Wireless Waffle - A whole spectrum of radio related rubbish
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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Eye in the Skysignal strength
Thursday 12 March, 2009, 09:00 - Licensed
Posted by Administrator
eye in the skyHave you ever tuned into your local radio station and heard the travel news being read out from the 'eye in the sky' - a presenter checking out the traffic from an aircraft high over the area concerned? Have you ever stopped to think how that is done? Well Wireless Waffle is here to help explain it all.

There is no denying that it would be very easy for any radio station to pretend to have a traffic plane or helicopter by playing sound effects in the background whilst the travel news was read out. However, there are some real benefits about doing it properly, not least it is possible to find out how the traffic is flowing as and when problems occur instead of waiting for listeners to phone in news (which can be unreliable) or for the local police or traffic department to let you know what's happening. But that doesn't mean that the aircraft in question can necessarily see all the problems in an area and in some cases, it is not possible to fly over certain areas due to airspace restrictions (for example, it would not make sense for a 'traffic plane' to be buzzing around a major airport, stopping commercial airliners from landing!)

What happens, therefore, is that there is someone on the ground who collates traffic information in the normal way (eg through listeners or the police) and then relays this information to the man in the aircraft. The plane (or chopper) can then visit some of the travel hotspots and see what is happening and if, along the way, they see other problems that haven't been reported, they can update the person on the ground. This means that, in general, travel news from an aircraft is more accurate and up-to-date than travel news from a regular travel studio.

From the technology perspective, there is lots of radio used (hence the Wireless Waffle interest). For starters, the pilot will be communicating with various air traffic controllers on the VHF aeronautical band (117.975 to 137.000 MHz).

in flight serviceNext, there is a need for the person on the ground, including the presenter in the radio studio, to be able to communicate with the presenter in the aircraft - the 'uplink'. Typically this is done via a simple VHF or UHF PMR frequency (in the UK try listening around 141.000 to 141.500 MHz and 455.000 to 455.500 MHz). As well as passing travel news to the airborne presenter, this frequency is also often used as the 'cue', providing a live feed of the station on which the travel news is to be broadcast so that the airborne presented knows when to start reading the news.

Finally there is a the link from the airborne presenter to the ground - the 'downlink'. This is usually (but not always) a slightly higher quality link than the uplink as the audio is going to be broadcast. In the UK, these links are usually at UHF (try between 467.250 and 469.900 MHz). As they are transmitted from the aircraft, despite being low power, they can often be heard over a wide area.

If the aircraft is providing travel news for a wide area, more than one up and/or downlink might be used for the different areas, depending on whether or not frequencies which can be used over a wide area are available.

In some countries, the presenter uplink and downlink are also in the aeronautical VHF band (this is the case, for example, in Malta), and the frequencies use do vary significantly between countries. If you are in an area where the local radion station has a travel plane or helicopter, why not have a tune around and see what you can find and post a comment to let us all know.
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Easy Listeningsignal strength
Tuesday 17 February, 2009, 20:38 - Licensed
Posted by Administrator
My couple of previous posts concerning reception of BBC World Service English language programmes on short-wave in Europe led me to wondering whether there wasn't a more elegant solution to the problem of identifying which frequencies to tune to at any given time of the day.

As it happens, every 6 months, the majority of international broadcasters get together and sit down to negotiate and co-ordinate their HF frequency usage for the coming 6 months at a conference known as the High Frequency Co-ordination Conference. The resulting plans (know as the Winter and Summer seasons) are published on the web. So with a little ingenuity and a few spare hours, Wireless Waffle proudly presents:

* The 'find a frequency in a given language, for a particular broadcaster (or both) analysis tool' *
(catchy name isn't it?!)

It works like this: You can select broadcasts in a particular language, or by a particular broadcaster in which case you will be presented with a list of transmissions currently on-air (or on-air at a time you select) today for that broadcaster together with a map of the world showing where those frequencies are being transmitted from. Using this list you can try tuning to those transmitters most local to you (or for fun those more distant) to see what you can hear.

Alternatively you can select a broadcaster AND a language in which case you will receive a list of all frequencies and times for that broadcaster in that language for today, highlighting those which are currently on-air with a map showing where those frequencies which are on-air are being broadcast from. It sounds more complicated than it is - go and try it!

short wave info

To help, regions in daylight and darkness are also shown. Generally speaking if you are in an area of darkness, look for stations also in darkness which are transmitting on low frequencies (say 10 MHz - 10000 kHz - or less). If you are in an area of daylight, look for frequencies also in daylight (over 10 MHz or so).

Happy listening.
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