Tag Archives: Shortwave Trading

Radio Waves: RIP Dame Vera Lynn, 1928 London Noises, Repoliticizing VOA, and Shortwave Trading At the Speed of Light

Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020)

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 Tracy Wood, Dennis Dura, David Goren, and Kim Elliott for the following tips:


Obituary: Dame Vera Lynn, a symbol of resilience and hope (BBC News)

Dame Vera Lynn, who has died at the age of 103, was Britain’s wartime Forces’ Sweetheart, and remained one of the country’s most potent symbols of resilience and hope.

With songs such as We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover, she inspired both troops abroad and civilians at home during World War Two.

As Britain’s cities came under attack, her wistful songs, with their messages of yearning and optimism, were heard in millions of British homes.

And 75 years later, the country turned to her once again as it faced another stern test.[]

Click here to read our SWLing Post tribute to Dame Vera Lynn from 2015 which includes a recording made from my Scott Marine Model SLRM.

London street noises 1928 (Sound and History)

THERE ARE NO BBC radio recordings surviving from before 1931, so the job of representing the 1920s falls to this curiosity from the Columbia Graphophone Company. It’s a 12” 78rpm disc made in 1928 in association with the Daily Mail newspaper.

It seems likely that the disc was somehow tied in with a Daily Mail campaign over urban traffic noise. The commentator on both sides of the disc is a man named Commander Daniel and he doesn’t approve of everything he hears in the city streets.

The recordings were made from single, static locations in Leicester Square and Beauchamp Place on Tuesday 11th and Thursday 20th September respectively. Columbia probably used a recording van equipped with a disc-cutter.[]

Repoliticizing Voice of America (The Hill)

When Michael Pack takes over as the first politically-appointed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, his first task will be to comprehend the bewildering array of international broadcasting entities under the USAGM. This includes two government agencies: Voice of America and Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí), and four government funded corporations: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks (the Arabic-language Alhurra and Radio Sawa) and the anti-censorship Open Technology Fund. Within this structure are broadcasting outlets that straddle two entities, such as the Russian-language Current TV. All told, the entities distribute content in 61 languages.

When past that hurdle, Pack must then decide if he wants to maintain the journalistic independence of USAGM’s entities, or if he wants to move them towards advocacy of the administration’s policies.[]

Companies Pitch Shortwave Radio to Shave Milliseconds Off Trades (Bloomberg)

High-frequency traders will famously do almost anything to get the latest market data and send their buy and sell orders a few milliseconds ahead of the competition. They blasted through mountains to build the most direct fiber-optic routes possible between exchanges in a competition that transformed global markets and was made famous by Michael Lewis’s book Flash Boys. Soon, pinging light through glass fiber at more than 124,000 miles per second wasn’t fast enough—the glass slows things down—so traders moved on to microwave transmitters that send signals through the air.

But that has problems, too. Microwaves travel only roughly as far as the eye can see before they peter out and need a signal boost. Now two rival market telecommunications companies have signed a pact that they say will give traders more access to experimental wireless signals which can travel across oceans.

To do that, signals need a longer wavelength—known as a shortwave rather than microwave—that bounces between the water and atmosphere. It’s an imperfect solution. The waves can handle only a fraction of the data that fiber can, carrying about a kilobit per second vs. gigabits. And some signals can be lost.

Raft Technologies Inc., a startup based in Tel Aviv, says the trade-offs are worth it. Raft says it can send data over shortwave from Chicago to Frankfurt in 31.4 milliseconds, which it says is about 4.5 milliseconds faster than the best available fiber route. That’s an eternity in an industry that tends to measure improvements by the thousandth of a millisecond. The company says the signal is about 85% reliable, compared with 100% for fiber. Clients can use a fiber line in parallel as a fail-safe measure.[]


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Cryptocurrency transactions over solar-powered shortwave radios

(Source: @nixops)

(Source: The Next Web via Kim Elliott)

Devs used solar-powered radios to complete first ‘off-grid’ cryptocurrency transaction

Could blockchain help after disaster strikes?

A group of developers claim to have performed a solar-powered cryptocurrency transaction, using shortwave radios and blockchain tech. While it might not be the world’s first radio-transmitted cryptocurrency transaction, the devs insist it is the first one to be completed entirely off-grid.

They managed to do it with just a portable hard drive, a solar battery pack, a shortwave radio, and, of course, some technical know-how.

In addition to these gadgets, the developers used open-source cryptocurrency Burst to conduct the experiment. For the record, the transaction was recorded on Burst’s blockchain without the need for any mains power or data connections.

One of the developers, Daniel Jones, has since teased an image of the improvised setup on Twitter:

Click here to read the full article on The Next Web.

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Shortwave Trading Part IV (Final Post)

(Source: SNIPER IN MAHWAH & FRIENDS)

After my first few public posts about shortwave trading, I gradually realized that I’d inadvertently created a worldwide network of deputy antenna sleuths. This is the final post in the Shortwave Trading series since the terms of my forthcoming employment agreement will prohibit me from future public talk on the technology of trading. I want to leave behind details on some of the research tools and techniques I’ve used. This is how the sausage is made.

