Category Archives: Digital Modes

DigiFAQ Updated: An HF Digital Decoding primer and reference tool

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Agner, who writes:

[S]ome 20 years ago, Mike Chace-Ortiz, Stan Skalsky, myself and a bunch of other folks put together a FAQ about digital modes on radio – specifically modes going from LW way up into the UHF spectrum- called the DigiFAQ 5.3. I was responsible for the HF Software section, and as you might know, back then it was all about the hardware. InfoTech was still around, and amateur digital modes using the PK232 were plentiful. There is a PDF-based copy on the UDXF website [click here to download].

Now jump ahead 20 years or so, and things have changed considerably. Hardware is no longer king, and soundcard-driven software has taken over the market. Even receivers have changed – the desktops of old (quite apart from the current batch of ham transceivers that have general coverage radios built in) have been pretty much supplanted by Software Defined Radios. Along with that, the digital modes themselves have changed drastically with some disappearing altogether, with new ones like ALE going to the head of the pack. Too, the original DigiFAQ combined many ham-related modes along with everything else.

[O]ur original work didn’t really address some of the basic questions newcomers to this side of the hobby might have, [s]o with Mike Chace-Ortiz’s help, I have been involved in rewriting and updating the FAQ. Its approach is different – we start from topics like discussing radios, SDRs, some of the terminology you will see on mailing lists like the UDXF and much more. Only after we cover all of this do we discuss decoders – and even here, this topic is broken down even further, to include those decoders that play nice with some SDRs, and some of the tools you can use to help analyze an unknown signal.

Then we go into the modes (most are HF related, but we do touch on one or two common LW modes). We identify those modes that are dead, and separate them from the rarely used/active ones. Where possible we also supply waterfalls for each.

We also have an extensive appendix with a whole bunch of links for additional reading.

Perhaps of greatest use to newcomers is a listing of known scheduled broadcasts, so they can test what they download without wandering all over the place, hoping to find a readable signal – and potentially getting turned off when the don’t find one. We have also recovered a few articles from the old WUN archives as well as from SPEEDX (Society to Preserve the Engrossing Enjoyment of DXing – folded a long time ago) on certain digital related topics, such as discussing how to read an AMVER transmission.

It should be noted that we also sent the amateur radio digital modes to their own page for a very simple reason – while these modes are well understood (and many have their own devoted page that cover their mode far better than we can), the single biggest reason was that these modes can NEVER be encrypted (at least in the US, and likely other countries as well). Sad to say, but there are many modes outside of the amateur bands that we will never be able to read, and some whose purpose is unclear. As of this writing, many UDXF members are noting signals thought to be Russian in origin, utilizing a variation of MFSK-16, a mode generally associated with amateur radio.

Is this document complete? Not even close. It’s designed to be something of an introduction, with enough detail to hopefully draw in both the newcomer and experienced. There are new modes being identified, new networks, and even new players being found all the time. There’s still more work to be done on this, and this is yet another change to the original DigiFAQ- it’s hosted on the RadioReference wiki, where any member (with a free ID) can edit and add to it.

The URL is: http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/HF_Digital_Decoding

Regards, Mike

Thank you for sharing this update, Mike!

I receive a lot of questions regarding digital modes even though it’s an area of the hobby where I’m quite weak. I’m pleased that you, Mike, Stan and your team are all working to keep a reference source up-to-date for folks exploring this dynamic part of the radio hobby.

Click here to visit DigiFAQ at RadioReference.com.

Nicholas uses Android phone and $18 receiver to decode VOA Radiogram

voa-radiogram-decode-app

Many thanks to Nicholas Pospishil, who shares this photo and notes:

“VOA Radiogram on 5745 kHz. No fancy equipment needed.”

No kidding! Mobile phones and tablets now have more than enough horsepower to decode most VOA Radiograms.

Nicholas uses the free AndFlmsg app for Android to decode. Note that AndFlmsg is not available in the Google Play store, you must manually install it using these directions.

The Kaito WRX911 is an $18 US receiver and AndFlmsg is free. That’s a pretty inexpensive and accessible combo!

Nicholas originally posted this image on Gary J. Cohen’s Shortwave Listeners Global.

Thanks for sharing, Nicholas!

KNL Networks is developing shortwave-powered global Internet access

Earth

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steve T, for sharing the following news from Business Insider:

KNL Networks, based in Oulu, Finland, has been in stealth mode during the past four years while developing a revolutionizing system that enables internet connection anywhere in the world – even in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – without using expensive satellite systems.
Today, KNL announced the completion of its series A funding round. The funding amounted to more than $10 million making it one of the biggest Nordic series A rounds. Creandum is the biggest investor.

[…]Facebook and Google have been exploring the possibility of bringing internet to remote locations by relaying data through a network of balloons. KNL’s technology, on the other hand, proposes the opposite: incredibly long range signals, by sending internet protocol over the radio.

