Continue reading »" />
browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Review of the eQSL QSL Service

Posted by on June 30, 2012
eQSL QSL Service

eQSL Logo

Overview:

This is a Review of the eQSL QSL Service.  I previously did a review of ARRL LOTW, and in order to be fair to eQSL, (which I use as well as LOTW), I decided to do an eQSL review.  The eQSL service is currently running a QSL exchange service, in which one Amateur Operator , SWLers, and others, can swap a digital QSL card.  It and the ARRL LOTW program both perform essentially the same function.  The major difference is that the ARRL has the awards that most people want, and the eQSL folks do not.  eQSL however allows direct exchange of graphic art, so you get to send a QSL card via eQSL, something which is in the design spec for the ARRL LOTW, but so far, I have not found it implemented…  eQSL was first to provide an electronic QSL service, with the ARRL right behind them.  That gave eQSL an advantage to the technology starved Amateur community, many hams, including myself, ran to eQSL to get signed up.  I believe this gives eQSL the edge in total user count at this time.  The eQSL signup process is quite simple and fast.  It is almost impossible to not compare both eQSL, and LOTW in a review, so here goes…

The ID process:

The ARRL sends a Postcard to your address of record that the FCC provides.  eQSL, does essentially the same, this is the Authenticity Guaranteed service eQSL provides.  This insures that both services are actually sending information to the actual ham involved in starting an account.  The ARRL takes the step a bit further, and forces it’s users to digitally sign the upload.  This signing takes a few more steps, and is no doubt more secure than just an ADIF upload as eQSL currently uses.  If this level of security is really needed, is a question I can not answer, I assume the ARRL has reason for forcing this, so I accept it.  The ARRL way, does cause a few more complications later on, as you renew your digital certificate, but overall it is not too bad…

The User Interface:

The user interface eQSL uses is well thought out, pretty, and useful.  In my opinion, it simply blows the ARRL LOTW interface away in coolness factor.  It offers a number of options, and is well presented.  I wish LOTW has such a nice UI, (User Interface).  I will not sing the pareses of the UI for eQSL, just go to their website, and look at it.  It is a pleasure to use, and navigates.

Backup:

eQSL has a nice section on their data center, which does put my mind at ease with regards to backups.  They have separate power, on site generators, and I ASSUME, data backup.  I did not find anything about data backup, but I can not imagine them not backing it up.  They also have 8 network providers, which pretty well guarantees that they will remain on the Internet 99.99% of the time.  I have been unable to find information on the ARRL data center, so I can not speak to backups, or network connectivity.  I ASSUME is OK, but it would be nice to know if they have a page like eQSL does covering this sort of thing.

Card Swapping:

eQSL, has a number of ways to swap cards, and they even let you upload an image to use as a QSL.  They validate QSO’s, then provide an authentication of the QSO, based on log data.  eQSL appears to be trying to differentiate itself from LOTW by offering a set of it’s own awards, and allowing graphical cards to be swapped.

Awards:

This is the place where eQSL gets hurt…  They had to come up with their own awards initially, as the ARRL would not allow them the use of the ARRL awards, which in turn differentiated them from the ARRL awards program, which I believe they needed once LOTW became active.  The ARRL does not share QSO validations with anyone, if you want an ARRL award, you MUST use the LOTW, or other ARRL approved ARRL methods.  eQSL has an on-line comment page for hams allowing hams to voice their opinions.  The ARRL has declined to support QSO validation by eQSL at this time.  Again, I imagine the ARRL has it’s reasons, and I suspect it centers on user ID, and QSO validation.  I suspect that if I had built a system like LOTW I would not support others validation methods either, so I think this is a no fault for the ARRL, however it does leave the ARRL in the position of basically controlling the awards world.  eQSL has a page of people, and groups who support their verification for other awards here.

Note (07/02/12):

As of today, (07/02/12), the ARRL has put the CQ WPX awards section on line.

