Saturday, September 26, 2020

Details on Rádio Nacional da Amazônia DRM tests

With the recent excellent news coming out of Brazil, I took a few moments to contact our longtime DRM friend Rafael Diniz. He filled me in on some of the aspects of the upcoming DRM tests there:

Rafael, what is the current national status of DRM for digital broadcasting?

The digital radio discussion is stuck, mostly locked by the commercial broadcasters which publicity expressed against the digitization of the radio (citing, for example, the ongoing expenses of the broadcasters with the AM to FM migration, the crisis, and so on). Digital Radio seems a treat to the commercial broadcasting sector, but I will not elaborate more about it, as this discussion would take at least a 15 pages introduction.

 Can you tell us a little about the broadcast chain for this upcoming test? 

The broadcast chain will be a Brazilian BT Broadcast Transmitter 2.5kW HF tx, The exciter is a Digidia one, and the CS we'll experiment with different configurations, including Digidia and Fraunhofer options. The antenna is a huge HRS one beamed (with reflectors) to the north (good for US!), with between 16 and 20db of gain (Rodeador Park has many huge HRS antennas).

Will there be experiments similar to the recent work at KTWR using different parameters to see what works best? What about xHE-AAC?

We plan to use the best possible audio, which, if equipment permits, will be xHE-AAC audio and multimedia content. The idea is to also test 20kHz bandwidth, which will allow more than one audio program over the transmission, together with multimedia content.

 What will the content be?

Rádio Nacional da Amazônia content, the same of broadcast in 6,180 kHz and 11,780 kHz.

Is there any long term plan, or is this simply a feasibility test?

EBC is the process of purchase of two 100 kW DRM transmitters, to be delivered sometime in 2021 to really provide a steady digital reception even with the smallest battery powered receiver in all parts of the Amazon rainforest region. Concerning the long term - is the hope that this DRM transmission raise awareness of digital radio in the country and can change the minds of the commercial broadcasters about digital radio... and also save the MW band, which is getting empty - which is good and bad at the same time... with clear channels DRM nighttime reception can be fun again.

Thank you Rafael for your time and such great news. We look forward to more details and even more to signals making it to North America! Rádio Nacional da Amazônia is often heard here with great signal level and quality.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Hope springs eternal with DRM receivers

Please take a look at this slideshow showcasing the progress being made on the DRM standalone receiver front. A few new ones here that look interesting. Particularly interesting to see Korean manufactures back in the game. I think that marks a first since the demise of MSWay 9 years ago.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Radio Engineer Files Objection to WIPE

Story by Bennett Kobb:

On September 3, radio engineer Alex Pilosov of Shortwave Solutions filed with the FCC an objection to WIPE, the DRM-based HF station of Turms Tech of New York, presumed to be ready to broadcast from the Armstrong Tower in Alpine, NJ.

WIPE is suspected to be intended mainly for secret, non-broadcast message transmission for private trading clients while broadcasting financial and economic news for the public.

WIPE is not yet operational. The station is waiting on its FCC license, but Pilosov took aim at possible glitches in its license application. He also raises the issue of whether U.S. shortwave stations can legally conduct non-public telecommunications in the broadcast bands in a service limited to broadcasting.

Pilosov is a consultant to HF stations in the Experimental Radio Service, which are not constrained by the broadcast rules; thus he or his clients are prospective competitors to WIPE. This is Pilosov's second FCC objection. He also filed against the application of Parable Broadcasting for WPBC, a DRM HF station proposed for Batavia, IL.

As mentioned in our previous story on WIPE, Turms Tech submitted to the FCC two different locations for its transmitter site, one in New Jersey and one in New York City. The company apparently did not supply an antenna registration for this site, which would have helped resolve the inconsistency.

He identified further possible problems with the station's technical parameters. "Every component of transmission system proposed by Turms (coaxial line, amplifier and antenna) is under-rated and inadequate to meet the minimum power requirements," he found, leading to possible violations of safety codes and hazards from overheating and arcing.

Where Turms specified a six-element antenna, the manufacturer described a four-element antenna; where the company depicted two antennas, its other exhibits apparently show a single antenna. Pilosov added that the company's claimed antenna gain is less than indicated by the antenna manufacturer, and the antenna is rated for less power than the minimum power the FCC requires of these stations.

