Category Archives: Digital Modes

Radio Waves: Guardians of Early Recordings, VOA Firewall, New DRM-Based HF Station, and Breakfast on BBC Essex Features Amateur Radio

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 Kim Elliott, Benn Kobb, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


Meet the guardians of the world’s earliest musical recordings (LA Times)

The voice seeps in as if from another dimension, hissy and distant, like an AM radio broadcaster transmitting through late-night static.

“‘The Ambassador March’ by Brown’s Orche-streee for the Los Angeles Phonograph Company of Los Angeles, California,” a man announces with a gentlemanly accent. After a moment’s scratchy pause, a violinist opens with a melody, and a small orchestra jumps in. Led by a Long Beach-based bandleader named E.R. Brown, the song dances along for two minutes.

The fidelity is primitive by today’s high-definition audio standards, a quaint toss-away. But “The Ambassador March” and the Coke-can-sized wax cylinder upon which it was etched into permanence in the late 1800s open a portal to another era.

That wax cylinder and others like it — rescued from rural estate sales and dusty attics — have survived earthquakes, heat waves, mold and indifference. They feature Mexican folk songs; military band marches; minstrelsy songs of the kind that preceded American blues, folk and country music; and the voices of former Lincoln cabinet members, Southern senators, popes, preachers and comedians. Their survival is emblematic of a revolution that allowed sound to be freed from its origins. Once untethered, the world would be forever changed.[]

US international broadcasting: Rebuilding the firewall in the new administration (The Hill)

by Kim Andrew Elliott

President-elect Joe Biden, who as a senator had a key interest in U.S. international broadcasting, is looking at its future.

He named Richard Stengel, former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, to head the transition team for the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Under USAGM are the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc., Radio Free Asia Inc., Office of Cuba Broadcast (Radio/TV Martí to Cuba) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks Inc. (the Arabic-language Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa).

With government officials under President Trump instructed not to cooperate with Biden’s teams, the transition for the time being will have to be done from afar. The Trump-appointed USAGM CEO Michael Pack, whose leadership has fomented several controversies since he was installed in June, might decide to be a benign, if uncooperative, caretaker until the new management comes in. Or he could impose personnel changes and alterations in content that could diminish the credibility of the USAGM entities, a situation that could take years to repair.

During his campaign, Biden promised to fire Pack. Pack might try to serve out the three-year term stipulated in the legislation that replaced the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) with a politically appointed CEO (Pack being the first). If such an attempt ends up in court, a June Supreme Court decision overruling the fixed term of the director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, a victory for the Trump administration, could, ironically, be the undoing of any plans by Pack to stay on at USAGM.

Pack has already left his mark by rescinding the firewall “rule” published in June by the outgoing BBG. The rule, however, was not an act of Congress or a presidential directive. It was simply language placed in the Federal Register “to codify and memorialize definitions and practices associated with the firewall.” On such shallow roots, this tree was easy to fall. In October, Pack issued a repeal, which waved away the firewall rule as readily as it was instituted.[]

A New HF Station that’s Similar, but Different (DRMNA.info)

On October 21, 2020, DPA Mac LLC filed a FCC license application for a new, DRM-based International Broadcast Station to be located in Maple Park, IL. The principal is San Francisco entrepreneur Seth Kenvin and its technical consultant is Tamir Ostfeld of Raft Technologies, an Israeli developer of low-latency HF systems for so-called algorithmic trading.

No station devoted to algorithmic trading has ever been authorized for regular commercial operation in the U.S., as there is no formal radio service or spectrum allocation for that purpose. Several such stations have been licensed in the Experimental Radio Service (ERS), which is ostensibly for scientific studies only.

If the FCC licenses DPA Mac, it will be the first such station to make the transition from the ERS to regular, non-experimental licensing. This station would be the successor to experimental station WI2XXG. Other than the license document, the FCC has withheld most of WI2XXG’s records from public disclosure since it was first licensed in 2017.

