Tag Archives: Why Shortwave

An HF “Renaissance”: Militaries reinvests in shortwave communications

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Michael Guerin and Dennis Dura who share the following story from C4ISR.net (my comments follow excerpt):

LONDON — Special operations commands across Europe are ramping up their capabilities with high-frequency communications to ensure connectivity on the battlefield. Leaders there are turning to high frequency communications as a way to optimize properties that provide a low probability of interception and detection.

Special forces in France, Germany, Poland and Ukraine continue to receive high-frequency, or HF, systems as a way to diversify communications plans, industry sources confirmed to C4ISRNET.

Some special operations organizations have selected L3Harris’ AN/PRC-160(V), industry sources said.

Enhancements in HF come at a time when NATO members and partner forces are suffering from a disruption of satellite communications, particularly along the alliance’s eastern flank where Russian armed forces continue to conduct electronic warfare.

In an online presentation to the Association of Old Crows on Aug. 6, Paul Denisowski, product management engineer at Rohde and Schwarz North America, described how communications satellites are vulnerable to antisatellite systems as well as ground-, air- and space-based “kill vehicles.”

“China, Russia and the U.S. have all carried out ASAT tests and many other countries are developing ASAT capabilities,” Denisowski said, using an acronym for anti-satellite. To boost resilience, some commands are turning to high-frequency communications.

During the presentations “Lost Art of HF” and the “Rebirth of Shortwave in a Digital World,” Denisowski explained that HF is making a comeback in local and global communications. This renaissance comes as the result of improvements in a range of fields, including antenna design, digital modulation schemes and improved understanding of propagation.

The market is also helped by reductions in size, weight and power requirements as well as the introduction of wideband data, enhanced encryption algorithms and interoperability with legacy HF sets, he said.

“This means end users are now benefiting from easier-to-use and cheaper solutions featuring improved data performance, audio quality, availability and operation. And because of a lack of infrastructure, HF is less expensive and relatively robust, although solar events may temporarily disrupt HF communications,” he said. Specific upgrades include “Adaptive HF,” which comprises automatic selection of frequency and the establishment of communication through automatic link establishment, or ALE, technology.

The latest technology of its type — 4G ALE — is capable of supporting wideband HF communications, or WBHF for short, providing end users with the ability to “negotiate bandwidth, modulation type, error correction and the number of sub-carriers,” Denisowski explained.

“ALE selects frequencies using link quality analysis, which allows it to listen and determine if a channel is in use and adapt if conditions change,” he said.

He added that HF can now support data rates up to 240 kilobytes per second on a 48-kilohertz channel, particularly useful for more robust communications in hostile environments.

“WBHF has already [been] used in military trials. It’s a technology which is most definitely here and now,” Denisowski said.

[…]The report explained how the U.S. Army and European NATO partners explored such scenarios during a series of joint exercises in 2019 and 2020. “A new need arrives for alternative communication skills, justified through the increasing vulnerability from SATCOM jamming as well as the potential failure of SATCOM as a result of attacks on spacecraft or through the use of anti-satellite surface-to-air missiles,” the report’s author, Jan Pätzold, told C4ISRNET. “The development of alternative skills is important to reduce dependence on SATCOM.”

According to Pätzold, so-called Skywave HF, which bounces signals off the ionosphere, enables beyond line-of-sight communications across “thousands of kilometers” without requirements. HF communications is also ideally suited to supporting local network coverage. “This offers advantages over SATCOM in urban areas, but also in mountainous areas or far north latitudes where no line of sight to existing satellites is possible,” Pätzold said

Click here to read the full story at C4ISR.net.


My comment: What’s old is new again

As I’ve said in previous posts:

The shortwaves–which is to say, the high-frequency portion of the radio spectrum–will never disappear, even though international broadcasters may eventually fade into history. I often think of the shortwave spectrum as a global resource that will always be here, even if we humans are not. But on a brighter note, I expect the shortwave spectrum will be used for centuries to come, as we implement various technologies that find ways to make use of the medium.

HF communications require so little infrastructure to be effective. It’s a global communications medium that carries messages and data at the speed of light with no regard for national borders. Sure, there are reliability issues with HF propagation, but even amateur radio enthusiasts employ weak-signal digital modes that almost seem to defy propagation. I’m certain with the backing of the military, even more robust digital modes will be used (above and beyond ALE).

Even the business world sees opportunity. Case in point: we’ve seen stock traders set up point-to-point HF communications to edge out their competitors who rely on fiber optics.

HF systems are more durable and easier to harden to endure times of intense space weather events that affect our sat networks as well.

