Experimental Radio News 2

Experimental Radio licenses from the files of the Federal Communications Commission

Lynk Global Achieves Space-to-Standard Phone Link

On February 24, 2020, Lynk’s experimental satellite licensed as WQ9XDP was received on an unmodified mobile phone in the Falklands. The test apparently was in “cell broadcast” mode — as in Wireless Emergency Alerts and Amber Alerts — and not an individualized call to a specific handset. (The video below contains an expletive.)

The company said that this milestone “culminated over a year of satellite-to-phone-on-the-ground testing involving multiple payloads in space.” Tyghe Speidel, co-founder and VP Technology of Lynk stated,“This is a critical verification of our revolutionary radio access network technology’s ability to compensate for the effects of placing the cell tower in orbit, which mobile standards were not designed for.”

Lynk said it has launched its fourth “cell tower in space” spacecraft on SpaceX’s CRS-20 mission. This spacecraft, which is named Lynk The World, will allow the company to expand testing in Summer 2020 to more countries and partners.

Facebook’s Athena for Satellite Internet

WJ2XUG was issued to PointView Tech, reportedly a unit of Facebook, for the Athena satellite project in the 70 and 80 GHz bands. At this writing, the public record for this experiment was incomplete as the FCC had asked PointView for additional ground station information.

A detailed — if somewhat redacted — narrative of the experiment is at this link, with a technical exhibit here. PointView said it is “aiming to understand whether an NGSO [Non-Geostationary Orbit] system using E-band spectrum can be used for the provision of fixed and mobile broadband access in unserved and underserved areas.”

See also, this May 2018 IEEE Spectrum story, Facebook May Have Secret Plans to Build a Satellite-Based Internet.

Viziv Looks Beyond Wireless Power Transmission

Viziv Technologies, licensee of WJ2XGB, a giant experimental station in Texas, has proposed additional uses for its technology beyond wireless power transmission.

In a response to a Department of Transporation inquiry on backups to GPS, the company noted its “license grants from the FCC at multiple frequencies, including the operating frequency of 100 kHz for timing and positioning demonstrations, and has in operation several ZSW [Zenneck Surface Wave] signal transmission systems.”

“The company’s objective would be to showcase the significant technical and economic advantages of its proprietary surface wave technology over traditional Hertzian radiated-wave systems,” Viziv said.

Wireless Power Transmission in Millimeter Wave Spectrum

Another wireless power venture is Guru Wireless, which was issued WK2XRN for tests at 10, 24 and 62 GHz. “Radio wave energy is generated in the GU [generating unit], and then it is refracted and channeled into highly focused beams, which reach and power your devices,” according to the Guru website.

The company told the FCC that its power levels “can exceed FCC exposure standards at short distances. Equipment being tested has been specifically designed to prevent this through the use of interlocks that reduce power to safe levels if a human or pet enters the high power flux density area.”

Microsoft Evaluates Concealed Object Detectors

Rohde & Schwarz USA was issued WP9XZP for Special Temporary Authority in association with Microsoft, which is evaluating security scanners apparently for its own use. The Rohde & Schwartz product is a “millimeter wave security scanner that automatically detects potentially dangerous items carried on the body or in clothing. It consists of a flat panel with 3,008 transmitter/receiver pairs that emit extremely low-power millimeter waves in very short succession,” the company said.

“Persons being scanned stand squarely between the panels as if facing a mirror, holding their arms slightly away from their bodies. The detection software uses machine-trained algorithms to search for conspicuous objects of all material types. The scanner searches for anomalies indicating unusual objects rather than for certain items, enabling it to discover unknown and new threats. Microsoft intends to evaluate the effectiveness of the scanner device within a vestibule together with other security equipment to create a self-service physical security gate.”

Tracking Border Surveillance

Marc DaCosta, PhD is tracking FCC licenses for surveillance experiments at the U.S. southern border. His investigations, including maps, photos and links to participating companies, are posted at this GitHub page.