Deep philosophical differences between eQSL and ARRL:

It seems to me that eQSL has some very deep philosophical differences between itself and the ARRL.  In some cases eQSL’s treatment of the ARRL seems divisive to me, lines such as, “It pains us to have to give up the extraordinary amount of work we have done over the past year to try to gain acceptance of your eQSLs by ARRL, but we believe now that we never had a chance to begin with.” bother me.  While it may or may not be true, to me it has the feel of manipulation.  Please remember this is MY perception only, not that of anyone else.  See this page for more of what I am feeling here…  There are clearly, again, to me, some bad feelings between eQSL and the ARRL.  I have no idea what stance the ARRL has taken with regards to eQSL’s efforts, but it is clear to me whatever requests eQSL made, the ARRL said no.  They are totally within their rights to do so, and without actual data it is impossible to reconstruct what happened, and who said what, so lets move on…

The ARRL seems to have a total lock on what the average ham perceives as the award to have.  I know in my case, if I had a choice of either the eQSL awards, or the ARRL awards, (but not both), I would take the ARRL awards over the eQSL awards every time.  No real reason, other than the ARRL awards seem more prestigious to me, and thus I want them to be the ones I get.  This seems to me to put eQSL at a huge disadvantage given that there appears to be no sharing in the future between the two services.  I QSL via ARRL as my primary QSL service, that is to say, if I had to pick one, I would pick LOTW.  I QSL via eQSL as a kindness to the folks that are using eQSL.  i.e. I want someone who is using eQSL as his/her only service to get credit for the contact, so I upload my entire logs to both services to be fair to each type of person.  This is not to say that either is better, but to say that to be kind, I use both.

Conclusion:

eQSL was first!  For that I thank them, and will support them.  I believe that having eQSL in place is a very good thing, it sets an example:  The User Interface is far superior to the ARRL LOTW interface, this puts pressure on the ARRL to do things prettier.  It is always good to have some competition, this will keep the ARRL LOTW folks on their collective toes.  I firmly believe that having the eQSL service up and running first, caused the ARRL to work faster and harder to get LOTW up and running.  Having two services provide contact validation is a good thing for ham radio, by all means use both services!  Some hams love eQSL, and others love ARRL LOTW, so use both.  If you just want ARRL awards, then by all means upload your ADIF log to eQSL as well as the ARRL to help the hams that are not ARRL Awards motivated.  After all this is a hobby where we are supposed to help each other, so help your fellow ham, whatever service you use, upload your logs to the other!  Do what you can to support BOTH services!

 

Addendum (07/02/12):

As of today, 07/02/12, the ARRL has a working implementation of the CQ WPX awards running.

Coach outlet

33 Responses to Review of the eQSL QSL Service

  1. Walt Corey

    I realize this is close to 2 years later but I have two comments:
    1) eQSL was first. No, ARRL has been around for 100 years, this is why their awards system is so sought after. eQSL is, well, irrelevant. Sorry, if that seems harsh but really, everyone world over recognizes ARRL awards. It is not clear what percentage of hams worldwide even know of eQSL’s existence. While I do have an eQSL account I find it awkward as a contact of mine is unlikely to post a qso notice online in multiple places so if they post to eQSL, it is as if I never worked them. I tend to use QRZ for logging, not sure why, but from the QRZ log I can upload to LOTW, not eQSL and from HRD, when I log there I can also upload to LOTW. eQSL is nothing more than an ‘also ran’.

    2) I’ve spent my entire career in software development, much of the last 20 years in user interface work. eQSL website is unintuitive, awkward, and poorly designed.

    3) Nothing to do with eQSL specifically but given the cost of QSL via bureau with green stamps or US dollars or just doing digitally verified contacts, it is unclear paper qsls will survive, same dynamic as splitting between LOTW and eQSL. Having mutually exclusive log verification methods is not sustainable long term.

