Category Archives: Digital Modes

European hams announce NEW RADIO – a dual-band, multi-mode radio to support DMR, D-STAR and C4FM

NEW RADIO, DMR, D-STAR, C4FM, System Fusion, mobile, radio, ham radio, amateur radio, VA3XPR, dual-band, multi-mode, FM, chassis

An announcement has been made by Kurt, OE1KBC and reported by concerning a multi-mode radio combining various digital modes. The radio/computer is called simply NEW RADIO and is a joint initiative of the ÖVSV, DARC and IARU R1. As stated in Don’s article:

the “NEW RADIO” that will operate on the 2m & 70cm bands and support the most common ham digital modes, including DMR, D-STAR and C4FM (System Fusion), plus analog FM. As reported in the article, the NEW RADIO has been created by hams for the ham radio community will feature a colour touch screen display, 50W of power output, a 1.8 GHz processor, a Linux operating system, plus dual AMBE+ vocoders, allowing for full-duplex, cross-band operation. Also, one of the biggest features of the NEW RADIO is that it will include a built-in LTE wireless modem and SIM card allowing it to be Internet connected while on the go. Apparently, with it being Internet connected, the NEW RADIO will be able to automatically download frequencies, offsets, contacts and other configuration information on the go, allowing for instant updates for users. (The full article may be found here.)

I certainly hope this radio really is “ready for Prime Time” soon as it might very well fill a big need by allowing use of multiple systems without the need to carry around a radio for each digital mode. I suspect many hams have hesitated to jump on the digital bandwagon simply because of not knowing which standard would have dominance. Nobody wants to relieve the VHS/Beta experience! (Yes, I am dating myself here!)

If anyone gets a look at this radio at Dayton I hope you will share with us your impressions!

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

 

Guest Post: Tracking High Seas Pirates on Shortwave Radio

Suspected pirates surrender to crew members of the CGC Boutwell. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Suspected pirates surrender to crew members of the CGC Boutwell. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN) for the following guest post:


Tracking High Seas Pirates on Shortwave Radio

by Mario Filippi (N2HUN)

(All photos taken by author–click to enlarge)

Ahoy! After spinning a radio dial for over a half-century, shortwave listening still provides a source of adventure and interesting intercepts. While major broadcasters continue to move to the Internet and dwindle in number, there nonetheless remains plenty of utility intrigue to be had; you just need to know where to look, and be comfortable with other modes of communication such as RTTY (Radioteletype).

RTTY remains on HF (3 – 30 MHz), albeit mostly encrypted, but there are some stalwarts of this mode that transmit important and interesting information for ships at sea. The information can take the form of weather broadcasts, hazards to navigation, information on ships lost at sea, and pirate activity. Yes, pirate activity but not radio pirates; real honest-to-goodness modern day pirates looking to loot, plunder and prey upon commercial ships making an honest living or other leisure watercraft just out having fun.

SignaLink-AOR

Who knows what dangers lurk behind that dial? Trusty AOR AR-3000 receiver and SignaLink™.

Has your interest been piqued? When avast mateys as I spin ya’ a yarn on how to find out where these sea-faring scoundrels lurk from the Caribbean all the way to the South China sea!

Pirate activity is not something of the past; it exists today and is a threat conducted by ragtag armed ragamuffin groups. To keep abreast of the action you’ll need the following gear: a shortwave radio with single sideband (SSB), a decent antenna, a means of decoding RTTY, and WLO, a station from Mobile, AL that transmits information to ships at sea.

You’ll do well to add WLO’s frequency to your receiver’s memory list as it’s a pretty active station that faithfully serves the sea-faring community and is one of the gems on HF.

First, tune your receiver using USB (Upper Side Band) to around 8.472 MHz and listen for that warbling sound. You will also need a way to pipe the audio from your shortwave receiver to a computer (I use a SignaLink™ USB) and a decoding program for RTTY, such as MMTTY.

To decode you’ll need to set the baud rate (45.45) and shift (170 Hz) on MTTY (or software program of choice) and tune your radio slightly up and down frequency until the software starts decoding.

