Tag Archives: Digital Radio Mondiale

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: Radio Marti DRM, Push for Shepparton Museum, APRS on the History Channel, and Radio’s “Major Cultural Opportunity”

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 Hughes, Michael Bird, Zack Schindler, and Dennis Dura for the following tips:


Radio Marti Begins Shortwave DRM Transmissions (Radio World)

Radio Marti began Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) shortwave transmissions on Feb. 4. Part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), Radio Marti broadcasts news and other programs to Cuba. The DRM shortwave transmissions are from USAGM’s Greenville, North Carolina, site.

USAGM has transmitted in DRM before. There were some transmissions from Briech, Morocco, in the early 2000s. Greenville tested DRM in 2009 in partnership with what was then known as HCJB Global Technology. So why are they back now after an absence of over a decade?

“We want to experiment a bit with different modes and services available on DRM. We also want to help push the development of low-cost receivers and the best way to do that is to put some transmissions on the air, explains Gerhard Straub, director of USAGM’s Broadcast Technologies Division.[]

Push for museum at Shepparton’s Radio Australia site (Shepparton News)

Amateur radio enthusiasts are pushing for the former site of Radio Australia in Shepparton North to be upgraded and retained as a national museum of radio broadcast history.

Members of the Shepparton and District Amateur Radio Club and The Vintage Radio Club of North East Victoria are due to present a 25-page proposal to an anonymous consortium of buyers said to be interested in acquiring a 258ha block of land along Verney Rd.

The block includes two buildings and several large broadcast towers on the former site of Radio Australia. The site is currently owned by BAI Communications.

The Shepparton club’s assistant secretary, Geoff Angus, said the proposal would be presented to Greater Shepparton City Council for forwarding to the consortium.[]

APRS usage seen on the History Channel “Secret of Skinwalker Ranch”

Zack Schindler writes:

I have been watching a show about paranormal activity on the History Channel called The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch. In the episode this week they hired a professor to do a balloon launch with some RF sensors. In this episode they also showed the APRS.FI webpage and I was able to read his callsign from an APRS tracker, KM4MRH.

The professor used an APRS tracking device. On the right side of the page link below you can click on Other SSID’s to see other balloon launches he has done. Normally when there is a balloon launch you can see the data from it going up and down. This page shows the Skinwalker balloon launch data transposed over a map. https://aprs.fi/#!call=a%2FKM4MRH-3&timerange=3600&tail=3600

Sadly they are using these for measuring RF fields rather than these.

In a Crisis, Radio Should Be Bigger Than Ever — So Why Isn’t It? (Rolling Stone)

Terrestrial music stations have a major cultural opportunity right now, but employees say a muddied strategy is standing in the way

Radio personality Kevin Ryder was “baffled” by KROQ’s “cold, heartless attitude” when he and his morning-show team were fired at the end of March. The station has long been an alternative/rock staple in Los Angeles, the second-largest market in the country, and Ryder had been on the air for more than 30 years.

“The new people in charge now weren’t here for the building of the world-famous KROQ,” Ryder, one-half of the popular Kevin & Bean Show, said on air when the station let him go, live one final time. “I don’t think it means anything to them. It’s a numbers business, and there’s no family aspect to it anymore. It’s only numbers, but this place was built without numbers. It was musicians, artists, and the special relationship between music, the station, and our fans.”

AM/FM radio provides localized, round-the-clock information and entertainment via friendly neighborhood voices — so in theory, it’s the perfect platform in a global crisis that forces hundreds of millions of people to stay home. But Ryder is one of many in the radio community — including on-air hosts, music directors, program directors — who have been shocked by sudden job losses in recent weeks as COVID-19 has spread across the U.S., and news out of the industry has been one bad thing after another. Why is terrestrial radio missing the opportunity here — and how should it be fighting to get back on top?[]


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DRM featured on BBC Digital Planet

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

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

The April 14, 2020 edition of the BBC World Service program ‘Digital Planet’ includes a story about the status of Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) broadcasts on shortwave. The segment had no breaking news, but SWLing Post readers might enjoy hearing an updated explanation on BBC of how DRM works on shortwave and other bands, where it’s being used, and what unique services it can offer. The segment includes a clip of digital audio played over shortwave and an interview with Ruxandra Obreja, Chair of the DRM Consortium and DRM Association.