But then again, I’m preaching to the choir.

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Radio Waves: QSL delays, Radio’s Chance to Matter, Radio Listening Booms, and Experimental Radio News

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 Roseanna, the International Radio Report, Bennett, and Eric McFadden for the following tips:


QSL news for March 2020: Radio Taiwan International and Radio Slovakia International (The Girl with the Radio)

I have some news, first from Radio Taiwan International:
Due to COVID-19, RTI has decided to suspend posting QSL cards to the countries listed in the image [attached].

If you live in any of these countries I would advise you to expect significant delays in receiving a physical QSL card from RTI.

Secondly, Radio Slovakia International have announced on their show that they currently don’t expect to be able to have QSL cards made and/or sent out in a timely manner for quite some time, again due to COVID-19.[]

Radio, Don’t Blow Your Chance to Matter Again (Guest Column — Variety)

Radio, I’ve just about had enough of you and your abandonment of your defining purpose as broadcasters. With the coronavirus pandemic now ravaging everyday life and suspending every reliable comfort from work routines to sports and entertainment or actual human contact, we’re looking for steadiness somewhere — an echo of the familiar, a kindred connection. Anything to tether us to something recognizable. A service the radio dial used to provide — and public radio still does.

Corporate radio is missing its biggest opportunity in a generation right at this moment.

Based on the events of the last few days in Los Angeles, market No. 2 with a 60-plus year history of rich and vibrant local broadcasting excellence, it appears there is little wisdom or vision left. Case in point: the vast audience disconnect in Entercom’s abrupt and confusing decision at KROQ-FM to fire morning show personality Kevin Ryder on Wednesday, someone who is a heritage voice in L.A. with a long local history as half of the “Kevin & Bean Show,” a well-loved talent who had just launched the freshly-formed team “Kevin in the Morning With Allie & Jensen” this past January (in the wake of longtime partner Gene “Bean” Baxter’s retirement last year). But instead of capitalizing on that position of strength, using this particular anchor as a steady ship for the approaching tidal wave of pandemic upheavals, KROQ chooses to obliterate a main source of humor and comfort from its airwaves right at a moment when the attending audience needs stability more than ever.[]

Coronavirus: Radio listening booms while music streaming stalls (Southgate ARC)

BBC News report that people staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic appear to be listening to more radio rather than music apps, figures suggest.

Global, which owns Capital FM and talk station LBC, said online radio listening had risen by 15%.

The BBC said streaming of its radio stations had risen 18% since last week.

Meanwhile, data from two US analytics companies suggested use of music-streaming apps such as Spotify had dipped by about 8%.

“These figures indicate that the public are turning to radio in times of crisis,” a Global spokeswoman said.

BBC Radio and Education director James Purnell said: “People turn to us during significant events for our news and analysis but also for music, entertainment and companionship.

Article continues here:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-52037461

Experimental Radio News 2

Experimental Radio licenses from the files of the Federal Communications Commission

On February 24, 2020, Lynk’s experimental satellite licensed as WQ9XDP was received on an unmodified mobile phone in the Falklands. The test apparently was in “cell broadcast” mode — as in Wireless Emergency Alerts and Amber Alerts — and not an individualized call to a specific handset. (The video below contains an expletive.)

[…]WJ2XUG was issued to PointView Tech, reportedly a unit of Facebook, for the Athena satellite project in the 70 and 80 GHz bands. At this writing, the public record for this experiment was incomplete as the FCC had asked PointView for additional ground station information.

[…]Viziv Technologies, licensee of WJ2XGB, a giant experimental station in Texas, has proposed additional uses for its technology beyond wireless power transmission.

[…]Another wireless power venture is Guru Wireless, which was issued WK2XRN for tests at 10, 24 and 62 GHz. “Radio wave energy is generated in the GU [generating unit], and then it is refracted and channeled into highly focused beams, which reach and power your devices,” according to the Guru website.

[…]Rohde & Schwarz USA was issued WP9XZP for Special Temporary Authority in association with Microsoft, which is evaluating security scanners apparently for its own use. The Rohde & Schwartz product is a “millimeter wave security scanner that automatically detects potentially dangerous items carried on the body or in clothing. It consists of a flat panel with 3,008 transmitter/receiver pairs that emit extremely low-power millimeter waves in very short succession,” the company said.[…]

These are clippings from Experimental Radio News–click here to read the full items.