You may have to press the “Reverse” or “Rev” selector at times. MMTTY is my favorite for RTTY decoding, and a picture of it is below.

WLO, Mobile AL, with RYRY idling loop, MMTTY decoder, 45.45 bauds, 170Hz shift, “Rev.”

WLO, Mobile AL, with RYRY idling loop, MMTTY decoder, 45.45 bauds, 170Hz shift, “Rev.”

MMTTY is available as a free download from Makato Mori, JE3HHT. I’ve used his program for over a decade and it performs well.

You can also use MultiPSK or FLdigi to decode RTTY so it’s the user’s choice as to which is a better fit.

Anyway, what are these pirates up to? Well the next few screenshots (click to enlarge) show some interesting activity as per WLO’s RTTY transmissions:

Pirates use element of surprise with guns and knives as armaments.

Pirates use element of surprise with guns and knives as armaments.

Somali pirates reportedly armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. Yikes!

Somali pirates reportedly armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. Yikes!

pic5

Give ‘em hell boys! An alert bulk carrier crew aborted hijacking with teamwork and water cannon.

Ships are encouraged to report pirate activity via FAX or phone.

Ships are encouraged to report pirate activity via FAX or phone.

Well mateys that’s enough high seas adventure for now, so first shove off to the galley for some grub (or grog) and then head to the radio room, turn on that rig and get ready for action on HF, you’ll find plenty to choose from, it’s out there for you.

I would like to thank the operators of WLO for providing such a valuable service to mariners and for providing us radio aficionados with interesting reception! And thanks readers!

P.S. Note that WLO alternates from RTTY to Sitor B so just make sure you are listening to the RTTY broadcast. If the transmission is in Sitor B then you can use a NAVTEX (e.g. YAND) decoder instead.


Thank you so much, Mario, for sharing yet another fascinating aspect of our radio world! FYI: I’m planning on purchasing a SignaLink USB at the Dayton Hamvention this year.

Readers, you can read all of Mario’s posts by clicking or bookmarking this link.

Update: German communications regulator to allow AM digital modes

FLdigi-VOARadiogram

As a follow-up to a previous post, many thanks to several SWLing Post readers who noted this news on the VOA Radiogram website:

The German communications regulator Bundesnetzagentur has changed its mind about allowing digital modes on shortwave broadcast transmitters in Germany. Apparently BNetzA thought that Channel 292 was transmitting the text and images in single sideband (SSB), which is how amateurs, military, etc, transmit the digital modes. Now that they know that the MFSK32 and other modes are sent as program audio on an analogue amplitude-modulation shortwave transmitter, their objections were withdrawn.  (It’s similar to A2A modulated CW.)

BNetzA prefers that the term MFSK32 not be used to describe these broadcasts, but we have to specify the mode so that you can set Fldigi or other decoding software to the correct mode. In any case, the weekly MFSK32 transmission will resume on The Mighty KBC, and DigiDX will return to Channel 292.

Meanwhile, VOA Radiogram this weekend will be all MFSK32 except for the transmission schedule in Olivia 64-2000 under the closing music.                       

First DRM European Workshop

Many thanks to SWLing Post readers, Cap and Bill, who both shared this press release from the DRM consortium:

(Source: DRM Consortium)

drmlogoFirst DRM European Workshop “Flexible and Complete Digital Radio for Europe”
asks European Stakeholders to Support and Manufacture DRM and DAB+ Receivers

Following from a very successful General Assembly, the Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) Consortium, and the German DRM Platform held a most comprehensive European workshop hosted by Fraunhofer IIS in Erlangen, Germany from 6th to 7th April 2016.

This was a first such DRM event aimed at offering solutions to all broadcasters large or small. During their presentations and discussions participants stressed that DRM is the ITU endorsed and internationally adopted standard for the distribution of programmes internationally, nationally and up to local coverage level. DRM can also provide an economic and complementary solution to exactly those coverage scenarios that the established DAB/DAB+ networks in Band-III were never designed for.