DPA Mac is similar to other DRM stations on which we previously reported: WIPE in Alpine, NJ, which is built and is waiting on its FCC license; and WPBC, proposed for Batavia, IL. With regard to their use for non-broadcast, private data transmissions, those stations made general and non-descriptive representations to the FCC. On the other hand, DPA Mac’s license application is fairly transparent. The station aims to transmit “investment data from points within the United States to locations outside the United States carried over a channel immediately adjacent to the HF broadcasts…a low-power, low-latency digital data transmission service provided to private investors, including small- and medium-sized firms.” [Continue reading…]

Amateur radio on BBC Radio Essex

On Tuesday, November 24, CB and amateur radio featured in Sonia Watson’s popular Breakfast show on BBC Radio Essex

Among those interviewed was the Chair of Essex Ham, Pete M0PSX, who talked about the resurgence of interest in amateur radio.

Listen to the interview at 1:38:20 in this recording
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08xv7dv

You can find out more about amateur radio and the free Essex Ham Foundation Online training course at
https://www.essexham.co.uk/train/foundation-online/

You can follow Essex Ham on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/EssexHam

 


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FCC’s AM digital order did not include DRM

This news item expands on our previous post.

(Source: Radio World)

No Luck for DRM in the AM Digital Order

Digital Radio Mondiale was hoping that the Federal Communications Commission would consider allowing its technology as an all-digital option for AM stations in the United States, along with HD Radio. But the FCC disappointed it.

[…]“Many commenters agree that all-digital AM broadcasting should be allowed but object to HD Radio as the sole authorized transmission technology,” it wrote.

“Specifically, commenters urge us to consider the Digital Radio Mondiale all-digital transmission technology on the grounds that it: (1) offers equal or better sound quality to HD Radio at lower bitrates; (2) can transmit metadata as well as emergency alerts, multicast subchannels, and a data channel; (3) is energy- and spectrum-efficient; (4) uses a superior audio codec; (5) is not susceptible to interference; (6) is not owned or controlled by a single company; and (7) has been used successfully in other countries and is the approved technology for shortwave broadcasting in the United States.”

But the FCC said the request was “beyond the scope of this proceeding.”

It said it needed to move expeditiously on this all-digital proposal; and that if parties believe that it should re-evaluate HD Radio and consider alternative technologies, “we would need to evaluate a fully developed proposal including data such as laboratory and field testing, similar to the petition for rulemaking that formed the basis of this proceeding.”[]

Click here to read the full article at Radio World.

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New DRM Transmission and DXer Programme from KTWR Guam

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who writes:

SWLing Post readers might be interested in learning that KTWR in Guam
has announced new DRM transmission details including a new DXer’s
Program named “Love Asia By Radio” which is scheduled to first air on
October 25, 2020 on their 1026-1057UTC English DRM broadcast to India
on 13800kHz. I just posted a question on their blog asking if the
program audio will be made available online to potential listeners
who can’t receive the broadcast, but haven’t heard back from them
yet. If I do, I’ll share that info.

KTWR New DRM Transmission Details and DXer Programme

Effective from Sunday 25th October, KTWR, Guam will continue its DRM
broadcasts to India, China and Japan. It will include a brand new
programme produced specially for Dxers. Click here for more details.
http://ktwrdrm.blogspot.com/2020/10/new-dx-program.html

Love Asia By Radio

Guam Shortwave Transmitter Station – KTWR

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

New DX Program

People have asked us to air a DX program for many years. KTWR had
done this a few decades ago, but we had no one to produce a new
program. Now, one of our listeners, Arun Kumar Narasimham has begun
production of the “Dxers Diary”. The first airing will be on 25
October 2020 in our 1026-1057UTC English DRM broadcast to India on
13800kHz. We are glad that Arun has stepped in to fill this
longstanding gap in our programming. We hope you enjoy it and
continue to enjoy the DX hobby.

Thank you for the tip, Ed, and we’ll look forward to any updates you might have.

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Radio Waves: NAB and DRM Compete for US Digital, 1937 Radio School, iPhone over AM Radio, and “War of the Waves”

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 Alan, Paul, Bruce Hardie, Josh Shepherd, and Paul Evans for the following tips:


NAB, DRM Spar Over AM Digital for U.S. (Radio World)

Digital Radio Mondiale says its technology deserves to be tested in the United States

The Federal Communications Commission has been hearing from the National Association of Broadcasters and other interested parties about whether to allow AM band stations to turn on all-digital transmission, and under what parameters.