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Loss of BBC Hindi shortwave service and listener reactions

(Photo by Elle via Unsplash)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Iurescia (LW4DAF), who shares the following story from The Print:

Emotional emails & offers to crowdfund — how fans tried to keep BBC Hindi radio on air

The service fell silent last month with its last transmission on 31 January. The BBC management now plans to boost its digital and TV presence.

New Delhi: It was the BBC’s Hindi radio on shortwave that slowly carved an identity for the British broadcaster in India after its launch 80 years ago. With an estimated audience of 40 lakh across India, the radio service was the first choice for consumers of serious news and entertainment alike, particularly in the remote and far-flung parts of the country.

But the service fell silent last month, on 31 January, with the BBC management citing a dwindling audience and plans to boost digital and TV presence as reasons to call time on this chapter of history.

It came as a rude shock for its loyal audience and the dismay was evident, according to BBC insiders.

“It was heartbreaking to see the kind of emotional emails and letters we received on the days preceding the shutdown and after that,” an insider told ThePrint. “They (the audience) pleaded to keep the service afloat. Some even said they were willing to crowdfund it. But it seems the management was interested in the numbers and the BBC Hindi radio service on shortwave was not giving them adequate numbers.”

Another insider in the BBC said audience numbers for the radio service had come down from 1 crore a few years ago to about 40 lakh now, even as its presence on platforms such as YouTube thrived. The service has also established its presence on television with a tie-up with news channel NDTV.

“But in our experience the quality of news consumers is poor in digital as compared to the loyal audience that BBC Hindi radio service in shortwave enjoyed,” the second insider said, basing the assessment on feedback received from both sets of audiences.

“I would say the management was insensitive to the millions of listeners in the remote corners of India who banked on the service as their daily source of news,” the insider added.

The decision to switch off BBC Hindi radio is part of the British broadcaster’s global cost-cutting efforts. It had planned to end the BBC Hindi radio service in 2011, but changed plans owing to massive outrage and a high-profile campaign supported by eminent journalist and author Sir Mark Tully, a former bureau chief of the BBC.

It’s not just the BBC Hindi radio service that has suffered on account of this twin push to cut costs and go digital. Even BBC Urdu announced in December last year that it will end the radio broadcast of its popular news and current affairs programme, Sairbeen.

In India, BBC also has internet broadcasts in other Indian regional languages, but no associated radio services. […]

Continue reading the full article at The Print.

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Thirty Years of Radio New Zealand’s International Service

RNZI QSL

Yesterday, Radio New Zealand celebrated 30 years of service to the Pacific. Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Jason Walker and Peter Marks for sharing the following story and audio from Radio New Zealand:

On 24 January 1990, Radio New Zealand International beamed into the Pacific, on a new 100 kilowatt transmitter.

New Zealand has had a short-wave service to the Pacific since 1948. The station broadcast on two 7.5kw transmitters from Titahi Bay, which had been left behind by the US military after the Second World War.

In the late 1980s, following growing political pressure to take a more active role in the Pacific area, the New Zealand government upgraded the service.

A new 100kw transmitter was installed and, on the same day the Commonwealth Games opened in Auckland, the service was re-launched as Radio New Zealand International.

“What we were able to understand was how important radio was and still is in the Pacific, where as here radio had become a second cousin to television… different thing in most of the countries we worked with,” said RNZ International’s first manager was Ian Johnstone, from 1990 to ’93.

Mr Johnstone said news of a dedicated Pacific service into the region was welcomed by Pacific communities.

He also said it was important for New Zealanders to remember that New Zealand is part of the Pacific.[…]

Continue reading the full article and listen to embedded audio at Radio New Zealand.

Audio:

Click here for the audio links.

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Pacific Beat: Vanuatu invests in shortwave service

(Source: ABC Pacific Beat via Michael Bird)

Click here to listen.

In the age of social media and internet technology, shortwave may be seen as traditional technology — but it still plays an important role in reaching far-flung communities, with Vanuatu’s public broadcaster now investing millions of dollars to boost its shortwave service.

The Vanuatu Broadcasting Television Corporation (VBTC) is investing AUD$12 million in upgrading its national radio service through its shortwave and and medium wave service.

VBTC chief executive officer, Francis Herman told the ABC that only 30 per cent of the country can access national radio but after the upgrade, this would increase to 100 per cent coverage across Vanuatu’s 80-plus islands.

“Radio as you know is cost effective, people can pick it up on their phone, in the villages where television can not reach, radio is the companion for people,” Mr Herman said.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation shutdown its shortwave service to the Pacific in 2017, in favour of a digital presence while China and New Zealand have increased their shortwave coverage.

Technology commentator Peter Marks said investing in shortwave is a great way to complement Vanuatu’s national radio service.

