Tag Archives: WiFi Radio Aggregators

Aggregation aggravation update: Frontier Silicon working on Favorites and Personal Streams

The Sangean WFR-28 WiFi Radio is one of many popular models affected

One of the hottest topics here on the SWLing Post this month is regarding Frontier Silicon and vTuner “aggregation aggravation.”

Let me explain. Earlier this month, Frontier Silicon abruptly dropped vTuner as its radio stream aggregator after vTuner CEO Peter Johnson shut off the service. Johnson stated here on the SWLing Post that he:

“[T]urned off the frontier service just for a couple hours after they backstabbed me.”

One of vTuner’s business clients (a client of Frontier) informed me that Johnson wanted to change the terms of their financial agreement thus used a service blackout to force Frontier’s hand. That seems to be supported by Johnson’s comment.  In the end, we know Frontier dropped vTuner a few days later and has now partnered with Airable.

Regardless of what might have really happened, end-users of the Frontier Silicon service have had to cope with frustrating changes (I own a Sangean WFR-28 and Como Audio Solo which have both been affected).

Without warning, we lost our curated collection of station favorites/bookmarks. Personally, this was a collection of stations I had refined over the better part of three years. To lose them without warning was a bit of a blow to say the least.

To Frontier’s credit, they did implement the new aggregator quickly, but in the process lost some important functionality that was apparently a part of the vTuner service including the ability to save/organize favorites and personal streams. Fortunately, it appears Frontier will address this in the future.

An update from Frontier Silicon

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Dogmatix and Bob Faucett who note the following announcements on Frontier Silicon’s website:

“We are currently experiencing a large volume of support queries. We are prioritising adding missing stations and podcasts, and will be responding to all other queries as quickly as possible. Please accept our apologies for the delay in response.”

“Based on customer feedback we are working to add Favourites and Personal Streams into the new service. Please bear with us for a few weeks while we develop and test this functionality.”

This is good news, although it sounds like it might be some time before functionality is in place.

Feeling vulnerable

I’ve received numerous comments and emails from readers regarding this “aggregation aggravation”–the common thread being a sense of vulnerability.

After the service changes, we realized the degree to which our WiFi radio devices are dependent on Frontier Silicon. When service was cut earlier this month, most of our radios couldn’t even connect to streams that were programmed into front panel memory presets. For a while, our WiFi radios became expensive internet appliances that were unable to function as advertised. Those without a traditional FM/AM receiver were essentially useless.

I imagine this could be the case for Internet radios that rely on other aggregators—in other words, the radio is only as good as its online service.

UNDOK App

A number of readers have been sharing positive comments about the Frontier Silicon UNDOK app as a work-around for storing favorites, etc.

I’ve been on the road the past few weeks and have not had time to explore this app myself, so I would certainly appreciate UNDOK experience/advice from readers.

Please comment!

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Frontier Silicon and vTuner aggregation aggravation continues

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post readers who’ve contacted me regarding the ongoing issues with WiFi radios that rely on the Frontier Silicon/vTuner aggregator partnership. Two days ago, we mentioned this in a post about the service outage that affected Sangean and Como Audio WiFi radio devices.

Turns out, the outage was a sign of deeper troubles that will affect any Internet radio device using the Frontier Silicon aggregator. I know that at least Sangean and Como Audio use the service, but I image there are many more, especially in some automobiles. Indeed, this might also affect devices which use the vTuner service.

At present, I am unable to use my Como Audio Solo or the Sangean WFR-28 WiFi radio. Both require re-saving all of the presets.

Sangean posted a short message on their devices yesterday. Dennis Dura notes:

I have the Sangean WFR-28 and just came home to find a message on every preset saying “due to recent changes to our internet radio service, you will need to save your presents again”.

Not only that, but many of the menus of the radio have changed.

And most bizarre, in the Genre setting, they have eliminated “Jazz” as a category, and have added many I’ve never before or heard off. How does a company eliminate a category that is understood across the world?

Como Audio actually sent an email message regarding the lapse of service yesterday evening.

The Como Audio message described, in some detail, what had actually taken place. Much of Como’s message was based on the following message Frontier Silicon posted on their website:

Why did the service change on 7th May 2019?

On 1st May 2019 we experienced a major outage of the Internet Radio & Podcast service used by our customers’ Internet Radio devices. This was caused by issues with a third-party service provider that were outside our control.  The service provider has also informed us that they are unable to ensure service provision beyond week commencing 6th May.  Any such failure to provide the service would have caused the Internet Radio functionality on all our customers’ devices to stop working unless we had taken this remedial action.

