Wireless Waffle - A whole spectrum of radio related rubbish
Whatever happened to...?signal strength
Thursday 1 April, 2010, 08:04 - Pirate/Clandestine
Posted by Administrator
hungarian antennaThere is endless speculation on the internet as to what became of the many pirate radio ships which sailed the seven seas (or the North Sea more specifically) in the bygone era. Wireless Waffle can exclusively reveal the final resting home of one of these infamous nafarious vessels, having been tipped off by a Government source who wishes to remain anonymous. 'Dave Herrish' for want of a better name (and a complete lack of imagination on our part) has informed us that the rigging that adorned the pirate ship 'The Ross Communidel Amigocado' was removed from the hull at a secret military shipyard somewhere on the southern northern Europe coast and transported, piece by piece, to the facilites of Radio Bulgaria where it was re-assembled and used as a mast for their short-wave monitoring station.

Situated between Varna and Dolni Chiflik the antennas are now used as a high gain array for the purposes of intercepting both civil and military radio traffic. But, twice a year, in what must be one of the most ironic celebrations in Europe, the station is opened to the public whereupon bunting and other maritime flags are fastened and festooned to the antennas and small children are allowed to climb up and pretend to be seafaring pirates.

Unbeknownst to many of these children, the Bulgarian phrase for 'I am a pirate', which is 'Лиц ентура дёка ролаян' transliterates as 'lits entura dyohka rolayan' (try saying it out loud), which is often heard being screeched loudly across the countryside accompanied by the ringing of ships bells. Ding dong!
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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
24Oct08 1700-2359 4024.57 Rambouillet, France UK Laser Hot Hits Illegal use of frequency
25Oct08 0000-0600 4024.57 Rambouillet, France UK Laser Hot Hits Illegal use of frequency
11Nov08 0000-0645 4024.58 Berlin, Germany UK Laser Hot Hits None
5Dec08 0204-0400 4024.60 Tarnok, Hungary Not Identified Laser Hot Hits Broadcast in non broadcast band
4Apr09 1715-2400 4025.00 Berlin, Germany UK Laser Hot Hits Broadcast in non broadcast band
7Nov08 1837-2359 5800.00 Rambouillet, France 8E54 45N29 (Milan, Italy) PLAYBACK INTL Broadcast in non broadcast band
12Jul09 0855-1000 5751.51 Rambouillet, France 1W31 51N15 (Andover, UK) Best of British Radio Illegal use of frequency
8Nov08 0000-0200 5800.00 Rambouillet, France 8E49 45N23 (Milan, Italy) PLAYBACK INTL Broadcast in non broadcast band
10Nov08 2020-2100 5800.00 Tarnok, Hungary Not Identified Playback International Broadcast in non broadcast band
4Jan09 1249-1300 5801.00 Vienna, Austria Italy MILANO (Playback International) Broadcast in non broadcast band
24Oct08 2215-0000 5803.00 Baldock, UK 8E7 45N56 (Milan, Italy) Playback International None
12Oct08 0700-0830 5805.03 Tarnok, Hungary Not Identified Orion Radio Broadcast in non broadcast band
2Dec08 1642 6210.00 Baldock, UK Belgium RADIO BORDERHUNTER SW Pirate
12Apr09 1345 6202.00 Baldock, UK 8E48 50N15 (Frankfurt, Germany) Crazy Wave Radio Non-Conformity RR.5
15Feb09 0949-1120 6219.99 Vienna, Austria Italy MYSTERY RADIO Broadcast in non broadcast band
15Feb09 1356-1429 6219.99 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
12Apr09 1815 6220.00 Baldock, UK 10E0 43N50 (Italy) MYSTERY RADIO Non-Conformity RR.5
9May09 1855-1921 6220.00 Vienna, Austria Italy MYSTERY RADIO Broadcast in non broadcast band
11Jul09 1935-2300 6220.00 El Casar, Egypt 11E24 44N27 (Bologna, Italy) Mystery Radio None
31Jul09 0000-0030 6220.00 Klagenfurt, Austria Pisa, Italy Mystery Radio Broadcast in non broadcast band
6Jan09 0105 6240.00 Baldock, UK Netherlands UNDERGROUND RADIO Illicit
17Feb09 1654 6240.00 Baldock, UK Netherlands UNDERGROUND RADIO Illicit
5Jun09 2340 6420.25 Baldock, UK 4E46 51N38 (Breda, Netherlands) Casanova or Dutchwing? Pirate Station
7Feb09 1657 6870.00 Baldock, UK 12E20 42N41 (Terni, Italy) Playback International Non-Conformity RR.5
30Apr09 1639 6870.00 Baldock, UK 12E20 42N41 (Terni, Italy) Playback International Non-Conformity RR.5
8Feb09 0857-0933 6870.00 Vienna, Austria 9E38 45N41 (Bergamo, Italy) PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
22Mar09 0956-1429 6870.00 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
3May09 0845-0940 6870.00 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
4July09 2001-2017 6870.00 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
12Jul09 0430-2200 6870.00 Tarnok, Hungary USA (!) PLAYBACK INT. RADIO Broadcast in non broadcast band
14Feb09 1425-1443 6878.00 Vienna, Austria Italy PLAYBACK Broadcast in non broadcast band
21Feb09 0700-2040 6880.00 Rambouillet, France 9E54 44N42 (Genova, Italy) Playback International Illegal use of frequency
22Feb09 0630-0700 6880.00 Rambouillet, France 11E33 44N21 (Bologna, Italy) Playback International Illegal use of frequency
4Oct08 2000-2100 6925.00 Rambouillet, France 20E32 39N4 (Greece) Spider Radio Illegal use of frequency
26Jul09 0000-1700 7550.00 Tarnok, Hungary Italy Radio Amica Broadcast in non broadcast band
29Aug09 0620-0700 7550.00 El Casar, Egypt Italy Radio Amica None
29Aug09 0600-0630 7550.00 Klagenfurt, Austria Italy Radio Amica Broadcast in non broadcast band
18Feb09 1218-1220 9385.00 CRMO, South Korea Ireland LASER HOT HITS Illegal use of frequency
19Feb09 1606-1607 9385.00 CRMO, South Korea Not Identified Laser Hot Hits Illegal use of frequency
28Feb09 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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Wireless and the London Olympicssignal strength
Wednesday 6 May, 2009, 22:45 - Broadcasting
Posted by Administrator
There is currently much ongoing debate, and some might suggest ensuing debacle, taking place to ensure that there is sufficient radio spectrum available for the London Olympic Games to be held in 2012. However, Wireless Waffle has uncovered the official Government plans for the use of the radio spectrum for the last Olympic Games held in London in 1948. Interestingly, these were before the main legislation relating to the use of the spectrum, the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949 were brought into power and thus predate any previous attempt to specifically control radio use in the UK.