    Walt – kz1f

  2. Ivan

    Sorry but eqsl is irrelevant and recently has been made harder to use. I have been an AG member there for years but no longer support or upload my logs to eqsl. Their awards are not recognized by anyone. You could print your own and have the same recognition as eqsl. Since I upload hundreds of qso’s a month, I always have to deal with my inbox and now they have added extra steps. I was doing it to recognize the other stations but finally realized its really no good to them either. Eqsl just needs to get out of the way of lotw. Va3kab is involved with that website so takes his above comments with a grain of salt. There are many more active users especially dx on lotw.

    • Dave VA3KAB

      Well Ivan, I would be more inclined to take comments with a grain of salt from a user who remains anonymous, such as yourself. While it is true I am involved with eQSL, I am there as an unpaid support volunteer, nothing more. I volunteer my time there because I believe in the concept, simple as that.

    • Darin VE3OIJ

      I could print my own ARRL awards and nobody would know the difference. to me there’s no secret sauce on ARRL awards that makes them special. Nobody who has an ARRL award is a bigger or better person in my eyes. Nor is someone who has an eQSL award. Nor a CQ award.

      I recognize them for what they are: made up recognition. In that way, ARRL awards are slightly less prestigious to me because the ARRL tries to make them exclusionary with arbitrary, non-amateur radio criteria for excluding potential applicants.

  3. Fred J. Gaisser, KK4HEG

    Hi Dave …
    Thank you very much for an excellent review , and I would like to make the following comments …I am newly licensed ( Feb. 2012 ) and although I am not new to amateur radio ( I was an amateur band SWL for 15 years back in the 60′s and 70′s ) , I do see that a lot has changed …The exchange of QSL cards is one of them …I have spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars to get the approximately 3000 QSL cards that I still have from my SWL days ( many of my SASE’s and IRC’s were not returned to me ) …now that I am licensed, I am enjoying ” starting over ” …and eQSL makes that possible …At this time I do not use LOTW and my eQSL return ratio is about 25% , having made 1329 QSO’s since the end of March …
    I live in North Carolina…I run barefoot with 100 watts and a ground mounted vertical antenna …The thrill of working VK5PAS, FO4BM, ZL2WL, NH7NJ AND VK7ZX is only out-shined by receiving their ( Authenticity Guaranteed ) eQSL’s within 36 hours of working them …
    There will always be pros and cons on almost any subject …The individual operator needs to know what will work best for him …
    Thanks again Dave, I am quite sure that all who have posted comments appreciate the time and effort you put into it …

    Fred, KK4HEG

  4. Doug Tompkins, VE3IDT

    Good article and well done. I use both services and like both for different reasons. I too joined eQsl first and liked getting the ecards (I also like the paper ones of course). I like the ones that are customized and a little more personal than the default ones. My only complaint would be that many hams don’t get “genuine” and they don’t count for e-awards. LOTW once setup works just great and I have many more matches than at eQsl. Many DX expeditions now are making use of LOTW and that is great as getting paper qsls is sometimes difficult and a little costly. If it’s one I really want I will also go the paper route as well.
    If you are looking for awards than LOTW is the way to go and if you are a paper collector than eQsl is more fun. I save the eQsl jpgs in a folder and scan in my paper cards so I have a digital copy of both, all part of the fun. 73

  5. Steve

    The comments made me curious, I use both services so I checked the stats. I have 3529 qso’s that are all uploaded to both services. Here are the stats I get:

    eQSL: 456 confirms (13%) and 67 countries confirmed as well as all 50 states, also 97 VUCC gridsquares

    LOTW: 1201 confirms (34%) with 139 countries confirmed as well as all states, plus 173 VUCC gridsquares.

    As the saying goes, your mileage may vary. This is just what my stats are, not a recommendation for either service. Might be fun to take a deeper dive into the stats at some point if I ever get the time.

    Thanks for the great article.

    • Darin VE3OIJ

      I run about 80% confirms on eQSL, and about 30% on LotW – but I work mostly digital. If you’re mostly CW/Phone, eQSL won’t give you the coverage that it will if you’re mostly digital.