KNL’s technology is already being used to provide robust internet connections to ships on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but can be used anywhere on the globe for many different applications.

[…]KNL’s technology relies on shortwave radio transmissions, which can transmit data for thousands of kilometers, for a fraction of the cost of a satellite system. Accomplishing this has required the innovation of long-distance high frequency radio systems. In comparison with satellite internet, the radio technology offers the additional advantages of being easier to use, always on.

Read the full article at Business Insider.

This is very exciting news, Steve!

I’ve always had confidence that inherent HF bandwidth and data integrity issues could be addressed with time as our receivers, codecs and digital signal processing improve with each iteration.

As I wrote in, Does Shortwave Radio Have a Future?, I’ve always believed that the shortwave medium could be leveraged for international digital/data communications, and should be. In my article, I focused on Radio Canada International (RCI), which was then dismantling their shortwave transmitter site:

[B]roadcasters should not dismantle their transmission sites as Canada is currently doing. Not only is the current service originating from these sites a more reliable form of emergency communications than the Internet, should a national disaster befall us; not only do they continue to provide a broad-spectrum mode of diplomacy; but should future digital communication modes find a way to take advantage of the HF spectrum as is now under discussion, this would be most unfortunate.

Imagine a wi-fi signal with a footprint as large as several countries, digital devices with tiny fractal antennas that receive this signal containing rich media (e.g., audio and video)––these are not science fiction, but highly plausible uses of these transmission sites, even within the next decade…

We’ll be watching developments at KNL Networks and reporting updates here on the Post. Follow the tag: Shortwave Internet

Can you help Rick ID this mystery digital signal?

Ricks-Location

Photo from Rick’s location in Vernon, BC.

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Rick Slobodian, who writes to request help with the following:

Tecsun-PL-606I was on the beach at our lake, [where I was listening to my] Tecsun PL-606 receiver.

[On Friday, August 19, 2016 at 1800 UTC, I noted a] “beeper”: beeps at Hz repetition rate , does not appear to be data, it beeps for about a minute then there is a short data burst then beeping again for a minute or two.

This went on for over an hour.

Location of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada.

Location of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada (click to enlarge).

[The beeping covered] all frequencies between 13400-13800 kHz. [Then on August 20, it started at] start 1745 UTC and was no longer on 3400-13800 but now on
all frequencies between 12120 -12250.

What is it? [Take a listen:]

Click here to download a recording of the beeping.

My ham radio friend says there are a network of stations that send out pings that everyone in the group transmits and everyone receives. The signal strength and phase of the rx signal is correlated at each receiver station, to direction find some unknown station.

Was there such a thing during the cold war, and is it still around? What is this system and where can I find out more about it?

Thanks for your inquiry, Rick. This is outside the scope of what I understand on the HF bands, so I hope SWLing Post readers can chime in and offer suggestions.

Please comment if you can help Rick ID this transmission!

The Gospell GR-216: DRM Consortium announces new DRM portable

GOSPELL-DRM-Portable-Radio

(Source: DRM Consortium via Alokesh Gupta)