In addition to publicly filed comments, the NAB, which supports the idea, has made presentations to FCC staff about certain specifics — including whether the FCC should allow Digital Radio Mondiale to be tested in this country. NAB says it should not.[]

Remote learning isn’t new: Radio instruction in the 1937 polio epidemic (The Conversation)

A UNICEF survey found that 94% of countries implemented some form of remote learning when COVID-19 closed schools last spring, including in the United States.

This is not the first time education has been disrupted in the U.S. – nor the first time that educators have harnessed remote learning. In 1937, the Chicago school system used radio to teach children during a polio outbreak, demonstrating how technology can be used in a time of crisis.

[…]In 1937, a severe polio epidemic hit the U.S. At the time, this contagious virus had no cure, and it crippled or paralyzed some of those it infected. Across the country, playgrounds and pools closed, and children were banned from movie theaters and other public spaces. Chicago had a record 109 cases in August, prompting the Board of Health to postpone the start of school for three weeks.

This delay sparked the first large-scale “radio school” experiment through a highly innovative – though largely untested – program. Some 315,000 children in grades 3 through 8 continued their education at home, receiving lessons on the radio.

By the late 1930s, radio had become a popular source of news and entertainment. Over 80% of U.S. households owned at least one radio, though fewer were found in homes in the southern U.S., in rural areas and among people of color.

In Chicago, teachers collaborated with principals to create on-air lessons for each grade, with oversight from experts in each subject. Seven local radio stations donated air time. September 13 marked the first day of school.

Local papers printed class schedules each morning. Social studies and science classes were slated for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were devoted to English and math. The on-air school day began with announcements and gym. Classes were short – just 15 minutes – providing simple, broad questions and assigning homework.

The objective was to be “entertaining yet informative.” Curriculum planners incorporated an engaging commercial broadcasting style into the lessons. Two principals monitored each broadcast, providing feedback to teachers on content, articulation, vocabulary and general performance. When schools reopened, students would submit their work and take tests to show mastery of the material.

Sixteen teachers answered phone calls from parents at the school district’s central office. After the phone bank logged more than 1,000 calls on the first day, they brought five more teachers on board.[]

Listening to an iPhone with AM Radio (Hackaday)

Electronic devices can be surprisingly leaky, often spraying out information for anyone close by to receive. [Docter Cube] has found another such leak, this time with the speakers in iPhones. While repairing an old AM radio and listening to a podcast on his iPhone, he discovered that the radio was receiving audio the from his iPhone when tuned to 950-970kHz.

[Docter Cube] states that he was able to receive the audio signal up to 20 feet away. A number of people responded to the tweet with video and test results from different phones. It appears that iPhones 7 to 10 are affected, and there is at least one report for a Motorola Android phone. The amplifier circuit of the speaker appears to be the most likely culprit, with some reports saying that the volume setting had a big impact. With the short range the security risk should be minor, although we would be interested to see the results of testing with higher gain antennas. It is also likely that the emission levels still fall within FCC Part 15 limits.[]

“War of the Waves: Radio and Resistance during World War II.” (American Economic Journal: Applied Economics)

Abstract: We analyze the role of the media in coordinating and mobilizing insurgency against an authoritarian regime, in the context of the Nazi-fascist occupation of Italy during WWII. We study the effect of BBC radio on the intensity of internal resistance. By exploiting variations in monthly sunspot activity that affect the sky-wave propagation of BBC broadcasting toward Italy, we show that BBC radio had a strong impact on political violence. We provide further evidence to document that BBC radio played an important role in coordinating resistance activities but had no lasting role in motivating the population against the Nazi-fascist regime.

You can find a pre-print at: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/202840/1/1016161859.pdf.


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The HobbyPCB IQ32 transceiver fills a special niche in the ham radio world

The following review was first published in the September 2020 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


The HobbyPCB IQ32 transceiver fills a special niche in the ham radio world

This summer, I’ve been exploring the world of general coverage QRP transceivers. I’ve been taking my LnR Precision LD-11, Elecraft KX3 and KX2 into the field; and I’ve just finished a comprehensive review of the Xiegu G90. I also have a TX-500 and IC-705 arriving in the near future [update].