DaCosta observed that in 2019, over 1000 applications were filed with the FCC for short-term experimental licenses along the border: "The majority of the applications come from defense contractors based in the US, Europe and Israel who are vying for billions in government contracts to build a virtual border wall. …Exploring the more remote areas may be of particular interest as patterns start to emerge in the placement and location of transmitters."

Avalanche!

Niiva OpCo LLC was assigned WK2XPS for 16 GHz avalanche detection radars at Salt Lake UT. The radars will be “staring into mountainsides at various locations in the mountain west. The final intent is to mitigate the dangers involved in avalanche prediction and most snow sports.”

The research project is funded by the Transportation Avalanche Research Pooled Fund Program which pools money from state avalanche forecasting programs.

“Stealth” HF Research for Internet of Things

Rurisond describes itself as "a stealth mode company working on technology for the IOT (Internet of Things)." It was assigned WI2XCO for use in numerous high-frequency (HF) and VHF bands from 1.7 to 50 MHz from stations in California, Oregon and Washington, each at five watts.

Rurisond "is evaluating the propagation characteristics of equipment and software using near vertical incidence (NVIS), groundwave and meteorburst technologies," the company said. "Such capabilities could provide two‐way communications in rural or otherwise geographically remote areas that are not generally within the coverage of commercial service providers. Moreover, such capabilities serve as a substitute when regular communications circuits have been disrupted by disasters or emergencies."

The research is funded by Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants as seen in this example.

Shortwaves from the Birthplace of FM. Or, Maybe Not

Looking ahead, August 1,  2020 is the license expiration date for Turms Tech LLC, the mysterious HF station authorized at the famed Armstrong Tower in Alpine NJ, the experimental site of FM inventor Edwin H. Armstrong.

https://i0.wp.com/swling.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DRM-Transmitter-Alpine-Radar-Tower.jpg?w=665&ssl=1

The construction permittee is Paolo Cugnasca, a forestry entrepreneur and managing director of Emcor Securities in New York. Emcor subsidiary Turms Holdings LLC is the parent company of Turms Tech.

No details for Turms Tech ever became public, beyond its terse proposal to broadcast "financial, economic news and data through distribution of programs generally prepared on the basis of requests by clients."

Its engineer Donald Everist acknowledged our status inquiry but did not confirm that the station had been built. Cugnasca did not reply to our inquiry. The FCC has not received any application for license that would allow operation following construction.

I suspect that this station does not and will not exist. It may have been an oblique attempt to enter the low-latency trading business by way of the International Broadcast Station rules in FCC Part 73.

Turms Tech proposed to use Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) transmission at 10 kW, unlike other U.S. HF broadcast stations which use AM at the minimum legal power of 50 kW. A peculiar exception to AM among these U.S. stations is WJHR Milton FL, which broadcasts religious sermons exclusively in single-sideband (SSB).

Other stations thought to be involved in international trading are licensed not as broadcasters, but as experiments such as 10Band (see next story, also Toggle Communications in ERN #1).

More HF Activity from the Secret Trading Stations

In February, 10Band LLC was issued WK2XTH, WK2XTI and WK2XSY for experimental shortwave stations in Wayne NJ, Everett WA and Elburn IL respectively. “10Band” may be derived from its list of ten high-frequency bands from 5 to 21 MHz.

As previously investigated by Bob Van Valzah, 10Band appears to be engaged in low-latency international trading. It was licensed as WI2XNX in 2016. See Wall Street Tries Shortwave Radio to Make High-Frequency Trades Across the Atlantic in IEEE Spectrum, June 1, 2018.

"The technologies subject to this experimental application are under development," 10Band told the FCC. “However, if the tests are successful, they may lead to substantial developments in the competitive wireless data transmission field."

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Bennett Z. Kobb
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bkobb@ieee.org
Arlington, Virginia USA

Experimental Radio News 1

Experimental Radio licenses from the files of the Federal Communications Commission

Mobile Satellite Service to Unmodified Phones

Lynk Global (formerly Ubiquitilink) has updated its license for WO9XPA.