Gospell announces the imminent release of GR-216 DRM/AM/FM digital radio

Chengdu, China, September 05, 2016

Gospell, a leading supplier of pay TV system and equipment, satellite TV receiving products and microwave products, is delighted to announce the imminent release of GR-216 DRM/AM/FM digital radio, the first model in its Global Radio series range of tabletop radio. The product is designed to meet the demands of easy access to high quality information for cost-sensitive market at an affordable price.
GR-216 is equipped to receive DRM broadcast, as well as traditional FM with RDS and AM in medium wave band and shortwave band. Featuring a high performance DRM/AM/FM tuner, GR-216 provides noise-free reception of even the weakest stations. It supports the latest audio compression standard xHE-AAC and traditional HE-AAC as well as SBR and parametric stereo.
Besides the built-in whip antenna and ferrite bar antenna, dedicated AM/FM external antenna terminals with switch are located on the rear side of the radio, this will help those who live or work in a metal or concrete building and enjoy listening to a radio.
This unique radio will automatically turn itself on and initiate its emergency-tuning process when the Emergency Warning Broadcasting is engaged. The radio will enlarge its volume, flash the backlight, play siren sound and tune itself to the emergency program.
In addition to DRM program recording, AM/FM are also supported. Recorded program will be stored on the attached USB pen drive and can be played back on other devices such as a phone or a tablet. The GR216 also includes a scheduler which allows the user to schedule regular and unattended recordings for their favorite radio programme.
The built-in high-quality 3 inch full-range speaker with enlarged magnet provides outstanding audio performance and room filling sound. With the help of state-of-the-art audio processing technology, GR-216 includes separate bass, mid and treble tone controls and a graphics equalizer, users can tailor the sound to their taste. We’ve provided an output for headphones along with an audio output on the rear side of the radio for line recording or to connect GR-216 as a radio tuner to a home audio system.
As a tabletop radio, GR-216 features dual independent alarm clocks with sleep timer. The alarm clock allows for once, daily, weekday and weekend settings. The alarm can be adjusted to the volume you prefer with buzzer or radio stations.
All aspects of set-up, time and program information are clearly shown through an easy to read large LCD display with white backlight, which is paired with an intuitive rotary control, enabling quick and easy navigation. The display brightness and contrast can be adjusted for a comfortable night’s sleep.
“GR-216 is designed with the purpose and vision of providing easy access to high quality information, while utilizing a simple and intuitive user interface”. Said Haochun Liu, director of DRM development department, Gospell. “With the help of a carefully design and concrete quality, GR-216 will be a durable device that supports long-term use.”
For additional information, please visit www.gospell.com or contact Gospell sales at
haojq@gospell.com
About Gospell
Founded in 1993, Gospell Digital Technology Co Ltd (GOSPELL). is a private hi-tech enterprise with R&D, manufacturing, business consultancy and planning, trade, delivery, project implementation and after sales service, acting as a complete DTV and triple-play solution provider for Digital TV/OTT related projects. Headquartered in GOSPELL INDUSTRIAL PARK at Chenzhou, Hunan Province for CPE related production manufacturing, GOSPELL also has its office in Shenzhen for business/marketing management and administration, in Chengdu for R&D and headend/transmitter system production/debugging and Customer Service Center, and in 12 cities
in China as well as international offices in India, Africa and Mexico.
Gospell announces the imminent release of GR-216 DRM/AM/FM digital radio
Chengdu, China, September 05, 2016
Gospell, a leading supplier of pay TV system and equipment, satellite TV receiving products and microwave products, is delighted to announce the imminent release of GR-216 DRM/AM/FM digital radio, the first model in its Global Radio series
range of tabletop radio. The product is designed to meet the demands of easy access to high quality information for cost-sensitive market at an affordable price.
GR-216 is equipped to receive DRM broadcast, as well as traditional FM with RDS and AM in medium wave band and shortwave band. Featuring a high performance DRM/AM/FM tuner, GR-216 provides noise-free reception of even the weakest stations. It supports the latest audio compression standard xHE-AAC and traditional HE-AAC as well as SBR and parametric stereo.
Besides the built-in whip antenna and ferrite bar antenna, dedicated AM/FM external antenna terminals with switch are located on the rear side of the radio, this will help those who live or work in a metal or concrete building and enjoy listening to a radio.
This unique radio will automatically turn itself on and initiate its emergency-tuning process when the Emergency Warning Broadcasting is engaged. The radio will enlarge its volume, flash the backlight, play siren sound and tune itself to the emergency program.
In addition to DRM program recording, AM/FM are also supported. Recorded program will be stored on the attached USB pen drive and can be played back on other devices such as a phone or a tablet. The GR216 also includes a scheduler which allows the user to schedule regular and unattended recordings for their favorite radio program.
The built-in high-quality 3 inch full-range speaker with enlarged magnet provides outstanding audio performance and room filling sound. With the help of state-of-the-art audio processing technology, GR-216 includes separate bass, mid and treble tone controls and a graphics equalizer, users can tailor the sound to their taste. We’ve provided an output for headphones along with an audio output on the rear side of the radio for line recording or to connect GR-216 as a radio tuner to a home audio system.
As a tabletop radio, GR-216 features dual independent alarm clocks with sleep timer. The alarm clock allows for once, daily, weekday and weekend settings. The alarm can be adjusted to the volume you prefer with buzzer or radio stations.
All aspects of set-up, time and program information are clearly shown through an easy to read large LCD display with white backlight, which is paired with an intuitive rotary control, enabling quick and easy navigation. The display brightness and contrast can be adjusted for a comfortable night’s sleep.
“GR-216 is designed with the purpose and vision of providing easy access to high quality information, while utilizing a simple and intuitive user interface”. Said Haochun Liu, director of DRM development department, Gospell. “With the help of a carefully design and concrete quality, GR-216 will be a durable device that supports long-term use.”
For additional information, please visit www.gospell.com or contact Gospell sales at haojq@gospell.com
About Gospell
Founded in 1993, Gospell Digital Technology Co Ltd (GOSPELL). is a private hi-tech enterprise with R&D, manufacturing, business consultancy and planning, trade, delivery, project implementation and after sales service, acting as a complete DTV and triple-play solution provider for Digital TV/OTT related projects. Headquartered in GOSPELL INDUSTRIAL PARK at Chenzhou, Hunan Province for CPE related production manufacturing, GOSPELL also has its office in Shenzhen for business/marketing management and administration, in Chengdu for R&D and headend/transmitter system production/debugging and Customer Service Center, and in 12 cities
in China as well as international offices in India, Africa and Mexico.