Yes, I’ll admit, I’m a devotee of the “all-in-one” nature of the latest model portable QRP transceivers.

Most of the QRP transceivers now on the market are products of large, popular ham radio manufacturers. Usually, a company will come up with a product concept, follow through with their market research, then design, develop, and produce the radio. In fairness, that’s an over-simplification of the process, but let’s just call it a “top down” design approach––meaning, the product idea is generated within the company, and is often based upon customer feedback.

Not all ham radio products come about this way, though. Some have more “grassroots” or collaborative origin.

The HobbyPCB IQ32

(Image Source: HobbyPCB)

I first noticed the HobbyPCB IQ32 transceiver at the Dayton Hamvention a few years ago. I checked it out carefully at their booth, and recall a crowd gathering around their table. Noting this, I decided, at a later time, I would also find an opportunity to check out the radio in more detail.

A couple of months ago, I was working on my list of General Coverage QRP Transceivers and asked for help filling in details of any radios I’d forgotten. A reader commented and reminded me that the IQ32 was, indeed, general coverage.

At this point, I reached out to HobbyPCB and asked for a loaner unit to explore for a few weeks. The company very kindly sent one my way some weeks ago, and I’ve been testing it on the air ever since.

Form factor

When I received the IQ32 package, I was surprised by how lightweight this transceiver is:  a mere 1.5 lbs (700 grams) packs it all in one compact package.

The chassis is made of aluminum and incredibly sturdy. It even includes side panel extensions to protect the front faceplate and knobs.

The IQ32 sports a 3.2″ color LCD touch-screen display large enough to contain all of the functions, a spectrum display, and even an area for text––both transmitted and received in PSK31 and CW. The display is reminiscent of the uBITX V6 I recently reviewed. It is recommended that the operator uses a blunt plastic stylus (or retracted ballpoint pen) for navigating the color screen, since several of the  menu settings, memories, and the like require some fairly precise tapping. The graphic user interface (GUI) feels a bit like what I’d expect to find on a piece of test equipment: a bit old school, but nonetheless quite functional.

The main encoder and selector knobs are lightweight and made of some sort of plastic or nylon. They work quite well––but if I owned an IQ32, I believe one of the first things I’d do is replace those with a lightweight aluminum equivalent.

As I mentioned earlier, the weight of the IQ32 is very reasonable at 1.5 lbs. I don’t think I’d even notice it packed in a backpack.

The IQ32, like the recently released Lab599 TCX-500, lacks an internal speaker. However, my unit came with a speaker microphone, which works fine.

The right side panel of the IQ32 has a toggle power switch, power amplifier connection, power port (5mm X 2.1mm, positive tip), PS2 keyboard connector, USB Type A, and a BNC antenna port. The left side has a 3.5mm I/Q Output, 3.5mm headphone jack, 3.5mm speaker/mic port,  and a 3.5mm CW key input.

The IQ32 also has two legs that can be adjusted so that the radio will prop up at a comfortable angle for operation. The legs can be a bit finicky to adjust and keep in place, so I preferred using an angled radio support I use for my Elecraft KX3.

A collaboration

The IQ32 also feels like a project joint effort, bringing to mind the old chocolate-peanut butter cup commercial of a bygone era: “My chocolate got mixed with your peanut butter!” And or, “My peanut butter got mixed with your chocolate!”

Curious about this seeming blend of radio ideas, I reached out to Jim Veach (WA2EUJ) at HobbyPCB for more information; he gave me a little history behind the IQ32.

Jim writes:

The IQ32 is the fusion of two products: the HobbyPCB RS-HFIQ, and the STM32-SDR. 

The RS-HFIQ was designed to be a 80-10M, 5W soundcard-based SDR––similar to the popular Softrock SDRs with some expansions and revisions. 

The STM32-SDR was designed to work with a soundcard-based SDR and [thus] eliminate the need for a PC and provide stand-alone operation. 

Inside the IQ32 is a mostly stock RS-HFIQ (in fact, we offered an upgrade kit so RS-HFIQ owners could go the IQ32 route) and a custom version of the STM-32 […] specifically for the IQ32.

