FT8, Is It Real Radio?

It’s a debate I see all over the place on the interweb, is FT8 real radio? or alternately is FT8 killing real Radio?

I’ve thought about it a lot and I have come down on the side that FT8 is real radio and what’s more, I think it opens up long distance, weak signal HF communications in so many ways that SSB Phone QSLs just don’t.

I’ll explain what I’m thinking. I live in a small flat with almost no outside space to put up an antenna other than my 29 foot long random wire a few meters off the ground (and I’m pushing my luck with that). With this antenna I’m able to make Phone SSB QSLs into and around Europe without many problems but getting further than that, or real DX QSLs is almost but not totally impossible as can be seen from the following SSB Phone QSL map below. Only 3 of my QSLs are approaching DX distances.

QSL Map SSB Phone (click to see full size image)

However, when I switch to FT8 Digital mode the world opens up to me and I’ve reached as far west as Belize in Central America to the west, and as far east as the Russian city of Vladivostok on the coast of The Sea Of Japan as can be seen on map of my FT8 QSLs/contacts below.

What’s more, FT8 is real antenna to antenna radio work. There are no wires, fibreoptics or computer networks linking the 2 sides of the QSl. Just real live radio signals beaming through the air with all it’s associated magic.

So lets face it, without FT8, real long distance DX work would be all but impossible for someone like myself on such a limited antenna system. Maybe if I had some massive multi band, multi beam yagi antenna on a rota in a mega tower or an endlessly long wire many many meters up in the air and a 1000 watts of RF Power feeding it all I might have a different outlook on FT8 and other weak signal digital modes.

So that’s why I like FT8 and that’s why for now I’ll continue to use it and enjoy the excitement of hunting down a DX call.