Tag Archives: London Shortwave

Radio Waves: ATC Communications, ABC is Highly Trusted, New SW Forum in Turkey, and Did a Ham Speak To Crew Dragon?

Photo credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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 Michael Bird, Seyfi Genç, and London Shortwave for the following tips:


Can you hear me now: How pilots communicate with ATC while 35,000 feet in the air (The Points Guy UK)

When you’re in a sealed, pressurised tube five miles above the ground, being able to communicate effectively is essential. In the early days of aviation, flags and light signals were used before designers were able to fit basic radio equipment into aircraft.

Modern aircraft now have an array of communication devices from the rudimentary HF radios of old to sophisticated satellite-based systems that enable us to talk almost as if we were on a mobile phone.

[…]The most common form of communication in aviation, very high frequency (VHF) radio calls are what we use for around 95% of our communications with ATC. In simplified terms, the transmitting station sends a signal that travels in a straight line and is picked up by the receiving station.

VHF comms provide clear voice communications. However, as the radio signals travel in straight lines, they are limited by the curvature of the earth and objects that they may come into contact with, such as hills and mountains.

The distance which a VHF signal can travel depends on both the height from which the signal is sent and the height of the receiving station. If both the sender and the receiver are on the ground, the distance will be relatively small. If both stations are in the air, the distance the signals can travel is much further.[]

Bushfire Research shows ABC Radio highly trusted and saves lives (Radio Info)

As the Bushfire Royal Commission continues, the ABC has released independent research that shows Australians turned to the national broadcaster in record numbers during the recent bushfire crisis.

The research shows that the ABC was the most trusted information source during the fires and that lives were saved as a result of people acting on information the ABC provided.

At the height of the bushfire crisis (31 December-14 January) ABC Sydney and ABC NSW local radio produced 296 hours of rolling/continuous fire coverage, ABC Gippsland 134 hours, and ABC Melbourne 83 hours.[]

New Shortwave Forum in Turkey

73 and hello from Shortwave Forum!

A dedicated Facebook and parallel Whatsapp group, to exchange news and info by SWL’s and DX’ers from Turkey, NOW goes wider and more permanent:

http://www.shortwaveforum.com

The Shortwave Forum will be open to all who want to join and contribute. Membership is free.

With members from all corners of the globe, the content of our beautiful hobby will reach the richness it always deserves.

Register now! And keep those tips and news coming!

Did a Ham Radio Enthusiast Actually Speak to Crew Dragon? (Popular Mechanics)

In a strange turn of events, a ham radio enthusiast in Gujarat, India falsely claimed to have made contact with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley during their historic journey to the International Space Station last weekend.

Engineer Adhir Saiyadh told the Ahmedabad Mirror he decided to try to connect with the ISS as it sped over India and “coincidentally got connected to their frequency and received a response from one of the commandants of the capsule,” he said.

But NASA says it simply isn’t true.

Behnken and Hurley blasted off from NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A on Saturday, May 30. After 19 hours in orbit, the astronauts docked with the ISS and reunited with fellow astronaut Chris Cassidy—whose ham call sign is KF5KDR, by the way—and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

“We did check with SpaceX to confirm that they were not aware of any communication with the astronauts via ham radio, and the crew did not report having received communication,” a NASA spokesperson told Popular Mechanics via email. “We are also under the impression that may be technically impossible for the Crew Dragon to communicate through ham radio.”[]


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Radio Waves: Hacking Satellites, “Close-Knit” Ham Radio Culture, TV Drama Diplomacy, and Ofcom Relaxes Restricted Service Licence

(Image: NASA)

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 BJ Leiderman, London Shortwave, and Michael Bird for the following tips:


Hacker Used £270 of TV Equipment to Eavesdrop on Sensitive Satellite Communications (CBRonline.com)

“Vulnerable systems administration pages and FTP servers were publicly routable from the open internet.

An Oxford University-based security researcher says he used £270 ($300) of home television equipment to capture terabytes of real-world satellite traffic — including sensitive data from “some of the world’s largest organisations.”