The original development of the STM32 [began] a few years ago when PSK31 was the digital mode du jour and [the] PS2 keyboard roamed the land. The firmware team recently released the current FW, which greatly expanded the CW modes and reworked the memory structure based on user input.

And there you have it: even though this unique little rig has been around for a few years, I’m impressed that they continue to refine it and upgrade the firmware. Indeed, if the community of IQ32 users grow, they may be able to do even more.

On the air

To be clear, my intention here isn’t to conduct a comparative review of the IQ32. I simply want to convey what I’ve learned in the process of playing with the rig and trying out some of its unique features.

Immediately after unboxing the radio, I hooked it up to my main skyloop antenna, plugged in the power supply that accompanied the radio, then plugged in the handheld speaker mic.

I discovered rather quickly that the IQ32 user interface takes a different approach than any other transceiver I’ve ever tested. Instead of one main user interface window in which you navigate modes, frequencies, and perhaps alter spectrum and bandwidth settings, the IQ32 has a different screen layout for each mode. It’s as if each mode––SSB, PSK31, CW, etc.––has its own “page.”

Despite the very minimal controls, you can adjust many of the IQ32s settings, macros, and memories in a very granular way via the settings pages using a stylus for fine control of the screen. On the flip side, during operation, it can be frustrating when adjustments need to be made quickly between the AF Gain, RF Gain, CW Speed, and AGC, as they all use the same multi-function knob and switching between them requires several screen taps––not as quick a process as one might prefer.

Indeed, the IQ32 isn’t immediately as intuitive as most commercially-marketed radios.  But once you fully understand the settings and modes pages, it becomes easy to navigate. Note: I would advise any future owner of an IQ32 to read the manual in advance. I did this, and it certainly helped. I should add here that the IQ32 manual is one of the most comprehensive I’ve read––especially considering its collaborative roots.

Now, let’s talk modes.

SSB

Since the IQ32 requires a PS2 keyboard for PSK31, and optionally for CW, I tried my hand at SSB first.

After learning how to switch modes and filter settings, I hopped on the air. Instead of calling CQ, I decided instead to seek a park activator in the POTA program via the POTA spots website. Within 10 minutes, I made contact with two parks: one in Pennsylvania and one in Florida on the 40 and 20 meter bands, respectively. While both parks gave me a “5×9” report, I seriously doubt it was accurate based on their own signal strength. (Some park activators, like contesters, only give 5×9 reports.)

Still, my success in contacting these two parks told me that the mic settings were probably suitable and that the audio had enough punch on 5 watts to be heard. To confirm, I called CQ a few times and listened to my own signal at a KiwiSDR site in Maryland. The signal was about 5×5, but the audio was clear, clean, and had excellent fidelity.

Over the past few weeks I’ve worked dozens of stations across North America with the IQ32.

PSK31

One of the very unique features of the IQ32 is its ability to natively encode and decode PSK31. This was the second mode I was eager to try.

To use PSK31 on the IQ32, a PS2 keyboard (or USB keyboard with PS2 adapter) must be connected. I searched my shack in vain for a PS2 keyboard, but fortunately, my friend Vlado (N3CZ) came to the rescue and let me borrow one of his keyboards.

Again, note: IQ32 beginners should certainly plan to read the PSK31 section of the IQ32 manual prior to attempting a PSK31 QSO.  For starters, you’ll want to enter in your personal information into the tags settings so that you can use your keyboard function keys to automatically send CQs and to answer calls. The manual will also walk you through any other necessary settings.

Once I had everything set up, I started calling CQ on the 20 meter band; unfortunately I had no luck snagging a station. This had less to do with the radio and much more to do with the mode, which has, alas, fallen out of popularity since the advent of FT8. It’s a shame, really, because although PSK31 is a digital mode, it feels much more like a proper QSO than FT8, in my opinion. While I have a lot of respect for FT8, with PSK31, you can, as we hams say, “rag-chew”––a much more personal interaction.

And rag-chewing is exactly what I did. I contacted a friend, we set a sched for a PSK31 QSO, and it was, indeed, fun. The IQ32 has a screen with enough text space so that it’s easy to follow and to read. In fact, with this radio, I don’t feel like a computer is needed.