Following their deliberations the participants urged all stakeholders of Digital Radio in Europe – including European organisations, regulators, broadcasters and the receiver and automotive industry – to embrace publicly the duality and complementarity of the open DRM and DAB standards as the complete Digital Radio solution for Europe (and worldwide). This means a digital future for all broadcasters, offering more programme choice to listeners, extra multimedia services with text and images, increased energy savings and spectrum efficiency. The participants ask ‘all European stakeholders to promote actively the manufacturing and distribution of multi-standard Digital Radio receivers, comprising at least the DRM and DAB standards.’

The first session, held in conjunction with the open part of the DRM General Assembly, took a brief look at the status of DRM adoption around the world, including the DRM roll-out in India, ready to become the largest digital radio market in the world with over 600 million people being reached by DRM broadcasts. Presentations given by experts from various European countries showed that the digitisation of radio progresses in Europe. At the end of the first day Fraunhofer IIS (Bernd Linz) demonstrated the latest development to provide traffic and travel services in DRM radios, soon to be installed in Asia. Afterwards Martin Speitel demonstrated the features of the Fraunhofer software package for car radios with DRM. With this solution, radio manufacturers can quickly build or enhance radio platforms on a proven modular system covering the full DRM and DAB standards including their full feature sets, thus shortening their development times and, in turn, reducing their costs.

On the 7th April benefits and opportunities of DRM were shown with practical applications. Ampegon (Matthias Stoll) showed how easy and cost-effective the transition from analogue AM to DRM can be. Marc Holthof of the German Navy gave an example of how to use DRM over shortwave for maritime broadcasting of information and entertainment to ship crews at sea. Csaba Szombathy, Technical University of Budapest, demonstrated his original monitoring programme of DRM transmissions. Then RFmondial (Jens Schroeder), demonstrated how to provide DRM services in the crowded FM band compatible with all the existing FM stations. Joachim Lehnert, German DRM Platform Chairman, showed that DRM is a suitable system for local/regional coverage in VHF Band III, fully compatible with DAB/DAB+ and DVB-T networks and in keeping with RRC-06. RFmondial (Detlef Pagel) also referred to the use of DRM in VHF Band III and stressed that DRM+ is the most suitable digital system for the local and regional single-station broadcasters, as a complement to multiplexes, while sharing all the listener related features with the DAB+ standard. Finally, Manfred Kühn, Mobile Broadcast Consult, demonstrated the flexible transmission of multiple DRM channels in a single DAB frequency block in VHF Band III.

This session was followed by a status report on the development of digital multi-standard radios, presented by Robert Bosch Car Multimedia, NXP, Fraunhofer IIS, PnP Networks and Panasonic. All the speakers finally emphasized the market and framework requirements for the production of multistandard radios for Europe.

Joachim Lehnert, Chairman of the German DRM Platform, concluded that the workshop was an important step to bringing national activities together and added; “With all the European DRM activities presented over the past two days and the encouraging messages from the receiver industry, I believe that the famous ‘chicken or egg’ problem can be solved from the receiver end by adding DRM as a complement to existing digital receivers. This will eventually help all radio broadcasters across Europe, whether national, local or community stations, and will ensure each has a digital home in the future.”

Click here to download the PDF of this press release.

German regulators prohibit digital modes on broadcast bands

DigiDX

(Source: Kim Elliott via Richard Langley)

VOA Radiogram, 2-3 April 2016: BNetzA sagt nein!

New this weekend is the elimination of the digital text modes from shortwave transmitters in Germany.

The German regulator Bundesnetzagentur has ruled that the digital modes are not allowed in the broadcast bands. Because of this, there will be no MFSK32 on The Mighty KBC this weekend, because it uses a transmitter in Nauen, Germany. And, for the time being, there will be no DigiDX MFSK broadcasts on Channel 292, 6070 kHz, and Radio 700, 3985 kHz.