I’ll also leave a list of locations that may be worth watching. Some may be near you. Even if I can’t talk about what’s found in the future, maybe you can? The comments below might be a good place to document new findings until there’s a better place offered.

In addition, following sections will set out the criteria I’ve used to assess the confidence that a shortwave trading site has been found, give example FCC searches, list links to web-based research tools I’ve found useful, give some tips on research techniques, and acknowledge the many people behind the scenes who’ve contributed to this work.

Plausibility Criteria

If you find something that looks like a shortwave trading site, how confident can you be that you’ve found the real thing and not a landing beacon for body-snatching space aliens? Since a shortwave trading site exists to link a local market to a remote market, I can think of two things that set a minimum bar for plausibility:

  1. Visual evidence of a shortwave antenna with a heading toward a remote market. Previous posts in this series have shown many shortwave antennas you can use as models of what to expect. Examples have included headings around 50º from Chicago which cover Europe.
  2. A path for connectivity to a local market. Visual evidence of this can be a microwave dish pointed in the direction of a local market.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article.

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Shortwave Trading Part III

(Source: SNIPER IN MAHWAH & FRIENDS)

I’ve heard that years ago, there was a stable business selling microwave data radios to local governments for networking their offices. Then the traders discovered microwave and everything changed for the radio vendors. Their new customers weren’t so much concerned about the cost—they just wanted the lowest-possible latency in the radios and repeaters.

I’m picking up signs that vendors in other industry segments are now seeing a surge in their business with the recent interest in shortwave trading. For example, TCI has had a good business making shortwave antennas for 50 years. Then they issued a press release in April 2018 saying they’re now working with “non-government customers to provide HF antenna communication systems that minimize timing-latency.”

Bloomberg has picked up the story of shortwave trading, digging through public records to disclose ownership of a site I described in a previous post. It seems like this is a hot topic!

In this post, I’ll show some recent site changes, document a fourth CME/Europe shortwave trading site I’ve discovered, detail discoveries from my trip up the east coast, discuss regulatory questions, cover two patents on shortwave trading, some miscellaneous things, and finally explain the connection between a sax-playing sheep farmer and shortwave trading. This is a long post and these are varied topics, so please just skip to the next section if you’re not engaged.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article.

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Shortwave Trading Part II

Last month, we posted a link to an article that explained why traders might use shortwave radio for high-speed, faster-than-optical-fiber communications. The article by Bob Van Valzah originally appeared on the blog, Sniper in Mahwah & Friends where they’ve just posted part two in the series:

I have previously claimed that trading over shortwave radio is real and presented the story of the first evidence I found of it. It was pleasantly surprising to see the story picked up by IEEE Spectrum, Hacker News, Hackaday, and others. But since I hadn’t anticipated such a diverse audience, I didn’t provide details needed to understand shortwave trading in context so a lot of questions were raised. I’ll provide some background here, answer the questions, and also document two other shortwave trading sites I’ve found around Chicago. Traders can skip ahead while I fill in the broader audience.

Why is there a latency race? Isn’t it just a waste of money?

Electronic trading technologist just take the latency race for granted, but it’s important to think about why it exists and what it means to the average person. When you want to fill your car with gasoline, you have the choice of going to the nearby gas station and accepting their price or perhaps comparing prices at stations a little farther away. We would all spend a lot more time comparison shopping if we didn’t have pretty good confidence that the prices at our local stations were competitive. But what keeps those prices competitive?

The analogy between your local gas station and electronic markets is admittedly imperfect, but I think it is helpful in understanding why latency matters and how you benefit. Nobody can buy a tanker of gasoline in New York and immediately sell it in Chicago. The laws of physics prevent us from economically moving such a heavy load over a long distance quickly. But a share of Apple stock weighs nothing. The Chicago price and the New York price can be compared and changed in an instant. Well, about 4 milliseconds is how long it takes for an updated price to make the trip. Prices can make about 250 one-way trips in a single second.

So when buying or selling Apple shares, you don’t have to shop around for the best price. Electronic trading companies have an incentive to build the fastest networks linking financial centers so that prices can move quickly between them. Buyers and sellers benefit because their local market has electronic traders who know the best prices on other markets and will be happy to do a local deal at the best global price (it’s market making). It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to see the business opportunity in this type of trading, so high-speed traders have to be efficient because they’re competing against each other. The latency race has to happen for each market to have the best price. Competition between electronic traders limits their spend to the benefits that come with better pricing.

Why does radio help win the latency race?

Traders use radio because it can move prices faster than optical fiber.

I won’t bore you with the physics, but I will remind you of this elementary school experiment where a pencil appears to bend in a glass of water. This happens because light moves more quickly through air than it does through water. In the same way, radio waves move more quickly through air than light can move through an optical fiber. In trading parlance, radio is lower latency than fiber over a given distance.

But radio is also faster because it almost always covers a shorter distance. Fiber paths tend to follow roads and property lines that may not go exactly in the desired direction. Radio towers may be inconvenient, but they give the advantage that the signal can take the shortest-possible path allowed by physics, not the kinky path dictated by rights of way.[…]

Continue reading the full article on the blog, Sniper in Mahwah & Friends.

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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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