Wireless Waffle - A whole spectrum of radio related rubbish
Number Station Bingosignal strength
Friday 1 January, 2010, 00:14 - Pirate/Clandestine
Posted by Administrator
Regulars to the pages of Wireless Waffle will realise that we have an inate (or should that be 'inert') fascination with short wave radio. And nothing is more mysterious and intriguing on short wave than the many spy broadcasts which usually take the form of a string of numbers or letters read out in a mechanical fashion by a pre-recorded male or female voice. A bit like the speaking clock for spooks.

mint spies bingoOne of the most famous spy stations, the Lincolnshire Poacher (which was allegedly broadcast from Cyprus), ceased transmissions in 2008 and it rumour has it that its sister station, Cherry Ripe (latterly broadcast from Australia) also ceased transmissions towards the end of 2009. Which leaves fans of these funky but furtive broadcasts with a big hole in their social calendar (not that such fans had much of a social calendar to begin with).

But all is not lost. Thanks to the Conet project and web designer Kevan Davis fans can now enjoy:

* Number Station Bingo

This excellent game will keep you occupied (but not in the same way as the US forces in Iraq) for literally minutes. If you win, it is customary to shout 'Badabingo, green stick in the green hole' though for security reasons we obviously cannot explain why this is so.
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What are the chances (Part II)?signal strength
Tuesday 20 October, 2009, 14:29 - Pirate/Clandestine
Posted by Administrator
A previous article on Wireless Waffle talked about the chances of a pirate radio station being caught focussing on VHF FM pirates. A later one focussed on short-wave pirates and discussed which frequencies to avoid in order to minimise getting the authorities' collective danders up.

Over the past 12 months, both Premier Radio (who used 6265 kHz) and Laser Hot Hits (who used 4025 kHz) have had their transmitter sites raided. Bringing together the ethos of the two previous articles, it would make sense that in order for a raid to be worthwhile, even at short-wave, there would have likely been a complaint raised against the station concerned.

So we might, therefore, ask, "Who raised these complaints?" It seems unlikely that major international broadcasters such as the BBC World Service or China Radio International would be at all threatened by pirate operators taking their audience away or causing interference, especially as the frequencies being used by the pirates are not ones being used by an international broadcaster at the time, so there must be another source of complaints.

Across Europe (and indeed the world) there are a series of short-wave (HF) monitoring stations operated by the various national regulatory administrations who produce quarterly reports on their monitoring activities. The purpose of the monitoring and the associated reports is, on the one hand, to check on legitimate users of the HF spectrum, and on the other to identify use which is in contravention to the ITU's rules on spectrum usage. Where an administration identifies contravening transmissions, it can flag these in the reports and, according to the ITU document describing the reports, these will then be forwarded to the administration which is the source of the transmission.

Looking through these reports for the past 12 months (eg from October 2008 to September 2009), there are a number which relate to various short wave pirates. Specifically:

