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the official web site

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monthly column
The Spectrum Monitor




Utility News

The Spectrum Monitor Wraps Up First Year

(8 Nov 14)
Thanks to Ken Reitz, all the writers and columnists, and you the readers for making TSM's first year a success.

The publication has a lot in it, and the electronic format has allowed far timelier logs. Lead time from submission to publication has dropped to about 3-4 weeks. This might not sound impressive, but it beats a print publication by about 40%.

The following policies continue to apply:

  1. I am not going anywhere. Utility Planet is hosted at my own domain, the blog is at Google, and the twitter account is at, well, twitter.

  3. Contributors to the old Utility Logs are welcome to keep sending reports of what they hear. Plans changed regarding logs, and these have pretty much all run in TSM, though in an anonymous format. Fret not - the really good stuff actually does get mentioned in the column or the blog, so please keep sending stuff to the same e-mail drop.

  5. A year later, it looks even less like HF is dead, or even sick. Really. Seriously. The US government is getting back into HF in the biggest way since VHF land-mobile was invented in the late 1940s. Meanwhile, digital technology continues to evolve, creating new modes and systems at a record pace. One fact remains: the only way to kill off HF is for everyone to keep saying it's dead.


Utility Planet on the Internet

(10 Jan 14)
The Utility Planet column has a blog, and a web site. This site is updated, probably not often as I would like, but it DOES get updated.

It's really too much of a hassle changing the various Internet addresses, so they all stay the same. Utility World lives on in these, the way KPH lives on in Globe IDs and the yearly Night of Nights.

We're keeping up with social media. In 2013, we started a YouTube channel. Our twitter account is @UtilityWorld. We also have a new, easier-to-remember e-mail address. It is mtutility world [a circular character used in e-mail addresses] gmail.com.

A couple of years ago, we started a blog. It is good for quick updates to fast-changing situations that would not be timely in a print edition with a 2 month lead time. It's also good for longer features or things that didn't make it into the column's limited space. The blog has been well received, and it gets a lot of attention.

Users of Really Simple Syndication (RSS) can get instant blog updates with aggregator programs, or even active bookmarks in such browsers as Firefox.

Link to the blog is http://mt-utility.blogspot.com/.



Special Utility Planet Reference


Searchable Databases:

Solar-Terrestrial/Propagation Data:

Older Info Sources (some dated):

Odds and Ends:


Sigmira STANAG 4285 Decode



Hier ist Norddeich Radio

Utility Recordings

Some of my better sound captures, from around 1985 to the present.


DIGTRX waterfall for Cuban HamDRM



CBV Chile Fax

Radiofax Examples

All radiofaxes are reduced versions of pictures received in Southern California (unless listed otherwise) between 2004 and 2011.


Fishery Faxes:

Kyodo News:

Ice Warnings:

Weather Charts & Images:

Schedules & Curiosities:

Kyodo Navigation Warning Nov. 11 09



Music in AM

SDR Captures

SDR captures are made on a WiNRADiO Excalibur Pro at the usual location in Southern California. A look around the World Wide Web will turn up other waterfalls, audio decodes, and even some DDC recordings. This is one of the best uses for SDRs in utility DXing.


RF Waterfalls:


I/Q Displays:



13-tone oddity

Utility Signal Plots

These are way cool. They really show what goes on in the different utility modes. Many have links to the brief sound files which made them, so you can listen too.



Spook Radio - Numbers/Oddities




A Word About National Security


In previous years, national security crises have sometimes led overzealous US Government officials to target harmless ham radio or utility hobbyists. Therefore, it is imperative that people in these hobbies make it clear which side they are on. We've helped secure this country in the past, and we'd like to again if the need comes up.

Even in the "pre-9/11" USA, laws and temporary measures were ocasionally passed that severely restricted freedom to listen, and on one occasion even confiscated equipment. Furthermore, the original US Communications Act and certain sections of the later ECPA also remain in place, and lax enforcement should not be taken for their irrelevance. Basically, the law of the land protects the secrecy of all radio traffic not explicitly intended for the public. Most other countries are stricter than the US, and we'd really like to keep it that way. Common sense remains a very useful guide. When in doubt, leave it out.

Keep in mind that short wave radio is an extremely ambiguous medium, which gives few reliable clues as to the exact nature of strange signals. While some of these are undoubtedly just what one suspects they are, there's plenty of room for misunderstanding. Beware of fake communications, exercises, misinterpretation of code words or accents, and hoaxes perpetrated to whip up panic or xenophobia. These have happened before, they are happening right now, and they are sure to happen again. But if a VERY carefully considered and documented analysis tells you that you've run across something real, seriously consider contacting relevant authorities, carefully explaining yourself and what you do, and noting that you have encountered suspicious communication without giving details until they are requested. More than one spy has been shut down this way, even in the era of satellites and Internet.

Far as security holes go, there will never intentionally be one here. Information comes from unclassified sources, even if these become classified at a future time. Furthermore, it is a fundamental policy of Utility Planet not to report frequencies, call signs, or activities from such sensitive areas as the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. This hobby is plenty of fun without endangering our military.



What's a Shortwave Utility?

A utility is the jargon for any radio station on the short wave band that is not for the public's entertainment or hobby. All those huge gaps on your shortwave radio, the ones between broadcast and amateur bands, are utility bands allocated by international treaties.

The word "utility" comes more or less from the original Latin for "usefulness." With very few exceptions, these radio communications are most certainly being used as part of some mission or task, known or unknown.

Utilities are harder to hear than broadcasts, but they're way more fun. You'll find all the world's militaries, ships, aircraft, spies, bootleggers, embassies, and anyone else who needs to communicate over the horizon. While satellites are often primary, the failure of Galaxy IV shows once again why many people want a shortwave backup. If your radio has a "USB" or "CW" setting, you're ready to give utilities a try.

The Utility Planet column and its web site are intended as friendly, jargon-free clearinghouses for utility information, so you'll hear more signals and fewer odd noises. In other words, you folks write both of them.

CU on the bands!


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Utility Planet
P.O. Box 4765
Culver City, CA 90231-4765


All content Copyright © Hugh Stegman 1998-2014