A new organization, ISLANDS ON THE AIR (IOTA) Ltd. is a non-profit company assisted by the Radio Society of Great Britain that has begun managing the IOTA award program with full IOTA information found on their RSGBIOTA.org website. This modernized website contains an updated official list of island reference numbers and names of islands that are valid for each IOTA group. Also included are a list of rules, Checkpoints for each call area or country, IOTA island groups that are presently active on the bands, alerts for islands that you need and program news. The program will allow you to make an initial award application or add to your existing database as you receive new island group QSLs. The program will also permit use of Google Earth to provide an overlay of all IOTA groups to help you identify the location and details of the islands of interest. An exciting component includes use of paperless electronic confirmation of contacts found on logs you downloaded to ClubLog and then transferred to IOTA. It will help reduce postage costs and the difficulty in receipt of QSLs. To simplify and expedite application requirements of this magnitude, it has required costly software programming integration into the existing program. Please note that there are NO FEES to utilize the new program and maintain your personal database including your list of islands that you have inserted into your records. However, if you wish to add island groups to your official record or apply for awards, you will be required to make an application and pay for the update to your Checkpoint. IOTA LTD. seeks support from all island chasers to fund the extensive programming and management and request that you become a FRIEND OF IOTA by donating to this significantly improved global award program. I am a FRIEND OF IOTA and I encourage you to become one also.
THE IOTA Spring 2016 DIRECTORY (17th edition) provides extensive details regarding the entire IOTA program including 128 pages of rules, lists, stories and details of interest. It is a valuable resource if you plan to activate an island and to be certain it meets valid IOTA criteria. You can acquire the Directory from ARRL or RSGBSHOP.org. A non-RSGB member can obtain a new Directory for 11.99 British Pounds (GBP).
IOTA PROGRAM DETAILS –
The new internet based IOTA program is available to all hams and is compatible with present day abilities of computers. There is no cost to utilize the new program unless you request an award or update your official record. Be assured that your prior data as well as any new islands you have put into your own personal database will remain on the web site and only you can view your data. There has been great effort to keep your personal data secure and thus the reason for the initial registration process. Whether you are new to the IOTA program or have been a prior applicant, you will be required to register to get your password in order to utilize the website and to make application for awards. You can then start loading in new island groups at no charge. You can use ADIF files, IOTA contest QSOs and/or Club Log logs that you have downloaded as well as insert by hand confirmed QSOs into your database. Be sure to input the correct call as noted on the QSL card, the island listed on the QSL, the IOTA number and QSO details. If you make a typing error or insert the wrong island or call, the program may alert you to a problem. This website has details of the program including instructions, fee structure, and recommended procedures for North American applicants. Anytime you need help, just e-mail me the problem along with your call and I can check it out.
This is the MM/W9DC/P operating location near the jetty of Fidra Island.The gulls, puffins, oystercatchers and the pileup made a lot of QRN. It counted for IOTA, EU-123, WLH-0313 and Islands of Scotland Award FF-04.
HOW DOES THE PROGRAM WORK? Your data will be stored on the RSGBIOTA.org website. It is a user friendly program that does not require floppies or the need to maintain a home based IOTA computer program or worries about how to load it. When you register, be sure to check the “permit e-mail” box in order to receive your login password from your Checkpoint. This will allow you to open up your database and find your old records. You can add any new cards received into your database including QSO data. If there is a major conflict with the data such as wrong call, wrong island name etc., it will alert you to recheck your input. If you have had a prior call that is listed on cards that you plan to submit, you need to notify the Checkpoint of the call sign so he can insert it into your database and thus allow you to get credit. Newly inserted island group QSOs will remain within your database awaiting submission and approval. Once you have put in all your QSL data and you are ready to send the cards to your Checkpoint for validation, you simply press the submit button and it will work you through the submission process. It will ask you to print out the list of islands in proper sequence for approval, give you the cost of the application and ask you if you wish regular mail or e-mail certificates etc. I strongly suggest the e-mail certificate since the mailed certificates are much more costly.
You will need to submit QSLs to your Checkpoint for ADIF and hand inputted island groups (no cards required for IOTA Contest and Club Log contacts). Your designated Checkpoint will review the cards and preliminarily approve them. The list will then be reviewed by IOTA Centre who will review the list, reexamine any questionable cards and identify any QSLs that have been found to not meet valid criteria. IOTA Centre will then finalize your application so that accepted island cards will then be part of your official island count and show up on your database as approved. It does require you to follow the directions carefully but the program will walk you through the process and you will experience minimal problems. In any event, I am available to help should you have a problem getting started or need further explanation on final application results.
IOTA CONTEST and CLUB LOG QSOs: You will be able to get direct credit for QSOs made during the IOTA contests and confirmed by Club Log without the need for QSLs assuming the data matches. There is a small charge for receiving credit for matching QSOs. Just insert your new QSO data into your own database and follow instructions to receive credit assuming the new islands you worked sent in a log that contains your call and meets the details of the QSO. It does take some months following the contest before all the data can be entered into the website to make a valid match so please be patient. Club Log matches is a new and cost savings program but please follow the directions for downloading an ADIF file to Club Log to generate the valid QSOs.
