Category Archives: Digital Modes

Radio Waves: Free Magazine from URE, C-19 Effect on Listening, Ampegon Focuses on Transmitters, and EU Directive for Car Digital Radio

(Source: Ampegon)

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Mike, Paul Evans,  Josh Shepperd, and Mike Terry for the following tips:


Spain’s URE makes June magazine PDF available (Southgate ARC)

In response to the ongoing Coronvirus situation Spain’s national amateur radio society URE is allowing everyone to download the PDF of the June edition of their magazine Radioaficionados

A translation of the announcement on the URE site says:

One more month, and we have already been three, with the aim of accompanying its readers in the exceptional situation caused by the spread of COVID-19, the URE in its commitment to collaborate and help to cope with the complicated situation we are currently experiencing in our country, has decided to offer free access to the magazine of the month of June and we remind you that magazines prior to December 2019 are also available to you. In this way, citizens who wish to can read these publications for free.

A small gesture so that nobody feels alone at home in the face of this global challenge.

Access is through the website download area, click on “Descargas” under “Junio 2020 – Revista” at:
https://www.ure.es/descargas/

URE in Google English
https://tinyurl.com/SpainURE

Ampegon Puts Focus on Shortwave Transmitters (Radio World)

Ampegon Power Electronics highlights progress on the company’s third-generation solid-state shortwave transmitters, which it says will offer “significant advances in efficiency.”

The company says this work will pave the way toward higher-power broadcast outputs and meet current expectations of a shortwave equivalent to medium-wave and FM transmitters. “Combined, these two developments will bring FM-quality broadcasts with all the benefits of shortwave,” said Simon Keens, Ampegon sales and business development manager.

Ampegon has also developed a retrofit upgrade to current UCS generation control systems for previous generation 100 kW, 250 kW, 300 kW and 500 kW transmitter systems.[]

Listening together, listening alone: A music professor sounds off on his shifting industries (CBC)

Brian Fauteux reflects on the way COVID-19 is affecting his two passions: music and teaching

A lot of great songs effectively reflect the feelings that accompany isolation. The experience of being alone, however, is often constructed in opposition to a longing for togetherness. Heart’s “Alone” (1987) — maybe the greatest power ballad ever recorded — confidently asserts, “‘Til now I always got by on my own.” But this is no longer the case when the song’s protagonist meets and develops undeniable feelings for another: “And now it chills me to the bone.” In another iconic 80s anthem, “Dancing in the Dark,” Springsteen grows tired and bored with himself against the desperate urge to join up with “something happening somewhere.” The act of dancing in the dark can be fun, sure, but it’s much more fun with others. Inspiration in isolation is insubstantial.

I’m an Assistant Professor of Popular Music and Media Studies, and I teach and write about the role of music in society. I’m interested in how our listening practices shape, and are shaped by, issues of sustainability in the music industries — that is, how artists make (or struggle to make) a living in this day and age.[]

EU directive on digital radio in cars (Times of Malta)

Directive (EU) 2018/1972 of the European Parliament and of the Council of December 11, 2018, establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (‘EECC’) entered into force on December 20, 2018. Member states have two years to incorporate it into national law, except where specifically mentioned.

Radio is an important medium through which citizens access a diverse range of information news and entertainment services. The EECC leverages on the ever-increasing connectivity of new generation cars as well as on the digital platforms of radio broadcasters to guarantee a more robust radio experience to all drivers, ensuring good coverage, a wider choice of radio stations and more effective access to information at all times. The EECC ensures that car drivers have access to the benefits of digital terrestrial radio wherever in the EU they have bought their new car.

On April 21, the minister responsible for communications, in consultation with the Malta Communications Authority, published Legal Notice 151 of 2020 amending the Electronic Communications Network and Services (General) Regulations, implementing the provision of the EECC dealing with the interoperability of car radio devices. In line with the regulation, any car radio receiver integrated in a new vehicle of category M which is made available on the market for sale or rent in Malta from December 21, 2020, shall comprise a receiver capable of receiving and reproducing at least radio services provided by digital terrestrial radio broadcasting of type DAB+. Radio programmes in Malta are broadcast terrestrially on DAB+.

The car radio requirement only applies to new cars.[]


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Radio Waves: Plant-powered Satellite Comms, BBC Pips, Filter Basics, and Replacing Shortwave

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Marty, Dennis Howard, Dennis Dura, Kris Partridge and Richard Langley and for the following tips:


Plant-powered sensor sends signal to space (Phys.org)

A device that uses electricity generated by plants as its power source has communicated via satellite—a world first.