James Pavur, a Rhodes Scholar and DPhil student at Oxford, will detail the attack in a session at the Black Hat security conference in early August.

Pavur will also demonstrate that, “under the right conditions” attackers can hijack active sessions via satellite link, a session overview reveals.

The news comes as the number of satellites in orbit is expected to increase from approximately 2,000 today to more than 15,000 by 2030. (Elon Musk’s SpaceX alone has permission to launch 12,000 satellites.)[]

A close-knit culture, with separation at its core (Christian Science Monitor)

Ham radio operators are a global collective with a common aim: to forge human connections in an expanding network. As COVID-19 makes us all ‘distance,’ we wanted to tune in to their world.

You’re logged in, the Zoom meeting underway, and suddenly faces freeze. The best you can do: Reboot the router and cross your fingers. You’re on the phone with a friend, deep in conversation, and the audio gets garbled as the bars on your phone drop from one to none. Technology can fail us at inconvenient times. But imagine a communications technology that could hold up even in the most rugged and remote situations.

It exists, and it’s much older than the smartphone.

Amateur radio, or ham radio, has been around for more than a century, functioning as both workhorse and recreational hobby. After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, amateur operators coordinated communications as cellphone systems became overloaded. They played a key role in Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria took down much of the communications infrastructure. Though there hasn’t been as much of a need during the pandemic – with traditional systems up and running – amateur radio is keeping its own user communities in touch, informed, and emotionally grounded.[]

Australia criticised for TV drama diplomacy (Radio New Zealand)

[Listen to full interview above or at RNZ.]

Australia has been told it should not send low-brow TV dramas and reality shows to the Pacific, but find out what the region really wants.

Canberra has announced plans to stream television content to the Pacific as part of efforts to promote Australia’s relationship with the region, and to counter Chinese influence.

But a spokesperson for advocacy group, Australia Asia Pacific Media Initiative, Sue Ahearn, says sending programmes like Neighbours, Border Force is not the answer.

She believes Australia could provide a much greater service for the Pacific.[]

Update: Licensing drive-in movies and church services (Southgate ARC)

Drive-in movie and church service event organisers could be granted temporary radio licences by Ofcom, which may allow film lovers and congregations to come together while still observing social distancing.

Ofcom has today updated its licensing information to offer guidance to individuals or organisations who may wish to hold these types of events. They require a ‘restricted service licence’ from Ofcom, so that people in their cars can hear the film soundtrack, or what is being said, on their FM car radios.

Given the current coronavirus pandemic, we are waiving the usual 60-day notice period for licence applications. We will also process applications quickly, with the aim of providing an answer to applicants within two weeks of it being received.

We recognise that these events may be a way for communities and congregations to enjoy a film or to worship, while still observing social distancing. In granting any licence, however, we are not authorising the event itself. It is for licensees to ensure that any events are permissible under Covid-19-related laws and guidance.

More information, including on how to apply for a restricted service licence, is available.
Licensing information []


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Australian Gov’t reviewing media services (including loss of shortwave) in the Asia-Pacific

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, for sharing the following Have Your Say review of Australian Broadcasting Services in the Asia Pacific:

Review of Australian Broadcasting Services in the Asia Pacific – Terms of Reference

The Government is undertaking a review of Australian media services in the Asia Pacific, including the role of shortwave radio. The review is being conducted jointly by the Department of Communications and the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Purpose

The objective of the review is to assess the reach of Australia’s media in the Asia Pacific region, including examining whether shortwave radio technology should be used.

Scope

The review will analyse the:

  • coverage and access of existing Australian media services in the Asia Pacific region; and
  • use and value of Australian shortwave technology in the Asia Pacific region.The review will cover:
  • all media distribution platforms (i.e. television, radio and online);
  • commercial, community and publicly funded services; and
  • different types of technologies such as analogue, digital and satellite radio and television services and online services.

Have your say

Interested stakeholders in Australia and overseas are encouraged to contribute to this review. Submissions on any aspect of the review should be uploaded to the review website by 3 August 2018.

Timeframe

The review is expected to report to the Government in 2018.

