BBG, take note: Shortwave radio distributes smartphone apps

smart-phones

Many thanks to Andy Sennitt, who posted a link to this Mission Networks News article on Facebook.

Imagine being able to download an app…without the internet.

Well, it’s finally happened, thanks to shortwave radio.  Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), take note:  Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH), a Christian organization that distributes Bibles in parts of the world where they are difficult to distribute, have a free smartphone app called Bible.is.  The only problem is, the app wasn’t available in countries where there is no access to the Internet nor where authorities block the app…at least, until now. By using Trans World Radio’s Guam shortwave transmitter site, they have successfully “downloaded” this app to multiple smartphones in Thailand:

[D]ue to a major recent breakthrough by Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH), they were able to deliver the Bible to an unconnected smartphone using shortwave radio towers over 3,000 miles for the first time ever.

Troy Carl, Vice President of FCBH, explains, “Yesterday, we were able to transmit file casting data packets from Guam all the way to Thailand using shortwave frequencies, and we were able to do that in partnership with Trans World Radio. So it was really quite exciting! Basically what we did is created one-way internet access turning that tower into a super WiFi router. And that’s quite a story because it’s never been done!”

To put it another way, Carl wrote this description in a recent post:

Just like the one you use everyday in your house, where you connect a data source (internet cable) and a power source (you plug it in) and the little antennas broadcast internet around your house (say 500 ft.) and you connect to it with your phone to read/listen/see the data it’s transmitting.

In Guam, we took a HUGE antenna, (supplied by Trans World Radio), hooked up a data source (a Bible.is app device), turned the power on (250kw) and sent the data into the air bouncing it off the ionosphere over 3,000 MILES!

Our team in Chang Mai Thailand, hooked up to this giant router with a proprietary decompiler. Then sideloaded the Bible.is app with all its content to multiple smart phones using a simple wifi broadcaster!

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, especially in countries under repressive regimes such as North Korea. 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…

FCBH’s innovation is simply a first step in this direction. If it turns out that this method is both accessible and affordable, this could truly pave a new road on the mobile information highway.

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9 thoughts on “BBG, take note: Shortwave radio distributes smartphone apps

  1. rcxb

    I don’t share the editorial sentiment. There aren’t many disasters large enough that the affected area would be out of range of MW stations. And MW reception is easier, and receivers far more numerous.

    Datacasting over shortwave is terribly slow. What could be broadcast by one satellite to half the planet in a few minutes, would take months over a SW broadcast, and the satellite reception would be far less challenging.

    We’re just missing a central organization advocating and funding the launch of a few public broadcast satellites (which broadcasters would pay a modest fee to be carried on), and developing a good standard for inexpensive and flexible handheld radio-sized receivers (which China would be happy to build). They need to be portable, easy to set up for good reception, capable of decoding and outputting audio, text, the occasional photo (and perhaps even low quality video). A big plus would be storing datacasts to removable sd cards as well, so entire books can be distributed. This would offer all the advantages of SW, without the drawbacks, and a bright future for more expansion.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Shortwave radio allows Thais to 'download' bible app without using the Internet - Tech Wire Asia

  3. Cap

    There is a new project kicking off on DRM:

    “TDF has launched a two-year joint project called SmartCAST that aims to study and build a long-range broadcast system, with potential interactivity. Transmission of data, including audio, will be based on the Digital Radio Mondiale standard.

    The project is focused on two specific markets, maritime navigation, which is designated NavCAST, and international broadcasting, known in the project as WideCAST.

    TDF has already started part of its DRM transmission for NavCAST, which will be done on a daily basis until the end of July from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. CET at a frequency of 6175 kHz. The target area for these signals is the west coast/Atlantic ocean, but TDF thinks the signal could be strong enough to reach other parts of Western Europe.

    SmartCAST is a project managed by TDF and supported by the Fonds Unique Interministériel, a program designed to aid new product and service development.”

    See more at: http://www.radioworld.com/article/tdf-leads-smartcast-project-using-drm/279045#sthash.l7cDxgsX.dpuf

    Reply
  4. Tom Servo

    The “breakthrough” apparently involves DRM, which has always been able to transmit data as far as I’m aware. I actually stumbled across the test broadcast on June 15th on 17780 kHz here in Alabama and I was able to get DREAM to show me the text and channel information, but it never could decode the data stream. Now I know why, mystery solved!

    This is very cool and I hope this idea of sending apps via data is explored some more.

    Reply
    1. RonF

      Yes, it’s a rather breathless & confused re-telling of the story. If the prose was any more purple it’d jump up and start singing “Party Like It’s 1999″…

      “Basically what we did is created one-way internet access turning that tower into a super WiFi router. And that’s quite a story because it’s never been done!” – really? Apart from the fact that the “one-way internet access” that isn’t connected to the internet is usually just called ‘broadcasting’, hams have been sending programs by radio since the 70’s, and Dutch radio was (I think) the first to encode & transmit programs on the broadcast bands in 1978.

      The same sort of thing is fairly common amongst hams today. And I suspect that, even in the depths of a Thai jungle, it’d be easier to find someone who can receive ham data transmissions (or even someone with internet access) than it would be to find someone with a DRM receiver…

      Reply
  5. TomL

    The decompiler would have to be miniaturized and then smuggled into the target country. Sounds interesting.

    Reply
  6. Robert AK3Q

    This is spectacular, and one of the greatest advances in shortwave ever. The possibilities are almost endless, and maybe happening just in the nick of time to “save” shortwave. MAybe something to bring advertisers back to the medium, a seemingly necessary evil since governments are backing away so quickly.

    I cannot but help feel the VOA digital broadcasts spearheaded by Kim Elliott, either directly or indirectly, have had a great influence on this project, expanding both the capabilities and the perception of what shortwave radio can do. And Thomas, you previous comments seem almost prophetic in this regard. Somebody was listening!! Well done to FCBH!

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Does Shortwave Radio Have a Future? | The SWLing Post

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