IOTA Islands On The Air Ham Radio Award

IOTA, Islands on the Air Award is a ham radio operating award given for contacting different groups of islands around the globe.

Ham radio operating awards includes:
Introduction to ham radio operating awards     DXCC - DX Century Club     WAC, Worked All Continents     WAS, Worked All States     IOTA - Islands On The Air     SOTA - Summits On The Air    

The Islands On The Air, IOTA award is probably the second most popular award after DXCC.

It is awarded for making contacts with stations located on islands worldwide - as there are vast quantities of islands around the globe, the IOTA award has set islands into groups and given them references.

Islands On The Air, IOTA amateur radio operating award

Using the IOTA references it is easy to define where stations are located and work towards the award.

In addition to the award, there is also an IOTA contest which is held each year which encourages activity associated wit the award as well as the activation is various islands around the world.

IOTA history

The IOTA award was founder by Geoff Watts a keen and very accomplished British short wave listener.

Geoff Watts ran a weekly bulletin of DX news called the DX News Sheet, DXNS and he also had a keen interest in stations that were on various islands.

As he realised that there were an uncountable number of islands, he set up a list of island groups - his original Directory of Islands had over 500 island groups and of these he gave reference numbers to the major ones.

IOTA grew in popularity over the years, both with transmitting radio amateurs and also with short wave listeners.

In 1964, the basic IOTA system was born, and over the years Geoff administered and grew the award, and it built up a significant following, and it steadily grew over the years

Then in March 1985 Geoff Watts handed over management of the award to the RSGB and the islands list was growing.

The RSGB continued to grow the award, and with sponsorship from major ham radio manufacturers this provided further scope to grow the award. An RSGB IOTA Directory was also published and new ones released periodically.

As the award grew still further in September 2017 it was decided to set up a separate company under the auspices of the RSGB to run IOTA. The new company: Islands On The Air (IOTA) Ltd. is a non-profit company based in the UK. This gives greater focus to run and expand the award scheme and encourage more interest.

What is IOTA

To explain the aims of IOTA, Islands On The Air award, a good starting place is the mission statement for IOTA.

The mission statement states: To increase activity on the amateur radio bands by encouraging operations from island locations, to keep a database of contacts made by IOTA programme participants and to recognise high performance in the making of such contacts.

In terms of the way IOTA operates, islands are grouped into around 1200 "IOTA groups." They have been grouped in this way for various reasons including their geography, proximity to other islands and a number of other reasons.

In addition to this, the islands are given different references, and stations on these islands will often be able to give their IOTA references making it easy to identify their island status.

The objective for anyone working towards the award is to make confirmed radio contact with at least one station in as many of the island groups as possible.

The basic IOTA award requires contacts with 100 islands and groups including at least one from each continent. Entrants can obtain award credit for contacts made in the RSGB IOTA Contest described below. Beyond the basic award it is possible to work towards higher levels with greater numbers of islands.

From the other perspective, for stations activating different island groups there is the opportunity to give as many contacts to people on their island group as possible.

The IOTA programme has a strong rule structure, but also friendly competition is encouraged among those seeking the award, or those seeking to move up in the award rankings. This is done by publishing details of participants' performance in an Honour Roll and annual listings, as well as by recognising it with certificates and prestige awards.

IOTA directory

In the early days of IOTA, a simple list of the island groups was published, but as the award became more popular and the numbers of islands grew, a more comprehensive directory was published.

The IOTA directory contains a complete listing of IOTA islands as well as a host of other information that is useful when participating in the IOTA programme.

The directory also includes items of interest such as reports on DXpeditions to rare islands and the like.

The IOTA directory also includes a comprehensive summary of the IOTA rules which is ideal for anyone working towards gaining an IOTA award.

Also included is a list of the most wanted islands as well as the latest listing of the Honour Roll.

However with more moving tot he Internet, this information will be published increasingly on the IOTA website.

IOTA meeting frequencies

One of the aims of IOTA is to foster friendly competition. As a result, many IOTA award chasers meet on the HF bands to discuss forthcoming operations and different stations that may have been heard.

The main frequency on HF is 14.260 MHz, while other frequencies are also used: for SSB 28.560, 28.460, 24.950, 21.260, 18.128, 7.055 and 3.755MHz are used; the CW frequencies are 28.040, 24.920, 21.040, 18.098, 14.040, 10.115 and 3.530MHz.

It is stated that these frequencies are not reserved for IOTA as many other users may also want to use them, but they are good frequencies to start looking for fellow IOTA enthusiasts.

IOTA award categories

There are various categories that are available for IOTA awards:

  • Standard HF
  • VHF / UHF
  • Club
  • Short Wave Listener

Obviously the SWL award is offered on a "heard" basis, and having an SWL category is very fitting as Geoff Watts, the founder of IOTA, was himself a short wave listener and did not hold a transmitting licence.

There are various categories for the awards. Applicants may enter only one record per call-sign and per DXCC entity in a category although they may enter more than one category. On opening a record they may indicate a mode specialisation (Phone, CW or Data) but, if they do so, they will need to make all updates in the same mode failing which they move to All Modes.

In terms of the certificates, there are 22 different certificates for the different grades, etc. In addition to this, prestigious awards are issued at the highest level of achievement for confirmed contacts with 750 and 1000 Islands with appropriate enhancement shields.

QSL card requirements

Like al other awards, it is necessary to submit proof of contacts. Obviously paper or card QSLs can be used, but so too can Logbook of The World, LoTW and Club Log.

However, when submitting QSL cards there are some points which must be born in mind in terms of the requirements for IOTA. Some of these points are also applicable to LoTW confirmations as well.

  • Printed callsign:   the callsign of the station on the island must be printed on the QSL card and not handwritten or partly hand-written.
  • Name of the island:   the name of the island from which the station was transmitting must be printed and not handwritten on the QSL card, because the IOTA Reference Number alone is not sufficient.
  • Island recognition:   the island name must be one that is recognised through its listing in the IOTA Directory or on the IOTA website.

For those who have special operation on islands there are a few points of which to be aware to avoid the disappointment of those people who are contacted.

It is not a requirement that special QSL cards are printed for the special operation. If cards from a home call are used it is necessary to make sure that all the required information above along with the QSO data is clearly printed on a computer label.

It is also worth noting that when the home location is itself on an island, whether valid for IOTA or not, this could make for ambiguity and such cards may be rejected. Clarity is of great importance.

IOTA contest

With the popularity of the IOTA programme, an annual IOTA contest is organised. The aim of this is to promote the popularity of IOTA and also give those interested in collecting new IOTA islands the opportunity to increase their scores as the contest will give rise to many people activating different islands.

The IOTA contest is not organised by Islands On The Air (IOTA) Ltd, but instead it is organised by the HF Contests Committee of the RSGB.

The contest is held during the last full weekend of July. The duration is 24 hours, starting at 12:00 UTC on Saturday (1 p.m. UK time). The contest bands are 80m, 40m, 20m, 15m and 10m, both CW and phone. Participating stations should send a signal report and serial number, with stations on islands sending their IOTA reference number.

IOTA is one of the most popular awards that people work towards, particularly for the HF bands. It is also very good that it is also open to short wave listeners, especially as Geoff Watts, himself, was a short wave listener.

Since its inception in 1964, the IOTA programme has grown in its following, and with a dedicated band of volunteers organising the award, and its appeal to encourage operation on the amateur radio bands, it is seeng considerable levels of growth.

Read more about . . . . IOTA, Islands On The Air Award.

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