Tag Archives: Benn Kobb

New Experimental Radio Station: Skycast (WI2XER)

Skycast

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

[Skycast (WI2XER)] is a station in the Experimental Radio Service, licensed under Part 5 of the FCC Rules.

Benn provided the following details:

Licensed 3 March 2016: SKYCAST SERVICES LLC WI2XER 0809-EX-PL-2015

New experimental to operate in HF bands from 13.87 MHz to 21 MHz to pursue significant advancements in the state of telecommunications technology.

Farmingville (Suffolk), NY

www.skycastservices.com

License:
https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=173579&x=.

Explanation, redacted:
https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=170747&x=.

Note location of receivers, stated in section 6.

Explanation of redactions:
https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=171385&x=.

Benn continues:

HF operations in the ERS are rare. I have been following ERS for years.

Applicants in this service are required to describe their experimental program, but can ask the FCC to withhold certain details from public disclosure. That is the reason for the redactions.

The actual purpose of this Skycast is not obvious from the available documentation, but some intrepid investigation may reveal it. SWLs should listen for these operations. The company said that the receivers are in Western Europe.

Experimental stations are not supposed to directly generate revenue. There are occasional exceptions. Most ERS stations are for defense and security related developments, specific demonstrations or academic research.

Readers: please comment if you have any information about this station or its service. Any reception reports/notes would also be welcome!

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PortableSDR: The Holy Grail of portable SDR transceivers?

PortableSDRMany thanks to my buddy, Bennett Kobb (AK4AV), who shares information about the PortableSDR, one of five finalists in The Hackaday Prize.

PortableSDR creator, Michael R Colton, describes his project on Hackaday:

“The PSDR is a completely stand-alone (no computer needed), compact, Portable Software Defined Transceiver (hence the name, sorta). Originally designed for backpacking use by Ham Radio operators. It includes complete coverage up to about 30Mhz (plus 144Mhz), it has a 168Mhz ARM processor, color display, and an innovative interface.

Vector Network Analysis (which includes antenna analysis) and GPS functions are included.

The entire design is Open Source. The electronics are designed and laid out to be easy to understand and tinker with. In addition to source code, schematics, board layout and parts lists, articles and videos describing the theory of the design are being created.”

He includes this video of his working prototype:

I will certainly follow this project with interest. I love the fact that PortableSDR has such a small form factor, yet still manages to include room for a battery, display and CW paddles.

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Dear BBG: Take note of the Radiogram!

VOARadiogramImagesMany thanks to my friends, Bennett Kobb (AK4AV) and Christopher Rumbaugh (K6FIB) who wrote a letter to the BBG regarding the relevancy of shortwave radio. They make a strong point as this article in Radio World puts it: “Hey, don’t forget about Radiogram!

I also made a case for the VOA Radiogram in my letter to the BBG, but I think Benn and Chris sum it up better. Click here to download their letter to the BBG as a PDF document–I’ve also pasted it below:

Response to BBG Shortwave Committee Request for Comment

March 14, 2014

The BBG has spearheaded ‘Radiogram’ (voaradiogram.net), an entirely novel form of international high-frequency broadcasting. Radiogram is soundly premised on modern digital techniques and mitigates longstanding impediments to HF transmission. Users around the world have documented reception of fifty VOA Radiogram programs in more than a thousand YouTube videos.

BBG must not allow its own pioneering developments to wither, but should advance them toward operational status.

Radiogram should not be confused with Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM), which employs digital modulation for sound broadcasting. Radiogram broadcasts web content via robust, interference-resistant, error-detecting/correcting AM tone modulation, using standardized formats widely practiced in the Amateur Radio Service.

The user’s ordinary shortwave receiver, tuned to a Radiogram transmission, feeds its audio to a user device. These could include mobile phones, tablets, laptop and desktop computers and the new ARM-based miniature computers and embedded devices. The user device decodes the tones and displays text and imagery despite propagation impairments and intentional interference — and without Internet connection.

Placing the radio near the phone or computer is normally sufficient. No hardwire connection is required. By adding a simple audio cable between receiver and user device, however, reception can be silent and covert. No specialized hardware is needed, and the software platform for decoding is long in the public domain.

A more advanced, yet still inexpensive setup would use existing “dongle” technology that places a software-defined radio (SDR) inside a small USB enclosure. Such units are available today for a few tens of dollars and widely used by experimenters. The operating system and decoding software could also be incorporated into the device, which could boot the computer, eliminating the need to install any PC software.

The user need not be present at the time of transmission to receive content. He essentially receives a web magazine updated at will and always ready for use. The user can redistribute it by printing, USB storage, SMS, E-mail etc.

Naturally, the audio tone transmission can be recorded for later playback. Even when buried well under music or noise, the nearly inaudible recorded broadcast can nevertheless deliver 100% copy upon decode.

Radiogram’s transmission methods provide text at 120 WPM (near to the speed of spoken English) along with images. Additional languages have been proven, including non-Roman alphabets.

Sent over regular broadcast transmitters (no modifications needed), this approach effectively extends the reach of the transmitter. In other words, the digital text mode will decode in locations where the audible speech over the same transmitter would be too low for aural intelligibility. The audio recorded or captured could be replayed over another transmitter to even further extend the reach of the broadcast.

Recommendations

BBG should:

1. Capitalize on Radiogram as a circumvention tool, readily consumable by mobile devices. It should integrate Radiogram into its media strategy and networks.

2. Retain, but reconfigure as necessary its HF facilities in view of the potentially lower costs and greater efficiency of Radiogram when compared to conventional sound broadcasting.

3. Support the development and wide distribution of simple, usable, open-source Radiogram decoding applications for popular mobile devices and platforms (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux), derived from the free Fldigi software used worldwide.

About the Respondents

Bennett Z. Kobb, M.S., SMIEEE, is the communications director for an Arlington, Virginia trade association.

Christopher Rumbaugh, MLS, is a library manager and web publisher in Salem, Oregon.

The views expressed herein are the authors’ own.

Again, many thanks to Benn and Chris for submitting such an articulate letter to the BBG and for sharing with SWLing Post readers.

If you would like to decode a VOA Radiogram yourself, simply visit VOAradiogram.net for details on broadcasts targeting your part of the world.

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