[…]The device can inform farmers about the conditions of their crops to help increase yield, and enable retailers to gain detailed information about potential harvests.

It transmits data on air humidity, soil moisture and temperature, enabling field-by-field reporting from agricultural land, rice fields or other aquatic environments.

The extremely low power device sends signals at radio frequencies that are picked up by satellites in low Earth orbit. It was developed by Dutch company Plant-e and Lacuna Space, which is based in the Netherlands and the UK, under ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES).[]

The eccentric engineer: a tale of six pips and how the BBC became the national arbiter of time (Engineering and Technology)

This edition of Eccentric Engineer tells the story of the BBC Time Signal and how, over the years, it has just got more complicated.

Every engineer needs to know the time, if only so as to not miss lunch. Since 1924, many Britons have been checking their watches against the BBC time signal, known affectionately as ‘the pips’.

The history of the ‘pips’ is almost as long as the history of the BBC itself. The first transmissions from what was then the British Broadcasting Company began in late 1922 and soon afterwards there were suggestions of broadcasting a time signal under the control of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich – then the arbiter of time in the UK.

No one seems to have seen a need for this degree of precision, but early broadcasts did use their own ad hoc ‘pips’, marking the 8pm and 9pm news programmes with a time signal consisting of the announcer playing the Westminster chimes on a piano and later a set of tubular bells. This proved rather popular with listeners, who could now adjust their clocks and watches daily, so the BBC decided to invest in some more high-tech clocks from the Synchronome Company. These provided audible ‘ticks’, which the announcer then simply counted down.[]

What Is Replacing Shortwave? (Radio World)

A joint effort is necessary to bring the digitization of radio to a successful end

Analog shortwave will celebrate about 100 years of existence in 2028 when many hope 5G will have been properly defined, tested and applied, though broadcasting is low on its long list of perceived advantages.

It’s true that shortwave was typically a medium of the Cold War that peaked in 1989 and that afterward its listenership dwindled. Many international broadcasters gave up on it as the post-war transmitters got rustier and the energy bills kept mounting.

After all, when budget cuts are needed, no transmitter will go on strike or write to the press, as happened when the BBC World Service tried to unsuccessfully close its Hindi shortwave transmissions in 2011. In 2020 these broadcasts stopped, when committed BBC Indian listeners, writers and thinkers who opposed it in 2011 did not protest too much.

The slow death of shortwave has been blamed on the internet and satellite. As technology and content are inextricably linked, shortwave created its type of content that is no longer favored by the savvy FM listener, internet user and cellphone obsessed.[]

Filter Basics: Stop, Block and Roll(off) (Nuts and Volts)

A casual observer might think that wireless systems consist primarily of filters connected by the occasional bit of circuit! Block diagrams of transceivers often include as many filters as any other function. This is true at the system level, just as it is at the circuit level — and many circuits behave in a filter-like way, whether intended to be a filter or not! That makes understanding filter basics important for wireless success.[]


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DRM30 on a Smartphone: KTWR Shows Us The Way

Image via the KTWR Blog

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Van Hoy, who writes:

[Regarding the reception of DRM via smart phone,] I happened to find this KTWR Guam post about decoding DRM30 with a smart phone, app, and an RTL-SDR:

Convert Smart Phone to DRM 30 HF receiver!

We are pleased to report successful use of an SDR Dongle used to directly receive and Decode DRM 30 over HF today.

The SDR Dongle is an RTLSDR v3 type connected to an android smartphone using an OTG cable (phone or tablet must be OTG capable).

The Software used:
1. Android driver (free)
2. DRM+SDR Android App ($4.99)

The Frequency of the HF broadcast is directly assigned within the DRM+ SDR app with two settings
1. Frequency in Hertz
2. RF Gain (0-512)

Demonstration video showing Clean DRM decode of AAC Audio and Journaline data along with live metadata.  (our signal was very strong, so only a short wire used for Antenna, DX’rs will need an appropriate Antenna)

Now anyone with a smartphone and a $20 SDR can receive DRM 30 HF broadcasts…

Click here to read this post on the KTWR blog.

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Final step for proposed rule to allow AM broadcasters to use all-digital transmissions

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans, who notes:

The Federal Register has today published the proposed rule for AM stations to go digital. This is close to the final step.