  6. George

    The only thing that is important to me is my log entries, and a eQSLs or hard card now and then

  7. Ed

    I also use both but have to admit that the confirmation rate for EQSL is greater than LoTW. I receive maybe a dozen EQSL’s a week while at this same time I’m lucky to receive one from LoTW. Although, after many months of back and forth emails complaining, yelling and threatening the ARRL with bodily harm someone just got fed up and wrote me some simple but detailed instructions to LoTW and this is where the problem lies. Most folks just don’t want to bother with dealing with the intransigent ARRL bureaucracy. Most are not as nasty and persistent as I am and therefore just give up and tell everyone who lousy LoTW is. EQSL seem to be run like a business, where customer satisfaction is something to be proud of. In turn, LoTW is like dealing with the old Soviet Union bureaucratic mess where nobody cares because they are the only game in town.

    I also prefer the ARRL awards and it pains me when I see that I have uploaded 5,000 records with only a couple of hundred confirmations. Only the ARRL can take care of this problem and I don’t thing they really care as long as we send them our annual dues.

    • Gene W5DQ

      Interesting review and for most, it was spot on. The only thing I would point out above what you have done is the fact that one major difference between the two services is that eQSL is a logbook front end and LOTW is a logbook QSO/QSL analyzer application with NO logbook front end. What I mean by this is, on eQSL, you can upload QSO entries as an ADIF file (you mentioned this) but the user can also enter QSLs online, one by one, and confirm them just as you would do in an electronic logbook. In LOTW, you cannot do this. LOTW relies on external logging software to create an upload file (again you mentioned the security issues to do this) to place QSO entries into a database and once they are there, the user CANNOT modify them or change them directly without correcting the QSO entry in the local (external to LOTW) logging s/w and going through the upload. Also in LOTW, being a double blind system, neither user will know the QSL status until a match is found. In eQSL, if I have no entry in my eQSL online log (database) and WX1ABC enters a QSO for me, I will get a notice telling me I do not have an entry to match this and will allow me to enter one online. This, I believe, is the MAJOR issue why ARRL will not allow eQSL credits into their system as eQSL confirmations can be full of bogus QSLs which dilutes the accuracy of the ARRL awards program. In LOTW, there is no question about QSLs. They either are there or not there, no post user intervention to make them happen.

      Gene W5DQ

  8. Bob Johnson

    My major problem with eQSL is that I have to review EACH QSO and with my log.

    I have many eQSL’s with the wrong info. I reject all of them that I can’t verify

    I have aprox 20K Q’s in my log. I’m not about to spend my time to review all of the !!!

    With Lotw I am sure that each and every match is VALID, with no burden on me to check them aginst my log.

    The integrity of the QSO is my main concern, Eqsl does not provide this !!!

    As far as the Awards, the ARRL awards are the “Gold Standard” for achivement by which all others are judged.

    I do not upload to eQSL because these problems.

    Bob, K1VU

  9. ERic Lorenz K9LGE

    Intersting comments. I think the UI comparision is a little apples and oranges…true, LOTW may not have a ‘cool’ web UI, but I think if you did a study, you would find that most ops don’t submit via the website anyway…most do it directly through their logging programs.

    As for the whole security thing…all the ‘authenticity guaranteed’ actually guarantees is that you are who you are *when you create your account*. I’ve still gotten several QSL requests via QSL.cc that when I checked my logs, never happened. I think that the ‘extra hoops’ that LOTW makes you go through helps to keep that from happening.

    There is a reason for all those ‘hoops’, and that is to keep the integrity of the records.

    Now, that being said…if I want a paper record from a QSO, I’m still going to send for a paper QSL card…a real one. Yes, the ARRL has created some nice awards (as is their right to- no one *has* to apply for them). I will submit to LOTW anyway…and eQSL as I have time (I cannot batch send to eQSL from my logging program…have to do one at t a time).

    Bottom line…they are both voluntary services- pick the one(s) you want to use, and use them.