As a result, we have made some changes to the way the service is delivered, and you may notice the following changes:

  • We have deployed a replacement service, and configured all devices to use it.  It may take several hours for your device to see the new service.  Older devices may need to be powered off and back on again to force them to see the new service.
  • We are using a new provider for the Internet Radio and Podcast directory.  You may discover some new stations and podcasts that were not previously available, and you may find some stations and podcasts are missing.  If you notice a station or podcast that you think is missing from the database then please raise a support ticket and we will aim to get it added within 2 business days.
  • You may see some slight changes to the menu structure on your devices due to the change of provider.
  • The previous customer portal is no longer available, and so you can no longer use it to add your own stations.  If you would like a station adding to the database then please raise a support ticket and we will aim to get it added within 2 business days.
  • It is no longer possible to recall Favourites.  Depending on your device, we recommend using the Device Presets or Last Listened functionality to recall your favourite stations instead.
  • Any Device Presets that you have previously saved will no longer work and so you will need to resave them.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused as a result of these changes, which we have made in order to provide continuity of service for customers and users.  This is a large and complex migration and whilst we have tested and rehearsed this scenario in advance there may be an initial period of reduced service stability.  We will be monitoring the service closely during this time and will communicate any issues via the status page at https://status.frontiersmart.com/.

If you have any further comments or questions about the service then please browse the Knowledge Base, and submit a support ticket if you cannot find the information you are looking for.

Of course, we all know that the “third party” is the vTuner aggregator. I’m curious who Frontier Silicon will use now as an aggregator, or if they’ll self-host the database.

A number of readers have reported issues saving their front panel presets and other favorites. My guess is that this functionality will return after the new service is fully implemented. I also assume Frontier Silicon could implement any missing music genres (like the Jazz genre Dennis mentioned). At least, I hope so.

One thing we’ve learned is how very little is actually stored locally in these WiFi radios. It seems everything down to the front panel presets rely on the aggregator functioning properly.

If you have one of the affected WiFi radios, please comment about your experience getting it back online and loaded with station presets. Please report any quirks you encounter during the process. I’ve gotten mixed reports about the Como and Sangean mobile phone applications working properly.

I shall now go about re-saving all of the presets in my family’s WiFi radios.

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WiFi Radio: Dave experiences “aggregation aggravation”

The Sangean WFR-28 WiFi Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Dave Mackie, who writes:

I have a Sangean WFR-28 that just stopped working recently and through a bit of internet spelunking I happened across your site and explanation about Frontier Silicon as ‘aggregator’ for Sangean. A phone call to Sangean confirmed that Frontier Silicon was having a problem with the aggregation service.

First off, thanks for the three part series on internet radio; it gave me just enough of a hint that the problem with be something other than the radio despite the fact that other wifi things were working properly.

[After contacting Frontier Silicon, I received] this unhelpful reply:

Unfortunately, we are having some difficulties with the internet radio service provided to us by a third party, which causes products not to be able to tune to any internet radio stations.

We are working on addressing the issue, and should have it up and running, hopefully within the next 12 hours.

Apologies for any inconvenience.

On one hand we’re getting a service that’s ‘free’ in that we don’t send a check directly to Frontier or the 3rd Party

We press a button and the radio just works.

On the other hand, the radio can inexplicably just stop working and we have absolutely no way to fix it.

Again as you mentioned, perhaps ‘closed’ vs. ‘open’ aggregator could (should?) be more well-known and more of a factor when choosing a radio.

I’d like more preset buttons on my Sangean WFR-28, but way more than that, I want it to work!

Many thanks to Dave for sharing this experience with us–I imagine other readers may have caught this lapse in service as well. Fortunately, the problem Dave referred to was fixed within a 24 hour window.

I believe the “third party” Frontier Silicon relies on is vTuner. If I understand correctly, Frontier Silicon actually pulls all of the station linking information from vTuner’s database.

So you can see why aggregation aggravation could occur: there are no less than three companies involved when you “tune” your Sangean WiFi radio.

Sangean makes the radio which has software that links to Frontier Silicon’s portal. You log into Frontier Silicon’s portal to create a user account and manage your station favorites. But in the end, Frontier Silicon uses vTuner as a station database.

If any one of these links fail, the result may be a dead WiFi radio.

On the positive side, I listen to a Como Audio Solo radio most mornings. The Solo relies on the same aggregator chain as Sangean radios and I have never experienced an outage. I might be lucky, but I don’t think outages are all that common.

It would be great if there was a community-powered aggregator–something akin to a Wikipedia of Wifi radio–that would serve as a database for our Internet receivers. I could see a model where radio stations manage their own stream data and coordinates and listeners could even be approved to help manage link integrity. Sadly, I know of no such aggregator at present (readers, please correct me if I’m wrong about this).

Aggregators used by OEMs (like Sangean) are backed by a company (Frontier Silicon, vTuner, TuneIn, iHeartMedia, Reciva, etc.) that have a financial interest in serving up-to-date station information to its customers. In the end, it still takes a human to physically add, delete or alter station information.

Since there’s money involved, it’s in the aggregator’s best interest to take care of problems quickly and efficiently. In truth, I worry less about the time it takes to fix problems or add stations–I worry about the aggregator going out of business. This happened in the early days of WiFi radio when some smaller manufacturers chose to run their own aggregators. If their company closed shop, their products were essentially useless.

Post readers: Have you ever owned a Wifi radio that stopped working due to aggregator failure? Have I missed a point here? Please share your thoughts!

Click here to read our WiFi Radio Primer.


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