The company has increased the number of test sites for its experimental mobile satellite service using ordinary terrestrial mobile phones. VC-funded Lynk “has agreements with specific MNOs [mobile network operators] around the globe to coordinate testing with their personnel in their countries. Each test will utilize spectrum covered by their existing license.”

Lynk plans 24 to 36 satellites in orbit in 2021. With its planned constellation of several thousand satellites by 2023, Lynk said, “coverage will be continuous, whether in the middle of the Sahara Desert, the Amazon jungle, or the Pacific Ocean.”

Transmissions in 824.2-848.8 MHz began October 20, 2019. Also see UbiquitiLink Wants To Turn Every Cellphone Into a Satellite Phone, IEEE Spectrum, July 18, 2019.

High-Power Shortwave Trading Station

Toggle Communications LLC renewed its license WI2XAJ for transmission facilities in Chicago, New York and Seattle. This is one of the mysterious, high-power shortwave operations believed to be engaged in low-latency automated trading.

Experimental Radio Service stations are licensed for the duration of a research project, typically two years. They don’t normally generate revenue.

The FCC has withheld most of the data on this station from public inspection. We don't know if Toggle is exempt from revenue restrictions, what its operations really consist of, or how parties could obtain regular, non-experimental licenses for such international data services.

This and other similar high-frequency (HF) stations are not intended for reception by the general public, so they could not be classified as International Broadcast Stations.

WI2XAJ was authorized in 2015 and is now permitted to continue until November 2021 at up to 200 kW between 5 and 17 MHz. It uses radios from Ettus Research and antennas like this one from M2.

A college thesis has been published on transoceanic shortwave radio for HF trading applications. See also, Experiments Look to Leverage Low-Latency HF to Shave Microseconds off Trade Times at the ARRL website.

An Israeli company, Raft-Tech, specializes in HF trading stations of this type. The video below covers their approach, but does not identify clients.

Airplanes that Land Themselves

Cirrus Design Corp. is seeking experimental authority for a radio system developed with Garmin International to certify aircraft for autonomous flight in emergencies.

The radio is part of Safe Return, a feature that enables passengers to command a jet to land itself if the pilot is incapacitated.

The Safe Return radio makes periodic transmissions on 121.5 MHz to alert Air Traffic Control of the emergency.

Cirrus already incorporates an emergency rocket-launched parachute which lowers the entire aircraft to Earth after deployment. The parachute system has saved more than 400 lives in Cirrus and other aircraft.

At this writing, discussions with FCC and FAA about tests of Safe Return's radio component were ongoing.

High Altitude Platform Stations

Sprint was issued WP9XDQ for its collaboration with HAPSMobile of Japan to test the capability of transmitting LTE signals to High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) over Lanai, Hawaii.

The experiments will determine the system's ability to maintain a stable service link while the HAPS is stationkeeping over Lanai; test the HAPS optimal system link budgets for LTE service; test user equipment handover between the service link cells and conduct drive testing to determine HAPS signal coverage over Lanai.

The 78-meter wingspan HAPS aircraft would stay aloft for several months at a time. Its first test flight was September 11, 2019.

Image courtesy of AeroVironment, Inc.

While Sprint is licensed for some of the spectrum to be used in the HAPS test, it also will use Educational Broadband Service spectrum licensed to the University of Hawaii.

HAPSMobile Inc. is a SoftBank subsidiary engaged in network equipment R&D for the HAPS business, construction of core networks, business planning and activities for spectrum usage. AeroVironment is HAPSMobile's minority owner and partner for solar-powered aircraft for stratospheric communications. HAPSMobile has a strategic relationship with Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

SoftBank announced its HAPS investment on April 25, 2019, with a presentation at this link.

Swarm is Licensed after FCC Fine

Swarm Technologies was licensed in October 2019 for 150 satellites in the Non-Voice, Non-Geostationary (NVNG) VHF bands.

Swarm first gained public attention for its unauthorized launch and operation of satellites and subsequent FCC enforcement action. The FCC also discovered that Swarm had performed unauthorized weather balloon-to-ground station tests and other tests before the small satellite launch.

Some of the company's applications for experimental satellite operations were dismissed as moot, but it still holds unexpired Experimental Radio licenses WK2XJE, WI2XYY, WK2XDD and WJ2XXG.