With the keyboard attached, PSK31 just works…and works quite well. I really like the way this feature has been implemented in the IQ32.

CW

Truly, the IQ32 actually has a lot to offer the CW operator. The IQ32 supports Iambic keyer modes A and B, with speeds up to 35 wpm. You can also adjust the weight of the dits and dahs. The IQ32 doesn’t support full break-in QSK, however: there is a slight delay after sending before the relay puts the radio back into receive mode. At present, this delay is not manually adjustable but is, rather, based on the selected keyer speed.

I’ve been very pleased using the IQ32 in CW mode with my Begali paddles and Vibroplex single lever paddle.

Of course, a really unique feature of this rig is that it provides the operator with the means to use the PS2 keyboard to send CW, just as you can with the PSK31. At present, there is no CW decoder, but for those who feel their fist isn’t quite up to par, you can surprise the operator on the other end by sending perfectly formed and spaced CW by simply typing it on the keyboard.  Herein lies a very unique feature and application for the IQ32.

Indeed, as a frequent Parks On The Air (POTA) field activator, I rely very heavily on memory keyers to call CQ, send a park number, as well as give my thanks and 73s to those who contact me. Using a pre-programmed message means that I then have time to log a station while it sends, and to ensure my code is cleaner when I send park numbers––especially since I don’t exactly excel at sending strings of numbers!

With the IQ32, I find I can program full CW messages to play when I simply press one of the function keys on the keyboard. This gives me much better flexibility and control than, say, the built-in memory keyer on my venerable Elecraft KX2.

With the IQ32, a CW op would actually have the choice of never even touching a key, and just sending all messages with the keyboard. While I could never see myself doing that (as I quite enjoy sending CW with a key), the flexibility of pre-programming an array of CW memory messages and having them conveniently at hand is nonetheless quite appealing.

As a CW operator, I’m quite pleased with the IQ32. My only wish would be for a slightly shorter relay hang time for use in contesting or on Field Day.

The IQ32 Niche

While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the IQ32 as a first transceiver to a newly-minted ham, I can certainly envision a niche market for this unique rig.

For one, I think the IQ32 could satisfy those operators who desire a very clean and stable transmitter. The IQ32 sports a Class A 5-watt power amplifier with individual low-pass filters for each band that exceed FCC requirements for spectral purity. It also has a Temperature-Compensated Crystal Oscillator (TXCO) for frequency stability––truly, this is not common in a radio of this price class.

For another, the IQ32 could be used as a driver for a transverter when operating on VHF or UHF. Another of its unique and useful features is that the user can set an offset to display the transverter output frequency rather than the IQ32-driven frequency.

 

 

And, finally, let’s face it: I know of few other radios that you can take to the field, hook up a keyboard, and natively send and decode PSK-31 transmissions. My KX2 can do this to a degree, but I have to input the text as CW, and the number of characters in the display is quite limited. The IQ32 is robust enough to permit you to carry on PSK-31 rag-chews, if you wish. If this is your thing, you’ll definitely want to play with this rig.

Being able to send CW with a keyboard and pre-programmed messages also means CW operators could make their workflow much more efficient in either the shack or the field.

In conclusion, I’ll admit that the IQ32 isn’t as intuitive as other radios and that the ergonomics leave room for improvement. But it’s still a cool little radio. If, after having read this tour of the IQ32, you feel like you’re in this radio’s niche market, then definitely reach out to HobbyPCB: I’ve found their customer care and support to be absolutely benchmark.

All in all, I’ve had a lot of fun tinkering with this unique general coverage QRP transceiver; I expect others like me will, too. Many thanks to HobbyPCB and the IQ32 crew for letting me take a deep dive into this very special little rig!

Click here to check out the IQ32 at HobbyPCB.


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New DRM portables announced at IBC 2020

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who writes:

SWLing Post readers might be interested in reading the Digital Radio Mondiale Newsletter of September 2020, which covers DRM developments announced at IBC 2020.

These include DRM transmitter developments and deployments, and lots of new DRM receivers–such as eight (8) AM/FM/DRM portables, (1) AM/FM/SW/DRM portable, an automotive AM/FM/DRM model, a low-cost automotive AM/FM/SW/DRM model, and an AM/FM/SW/DRM development module with “High quality Tuner Frontend and Audio DAC” from Starwaves in Germany.

