DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

Remote Control DXing and DXCC in the 21st Century

Remote Control DXing and DXCC in the 21st Century

by Wayne Mills, N7NG

In the last decade or so, remote control operation has become more and more common. Historically, a few operators have controlled their stations through wire lines or microwave links. (Some really good DX was worked via ‘phone patch, but that’s another story…) Remote operation was generally expensive and complex. With the advent of the Internet and simple, Internet-compatible hardware, establishing remote stations has been greatly simplified. Remote operation of an Amateur station from locations anywhere in the world is now commonplace. Of course, the physical location of such a remotely controlled station would define its DXCC status. Other criteria are not so clear.

The current DXCC Rules were implemented in 1998. The committee responsible for rewriting the rules was fully aware of the then current technology and even some of the possibilities for the future. There was a concern, then, that certain aspects of the DXCC game would be altered by an across-the-board acceptance of remote control technology. As a result, although DXCC Rule 9 allows remote operation, it requires that the operator of any station be located in the same DXCC entity. This restriction seemed reasonable at the time, but in retrospect additional allowances might have been in order.

In 1998, one concern was a “gut feeling” that installing a remotely controlled “DXpedition station” on Heard Island or Scarborough Reef would cause some diminishment in the DXpeditioning experience of both DXers and DXpeditioners alike. Somehow the excitement and anticipation of such events might be missing if a permanent, remote station were installed. Would such diminishment occur? It’s still an open question.

There are other issues. Station access is one; who would be able to use a remote station. Would “open access” work? Another: Some DXers feel that the difficulty of working DX is greater in some parts of the US than others. In the distant past, DXers operations were restricted to a certain radius from their stations. Was this fair? For some yes, for some no. These issues usually centered on specific cases of perceived fairness, or lack thereof. If an operator had several stations around the country would that be fair? Have we thought about all sides of these issues? How can remote receivers on different continents be handled? Some restrictions might be difficult or impossible to enforce.

The current Rule 9, allowing operators to move physically within a country arose out of our increasing mobility. Too many DXers had to start over – or quit DXCC altogether – because of a long-distance move. In other countries, the issues might be different. In Europe, for example, you might now move only 20 km and be in a different country, requiring a new DXCC application, whereas previously such a move – even to a different country – would have required no changes.

Other issues involve technicalities such as on operator making QSOs with himself through the use of a remote station. Perhaps concern with that particular scenario is overblown. Yet DXCC Rules changes deserve careful consideration. The “Law of Unintended Consequences” must be invoked very early in the process.

A decade ago, I was skeptical about some of these changes. Now it seems clear to me that changes must be made. For example, we all know of the changing situations that make it impossible for many HF operators to maintain stations in apartments and townhouses, small urban lots with CC&Rs and even assisted living facilities for those of us who are still capable operators, but not able to construct and maintain on-site stations.

I have mentioned only a few issues. More changes will occur. Younger DXers will change, and the traditional concepts of working DX will change with them. Altogether, we see that technology is overtaking the DXCC rulemaking process. For the good of DXing, we must keep up with the state of the art. The DXCC program will need to change too, if is to continue to work for 21st Century DXers. Have some ideas? Let me know: n7ng@arrl.net

(c) 2012, Wayne Mills, N7NG