1948 olympic games londonLet us step back to 1948... Much of London was still in ruins and rubble strewn streets were not uncommon. The budget for the games was 600,000, a figure which today would just about pay the salary of the organising committee for about a month. Food was still being rationed (indeed rationing did not end until 1954), King George VI was on the throne and Frankie Laine, Perry Como, Al Jolson and the Andrews Sisters topped the charts.

1948 bush televisionThe Olympic games were televised using the EMI 405-line black and white system selected by the BBC before World War II as its preferred technology (having beaten the Baird 240 line system in trials). Only one transmitter in London was operative but an estimated 80,000 people had television receivers and were able to view the 64 hours of coverage that was broadcast. Radio coverage was also provided by the BBC and broadcast around the world using short wave.

olympic wireless decree 194So, with that in mind, here is the previously unpublished Government document which details usage of the spectrum. The original is not that easy to read (click on the image on the right to see it in full size) in pictorial format so here is the actual text.
Be it hereby enacted by the King's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the commandment of the same aforementioned, as follows:-

(1) No sporting personage, radio announcer or visual televiser shall establish or use any station for wireless replication of Olympic events or install or use any apparatus for wireless tomfoolery except under the authority of a licence in that behalf granted by the Postmaster General hereinunder purported to, and any person who establishes or uses any station for wirelessness of any nature or installs or uses any apparatus for wireless purposes except under and in accordance with such a licence shall be guilty of an offence of the most serious nature which shall be punishable by flogging, booting or in any such manner as is seen fit by His Most Excellent Majesty or his appointed Government torturer or executioner.