While most of the details of these experimental missions are redacted, tracking appears to be a key issue under investigation. The small satellites incorporate passive retroreflectors which increase their radar cross-sections to improve trackability. LeoLabs will provide tracking. See satellite positions at this link.

In December 2018, the company agreed to a settlement with the FCC which included a $900,000 penalty, an extended period of FCC oversight, a requirement of pre-launch notices to the Commission and other stipulations.

At this writing Swarm has seven satellites in operation. Former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is a company advisor.

Experiments in Dynamic Spectrum Sensing

Shared Spectrum Company (SSC) has renewed WN9XNO for short (minutes) and long-term (several hours) duration tests at 2031.5-2103.5 MHz in Vienna VA.

The purpose of the research is to increase the amount of spectrum available to DoD operations. SSC software uses spectrum sensing to determine channels not used by legacy transceivers. It automatically chooses an acceptable channel based on the potential interference to legacy users and interference from other users.

CalAmp’s Lo-Jack Developing Hardware for Export

CalAmp Wireless renewed license WD2XYL for developing and testing an advanced vehicle location unit that will be used in foreign markets intended for export to foreign customers for use in LoJack systems abroad.

LoJack received authority for use of 164.175 MHz and 169.2 MHz. The frequencies are in the band most of the rest of the world has carved out for Stolen Vehicle Recovery Systems (SVRS). The company said it has no intention of migrating to the use of this frequency in the United States. Lo-Jack's U.S. frequency is 173.075 MHz.

LoJack Corp. has merged into CalAmp Wireless, a subsidiary of CalAmp Corp. CalAmp Wireless continues to develop and market SVRS under the LoJack name.

Drone and Intrusion Detection

SpotterRF resubmitted a request for experimental authority, after having its application dismissed for an error in technical data. Its system would test in the 3, 10 and 15 GHz bands in Utah and New York.

SpotterRF is a manufacturer of drone and intruder perimeter detection radars used to protect industrial and institutional facilities.

Connected Vehicle Research at CMU

Carnegie Mellon University was issued WK2XFY for experiments in connection with the Naval Post-Graduate School's Joint Interagency Field Experimentation; the U.S. Department of Agriculture and OPERA: Open Pittsburgh wirEless Research Accelerator, a large-scale wireless communications and sensor testbed that will “enable the next generation of safe connected and automated vehicles and a host of smart city applications and services.”

The CMU station is licensed for several bands in the 600 MHz to 3.7 GHz range. The research involves real-time sensing data from such sources as connected and automated vehicles, traffic flows, traffic signal controls, fleet vehicle movements, streetlights, video analytics, bus transit and air/noise quality sensors.

Global Spectrum Mapping by Satellite

HawkEye 360 has renewed its license for WI2XWX for space-to-Earth communications with three Pathfinder satellites devoted to precise mapping of radiofrequency emissions. “This unique ability to identify and geolocate sources of radio frequencies from space reveal previously invisible knowledge about activities around the world,” the company said.

HawkEye's products and services include RFGeo, which maps the location of emitters; RFMosaic which provides broad surveys of RF activity across a region of interest; and SEAker, which helps identify vessels engaged in suspicious or threatening behavior, supporting vessel interdiction and environmental protection.

The company was awarded a contract for a commercial RF survey study from the National Reconnaissance Office.

BU’s Space Weather Satellite Swarm

Boston University was issued WI2XXM for ANDESITE, a swarm of nine satellites which measure variations in the Earth's magnetic field. Its objective is to improve our understanding of space weather, which arises from interactions between the Earth's plasma environment and the impinging solar wind.

These interactions can damage satellites, harm astronauts in space, render GPS information erratic and unreliable, disrupt ground-space communications, and even cause electricity blackouts on Earth.

Thanks for Reading

Please subscribe and share this free newsletter with your colleagues and associates. Follow ERN on Twitter at @experimradio.

Bennett Z. Kobb
Editor
bkobb@ieee.org
Arlington, Virginia USA

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