Listeners in Germany might want to note these arguments for the digital modes on the shortwave broadcast bands:
1) It is broadcasting, not point-to-point communication.
2) It can be received on any shortwave radio, even inexpensive portables with no SSB capability. (Software is required to decode the text and images, but this can be included in future shortwave radios.)
3) DRM is legal on the shortwave broadcast bands, and DRM can transmit text and images.
4) Text and images via analog radio requires less spectrum (bandwidth) than DRM.
5) Text and images via analog radio are a useful new application for underutilized shortwave transmitters and frequencies.
6) Text and images via analog radio extend the range of a shortwave transmitter, resulting in accurate content in conditions where voice transmissions may be unintelligible.
7) Digital modes via shortwave can be a useful alternative when the Internet is not available due to disasters or to net censorship by dictators.

On the same note, SWLing Post contributor, Harald Kuhl, also comments with a news release from DigiDX:

“DigiDX transmissions via Channel 292 (6070kHz) and suspended until further notice. This is due to action by the German regulator Bundesnetzagentur against digital mode transmissions and is beyond our control. Broadcasts via WRMI will continue and we hope to find another outlet to use for transmissions to Europe.”

[later:]·

“Good news – Thanks to Jeff White we have another frequency for this Sunday’s broadcast which should be better for Europe. 15770kHz at 2130. Please can anyone in Europe, North America and elsewhere please send reception reports to reports@digidx.uk for this extra broadcast.”

Sources: DigiDX website & FB

Steve notes the end of The Mighty KBC on 6,095 kHz

MightyKBCTruck

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steve Yothment, who writes:

[Below, you’ll find] my reception report for the digital decode of the Fldigi message by Dr. Kim Elliott on The Mighty KBC (6040 kHz) Saturday night:

noname

I took Kim Elliott’s suggestion and listened to The Mighty KBC on 6095 kHz on Sunday morning using the Utwente WebSDR which receives signals in Enschede, in the Netherlands.

The Mighty KBC finished their last broadcast on 6095 kHz at 11:00AM our time. I recorded their program, but the file is big. So, attached is the last 4 minutes of their program (click here to download), as received by the WebSDR:

It’s too bad that The Mighty KBC is shutting down!

Many thanks for both your decoded message and your recorded audio, Steve! I agree: it is too bad the KBC had to shut down their 6095 kHz broadcast.

Note that The Mighty KBC will continue on their AM frequency, DAB and streaming. Check out the KBC website for details.

DigiDX: a new digital broadcast via Channel 292

DigiDXMany thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Stephen Cooper, who shares the following news about the new DigiDX broadcast:

DigiDX is a 30 minute MFSK32 broadcast covering shortwave and DX news, radio related reviews, schedule information and listeners letters and after a success test broadcast to Europe, a broadcast for North America is planned for 0200 UTC Sunday.

Broadcasting from Channel 292 in Germany on 6070 kHz the time has been chosen to maximise chance of reception on the East Coast of North America and beyond.

The programme features the majority of the broadcast in MFSK32 but around 10 minutes of the broadcast is in the slower Olivia 64-2000 mode to test for resilience against bad propagation to North America and interference on 6070.

The tests to Europe on Channel 292 earlier this week showed good reception and near perfect decodes despite Radio China International and Vatican Radio being on the same frequency during some of the test.

To decode use FlDigi, MultiPSK or the Tivar Android app, just putting your radio next to the PC microphone or phone/tablet is enough to decode the broadcast. If you have decoded the VOA Radiogram before, DigiDX uses the same digital modes.

Please send reception reports and decodes of the text/images in the broadcast to reports@digidx.uk, an e-QSL will be sent by email and on the next broadcast an e-QSL card will be broadcast over the air in MFSK32 mode as well.

For European listeners the second edition of DigiDX with an include e-QSL card from the last episode will be broadcast on 6070Khz at 1100 UTC. For information on further broadcast times like DigiDX on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/digidx/) or follow on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Digi_Dx)

This is brilliant, Stephen! I’ll attempt to log DigiDX this weekend if conditions are fair!