The segment was followed by a casual conversation between BBC producer Gareth Mitchell M7GJM and interviewer Bill Thompson about SWLing and Amateur Radio–which was great to hear discussed on BBC World Service!

The entire segment and followup discussion begins at 21:17 and ends at 31:49 minutes into the mp3 recording found at this BBC URL:

Thank you for the tip, Ed! Digital Planet is a fantastic technology show–check out more episodes on their website.

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Radio Purga: Russia turning to DRM shortwave to reach Chukotka region

(Source: Radio World via Mike Terry)

Russia has resumed Digital Radio Mondiale broadcasts on shortwave. The country originally aired the Voice of Russia via DRM a few years ago. The new service is tentatively called Radio Purga (“Radio Blizzard”). The target area is the Chukotka region of the Russian Far East. Analog shortwave transmissions once served the area, but those ended in the early 2000s when the broadcaster left analog shortwave.

Chukotka is vast and the target audience only numbers a few thousand. Thus, shortwave is the only practical way to reach the population. The transmitter site, Komsomolsk Amur, used to broadcast Voice of Russia’s analog programming and is now being used for the DRM program.

The new service is a joint project between the government in Chukotka and the Far Eastern regional center of the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network.

Using DRM for Radio Purga has several advantages over analog shortwave. Radio Purga over DRM, for example, offers a static-free and higher fidelity signal. Studies have shown that DRM is just as reliable as analog shortwave over this distance via single-hop transmission.

The broadcaster is considering transmitting two audio programs from a single DRM transmitter. This is something analog shortwave can’t do. It’s also planning on using DRM’s ability to transmit short text message or a type of RSS feed (Journaline). DRM transmissions also use only a quarter of the power that analog transmissions do.

“We have in these remote places 2,000 residents who need to be provided with communications services … the Northern Sea Route also requires attention,” said Roman Kopin, the governor of Chukotka, last spring when the project was initiated, according to a Russian press report. In addition to mariners on the Northern Sea Route, the audience includes geologists, miners, reindeer herders and hunters.[…]

Click here to read the full article at Radio World.

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All India Radio suspends shortwave and “pure DRM’ transmissions during Covid-19 lock-down

Photo by Karthik Chandran

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, who notes that All India Radio has suspended a number of their broadcast services during the Covid-19 lock-down.

Mark shares the following Office Memorandum from India’s Public Service Broadcaster.

Click here to download memorandum (PDF).

In terms of shortwave (ESD) services, here’s the relevant section from the Memorandum:

B) NON-ESSENTIAL RADIO SERVICES

The following non-essential radio services may be suspended with immediate effect during the lock-down

ESD

5) All ESD services

6) All transmitters dedicated to ESD

DRM

7) Pure DRM mode operations

a. DRM transmitters may be operated on analogue / simulcast mode to relay the National News Service subject to local circumstances and conditions

FM

8) Stations with a 3rd FM channel may relay audio of DD News or DD India subject to feasibility

On the WRTH Facebook group, Sanjay Sutradhar, did note one shortwave broadcast still in service:

It appears 9380 kHz from Aligarh is radiating AIR Vividh Bharti services, may be on a truncated wattage. 8am & 8.30pm news is extended to one hour dedicated to Covid-19 news in-country and world-wide and developments but it is the common broadcast carried out in-country on all bands, at 1.45 UTC

Mark Fahey asks:

I wonder if they will ever bring AIR’s External Service back–?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? The government lock-down is set for 21 days, but I fully expect it could take much longer if other Covid-19 countries are any indication.

If AIR’s shortwave service is closed for an extended period of time–recognizing they deem it “non-essential”–I wouldn’t be surprised if they made deep cuts or keep it closed. Let’s hope for the best outcome, though.

Stay tuned! We’ll keep you updated.


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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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