Tuesday, October 8, 2019

DRM service from Komsomolsk na Amur, Khabarovsk Krai, Russia

UPDATED 20191013 to include video of reception:

Here is a "boots on the ground" report from Brother Brendan in the Great State of Washington...

Whats on Air?

In September, Russian broadcasting authorities for Chukhotkha began DRM test transmissions from Komsomolsk na Amur on at least one frequency (12025 kHz), with two others (11615 kHz & 15735 kHz) also listed but not heard. The tests so far are a bit sporadic, but generally found on local weekdays. Programming material currently consists of music, mostly instrumental, with no ID heard or seen. DreaM shows no broadcaster header, only “------” and “Other Language” so if you see that, you’re golden! BPS is usually 17.46kbps, but I have seen tests at lower rates for brief periods. The DRM transmissions can be broken by periods of analog carrier, N0N, and then back to DRM. See the screenshot for a look.

The Concept

The Chukhotkha Region is the very Far East portion of the Russian Federation, just across the Bering Sea from the state of Alaska. The time zone is GMT +12, and you can’t get any further “east” than that. The very small population is widely dispersed across a vast area, and is ill-served by the few existing broadcast stations, most of which appear to be FM, with no MW or LW listed now. What little information has been announced about this project does report that data services via the Journaline app will also be an important feature for news and other announcements. Stay tuned, as always.

These DRM tests are being transmitted from 50.647291°  136.931613° (from Google Earth – this is the transmitter building – antenna farm surrounds to the north, east, and southeast). This location is prime for reaching Chukhotkha with just one ionospheric hop, and should serve well. The current transmissions are listed as using just 25 kilowatts, but some information indicates that higher outputs are possible. The antenna array is directional, with the beam heading 34 degrees true. For a static target, this type of setup is ideal, and should result in high circuit reliability.

What I’m Seeing Here

Currently this service is very much still in the experimental stage. I would hazard a guess that a signal strength survey might be underway, as the DRM signal versus analog alternation of a carrier would be good for receiver site statistics gathering. Having seen only 12025 kHz in service so far, it also seems that the 25m band is working well with little need for lower or higher frequencies. However, my observation period is limited to their local morning and afternoon hours at my location, and I am not able to observe their later hours when the band is closed for me. Now that the fall DX season is upon us, I am seeing higher signal strengths, on the order of 18dB+ for the SNR. This afternoon (PDT), the 2nd, I had 20-22dB SNR for an hour and a half, and while there were dropouts, reliability came out to be 95.05%. Not bad for being on the wrong side of the Pacific Ocean/»Tихий океан».

In future days, as winter deepens in the Northern Hemisphere, I would hope to see some lower frequency testing: Chukhotkha has about 22 hours of daylight in deep winter, and it’s sub-polar, so propagation will be interesting anywhere outside the intended reception zone.

Some Thoughts

I certainly hope that this becomes a regular feature of the airwaves. While not for North America, it is managing to make it this far: the short-path is 4100 miles/6620 km, no mean feat for 25kW. I think the results so far are very encouraging and look forward to regular service and the data broadcasts as well. This Russian project has some similarities to the US Coast Guard ANSIS Project that tested DRM as a maritime broadcast service for the Arctic Ocean region. The main difference is that this service has voice channel use, the Coast Guards’ did not, and was just for data. We shall certainly see what happens.

My Location

My listening location is located in the northernmost corner of the state of Washington. While ‘officially’ urban, it’s fairly quiet RFI wise, and the houses are not ultra-densely packed. I have a saltwater horizon from the southeast horizon to the western horizon, which helps quite a bit.

My current antenna is the proverbial “random-wire,” not just for the unknown length but the random building materials and minimalist hardware. Two zip-wire legs, about 50 feet long, some salvaged 60 year-old 300 Ohm TV twinlead, into a 9:1 balun. Amazingly, it works, and well. Every time I’ve tried to improve it, it hasn’t worked and I return it to the original form. Costing me only time to build, I am no longer complaining about having a simple dipole that has a noise floor of ~-120 to -130dB, albeit with some limited MW imaging and some all-too specific RFI issues.

On the receiver side, I’m using an Airspy HF+ Discovery, with SDR-Console v3.0.14 as the software. DreaM v2.11 is the current build in use here. DreaM is tied to a virtual cable, which acts as both output from the Discovery, and the input to DreaM for demodulating. Virtual cables are the only way to route audio in my opinion for digital mode use.

If anyone would like to hear the world from a Pacific Northwest viewpoint, my KiwiSDR can be found at this IP:

This receiver uses the same antenna as my own gear: I have a MiniCircuits splitter feeding both sides from the common antenna input. Coverage is from 0 to 30MHz, although the antenna favors the lower half of that range.