"Due to location and orientation of antenna, it appears that Turms is planning to transmit financial data using 'datacasting' feature of DRM, like recent application by Parable Broadcasting in Illinois," Pilosov wrote. "Turms does not explicitly describe whether such programming is 'broadcast to general public' or effectively a point-to-point service as a 'multiplex' carrier of other programming. It is well-established that 'broadcasting' only includes transmissions intended to, and received by, the general public."

He cited the FCC's description of DRM datacasting as a "wide-area" service, which would not describe point-to-point communication to specific receivers at fixed locations. In a TV-related proceeding, the FCC defined non-broadcast services as requiring special equipment to receive and decode, and  including a contractual relationship between provider and receiver.

The three filings against Turms/WIPE and Parable/WPBC -- two from Pilosov, and one, submitted by the High-Frequency Parties (Christopher Rumbaugh, Kim Elliot and Bennett Kobb) against Parable -- raise substantive issues. We have no indication yet, however, that the FCC will address them, or do anything but routinely grant the licenses and carry on with the U.S. HF broadcasting service as it has for the more than half-century it has existed.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

KTWR for India with Special DRM Broadcast week September 6-11

Does this look cool, or what? Be sure to let them know if you have decoding success!

"Listen to DRM tests everyday this week! This is your chance to try out your DRM reception capabilities.

KTWR will be conducting daily test DRM broadcasts and each day we will be testing different DRM modes of transmission. This broadcast will be on 15,200khz in the 19 meter band directed toward listeners in India. We look forward to receiving your feedback and hope that you enjoy these programs. 

Please contact us with your location and SNR and reception details by emailing:

Our Test schedule: KTWR DRM Receiver Test Broadcast Schedule September 6 - 11, 2020

TIME in UTC    

Sept 6   16 QAM SBR Change  - Data service: Mot web

1027-1041       S1 English TX7 AAC B/16QAM No SBR Mono PL0, - English Metadata                                                S2 MOTweb 

1041-1057       S1 English TX7 AAC B/16QAM SBR Mono PL1, - English Metadata                                                     S2 MOTweb 

Sept 7   64 QAM/ SBR Change,  No SBR PL1 to SBR PL2 - Data service:  Slides

1027-1041       S1 English TX7 AAC B/64QAM No SBR Mono PL1, - English Metadata                                                S2 Slides 

1041-1057       S1 English TX7 AAC B/64QAM SBR Mono PL2, - English Metadata                                                     S2 Slides 

Sept 8    Param Stereo PL0 – low bit rate, high protection - No Data Service

1027-1057       S1 English TX7 AAC B/64QAM Param Stereo PL0 – English Metadata

Sept 9   Dual Language & UTF-8 Text, protection High/Low - No Data Service

1027-1057        S1 Tamil TX7 AAC B/64QAM No SBR Mono PL0 - Tamil Metadata                                                        S2 English TX7 AAC B/64QAM No SBR Mono PL0 - English Metadata

1041-1057       S1 Tamil TX7 AAC B/64QAM No SBR Mono PL1 - Tamil Metadata                                                        S2 English TX7 AAC B/64QAM No SBR Mono PL1 - English Metadata

Sept 10   QAM change 16 to 64 - Data service: Journaline

1027-1041       S1 English TX7 AAC B/16QAM No SBR Mono PL0, - English Metadata                                               S2 Journaline

1041-1057       S1 English TX7 AAC B/64QAM SBR Mono PL2, - English Metadata                       
                        S2 Journaline

Sept 11  Param Stereo PL1 – high bit rate, low protection - No Data Service

1027-1057       S1 English TX7 AAC B/64QAM Param Stereo PL1 – English Metadata"

Original post here.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Questions Remain as New HF Stations Wait for Licenses

Here is the story by Bennett Kobb:

As previously reported here at, the New York company Turms Tech LLC has applied to the FCC for a license for International Broadcast Station WIPE in New Jersey. The license would cover a station already built under a FCC Construction Permit, and would allow it to begin regular operations.

The FCC announced on August 13, 2020 that this license application was accepted for filing, a routine stage at which the FCC examines the application, and might even visit the station, and if everything is in order it will be licensed.

