Tuesday, April 05, 2011

FM Dxing with Cell Phone Radios !

By Jose Jacob, VU2JOS

Gone are the days of my dxing adventures with communication and digital radios. My latest craze is dxing FM stations with cell phones! It all started several months back when my wife purchased a new cell phone for her. It was a Samsung which had FM radio in it. Out of curiosity I tuned it and could hear our local FM stations very clearly. Later, on one of my outstation trips, I took that cell phone with me and could monitor many local FM stations on the way and found it very interesting. Slowly I discovered that its sensitivity was very good and that I could pick up far away stations also on it when conditions were good, even with its small headset cord wire antenna. Then I started taking this little wonder seriously.

The advantages of cell phone radio are:
- It receives the stations reasonably well even with its small antenna.
- As cell phone is now an accepted communication gadget, it and does not raise any eyebrows if we are glued to it for long periods.
- It has digital display and can save channels also in memory.
- It has auto scan to memory function.
- Some models are having recording facility.
- It is very compact.
- There is no need to take separate radios/batteries/chargers during travels if your interest is only FM.
- It will be useful during emergencies to monitor local stations.

I had experienced that my home shack in Hyderabad is not good for FM Dxing. However when I traveled to different parts of India, as expected, reception inside the train was weak but once I got out to the platform, the FM stations were heard at better level. Only I had to keep an eye on the train so as not to be left out at the platform when the train started!

My cell phone radio was put to real test recently in the 3rd week of March 2011, while I was staying on the first floor of a hotel in Bhubaneswar, Odisha in East India. Upon checking on the band in the mornings, evenings and night, I could hear many far away stations from Kolkata, Chennai and even Bangladesh and Myanmar! To get better results I got permission to go to the top floor (5th floor) of the hotel for monitoring. Needless to say reception was much better there and I could make some recordings of these interesting far away stations. I observed that conditions varied from day to day and that all stations were not heard on a daily basis. Normally in the mornings (around 6.00 am to 9.00 am) stations from NE ie Kolkata, Bangladesh, Myanmar region were observed. Propagation used to peak at around 7.00 am. On some days, I could hear stations from Kolkata mixing with our powerful local stations (located 25 kms away) on 92.7, 93.5 & 104.0 MHz! I could null out the local station by turning the cell phone in different direction. In the evenings/nights, it was the turn of stations from South like Chennai etc. However stations from NE also used to be heard at the same time. Often the far away stations used to come with very strong signals and one could find it difficult to believe it. My best catch was getting a couple of stations from Myanmar easily identifiable by their unique music. A bunch of Bangladesh stations were monitored during this particular trip. The private stations (88.0, 88.4, 89.2, 89.6 etc.) were heard with relays of news from Bangladesh Betar at 6.30 am followed by separate local programming. Of this the relay on 88.0 was several seconds later than others. BBC relays in English and Bangla were noted on some channels (100.0, 101.2, 102.0 etc.) while Deutche Welle was noted on 102.0 etc. at 7.30 am. Details of stations heard are given in a separate list. I am very thrilled to have logged over 50 FM stations on my cell phone radio this time.

During my regular trips to Bhubaneswar area for my official work for National Institute of Amateur Radio, I have observed that it is an excellent place for FM Dxing. I understand that FM DX is not a regular event, but I must have been in the right place at the right time. Some splatters from local stations and cable Tv created some confusion for me. The recorder in my cell phone creates a noise if the stations are weak but it is not observed if the stations are strong. There is no S meter on my cell phone. I have to try with external antennas connected to the cell phone. I have read of cell phones with MW radio also but could not test any yet. Hope that in the coming days, we can wish for cell phones with SW also along with FM & MW or even radios with built in cell phones! I have not come across any information on cell phone dxing yet and am interested in getting it. If you have a radio in your cell phone why not try it, especially if you are touring around.

Logs are available here : http://tinyurl.com/6y6m8sr

Jose Jacob, National Institute of Amateur Radio, Raj Bhavana Road, Hyderabad 500082, India. Email : vu2jos@gmail.com

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