73s and happy DReaMing!
Brendan Wahl WA7HL

Thanks Brother Brendan for your testimony! Let's hope that this service continues and serves to benefit the development of a global HF DRM network!

Monday, October 7, 2019

#drmlog - a great way to see DRM activity in the real world!

Give the #drmlog tag a try on Twitter. DRM enthusiasts worldwide are using #drmlog to share what they are hearing! You can use DRM-Log Plotter to create a #drmlog from radio or DReaM data or you can simply take a video or screen-shot of reception.

If you are currently logging DRM broadcasts, why not post them to Twitter with #drmlog ?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Gospell at IBC 2019 with new gear!

Gospell will once again represent at IBC in Amsterdam. Seen above is their long promoted but only recently released GR-227 car converter on the left. In the center is the new GR-22 portable. On the right is the veteran GR-216 which we thoroughly reviewed here.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Komsomolsk Amur DRM update

Komsomolsk Amur transmitter site in Asiatic Russia now has three frequencies listed on HFCC as of 5 Sep 2019:

11615kHz 2000-1000 UTC 250kW
(may be a typo of 25kW?)

12025kHz 2000-0300 UTC 25kW

15735kHz 0300-1000UTC 25kW. 

Thanks to Brother Zyg of DRMNA and DRMRX for the update.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Mystery Russian DRM test?

(see update below) Mystery DRM on 12025 kHz supposed to be Russian. Fun to decode using a Japanese SDR. Identified as possibly Komsomolsk Amur by @atake on Twitter.

I'm using http://jp7fso.proxy.kiwisdr.com:8073/ SDR per @kaedotcom suggestion. Nice music with no voice IDs so far. Thanks to @terjeisberg for the great how-to DRM with DReaM on remote SDR https://hobbyradio.se/en/drm/kiwisdr.html

UPDATE 20190831:

Information located here: http://чукотка.рф/press-tsentr/novosti/?ELEMENT_ID=3498 posted to Twitter by @SWWINB

Translation: Short-wave digital broadcasting throughout Chukotka

"The authorities of Chukotka and specialists of the Far Eastern Regional Center of the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network, a short-wave digital broadcasting throughout Chukotka, intend to implement the ambitious project. Governor Roman Kopin and Director of the Far Eastern Regional Television and Radio Broadcasting Center branch Stanislav Kuznetsov signed a Cooperation Agreement, which opens up prospects for future joint projects in the region and is a continuation of the effective cooperation of the parties in switching to digital broadcasting in the district, for which Chukotka is fully prepared. 

As the Head of the region noted, the restoration of short-wave broadcasting will provide communications to all of Chukotka, including geologists, miners, reindeer herders and hunters - therefore, the Government of Chukotka initiated such a difficult, but important project. 
- We constantly have in these remote places two thousand residents who need to be provided with communication services. Subsoil user projects are implemented outside the boundaries of settlements, transport communications are provided in remote areas that are not provided with communications. The Northern Sea Route also requires attention. These new solutions will allow to remove restrictions and provide communication where it is needed, ”said the Governor of Chukotka. 

- We are finishing the preparation of technical equipment and this document allows us to legislatively deal with issues by agreement with the Government of Chukotka. We hope that by the end of June we will be able to go on the air and get experiments - to what extent will our calculations on the effectiveness of closing the entire population of Chukotka with broadcasting programs with additional service be confirmed. It should be noted that this broadcasting will no longer be in the previous (analog) format, this broadcasting will be in a digital, most modern format, ”said Stanislav Kuznetsov, director of the RTRS“ Far Eastern RC ”branch. 

Today, the preparation of transmitters, antennas, technical systems and infrastructure of the radio center is nearing completion. It is planned to begin the first test cycle in the second half of the year. Testing will be carried out in 2 standards: classic AM and digital DRM. However, the main focus is a digital format. In addition to the goals of delivering a radio program to listeners, the project lays the foundation for creating a technology platform for global one-way data transfer similar to a one-way Internet. 

Using a DRM platform for data transmission reveals a considerable range of opportunities for additional services, in addition to simple broadcasting. The most significant are the CD-sound quality and the ability to synchronously transmit a copy of the base program in the national language. In addition, targeted notification, as well as the use of the platform for operational, duty, dispatch services and projects for the informatization of the Arctic territories, the waters of the Northern Sea Route. 

Another project is the public Internet. RTRS together with the Department of Industrial and Agricultural Policy of Chukotka is working on the issue of providing public Internet at the first 5 connection points in Anadyr."