Background

In September 2017 the Government agreed to conduct a review of Asia Pacific Broadcasting Services as follows:

“The Department of Communications and the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will conduct a review into the reach of Australian broadcasting services in the Asia Pacific region, including examining whether shortwave radio technology should be used. The review will include public consultation and the report of the review will be made public.”


Consultation Period:
June 04, 2018 09:00 AEST to August 03, 2018 17:00 AEST

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation ceased shortwave broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific region in January 2017 ahead of a transition to FM transmission.

The review is assessing the reach of Australia’s media in the Asia-Pacific region, including examining whether shortwave radio technology should be used.

All media distribution platforms – television, radio and online – are being examined including commercial, community and publicly funded services.

The review is also looking at different types of technologies such as analogue, digital and satellite radio and television services and online services.

Click here to view this information and participate via the Have Your Say website.

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Mystery: Traders using “shortwave to cross oceans with less latency than any fiber”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, who shares this fascinating article which takes a look at high-frequency trading firms:

(Source: Sniper in Mahwah & Friends)

Shortwave Trading | Part I | the West Chicago Tower Mystery

Since 2014 this blog has extensively covered the wireless networks built by high-frequency trading (HFT) firms or network providers to reduce latencies between the different exchanges around the world (market makers need fast connectivity to manage risk, news traders also need to be fast, etc.). This epic investigation on microwave, which started with HFT in my backyard, will be fully reported in a book I’m currently writing (in French for now). As I’m quite busy with this writing (and other/more interesting matters about market structure), I didn’t really have the time to check out what I have been hearing about “shortwave” or “high frequency” radio. This is the way high-frequency trading firms may use shortwave radio to directly connect widely-separated locations (in short, traders are willing to use shortwave to cross oceans with less latency than any fiber – like Hibernia).

But recently I got more intel about the situation (and some fun anecdotes). With some help from the US, I found that a firm purchased a field for more than 1$M to build towers and antennas; with some help from the EU, I got hints about Germany; and I dug into UK public records. I even met, last March in Amsterdam, people involved in those projects. Not surprisingly, at least five HFT/market making firms showed up behind the shell companies/names they use to hide. The usual suspects. Above all, I have been contacted recently by someone from Chicago, Bob, who decided to investigate the “shortwave” networks in his backyard. Today I’m pleased to host Bob as a new guest writer on this blog. This first part of the “Shortwave Trading” series is released at the same time Bob is talking about what he found at the STAC Summit in Chicago. Next parts will follow soon.[…]

Read the full guest post by Bob (KE9YQ) at the blog Sniper in Mahwah & Friends.

This is a fascinating read, and it’s fun to follow Bob–who obviously knows his way around communications sites and the FCC–put all of the pieces together. I’m looking forward to his future posts.

I think it’s fascinating that while some are calling the HF/shortwave spectrum a dead, outdated medium, others are working in the background leveraging shortwave’s strong and unique properties as a communications medium:

  • Shortwave requires no infrastructure between communication points
  • Shortwave can be used to communicate over vast distances
  • Shortwave needs no permission to cross borders
  • Shortwave has no latency–signals/communications travel at the speed of light
  • Shortwave communications are relatively durable, adaptive and are difficult/costly to intentionally block

As I’ve mentioned a number of times in the past–especially in this article from almost four years ago–while we may be seeing big government broadcasts sun-setting we haven’t seen the end of shortwave communications.

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London Shortwave’s innovative PocketCHIP-powered field portable SDR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, who recently shared his latest SDR project: a field-portable, ultra-compact, SDR spectrum recording system based on the PocketCHIP computer.

London Shortwave has built this system from the ground up and notes that it works well but is currently limited to the FunCube Dongle Pro+ at 192 kHz bandwidth. There is no real-time monitoring of what’s being recorded, but it works efficiently and effectively–making spectrum captures from the field effortless. The following is a video London Shortwave shared via Twitter:

Click here to view via Twitter.

The PocketCHIP–the device his system is built around–is a $69 (US) handheld computer with color display:

Click here to view the PocketCHIP website.

I think this field portable SDR system is absolutely brilliant!