URL for newsletter: https://us10.admin.mailchimp.com/campaigns/show?id=5196729

URL for PDF describing new DRM receivers: https://www.drm.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/DRM-Receivers-@-Virtual-IBC-9-Sept-2020.pdf

Thank you for the tip, Ed!

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High-Frequency Parties asks FCC to question proposed Chicago DRM broadcaster’s true mission

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bennett Kobb, who shares an FCC Informal Objection he drafted and filed together with Kim Elliott and Christopher Rumbaugh.

Click here to download the Informal Objection. (PDF)

Radio World published a great summary of the filing today:

There’s a plan in the works to build a new international shortwave radio station in Illinois, one that would use the Digital Radio Mondiale modulation system. But now several prominent members of the U.S. shortwave community are asking the Federal Communications Commission to take a closer look first.

Parable Broadcasting Co. in April asked the FCC to allow it to build the station in Batavia, Ill., west of Chicago, using the call sign WPBC. It wants to offer “broadcasting and data services.”

Specifically, Parable wrote that the station would “serve the areas of Europe that may be authorized by the commission. The planned broadcast content includes religious and educational programming, as well as data content provided by third parties.” It added that it wants to “take advantage of the recent push by the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters to develop and provide content for the growing DRM market.”

Now three individuals, collectively called the High-Frequency Parties, filed an informal objection. It’s that wording about data content that concerns them.

Bennett Z. Kobb, Kim Andrew Elliott and Christopher D. Rumbaugh said international broadcast stations in the U.S. are intended “to be received directly by the general public in foreign countries.”

Now they told the FCC that it is impossible to tell from the Parable application whether all of the data services and data provided by third parties will qualify. [Continue reading at Radio World…]

Bennett clarified with me:

The [FCC] rules require these [broadcasters] to be 100% broadcast stations, not a cover for some other kind of service.

Because there is no established radio service for international shortwave trading, some have used the workaround of calling them “experiments”. Quite a few such “experimental” stations have been licensed, some at rather high power levels.

See for example this article.

But legally, the Experimental Radio Service is supposed to be for temporary scientific purposes, not ongoing for-profit operations. We don’t know what those stations are really up to because the FCC has kept the details secret. All we know is some technical data such as callsigns, frequencies, QTH.

Instead of experimental stations, others wanting to get into the data business — including the Turms Tech station in New Jersey, and this Parable station in Batavia IL — seem to be using the work-around of the International Broadcast service. That is, proposing an audio programming station that uses the DRM data channel for trading messages.

We are not in the 1970s or 80s. There’s not enough money today in broadcasting audio to other countries, to justify the millions spent on real estate, engineering, antennas and transmitter plant. Most SW broadcasting around the world is not commercial. So it is very peculiar for new entrants to drop major bucks in this field.

The new guys are probably not getting in to spread the gospel. That is a surface paint. There are already several U.S. HF stations with religious content, as you know, including WTWW, WWCR, WRMI, WRNO, WINB, WWRB, WHRI, WBCQ, WJHR etc. and most would welcome new customers for airtime.

No need to construct new stations.

So what is this new station really? Get it out in the open and ask them how they intend to comply with the existing rules. If they are in the business of carrying secure messages for traders, that does not qualify and will need some special FCC action to allow it. Let the public see the reasoning.

The rules that exist are very old. We think FCC needs to do a top-to-bottom review of the HF broadcast rules and scrap a lot of it. FCC should permit stations to be built for U.S. domestic audiences, and they should reduce the minimum AM power (50 kW) to lower this barrier to
entry.

And they should perhaps consider how data communications could be formally authorized. Maybe it wouldn’t be just a broadcast service any more, it could be a HF Communications Service with the old restrictions on languages and advertising discarded and more opportunities for people to try out creative ideas.

So we’re pressing the issue that this needs to be examined. Thanks for reading.

Thank you for sharing this, Bennett! We hope your filing gets its due attention. I also agree on one of your final points, that the FCC lower its 50 kw AM power requirement of a shortwave station as it places a huge barrier in front of would-be shortwave broadcasters.

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