    Eric K9LGE

  10. Larry K5ZRK

    I love eQsl and have used it for many years. I do have LOTW but seldom use it. Check the countries who have hams on eQsl and the beauty of eQsl to me is that they tell you when you have enough qsls for an award, then you can either print off an award or pay for the plaque. something that I find fascinating about eQsl is that they tell you how much money you have saved over the span of time you have been using eQsl and it has many times paid for what it cost me to become a life member ! Keep up the great work eQsl.

  11. Bill Latham

    Really, what does it matter whose award you earn? In my case, any awards I work for are for my enjoyment and a perceived “accreditation” is not the reason. As for LOTW’s security, I’m quite sure that most hams will not cheat to accquire a piece of paper that is for them only. The joy is in accomplishing the task, a piece of paper (CERTIFICATE) will never give a cheater the joy that the actuallity of the accomplishment gives. In short certificates do not furnish the joy that completing the task does. JUST MY OPINION!!

  12. Mike

    I was glad to see your posting. I have been used to the old wallpaper method and just started into the cyber world for this. I came across eqsl’s site by random surfing and thought exchanging colorful e-qsl’s to be awesome. However I’m pro ARRL and I must agree getting an account for LOTW was a bit demanding. Being a novice with the web LOTW seemed to be very confusing to me. Eqsl is very easy to setup and understand. After reading the pro’s and con’s here I think I will use them both. I thank you for your posting!

    • Dave

      Hello,

      Thank you for your comment!!

      Dave
      NK7Z

      • Mike ( N8GBU)

        Thanks Dave!! I’m not brand new to ham radio but have been away for a very long time. Between raising a family and health problems I haven’t be able to get on the air until recently. Its back to square one for me. One thing that did strike me is the possibility of missing someones qsl if you don’t belong to both. I have some fellow hams I know and ran their calls on eqsl and they have cards sitting up there! The radio club I belong to has over 200 sitting on eqsl. I imagine they were leftovers from field days. It struck me funny to see Russia in there! I like to qsl 100 % and to me personally missing those contacts would be embarrassing to me. If I forget to check one of the services like my friends they could be sitting there a long time.

  13. AB1QP

    My numbers since March
    LoTW 1373/406 for 29.5% response rate
    eQSL 1365/258 for 18% response rate
    QRZ 700/114 for 15%
    I just upload each QSO as it happens, HRD makes that easy.
    No hunting, no haunting.

    Given that QRZ has NO award of any sort, it appears eQSL is sucking wind here.
    I dont understand a 0% response rate with LoTW unless the op is sloppy logger, busts calls, or imagines QSOs. Doesnt make any sense otherwise.

    I DONT like the lack of data the majority of eQSL users put into the cards. ( Lack of info about rig, antenna, comments) and I am not crazy about pictures that havbe no bearing on the operator, the station or what they do. Post cards with call letters on them are not QSL cards. The idea is sound, the execution leaves a LOT to be desired; its up to the users to make the eCards relevent and more significant.

    • Darin VE3OIJ

      I disagree here. I think the QSL card should be a post card – a little slice of the culture of the far end of the QSO. If I want to know about the technical details of your rig, I’ll ask during the QSO.

  14. Dave Rust

    I do not and will not use LOTW again. It is like entering a secret society to get into it, emails back and forth, and all the replies from the ARRL are arrogant.

    I am not interested in a single award the ARRL might come up with and eQSL works just great for me.

    Long like eQSL
    73
    Dave W0DLR

  15. Ernie Walls

    A couple of observations ater reading all the previous posts -
    1. If you are into mainline DXing, then the ARRL awards are the ONLY ones that count. Irrespective of what anyone thinks or says.
    2.

  16. Don Zielinski

    Return rates on QSLs:

    For the last 6mos my records indicate:

    eQSL = 31%
    QRZ Logbook = 21%
    ARRL Bureau = 0%

    I do not and will not use LOTW.

