented.xz; see here for details of the augmented format) for the period from 2005 to 2023.

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 2023 versions of the contests showed a more-or-less full return to normal operation, following several years disrupted by COVID and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The latter, of course, is still under way, but its effect on the contest seems to be decreasing. And we finally had sunspots (Well, I assume we did for the SSB leg -- I was away for that contest; conditions in the CW leg were certainly an improvement). 

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 record, probably because of the pandemic; 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. 2022 was another year of unusual circumstances: not only was the pandemic still in evidence in much of the world, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine, along with the CQ WW committee's vacillation on how to proceed in light of that invasion -- and then the protest against the committee's position as of the contest dates -- was always going to lead to a reduction in the number of submitted logs. In 2023, the numbers for both modes bounced back up somewhat, but they both still fell short of being a record, especially on CW.

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 claim 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). The circumstances for 2020, 2021 and 2022 have been so unusual that it would seem to be an error to regard them as in any way indicative of a trend. But 2023 does give some cause for hope that on SSB numbers have reached a new, higher plateau; CW seems to have reverted to the level of just before 2020.


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 rather frequent 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 during the pandemic surely increased from the doldrums of the prior few years. Complicating the picture in the past couple of years is, of course, the reduction in participation that is (presumably) due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Whatever the cause, the number of calls certainly seems to be well down on the number at a similar point in the last solar cycle

[I note that a plausible 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. The interested reader might also consider basing a similar analysis on eXtended Super Check Partial files as created by the drscp program.]

Moving to CW:

On CW, we see that in 2022 the reduction due (presumably) to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to the number of active calls being the lowest of all the years for which data are available. In 2023 there was a slight correction, but the numbers are still well short of the numbers during the high-sunspot years of the last solar cycle.


Geographical Participation

How has the geographical distribution of entries changed over time?

Again looking at SSB first:

The number of entrants from zone 16 has increased since last year, but is still well down from historical levels. The number of logs submitted from zone 28 continues to show an increased level. 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:

In 2022, entrants from zone 16 dropped from the historical value of around 10% to close to zero. The slack was taken up principally by the US zones and zones 11 and 25. In 2023, the percentages edged closer to historical norms.

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

Again we see the expected drop in entries from zone 16 in the past couple of years, but other than that trends continue more or less as before, with the relative increase spread more or less evenly across all zones, with the percentages of logs from each zone barely changing except for the pandemic years:

It is, I think, of some interest that the change in participation in zone 28 that is obvious on SSB is only gradually making itself felt on CW. Zone 24 is gradually becoming more common, although it remains far behind the powerhouse that is zone 25.


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:


There were five years in the most recent solar cycle in which more QSOs were made than in 2023. It doesn't seem likely that the next five years will all result in more QSOs than 2023, but I guess we'll see.

And for CW:


Pretty much the same situation holds as on SSB. Possibly the greying of the amateur radio community is finally taking its toll. I hope not, but I can't say that these graphs bode well.


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. There was essentially no change between 2018 and 2019, and even a (very) slight reversal of the trend in 2020 and 2021. 2022, however, for the first time saw more than 30% of entrants making no run QSOs at all, a situation that continued in 2023. In 2023, the number of stations making fewer than 10% of their QSOs in a run exceeded 60%.

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. In any case, it certainly seems that SSB operators seem to fall decisively into one of two camps: runners and callers (look at the quite astonishing bimodal distribution in the first of the two graphs above, with the vast majority nearly always calling other stations).

On CW, the split between callers and runners continues to be much less bimodal than on SSB (as mentioned above, 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 exhibit 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 continue to be more or less equal numbers of assisted and unassisted logs, although a gap in favour of assisted operation slowly seems to be opening. 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 60%, 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.

The new cycle has definitely started. Unfortunately, the CW event suffers by a month later in the year than the SSB event. [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.]

Like 2022, 2023 saw fairly ordinary 15m participation on SSB, probably because of signs of activity on 10m. CW saw more activity, presumably because, the CW event being later in the year, 10m did not cooperate to the same extent as it did on SSB.

Much less activity on 20m, in both modes. Partly because of better conditions on 10m and 15m, but also because of the decreased activity in general, perhaps caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As always, CW dominates on 40m; and, within that mode, intra-EU QSOs further dominate. After the first few hours of the contest, very little DX was worked in either of the past couple of years.

80m is always dominated by CW; but the past couple of years have seen what appears to be a record low level of activity, perhaps because of the invasion of Ukraine

160m paints a similar story to 80m, although the raw QSO counts are much lower, and appear to have sunk to a record low -- certainly much lower in the equivalent point of the last cycle.

The overall picture shows the influence of the new solar cycle; but it seems clear that the ramp-up is much slower in this cycle, perhaps due to the invasion of Ukraine.

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