(2) A licence granted under this section (hereafter in this Decree referred to as an olympic wireless licence or 'owl') may be issued subject to such terms, provisions and commandments as the Postmaster General may think befitting, including in particular and in peculiar in the case of a licence to establish an olympic wireless station, limitations as to the positionality and nature of the station, the purposes for which, the circumstances in which, and the persons by whom the station may be used, and the manufactory of the apparatus which may be installed or used therein therefor, and, in the case of any other licence, limitations and hampering as to the apparatus which may be installed, operated or used, and the places or locations where, the purposes for which, the circumstances in which and the person or persons by whom the apparatus may be used for such purposes thereafter.

(3) Nothing or no item in this section shall authorise or approve the inclusion, in any olympic wireless licence relating solely to apparatus not designed or adapted for emission or transmission (as opposed to reception), of any term, item or provision requiring any person to concede any form of right of entry into any private dwellinghouse, manufactory, residence or abode.

(4) Through jurisdiction of this Decree, the commandment of the use of those radio wavelengths perporting to emissions authorised herinunderafter by an olympic wireless licence shall be designated for usage and utility as per the identification and categorisation indicated in the ensuing remainder of this document.

(5) Notwithstanding these categorisations and registrations of wireless lengths subscribed to by His Majesty's Government at the International Telecommunications Union 1947 Atlantic City Plenipotentiary Conference howsoever agreed, and in cognisance of the need to control and restrict miscreant emissions of wireless stations to other wireless stations, all emissive equipment of a nature requiring a licence under this Decree should be designed, manufactured, construed and operated in ways in which other wireless stations shall be safe from explosion and other maleficent discreation.

Wavelengths of below 1 metre (over 300 Mega Cycles per second) are reserved exclusively for secret Government use. The use of these wavelenghts shall remain secret and the fact that such wavelengths exist and the fact that the use of them is secret is also a secret and should be treated accordingly.

Wavelengths of between 3 metres and 1 metre (between 100 and 300 Mega Cycles per second) may be used for televisual distribution of motion or stationary pictorial information between private wireless stations which are fixed in location and fortitude.

Wavelengths of between 10 metres and 3 metres (between 30 and 100 Mega Cycles per second) may be used for televisual distribution of motion or stationary pictorial information between a public wireless station and domestic or official wireless receptors.

Wavelengths of between 100 metres and 10 metres (between 3 and 30 Mega Cycles per second) may be used for audible distribution of broadcast material to His Majesty's Overseas Territories and other fuzzy wuzzy lands to whom the English language is comprehensible. The use of some wavelengths within this range are reserved for secret Government use, the provisions of which are secret as described above therein.

Wavelengths larger than 100 metres (below 3 Mega Cycles) may be used for audible distribution of broadcast material to the United Kingdom of this marvellousness nation hereover. Some wavelengths within this range may also be used for the exchange of message between shipping and shipping or between shipping and port establishments for the perfunction of safety and maritime information exchange and for other safety matters as may be permitted in the olympic wireless licence therein permittivised. The use of some wavelengths within this range are reserved for secret Government use, the provisions of which are secret as described above therein.
What stands out from this is:

* There is a clear division between different bands and their uses - this no doubt stems from the work ongoing at the ITU at the time in establishing the international frequency registration board.
* The highest frequencies were reserved for Government use. At the time, this was largely for radar and navigation tools that had proven invaluable in the success of the war effort.
* Some bands are shared between users (though the wording of the document would imply that within any given band, frequencies were only assigned to one use or another and that no true 'sharing' as we recognise it today was authorised).
* The operation of a wireless transmitting device permitted the authorities to access your property.
* There was nothing much on television tonight and so this drivel got written.

Note: one or more of the above may be substantially or materially inaccurate.

This document (erstwhile the 'Olympic Wireless Station Commandment of Licence Neccessity and Specifity Decree, 1948') clearly sets the framework for what became the WT Act of 1949 the following year and established the groundwork for spectrum regulation in the UK that still exists today and which will continue to apply until the London Olympics of 2012 and even after that. Perhaps.
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