Date Time (UTC) Freq (kHz) Monitoring Station Transmitter Location Station* Complaint
24 Oct 08 1700-2359 4024.57 Rambouillet, France UK Laser Hot Hits Illegal use of frequency
25 Oct 08 0000-0600 4024.57 Rambouillet, France UK Laser Hot Hits Illegal use of frequency
11 Nov 08 0000-0645 4024.58 Berlin, Germany UK Laser Hot Hits None
5 Dec 08 0204-0400 4024.60 Tarnok, Hungary Not Identified Laser Hot Hits Broadcast in non broadcast band
4 Apr 09 1715-2400 4025.00 Berlin, Germany UK Laser Hot Hits Broadcast in non broadcast band
7 Nov 08 1837-2359 5800.00 Rambouillet, France 8E54 45N29 (Milan, Italy) PLAYBACK INTL Broadcast in non broadcast band
12 Jul 09 0855-1000 5751.51 Rambouillet, France 1W31 51N15 (Andover, UK) Best of British Radio Illegal use of frequency
8 Nov 08 0000-0200 5800.00 Rambouillet, France 8E49 45N23 (Milan, Italy) PLAYBACK INTL Broadcast in non broadcast band
10 Nov 08 2020-2100 5800.00 Tarnok, Hungary Not Identified Playback International Broadcast in non broadcast band
4 Jan 09 1249-1300 5801.00 Vienna, Austria Italy MILANO (Playback International) Broadcast in non broadcast band
24 Oct 08 2215-0000 5803.00 Baldock, UK 8E7 45N56 (Milan, Italy) Playback International None
12 Oct 08 0700-0830 5805.03 Tarnok, Hungary Not Identified Orion Radio Broadcast in non broadcast band
2 Dec 08 1642 6210.00 Baldock, UK Belgium RADIO BORDERHUNTER SW Pirate
12 Apr 09 1345 6202.00 Baldock, UK 8E48 50N15 (Frankfurt, Germany) Crazy Wave Radio Non-Conformity RR.5
15 Feb 09 0949-1120 6219.99 Vienna, Austria Italy MYSTERY RADIO Broadcast in non broadcast band
15 Feb 09 1356-1429 6219.99 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
12 Apr 09 1815 6220.00 Baldock, UK 10E0 43N50 (Italy) MYSTERY RADIO Non-Conformity RR.5
9 May 09 1855-1921 6220.00 Vienna, Austria Italy MYSTERY RADIO Broadcast in non broadcast band
11 Jul 09 1935-2300 6220.00 El Casar, Egypt 11E24 44N27 (Bologna, Italy) Mystery Radio None
31 Jul 09 0000-0030 6220.00 Klagenfurt, Austria Pisa, Italy Mystery Radio Broadcast in non broadcast band
6 Jan 09 0105 6240.00 Baldock, UK Netherlands UNDERGROUND RADIO Illicit
17 Feb 09 1654 6240.00 Baldock, UK Netherlands UNDERGROUND RADIO Illicit
5 Jun 09 2340 6420.25 Baldock, UK 4E46 51N38 (Breda, Netherlands) Casanova or Dutchwing? Pirate Station
7 Feb 09 1657 6870.00 Baldock, UK 12E20 42N41 (Terni, Italy) Playback International Non-Conformity RR.5
30 Apr 09 1639 6870.00 Baldock, UK 12E20 42N41 (Terni, Italy) Playback International Non-Conformity RR.5
8 Feb 09 0857-0933 6870.00 Vienna, Austria 9E38 45N41 (Bergamo, Italy) PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
22 Mar 09 0956-1429 6870.00 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
3 May 09 0845-0940 6870.00 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
4 July 09 2001-2017 6870.00 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
12 Jul 09 0430-2200 6870.00 Tarnok, Hungary USA (!) PLAYBACK INT. RADIO Broadcast in non broadcast band
14 Feb 09 1425-1443 6878.00 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
21 Feb 09 0700-2040 6880.00 Rambouillet, France 9E54 44N42 (Genova, Italy) Playback International Illegal use of frequency
22 Feb 09 0630-0700 6880.00 Rambouillet, France 11E33 44N21 (Bologna, Italy) Playback International Illegal use of frequency
4 Oct 08 2000-2100 6925.00 Rambouillet, France 20E32 39N4 (Greece) Spider Radio Illegal use of frequency
26 Jul 09 0000-1700 7550.00 Tarnok, Hungary Italy Radio Amica Broadcast in non broadcast band
29 Aug 09 0620-0700 7550.00 El Casar, Egypt Italy Radio Amica None
29 Aug 09 0600-0630 7550.00 Klagenfurt, Austria Italy Radio Amica Broadcast in non broadcast band
18 Feb 09 1218-1220 9385.00 CRMO, South Korea Ireland LASER HOT HITS Illegal use of frequency
19 Feb 09 1606-1607 9385.00 CRMO, South Korea Not Identified Laser Hot Hits Illegal use of frequency
28 Feb 09 1130-1300 9385.00 Tarnok, Hungary Not Identified Laser Hot Hits Broadcast in non broadcast band

* Where the station was identified in the monitoring report, it is shown in CAPITALS.

Where no name was given, it has been identified and added in by searching through various on-line logs from the date concerned.

In addition to the above there are one or two other unidentified broadcasts on typical pirate frequencies (eg 6447 kHz on 21 August 2009) but there does not seem to be any indication of who they might be (nor do logs help with this).