Homegrown innovation

London Shortwave has done all of the coding to make the FunCube Dongle Pro + work with the PocketChip computer. Even though live spectrum can’t be monitored in the field, the fact that it’s making such a clean spectrum recording is all that really matters.

All London Shortwave has to do is head to a park with his kit, deploy it, sit on a bench, read a good book, eat a sandwich, then pack it all up. Once home, he transfers the recording and enjoys tuning through relatively RFI-free radio.

A very clever way to escape the noise.

The kit is so incredibly portable, it would make DXing from any location a breeze. You could easily pack this in a carry-on item, backpack or briefcase, then take it to a park, a national forest, a lake, a remote beach–anywhere.

What I really love about this? He didn’t wait for something to be designed for him, he simply made it himself.

Thanks again, London Shortwave. We look forward to reading about your radio adventures with this cool field SDR!

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On shortwave radio diversity reception

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, who recently shared this post from the blog, Making It Up:

Shortwave Radio Diversity Reception

Shortwave radio diversity reception provides a way to combine several fluctuating signals and get a solid result. It provided the foundation for most radio news received in America for years. 

During World War II, most countries around the world relied on Britain’s shortwave radio broadcasts for the latest news from Europe. In the days before transatlantic audio cables or satellites, distant news traveled fastest by radio. Networks in the America’s, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere re-broadcast shortwave radio news domestically.

Getting reliable, good quality audio programs over shortwave is always a challenge because of fading. As signals bounce off the ionosphere, they split over multiple paths. Often they fade and flutter, sometimes significantly, as the nature of the layers change with time. Here are several examples of shortwave signals fading, so you know what it sounds like. Skywave radio signals are subject to complex patterns of travel and interference.

Eventually, domestic networks found a clever way to get better audio from these distant signals.

[…]Diversity reception works like this. Instead of one signal, you monitor several signals at once and blend them together. Harold Beverage and RCA pioneered work on shortwave radio diversity reception in 1920’s. Commercial solutions arrived by 1933. Typically, you would use three receivers with three different antennas, spaced 1,000 feet apart. When antennas are widely spaced, signals arrive with different fading. Just combine the signals and let the strongest signal dominate. As long as the fading is not correlated across all three antennas, improvement can be significant.

Diversity reception can be achieved in several ways. The most popular – spatial diversity – is described above. Other methods include frequency diversity – mixing together the same program received on several different channels.[…]

Continue reading…

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Wireless Nights on BBC Radio 4 features London Shortwave

One of London Shortwave’s portable spectrum capture systems

I am very happy to share that the BBC Radio 4 program Wireless Nights, Series 5, features our own community member London Shortwave this week. The show aired tonight (March 27) and the audio is now available to stream via the Radio 4 website. I’ve also embedded the audio below:

Here’s the description of the show from Radio 4:

Megahertz

Jarvis Cocker navigates the ether as he continues his nocturnal exploration of the human condition.

On a night voyage across a sea of shortwave he meets those who broadcast, monitor and harvest electronic radio transmissions after dark.

Paddy Macaloon, founder of the band Prefab Sprout, took to trawling the megahertz when he was recovering from eye surgery and the world around him became dark. Tuning in at night he developed a ghostly romance with far off voices and abnormal sounds.

Artist Katie Paterson and ‘Moonbouncer’ Peter Blair send Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to the moon and back, to find sections of it swallowed up by craters.

Journalist Colin Freeman was captured by the Somali pirates he went to report on and held hostage in a cave. But when one of them loaned him a shortwave radio, the faint signal to the outside world gave him hope as he dreamed of freedom.

And “London Shortwave” hides out in a park after dark, with his ear to the speaker on his radio, slowly turning the dial to reach all four corners of the earth

Jarvis sails in and out of their stories – from the cosmic to the captive – as he wonders what else is out there, deep in the noise

Producer Neil McCarthy.

I found Megahertz absolutely captivating! I’m very impressed with how all of the personal adventures in radio, including an array of motivations, were weaved together.

And brilliant job, London Shortwave! It was fun to go on a park outing with you and your spectrum capture gear!

Click here to listen to Megahertz on BBC Radio 4.

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