DX-ing on Longwave (via Twente)
By Art Grainger
Posted 4 January 2015, 10.47am est
Admittedly I haven't tried any analogue radios at home and my DAB car stereo does not have long wave.
I used the Twente websdr server, based in the Netherlands, to try the longwave band now that the German stations have closed.
Oh my goodness - it's so quiet. In a way that's a very good thing because it means that the few stations that are on there now have very good reception over much larger areas, if not most of Europe.
If only history had been a bit different and that the bands weren't chopped up and allocated in the way they were. I reckon that the potential of a small number of very large, very powerful transmitters on the longwave band could have been put to good use by international broadcasters, for which they would reach most, if not all, of Europe and possibly Asia and north Africa. Each frequency could have been a dedicated channel to just one country only, with a single very high powered transmitter.
The international radio services would broadcast in various languages at certain times of the day (or entirely in English, German, French etc), with their signals beamed towards different countries at different times, if that was their intention.
Can you imagine a pan-European BBC World Service on a single long-wave frequency covering most (or all) of Europe and beyond, 24/7? There would not have been any need to chase the station up and down the shortwave band throughout the day, trying to get the best reception. We could also have had an international broadcaster in Germany, France, Russia, Switzerland and so on, with booming signals that would have been so accessible, so easy to tune into and comparitively more reliable than shortwave - and no other country would have been allocated those frequencies to serve smaller areas with local domestic broadcasters, whose signals would have interfered with the co-channel stations in another part of the continent after dark.
If Europe had been a sort of united states of Europe in the 20th century, your long wave dream for external radio services could have been realised! Unfortunately, greed, inter-imperialist rivalry and violent aggression would have kicked this proposed frequency plan well into the long grass as a very low priority.
Even with the best intentions, a long wave frequency plan may not have been full proof. RTE on 252 kHz suffers co-channel interference after dark from Algeria in Africa.
When viewed on an atlas, the distance is great between Algeria and Ireland, but separated by a tiny bit of land mass along with a lot of sea water which is a great conductor for unwanted incoming signals. I believe in this case, both countries currently transmit on reduced power from dusk to dawn to minimise interference (RTE has postponed long wave closedown).
I wonder though, if external broadcasting would have had the same magnetism in a near perfect Europe? Perhaps not!
Josh, surely long wave would have been a good contender for Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) enhancement! The RTE long wave transmitter in County Meath, Ireland was upgraded to DRM some time ago and RTE ran test transmission on some of their overnight programmes. If RTE had included stereo transmission, the image separation would not have degraded over distance with the extended ground wave signal offered on long wave. (Assuming 252kHz co-channel interference is a non issue in most parts of the RTE reception area.)
My understanding is, BBC Radio 4 LW cannot be DRM enhanced because of the additional ''timing services'' carried on 198 kHz. Anyway, DRM may be dead for good in Europe!
Of course, the DRM Consortium promise did not materialise with supplied tuners on electrical retailer shelves. No tuners equals no listeners and no incentive for broadcasters to transmit DRM. Listeners did not have to wait long with the advent of internet radio receivers, eclipsing the snail paced process of DRM!
Unlike the Americas, Europe is slowly walking away from AM frequency spectrum which is really sad, especially when frequency spectrum cannot be grown!
One country that does come to mind which may adopt DRM to accompany its DAB+ digital solution for terrestrial sound broadcasting is Australia! Once the extended DAB+ relays are all in place to support the main high powered transmitters in each of Australia's metropolitan areas, the outback will be the next phase of transmitter roll out. I suspect, Australia will look for a different solution for digital radio in the wide expanse of the thinly populated outback. The rate of return for a DAB+ infrastructure would be meagre, if not non-existent! Upgrading existing infrastructure of medium & short wave transmitters to digitalise AM could be a better plan for the outback!
I really do not think DRM is needed to accompany DAB+ in most countries in Europe!
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