Clearly there has been a lot of monitoring of Laser Hot Hits going on by various administrations (Laser may be impressed that they were heard in South Korea!) Similarly Mystery Radio and Playback International have also been heavily monitored though the grid references given for their locations seems to vary quite a lot. rambouillet monitoring stationThese stations operate over long periods, usually at weekends but outside these times too, so it is perhaps not surprising that they have been 'caught'. A more interesting question might be why other stations have been monitored. Was it a chance happening by the administration concerned, or are the frequencies they are using of particular interest to that country?

There are many more questions that these logs raise: How many 'complaints' are necessary before action is taken? Are the locations produced sufficiently accurate to find the transmitters or are other methods necessary? Do the various monitoring stations co-operate to improve the accuracy of locations? Is there a competition between stations and administrations to show how 'bad' their neighbours are being (eg UK complaining about France and France complaining about UK). And perhaps, most importantly, how come Mystery and Playback are still on air?!
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Know Thy Neighboursignal strength
Wednesday 21 January, 2009, 16:56 - Pirate/Clandestine
Posted by Administrator
the pirate keyVarious forums and logging sites around the web have reported that short-wave pirate station Premier Radio International was recently raided. Their transmitters and studio equipment were apparently taken. Premier Radio operated on 6265 kHz on Sunday mornings from Ireland and according to the reports the Irish spectrum regulator, ComReg, received a complaint of interference from the UK spectrum regulator Ofcom which forced them into action.

Such a raid on pirate broadcasters is not unheard of, though a 'cease and desist' letter is often sent to the operator first to warn them that they are at risk of being 'boarded'. Short-wave stations, however, are raided much less frequently than their FM pirate counterparts who lose transmitters on a regular basis. One of the reasons for this is that it can be much more difficult to identify the location of a short-wave transmitter. The other is that interference tends to be caused outside the country in which the transmitter is located - hence the need for the collaboration between Ofcom and ComReg.

There are, however, many short-wave pirate stations that operate in and around 6200 to 6400 kHz on Sunday mornings, and many of them operate from Ireland. So the question is, what is it about the use of this frequency that Ofcom found so objectionable that they felt the need to get ComReg to take such drastic action.

pirate going downThe answer might lie in the particular use of frequency in that part of the radio spectrum. Frequencies from 6200 to 6525 kHz are allocated internationally to maritime mobile services. Within this range, certain spot frequencies have been set aside at an international level, through the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Radio Regulations for certain specific uses. These frequencies are:

* 6215 (actually 6215 to 6218) kHz - allocated for distress and safety communications (analogue)
* 6268 (actually 6267.75 to 6268.25) kHz - allocated for distress and safety communications (narrow band direct printing - NBDP)
* 6312 (actually 6311.75 to 6312.25) kHz - allocated for distress and safety communications (digital selective calling - DSC)
* 6314 (actually 6313.75 to 6314.25) kHz - allocated for maritime safety information (using NBDP)

Clearly, given the safety related nature of the use of these frequencies, it makes sense to avoid them as far as possible to avoid causing interference where it really is not welcome. However, avoiding them does not just mean not transmitting on those spot frequencies. Typical AM transmitters occupy 5 kHz either side of the centre frequency on which they are transmitting. Also the spot frequencies themselves refer to transmissions with typically a 2 or 3 kHz bandwidth. So, to avoid interfering with 6215 kHz which actually uses frequencies from 6215 to 6218 kHz for example, AM transmissions on a centre frequency ranging from 6210 to 6223 kHz should be avoided. This might immediately raise the question as to why Ofcom have not complained about Italy's Mystery Radio who have used 6220 kHz for a very long time or Radio Cairo which uses 6270 kHz between 16:00 and 18:00 GMT every day, but certainly gives credence to claims that Radio Caroline's use of 6215 kHz in the late 1980s could have caused interference to safety-of-life services. With this in mind, the diagram below illustrates which frequencies within the range 6200 to 6400 kHz can be 'safely' used (in blue) without causing interference to these safety related services.

6200 6400 khz

ofcom closing inInterfering with any legitimate radio user is not to be condoned, however safety services such as these are not the best of bedfellows. I am sure that many pirates listen to the frequency they intend to use before turning their transmitters on, assuming, that is, that they have sufficient flexibility in their choice of crystals to allow them to find something relatively free. Choosing a frequency that deliberately interferes is, though, clearly a bit mad. So Radio King on 6215 kHz, Radio Malaisy on 6310 kHz and Radio Altrex who use both 6265 and 6310 kHz - be warned - you might be next to be sunk.