    Don, K0PV

  17. Larry Bryan

    I use both services but have by far a better QSL rate with eQSL. Yes the awards from ARRL are the ones that I work for but I have also achieved several eQSL awards too. I find that many DX stations just do not subscribe to LOTW but within a few hours or less I have an eQSL confirmation. Both are nice services, too bad we can’t find some common ground that serves all of their customers. After all, isn’t that why they exist?

    Larry
    W8LIG – ARRL Member

  18. Dave Morris

    Just wanted to correct a few minor errors:

    The deep philosophical difference is that eQSL.cc started out as an eQSL exchange, while LOTW started out as a way to submit DXCC credits. We expanded into eAwards, and LOTW hasn’t changed its original mission except to add a few more of their own awards.

    There is no animosity between us, and animosity is certainly not a deep philosophy with us. We were saddened that they first published they would accept our eQSLs back in 2000, and then after we went to a lot of trouble to change our mechanisms, they withdrew that acceptance. It was I believe 2003 before LOTW came online, while we have been online since 1998. They were not really “right behind” us.

    CQ Magazine accepts our eQSLs. DARC accepts our eQSLs. 10-10 accepts our eQSLs. So do many other award programs, and we are adding new electronic interfaces to other organizations all the time. To say that ARRL has a lock on awards is to be very narrow-minded about awards.

    Actually it is ARRL that charges “an arm and a leg”:
    Our certificates are free. ARRL charges $12 plus $2 shipping for their certificates.
    Our plaques range in price from $60 to $85 including shipping. ARRL doesn’t even offer plaques for anything but the special awards such as Honor Roll, 5BDXCC, and so on, and charges $60 to $97 plus shipping, to international destinations which may result in fees as high as $124.

    73

    • Dave

      Hi Dave M,
      Do you have a URL listing the awards that you support? I looked for one, and was unable to find it. I did find that page in the review, but I suspect you must have one that covers who’s awards you all do. If you do, please post it here, and I’ll add it to the review.
      Dave C,
      NK7Z

  19. Dave VA3KAB

    I actually prefer the awards program over at eQSL. The reason is I don’t particularly care who issues the award, I just enjoy having something to work towards, and eQSL is much more on the ball when it comes to recognizing the digital modes (I’ve only been interested in digital modes since 2006). ARRL dumps all digital modes into one ‘digital’ endorsement, whereas eQSL has separate digital endorsements for RTTY, PSK, and JT65.

    Someone commented that the most sought after DX will never post on eQSL, this is not true, many of the more recent DXpeditions upload to both eQSL and LOTW.

    Plus there are around 200,000 users registered at eQSL, which I think is around four times as many people using eQSL than LOTW.

  20. Dave Fagan

    The big put-down for LOTW outside the USA is that LOTW makes non-US users jump through hoops to register….something I, and many others, are not prepared to do.

    Personally , after 30+ years I have all the fancy wallpaper I need and am quite prepared to forego the pleasure of ARRL awards for the convenience that eQSL gives me…..in any event the real Rolls Royces of the awards world are those issued by the RSGB not the rather parochial ARRL.(my opinion – may not be yours).

  21. Buddy

    Too bad, this was supposed to be an eQSL review, but instead another eQSL vs LoTW comparison, with pro-eQSL slant. It would have been better to have left LoTW completely out of this “review” and concentrated on the eQSL service, what is has to offer, costs.. not a word mentioned about what kinds of awards are available via eQSL or how to get them, nothing mentioned about Gold or Silver levels, etc.

    • Fred Smith

      Very fair comparison eQSL has no real value for anyone wanting awards with any accreditation. Plus you might have added most of the most sought after DX will never post on eQSL but does on LoTW.

      As another poster noted if you want anything other than a award printed on your printer eQSL charges an arm and a leg for there plaque’s mush more than the ARRL. I upload to all QSO’s to both eQSL and LoTW and have 80 more confirmed countries on LoTW than eQSL with the same amount of QSO’s.

      BTW I have been a gold member for quite a while on eQSL.
      As far as awards you are a bit behind on the times LoTW is now good and tracking CQ awards I have several so far of there’s also.

Leave a Reply