Category Archives: Digital Modes

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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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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