We're not sure everything is in order. The application for Construction Permit placed the transmitter site at N 40° 57' 40.38", W 73° 55' 23.97", the broadcast and communications center surrounding the famous Armstrong Tower at Alpine NJ. Its Application for License, however, specifies N 40° 51' 40", W 73° 55' 23". (Hat tip to Alex P for noting this discrepancy. More about him below.)

While the substitution of 51 for 57 in the coordinates might seem a simple typo, the FCC typically has no sense of humor about coordinate errors. Commission examiners may wonder why a station intended for a historic radio-TV facility ended up among some Manhattan apartments.

The deeper question with WIPE and another, apparently similar station WPBC, is what these stations are really for and what that means for the FCC Rules. WIPE was extremely vague about its program plans, but told the FCC that it will transmit data obtained from third parties using Digital Radio Mondiale. Putting that tidbit together with exposures in a series of public articles in the media and tech blogs, it would seem that audio programming will not be the central mission of this peculiarly named station, whose principal is a financial executive and forestry entrepreneur without any broadcast experience we could find.

We suspect instead that the WIPE data stream will be used not for broadcasting to the public -- the only function permitted to International Broadcast Stations under FCC Rules -- but instead will be used for private communication with foreign exchanges for high-speed trading.

We know of no other justification for investing millions in a new U.S. shortwave radio station when several already exist and would probably appreciate new customers. Unfortunately for the putative DRM broadcaster, the FCC Rules have never permitted anything but open, transparent HF broadcast operations. While one FCC rule does allow shortwave "datacasting", it is only in the context of broadcasting. An example of broadcast datacasting would be Shortwave Radiogram, the successor program to VOA Radiogram which has been experimenting with data modes over AM transmitters for several years.

International data messaging under contract to private clients with receivers at specific fixed locations, on the other hand, is not broadcasting to the public under any reasonable interpretation of the rules. There was an International Fixed Service years ago, but the FCC closed it for lack of interest, probably supplanted by undersea cable and satellites. Thus both the prospective licensee and the FCC have a problem.

As suggested in previous FCC filings by Christopher Rumbaugh, Kim Elliott and Bennett Kobb -- the "High-Frequency Parties" -- the FCC could start to resolve the dilemma with a public inquiry into U.S. HF broadcasting, or actions to update the rules to permit non-broadcast operations in shortwave broadcast bands. Those rules could surely use a fresh look. They've seen little change since the 1930s when the U.S. first permitted private parties to broadcast to foreign audiences.

But those would be public FCC actions. Very little about WIPE has been public. The principal of Turms Tech declined to answer questions about the station, as did his engineer and the company that operates the Alpine tower site. While we wait for FCC action, and sit by our receivers anticipating Wonderful WIPE, more curious developments surround the similar, but as yet unbuilt station WPBC at Batavia IL, proposed by Parable Broadcasting of Norfolk VA.

After the High-Frequency Parties argued that Parable provided insufficient information to the FCC about its possible non-broadcast operations -- whatever audible radio shows WPBC may transmit on top --another party has filed an objection to the WPBC application for Construction Permit. Alexander Pilosov of Shortwave Solutions is an engineer involved in high-frequency trading by radio in the Experimental Radio Service. The ERS is not a public broadcast service and is not limited by the HF broadcast rules.

Pilosov told the FCC, "Parable submitted no evidence how the data it plans to transmit can be decoded by the general public, without use of special equipment." Nor did it submit any evidence as to the kind of data it intends to transmit, he argued.

He wrote that Parable appears to read a previous FCC ruling permitting datacasting "as a permission to offer non-broadcast, private, point-to-point services over the HF broadcast bands." If the FCC intended to permit non-broadcast use, he contends, it would have stated so in a far more explicit manner such as altering the Table of Frequency Allocations.

Will these concerns give the FCC pause, and delay or even deny licenses to Turms Tech and Parable Broadcasting? Will it inquire further into private HF datacomms and decide that these don't really qualify as broadcasts?

On the other hand, maybe the FCC will snooze through the matter and allow the two newest shortwave stations on the air as is, leaving listeners to wonder what goes on beneath the surface. Whatever the outcome, shortwave radio is about to get a lot more interesting.