“Shortwave comes from over the horizon it will continue to work even when local conditions are difficult like extreme weather that might knock out local FM and AM stations and internet,” Mr Marks said.

Vanuatu is listed by the United Nations as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and regularly experiences, earthquakes, cyclones and floods.

Mr Herman said this makes having a national shortwave service even more important.

“We have general elections in March next year, we are about to head into the cyclone season beginning in November and so its important, it’s crucial that the people of Vanuatu can get access to a reliable and credible broadcaster,” Mr Herman said.

Along with its shortwave broadcasts, the VBTC is also looking to improve its television coverage over the next two years, with funding support from the Vanuatu government, New Zealand and China.

Click here to read the full article and listen to the audio at Pacific Beat.


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BBC’s Shortwave Service to Kashmir: “an important lifeline”

(Source: CNN Business)

London (CNN Business) As a communications blackout continues in Kashmir, the BBC is using one of the only ways to reach listeners in the Indian-controlled state: shortwave radio.

The BBC is extending its Hindi radio output by 30 minutes, launching a 15-minute daily program in Urdu, and expanding its English broadcasts by an hour. All are being broadcast via shortwave signals.

“Given the shutdown of digital services and phone lines in the region, it’s right for us to try and increase the provision of news on our shortwave radio services,” Jamie Angus, director of the BBC World Service, said in a statement.

Indian-controlled Kashmir is under a tight security lockdown and total communications blackout. The blackout has included internet and landline phones, and some television channels have been cut. The repressive measures, in place since August 5, were introduced just days before the Indian government announced that it was withdrawing Article 370 of the constitution, reclassifying Kashmir’s administrative status from a state to a union territory. The move took away Kashmir’s semi-autonomous special status.

Pakistan, which also controls territory in the region, reacted angrily to the move by India. The two neighbors have fought three wars over Kashmir, and the region has been the focus of periodic conflict for more than 70 years.

Shortwave radio bands are able travel long distances using very high frequencies, unlike traditional radio waves that need to travel in straight lines.

In an interview with CNN Business, Angus said most people in the region don’t normally use shortwave to listen to their programs. But due to the communications blocks, “we’ve got limited options,” he said.

“The shortwave audience has historically been in decline, but it’s an important lifeline as a way to reach people,” Angus said. “People value the BBC because it’s independent and one step removed from the national heat around these discussions, that’s why people value our reporting.”[…]

Continue reading the full article at CNN Business.

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“BBC World Service steps up shortwave broadcasts in Kashmir during media shutdown”

(Image source: BBC)

(Source: BBC Media Centre via @George53419980)

The BBC World Service has extended output on shortwave radio in Indian-administered Kashmir to provide reliable news and information.

The Director of the BBC World Service, Jamie Angus, says: “The provision of independent and trusted news in places of conflict and tension is one of the core purposes of the World Service.

“Given the shutdown of digital services and phone lines in the region, it’s right for us to try and increase the provision of news on our short wave radio services. Audiences in both India and Pakistan trust the BBC to speak with an independent voice, and we know that our reporting through several moments of crisis this year has been popular and valued by audiences who turn to us when tensions are highest.”

BBC News Hindi radio output (9515 and 11995kHz) will be extended by 30 minutes from Friday 16 August. The full one-hour news programme will be on air from 7.30pm to 8.30pm local time.

On Monday 19 August, BBC News Urdu will launch a 15-minute daily programme, Neemroz. Broadcast at 12.30pm local time on 15310kHz and 13650kHz, the programme will focus on news coming from Kashmir and the developments around the issue, and include global news roundup tailored for audiences in Kashmir.

BBC World Service English broadcasts (11795kHz, 9670kHz, 9580kHz, 7345kHz, 6040kHz) will be expanded, with the morning programming extended by an hour, ending at 8.30am local time; and the afternoon and evening programming starting an hour earlier, at 4.30pm local time.

The shutdown has left people with very few options for accessing news at this time. However, news services from the BBC continue to be available in the region – through shortwave radio transmissions in English, Urdu, Hindi, Dari and Pashto. As well as providing an important source of news to the region, the South Asian language services have brought added depth to the BBC’s coverage of the Kashmir story.

The recent introduction of four new languages services for India – Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi and Telugu, following additional investment from the UK Government – has enabled the BBC to offer a wider portfolio of languages and distribution methods to a region that is geographically diverse as well as politically tense. This year’s Global Audience Measure for the BBC showed that India is now the World Service’s largest market, with a weekly audience of 50m.

LN

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