Tag Archives: Radio World

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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Radio stations may miss out on C-Band repack reimbursement

Photo by Joshua Anderson Slate

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Evans, who shares his insight regarding the 5G band grab. Paul writes:

The ramifications of the FCC selling big chunks of spectrum with existing users in the name of 5G goes on:

(Source: Radio World)

Radio World has learned it’s possible that thousands of radio stations in the United States failed to register their C-Band earth station terminals with the FCC prior to its 2018 deadline and presumably will be ineligible for reimbursement funds set aside by the FCC to cover the cost of a C-Band repack.

The alarm is being sounded by a person on the infrastructure side of the industry familiar with Chairman Ajit Pai’s draft Report and Order to make the lower 280 megahertz of the C-Band (3.7–3.98 GHz) available for flexible use, including 5G, through a public auction.

Radio and TV broadcasters utilize 3.7 to 4.2 GHz for satellite C-Band downlinks. However, the draft order released last week indicates incumbent satellite services are expected to be repacked from the 500 MHz to the upper 200 megahertz of the band (4.0–4.2 GHz).[]

Thanks for the tip, Paul. It looks like a lot of spectrum shuffling is happening in the name of 5G. It also appears US radio stations who failed to register their earth station terminals could be financing a C-band repack on their own.

Admittedly, early on, I was hoping 5G would be the broadband answer for those of us living in rural/remote areas. At least, this was how the service was touted back then. The more I read and look at the physics behind the technology, I suspect coverage won’t even match that of existing 4G services.

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An app to decode DRM?

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

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares this story by Hans Johnson at Radio World:

Can an App Solve the DRM Receiver Problem? (Radio World)

The Digital Radio Mondiale standard for digital broadcasting in long, medium, and shortwave bands offers the possibility to transmit audio, text and pictures.

A few broadcasters use DRM for both domestic and international transmissions. DRM’s largest problem is lack of receivers, especially affordable standalone ones.

Some listeners use an SDR, computer and free Dream software to receive the DRM signals, but this audience doesn’t make up the mass audience that broadcasters are looking for.

[…]AlgorKorea didn’t develop the apps with the intention of solving the DRM receiver issue. They developed them to resolve a problem with FM hearing aids used in classrooms.

So how do they work? The DRM+SDR version couples the popular and inexpensive RTL-SDR to an Android device with a USB OTG adapter.[…]

Click here to read the full article at Radio World.

 

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PIRATE Act passes Senate

(Source: Radio World via Marty)

“Opponents of illegal broadcasting scored a major and long-anticipated victory today: The Senate (finally) unanimously passed the PIRATE Act Wednesday.

Short for “Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement,” only one hurdle remains for S.R. 1228: President Trump’s desk.

The legislation also represents a coup for FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who has championed the anti-piracy enforcement actions recently.

In response to the act’s Senate passage, National Association of Broadcasters President/CEO Gordon Smith said, ‘This legislation provides stronger resources to help the FCC combat illegal pirate radio operations, which not only interfere with licensed radio stations but also public safety communications and air traffic control systems. We look forward to the President signing the PIRATE Act into law.’”[…]

Click here to read the full article at Radio World.

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The WWII “Mosquito Network”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Marty, who shares this article by Mark Durenberger in Radio World:

Inside the U.S. effort in a battle of the airwaves during the Pacific campaign of World War II

We can’t fully appreciate the importance of news from home to those who served in World War II. In the Pacific campaigns, G.I.s, sailors and Marines fought bloody island-hopping battles; as each island was cleared, garrison troops and hospitals moved in and carried on their own war against mosquitoes, isolation and boredom. The island fighters were fortunate if dated mail caught up with them before they moved on to the next target. Timely personal-level communications were pretty much absent.

Radio programming from America was available but only on shortwave. And shortwave radios were not generally available. The fortunate few had been issued “Buddy Kits” that included a radio, a small PA system and a record player for discs sent by mail. But for most there was no way to receive short-lived information such as news and sports. They were left with enemy radio propaganda such as Japan’s “Orphan Ann/Annie” (aka one of several Tokyo Roses) and the “Zero Hour” program.

No wonder that the idea of having a local island radio station doing “live from home” was so fiercely supported. Enlightened commanders saw the idea as a terrific morale-builder. The only problem was how to pull it off.

A solution, not uniquely, came from within the ranks. It started with the work of some bored but talented soldiers in the Panama Canal Zone who in 1940 built a couple of 50 W transmitters and put them on the air without authorization, labeling them “PCAN” and “PCAC.”[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article at Radio World.

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Radio World: Time to “sound off to the FCC about using all-digital on the AM band”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following note posted by Paul McClane at Radio World:

For those who want to sound off to the FCC about using all-digital on the AM band — either “fer it” or “agin it” —- the comment deadlines now are set.

Comments are due March 9, reply comments are due April 6.

As RW has reported, the FCC recently released a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish rules governing all-digital broadcasting by AM radio stations in the United States.

Read the NPRM here. The NPRM number is 19-123.

Click here to read at Radio World.

As we mentioned yesterday, this proposal is certainly in the final stages at this point.

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Cambridge Consultants design a prototype $10 DRM receiver

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

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Bird, who shares the following news via Cambridge Consultants:

Digital launched, ever so long ago, with TV and radio. So what’s the big story? It’s that the last piece of the digital jigsaw is finally in place: a system called Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM), designed to deliver FM-radio-like quality using the medium wave and short wave bands.

We’re familiar with AM on medium wave and accustomed to the horrible buzz, splat, fade away and back again. But it does have a great advantage in that it will reach for hundreds of miles from a single transmitter. That’s a lot easier than FM or DAB, which both need transmitters every 30 or 40 miles. No fewer than 443 DAB transmitter sites are needed to cover the UK alone.

So take a modern digital scheme, apply some clever (and low cost) computing power, and you can get good sound for hundreds of miles. You get to choose radio stations by name instead of kilohertz, and you can even receive text and pictures. Emergency warning and information features are also built into DRM.

Great technology. But will it fly? Is it available for everyone?

The new news is that India, through its national broadcaster All India Radio, has invested in and rolled out a national DRM service, live today. Just 35 transmitters cover that large country. New cars in India have DRM radios in them now. Other countries like South Africa, Malaysia and Brazil are likely to follow India’s lead.

But something’s missing. The radios that can receive DRM are still prohibitively expensive, especially for those markets that would benefit most. So vast swathes of the world remain unconnected to the services that DRM can provide. Where’s the cheap portable that you can pick up from a supermarket to listen to the news or sport?

Cambridge Consultants has just held its annual Innovation Day, where we throw open our doors to industry leaders and reveal future technology. One of our highlights was the prototype of a DRM design that will cost ten dollars or less to produce, addressing that vital need for information by the 60-ish per cent of our global population that doesn’t have internet or TV. It’s low power, so can run from solar or wind-up.

This design will be ready in 2020, available for any radio manufacturer to licence and incorporate into its own products. We’re doing our bit to make affordable radios for every corner of the globe!

Click here to read this post at the Cambridge Consultants website.

Michael also shares this piece from Radio World regarding this project.

I must admit: there have been so many proposed low-cost DRM receiver designs that never came to fruition, it’s easy to be skeptical. I assume the $10/9 Euro design will be for the receiver chip only–not the full portable radio, of course. They plan to bring this to fruition in 2020, so we’ll soon know if they succeed.

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