Online QSLing for Mobile/Portable

Steve W3HF

Well it took me a while to collect my thoughts, but Jerry's caution is appropriate--there are complexities of mobile or portable operations that affect use of online QSLing systems like eQSL and LoTW. This question comes up often enough that I’ve decided to write up something and save it for future editing and use. There are enough differences between the two that it can be tricky to set things up so they work on both systems. And FWIW, I’ve never used other online systems (QRZlog, HRDlog, etc) so I don’t know how this will play with their system.

There are two ground rules that I consider essential to use of online QSLing systems:

1. The callsign I use on the air MUST be EXACTLY the callsign that is “sent” with my online QSL.
2. The QTH that is “sent” with my online QSL MUST be the QTH for the station I was using.

The reasons for these should be obvious, but let me elaborate a bit. If I operate with a portable identifier (e.g., /0 or /KH2), I would send a paper QSL that would use the same callsign exactly how I identified on the air. And that card would show my actual station location, not my home QTH. I wouldn’t send a “W3HF in Pennsylvania” QSL card if I really had been on Guam or in Colorado. The same has to be true for online QSLing. Too many people think of their online account as the totality of their log, and fail to realize that each uploaded entry in an online account is actually the equivalent of sending a paper card. Furthermore, the stations I contact will likely send their online QSL to the callsign they received during the QSO, and it's messy if that's not the way I uploaded the QSOs. It’s just cleaner if I make it easy on my side.

eQSL’s system is account-based. Every QSL you submit (or that is sent to you) is assigned to an account (actually, a sub-account that can be linked to a master account) that is defined by your callsign, your location, and a contiguous range of effective dates for that combination. One of the consequences of this is that if you use the same callsign from separate locations, you’ll need separate accounts (with non-overlapping dates) so that you can set up the different QTHs. This can get very messy if you visit the same site multiple times, but need separate accounts for each activation because you’ve used the same callsign from another location in between.

All of your callsign/location/date-based accounts can linked together into a single master account. You won’t be able to display a list of QSLs from multiple sub-accounts together, but some eQSL awards let you aggregate the QSLs from certain multiple sub-accounts (e.g., all accounts within a single country for DX100 purposes). 

One complexity in dealing with eQSL is that you need to separately upload the QSOs from each sub-account, and make sure that they are in the RIGHT sub-account. If you are logged into one sub-account, and accidentally upload QSOs that should be in another account, you’ll have to either manually delete them or ask the eQSL “help desk” to assist you with a bulk delete.

In contrast, LoTW is transaction-based. Yes there is a login account that accumulates QSLs, and within that one account you can see all incoming confirmations from all your callsigns. But QSLs you submit are identified based not on that login but on the certificate and station location you use to sign the transaction. ARRL will assign you a PKI certificate for each callsign you use; you need a different certificate for each callsign variant—W3HF is different from W3HF/0 and W3HF/m.

When you sign a QSO or set of QSOs (in preparation for uploading), you also have to define a station location. That’s a bit of a misnomer—a “station location” consists of a particular callsign (so it’s tied to one of your certificates) and some additional (optional) information like IOTA, grid square, state, and county.  Note that you can’t change the DXCC entity that was assigned when the PKI certificate is issued, even though the FCC allows you to use your callsign anywhere in US territory. You can associate any callsign certificate you have with multiple locations (within the same DXCC entity) to create multiple “station locations.” You then select the location/certificate combination you want for any given upload. So LoTW accommodates use of the same callsign from multiple locations a bit better than eQSL does.

LoTW also lets you combine QSLs from multiple callsigns for awards purposes, subject to the rules for each award.

So how do you implement all of this so it makes sense together? Here’s how I do it.

First of all, I virtually always use a portable identifier. I know the FCC doesn’t require it and LoTW doesn't care either, but it keeps the accounts segregated on eQSL. I tend to visit the same places multiple times over stretches of time, and almost always these are in separate call districts, so each of these is a unique callsign. This lets me keep the same eQSL accounts running separately but continuously. This wouldn’t be as effective if I had to use the same call to operate from different locations.

Second, I scrupulously segregate my log based on my operating location and callsign used. I am very careful to make sure that there’s no possibility of mixing up W3HF QSOs with W3HF/0 QSOs or VQ9HF QSOs. 

Third, I always upload QSOs to the online sites manually—exporting an ADIF from the logger and uploading using the TQSL utility or the eQSL web site. I know that many logging systems can automate that process, but IMO it’s too risky to embed an eQSL or LoTW login within my logger and let it do the upload without me double-checking it. Maybe I’d feel different if I had completely separate log files, but that’s not the way I’m set up (for other reasons).

So the net result is that I have 16 separate eQSL sub-accounts. There are only a few where I’ve had to re-use callsigns (operating as W3HF/0 from both a hotel parking lot and a club station in Denver, and three separate uses of W3HF/3). I have 9 separate PKI certificates from ARRL, and 8 station locations defined for LoTW use. (There are a few combinations I haven’t fully implemented yet.)

I'm sure there are other ways to do what I've done so please don't interpret this writeup as saying this is the ONLY way to make it work. But this DOES work well for my situation, and I've gotten used to the complexities.

If anyone has any questions feel free to ask away, either on the reflector or direct.

W3HF (including /3, /4, /6, /8, /0, /KH2, /KH6) and VQ9HF

On 12/23/15, Jerry n9avy@... [070]<070@...> wrote:

LoTW requires a separate log for /m operation or any unique identifier attached to your call sign.  If you operated in Canada as VE/K0MCI that would also be separate log.  It may require some people to get the call you send and enter it correctly as sent. 

As for Eqsl,  they may have their own set of rules; so, you'd have to check their FAQ. 
Steve, W3HF, would no doubt be the authority on this since he operates his station from different locations .

73,  Jerry ,  N9AVY

From: "Kevin Lemon k0mci@... [070]" <070@...>
To: "070@..." <070@...>
Sent: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 8:10 PM
Subject: Re: [070] K0MCI

Thanks, good chat. I do need to figure out the basics regarding awards and then perhaps see how I can work in the mobile if possible.
Seems complex on some counts, but for others, not so bad.

HRD will allow some selective exporting, but I'm not sure how the /M is going to fly.

I'll officially ask later.

Thanks again Jerry, appreciation is all yours for the patience with my improv.

73 Kevin K0MCI 2141

Caught Kevin on 40 m.  Nice signal  from 349.5 miles (according to QRZ) away. One of the better signals on band.

We talked about logging since he wasn't sure how to log for /m operations.  Told him it might be better to have separate log for his K0MCI/m than to combine .  Hope my suggestion was okay.

Jerry  N9AVY

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