Whilst we're on the subject of frequencies not to choose, much of the HF spectrum is littered with transmissions that sound like this. These are NATO transmissions using their HF radio protocol known as STANAG 4285 and are therefore most definitely military in nature. Avoiding any frequency on which these noises can be heard would also seem to make sense too... otherwise it might be torpedos away.
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Duel-Castingsignal strength
Thursday 13 March, 2008, 08:41 - Pirate/Clandestine
Posted by Administrator
100 watt pirate transmitterFinding a frequency must be one of the most fraught tasks for any prospective London pirate radio operators. The band is now so crammed with stations that there are next to no gaps anywhere. The problem is not made any easier by the BBC using lots of frequencies to infill coverage of its local stations; nor by the new wave of community stations taking to the air. Now don't get me wrong, BBC, commercial and community radio stations have a licence and are authorised and legitimate users of the FM band and as such should be respected, and nothing hereinafter should be in any way taken as non-recognition of that important fact. But the fact also remains that pirate radio stations exist and are likely to continue to exist until technology renders them irrelevant and that finding a frequency that doesn't cause interference to these legitimate users, which is a goal to be aimed for if both legal and illegal stations are to co-exist, is nigh-on impossible.

some pirates betterSince 2000 Ofcom (and its predecessor the Radiocommunications Agency) have been aware (through an oft overlooked study that examined the re-planning of the FM band) that there are small pockets of the FM band that could be used for low-power, limited geographical coverage transmitters in and around London, and it is the results of this study that are, to a large extent, enabling the licensing of the community stations. It's also interesting to note that many of these community stations are using frequencies that were esrtwhile used by pirates. Question: If they can now be used legally for such services without causing interference, can it be completely true that when being used illegally by pirates that the interference they cause was really so bad? Well the power of the community stations is typically less than 100 Watts and they are specifically located in areas where the frequencies they use will not cause interference, whereas the pirates on the same frequencies were often using 250 Watts or more in an attempt to cover a much wider, or a different, area. So it is quite likely that the pirates did cause interference in some areas, but clearly not in others.

walk the plankOne of the interesting side-effects of this use of previous 'pirate' frequencies by the new community stations is that the pirates have been forced to take action to try and maintain their coverage and listenership without causing (too many) problems to the new stations. Blasting several hundred Watts over the top of a new community stations is the perfect recipe to get busted. Hats off, therefore, to Passion FM who, having been forced off their long-time frequency of 91.8 MHz by community station Hayes FM in West London, have taken to using two different frequencies, with directional antennas, to protect Hayes FM yet maintain their service area. Passion can now be found in East London on 91.8 MHz and in West London on 97.9 MHz, thereby making an effort not to interfere with Hayes FM at the expense of having two lots of transmitters to replace each time they are taken off-air.

rubbish pirateWest Londoners Point Blank FM also deserve a mention. They are broadcasting to South West London on 103.6 MHz (and thus avoiding Life FM in Harlesden, North London and TGR Sound on 103.7 MHz in South East London) and to Central London on 90.2 MHz, having moved off 108.0 MHz where they used to cause undue interference to Radio Jackie on 107.8 MHz. 108.0 is now used by Unknown FM whose service area, being further East causes fewer problems to Jackie. Both Passion FM and Point Blank FM use the correct RDS Alternative Frequency ('AF') flag so that listeners driving around London will automatically be re-tuned to the clearest frequency - smart! Freeze FM are also 'dual-casting' on 92.7 and 99.5 MHz - it's not clear why but possibly one of the community stations yet to come on-air (Radio Ummah and Irish FM) may use a frequency near 92.7.

Pirates are often accused of not caring about interference to other stations, but the actions of these stations would tend to suggest that they do take some care - not least, perhaps, to protect themselves from an excessive number of raids from the authorities.

For the record, other pirate/community frequency clashes that will no doubt resolve themselves in the end are Westside FM (Southhall, West London) and Select-UK (Rotherhithe, South London), both on 89.6 MHz, Nu-Sound (Forest Gate, East London) and Powerjam (Battersea, South London) on 92.0 MHz, and Voice of Africa (Newham, East London) and Tempo on 94.3 and 94.4 MHz respectively.
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