CHECKPOINTS: Each Checkpoint has his own style of managing his duties depending on his location, mail situation, etc. I am responsible for those U.S. stations having a 4, 5, or 6 in their calls no matter where they are located as well as all Pacific and Caribbean Islands having U.S. zip codes. My address is 2 Coxswain Place, Salem, SC 29676. Please note that if you are a U.S. station with a 1, 2 or 3 in the call, then your Checkpoint is Dan Sullivan, W4DKS at 14737 Pickets Post Road, Centreville VA 20121. If you have a 7, 8, 9, or 0 in your call, then your Checkpoint is Bruce Osterberg, N9BX at 15513 Swan Lake Blvd., Gulfport, MS 39503. They are always willing to help you with problems and I have included their email addresses.
The photo at the left is Don, W9DC, Dan, W4DKS and Bruce, N9BX at the 2008 IOTA BASH.
MAKING AN APPLICATION: The old application form is no longer used. Now you must complete your personal database (profile) found on the RSGBIOTA website. Your name as listed in your database will be used for Certificates and your correct mail or email address as listed in the database will be used to send your awards so please double check the accuracy. A telephone number and your latest e-mail address is important in case your Checkpoint wishes to contact you regarding your application. Be sure you have checked the boxes permitting receipt of e-mail notices and keep your best e-mail address current on your database. Input your new island groups and QSO details into your personal database on the website and when you finish inputting your card data and you are ready to submit, then press the submit button and follow the directions. It will ask you for desired awards, ask you to print a list of the submitted islands and provide the cost of the application in US Dollars. Send your application to your assigned Checkpoint with the cards you wish approved as well as funds for the application and postage for the return of the cards.
PROBLEM QSLS: There are a few common causes for an invalid QSL. IOTA requires that a specific island name (or clearly defined location such as an Antarctic base) be printed on the QSL (not handwritten) to confirm the island group. The island name should be listed in the Directory or on the RSGBIOTA.org website since there are islands close to the mainland that do not meet the IOTA criteria for a valid island. Also, some islands have the same name as the mainland district which can be confusing. Hong Kong, Macau and a few other common locations comprise both mainland and islands. Some islands also have adjacent island groups with the same call signs thus card examination is required to determine the proper island group. Such examples might be Fiji, Tonga, Madagascar, Australia, etc. Some cards have an incorrect IOTA group number so the island name becomes critical. Rarely, QSLs are determined invalid because of manipulation of information, illegal operations, etc. Your review of submitted QSLs is requested to avoid rejection.
NEW FEE STRUCTURE: Fees are based on the British Pound £. Applicants within the United States and possessions will have the British Pound automatically converted to U.S.dollars. The exchange rate fluctuates on a daily basis and your Checkpoint will try to stay up to date on exchange rates plus the extra cost of such transactions. The exact conversion factor can be found on the RSGBIOTA website once you make an application but has varied from 1.30 to 1.65 dollars to the British pound. Funds may be sent using cash or check made out to me, Don Chamberlain and I will return any excess funds. I do not use PayPal or maintain a credit balance list because of the additional paperwork.
SUGGESTIONS ON MAILING APPLICATIONS: It is up to you to determine how you wish to send your cards and how you want them returned. Priority Mail normally only takes 3-4 days and the post office supplies free sturdy envelopes and boxes to preserve your cards against potential damage during shipment.This method includes tracking so you can follow your cards. It is the most popular method of sending cards and works well with my local post office.
New Postal Rule: The Post Office now requires envelopes and boxes that weigh more than 13 ounces to be postmarked with the Post Office postage sticker for security reasons. If you choose to mail the package with a stamp affixed, the package will be returned. It seems that the postal rates keep increasing. As of 2016, the priority flat rate envelope is now $6.65, the small flat rate priority box is $7.15. and the medium flat rate priority box is $13.60. Do not be surprised if these postal rates are increased in the near future so be sure to check with the Post Office.
To protect your QSLs from getting wet or straying from a partially opened package, you might wish to insert the cards into a zip-lock bag. A few rubber bands help secure them in place. You can put your address card inside the bag should something happen to the outer container. I will be happy to send an E-Mail when the package is received if so requested. Turn around time is just a few days if I am in town. Place your cards in the order as noted on the island application submission form that is printed when you get ready to submit your cards. The Checkpoint will check the cards to confirm validity and proper information, then send this data to IOTA Centre to confirm the request and then automatically update the applicant’s database. He will also alert IOTA Centre about requested certificates etc. who will then process them and forward to the applicant. With the new program, you can only receive certificates by e-mail which require you to print out the certificate. I have received my new personalized certificates by e-mail and my small color printer did an excellent job.
HINT: When making an application and searching for old QSOs, besides searching your logs, you might wish to review call signs of prior major operations for each IOTA group. This information is found by using the search box on the website. You may find a few new ones that you worked and may even have received a QSL. Make sure you tell your Checkpoint about your old calls if they are on cards you are submitting and he will insert it into your database. Keep your database up to date including address, telephone number and email. Should you change your callsign, you need to notify your Checkpoint so he can make that change in your database.
SUPPORT ISLAND EXPEDITIONS:
The Island Radio Expedition Foundation is a tax-exempt organization that encourages activation of rare IOTA islands by supporting them with funds donated by interested hams. I am one of the Directors that analyze applications by proposed expeditions and aid their operations. Unfortunately, the cost of travel and equipment to rare islands has increased significantly and any small amount can help them make a successful expedition. Visit the IREF website to better understand how it operates and to donate to this important program.
If you require additional assistance, send an SASE to Don Chamberlain, 2 Coxswain Place, Salem SC 29676, give me a call at 864-944-0608 or send an E-Mail and I will try to solve your problems promptly. W9DC E-Mail