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/01/07/2019-27609/all-digital-am-broadcasting-revitalization-of-the-am-radio-service

Comments before 2020-03-09, replies by 2020-04-06.

Thanks for the tip, Paul!

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KiwiSDR update brings integrated DRM reception!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, who shares the following tweet from KiwiSDR:

“Happy Holidays. Software update brings integrated DRM receiver (Digital Radio Mondiale) based on Dream 2.1.1 to all KiwiSDRs. Stock BeagleBone-Green/Black based Kiwis support one DRM channel, BeagleBone-AI Kiwis support four. Development work continues.”

Ironically, I had only recently published a post asking if anyone had ever attempted to decode DRM using a KiwiSDR. Turns out, several readers had by porting the IQ audio output into the DREAM application. Now that KiwiSDR will have a native DRM mode, this will no longer be necessary.

Many thanks, Mark, for sharing this tip! As you say, this is “mega news!”

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Cambridge Consultants design a prototype $10 DRM receiver

DRM broadcast (left) as seen via a KiwiSDR spectrum display.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Bird, who shares the following news via Cambridge Consultants:

Digital launched, ever so long ago, with TV and radio. So what’s the big story? It’s that the last piece of the digital jigsaw is finally in place: a system called Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM), designed to deliver FM-radio-like quality using the medium wave and short wave bands.

We’re familiar with AM on medium wave and accustomed to the horrible buzz, splat, fade away and back again. But it does have a great advantage in that it will reach for hundreds of miles from a single transmitter. That’s a lot easier than FM or DAB, which both need transmitters every 30 or 40 miles. No fewer than 443 DAB transmitter sites are needed to cover the UK alone.

So take a modern digital scheme, apply some clever (and low cost) computing power, and you can get good sound for hundreds of miles. You get to choose radio stations by name instead of kilohertz, and you can even receive text and pictures. Emergency warning and information features are also built into DRM.

Great technology. But will it fly? Is it available for everyone?

The new news is that India, through its national broadcaster All India Radio, has invested in and rolled out a national DRM service, live today. Just 35 transmitters cover that large country. New cars in India have DRM radios in them now. Other countries like South Africa, Malaysia and Brazil are likely to follow India’s lead.

But something’s missing. The radios that can receive DRM are still prohibitively expensive, especially for those markets that would benefit most. So vast swathes of the world remain unconnected to the services that DRM can provide. Where’s the cheap portable that you can pick up from a supermarket to listen to the news or sport?

Cambridge Consultants has just held its annual Innovation Day, where we throw open our doors to industry leaders and reveal future technology. One of our highlights was the prototype of a DRM design that will cost ten dollars or less to produce, addressing that vital need for information by the 60-ish per cent of our global population that doesn’t have internet or TV. It’s low power, so can run from solar or wind-up.

This design will be ready in 2020, available for any radio manufacturer to licence and incorporate into its own products. We’re doing our bit to make affordable radios for every corner of the globe!

Click here to read this post at the Cambridge Consultants website.

Michael also shares this piece from Radio World regarding this project.

I must admit: there have been so many proposed low-cost DRM receiver designs that never came to fruition, it’s easy to be skeptical. I assume the $10/9 Euro design will be for the receiver chip only–not the full portable radio, of course. They plan to bring this to fruition in 2020, so we’ll soon know if they succeed.

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Ongoing DRM tests in Hungary: Could DRM be decoded via a KiwiSDR–?

Budapest, Hungary (Photo by @DNovac)

Several readers have written recently asking about the DRM tests we mentioned in a previous post. These tests are being sponsored by the Budapest University of Technology from June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020–thus, they’ve been on the air for several months already. 

The programming, which was produced by Radio Maria, is being played in a loop–repeated over and over again. The signal is a modest 100 watts and is being transmitted via a 5/8 wavelength vertical on 26,060 kHz.

This is a low-power DRM broadcast using a very modest antenna, so I suppose it goes without saying that expectations should be in check. It’s a very long-shot for those of us living outside of Europe, of course. With that said, there are a number of KiwiSDR sites nearby Budapest:

You could certainly see the distinctive DRM signal on a KiwiSDR waterfall display, but I’m not sure how you’d decode it.

KiwiSDRs do have an IQ mode, however. I am very curious if anyone has ever used a KiwiSDR to decode DRM, perhaps, using Dream? Could the KiwiSDR IQ be fed into DREAM with a virtual audio cable?

Please comment–have you ever decoded DRM via a KiwiSDR site?


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