Wenlock commented on my initial post about JJC/9VF Kyodo on 25th July claiming that it appears Kyodo is now QRT. Knowing that radiofax services are dwindling, due to high cost of maintenance, problems sourcing parts for repair and mariners having alternative sources of information, I thought that this would not be unprecedented. However, if it were true, it would be a sad occasion, as Kyodo is the last HF fax newspaper agency.
Kyodo has been relatively hard to hear where I am, because I’m contending with a lot of “noisy” neighbours. The other thing is that propagation hasn’t always favoured many of their channel choices, and historically, I had only ever been able to receive their faxes on four of their eight listed frequencies.
Having my trusty Winradio G31DDC with a Wellbrook ALA-1530L, I set my SDR to record 24-hour chunks off the air for later analysis. After all, I wanted to know if it was really down and I didn’t have the time to attend to the faxes then and there.
I had 24 hours monitoring 8467.5khz, a frequency Kyodo transmits on around the clock, but no evidence of a fax signal could be heard above the local noise. A reception on this frequency has never been personally made before.
I spent another 24 hours monitoring 12745.5khz, and signals were detected with faxes beginning at these times:
- 2014-07-25 at 1020UTC
- 2014-07-25 at 1130UTC
- 2014-07-25 at 1200UTC
- 2014-07-25 at 1400UTC
- 2014-07-25 at 1500UTC
- 2014-07-26 at 0000UTC
- 2014-07-26 at 1500UTC
The signals were weak (very low SNR) with images towards the end of the post. But it’s clear. Kyodo is not dead. This isn’t the first time people have been confused.
Another 24 hours was spent monitoring 16035khz, a Kyodo repeater operating from Singapore, and signals were again detected, but very weakly and suffering from significant fading at the following times:
- 2014-07-27 at 2318UTC (fax in progress)
- 2014-07-28 at 0109UTC (fax in progress, QRM with radar)
- 2014-07-28 at 0408UTC (fax in progress)
- 2014-07-28 at 0712UTC (fax in progress)
- 2014-07-28 at 0748UTC (fax in progress)
Another 24 hours was spent monitoring both 16971khz and 22542khz, each having prior records of reception but no evidence of signals were heard. Maybe the false reports of off-air are related to changes in frequency scheduling?
Due to high local noise floor, imagery was very poor but still recognizably Kyodo. For one, Kyodo’s transmission has a very specific signal characteristic:
- 5 minutes before the start tone, inverted sync is sent.
- Most faxes are sent in 60LPM mode, which is not used by any others to my knowledge.
- During the image period, the sync bars are negative.
- Start and stop tones are comparatively long.
Positive identification of Kyodo was made based upon signal parameters and fax contents. Due to the use of my new rig, it seems there are a few timing issues with the virtualized sound card and the faxes are received with occasional “wavering” where the resampling algorithm is correcting for clock differences. These are not due to Kyodo’s transmission.
Due to large size, please click for full size!
This first fax (left) is definitely a Japanese news edition. The columinar layout is evident, as is the “boxed” segments. There is a Kyodo header box visible at the start of the fax, as is the start tone. All of this had to be “manually” received as the SNR was too low for automatic APT reception.
The second fax received (right) is a short fax. In this one, I have the inverted sync visible at the top, as well as the long start tone and regular phasing signal. The fax contains Japanese characters as well as the words SUMO MATCH clearly shown in the bottom left corner of the fax.
The fourth fax (right) shows just how variable HF transmission can be. The signal actually peaked quite strongly for the period of a few tens of lines before receding back into the noise. Unfortunately, this wasn’t over the header segment where the date is, as confirmation of the reception date and time.
This fifth fax (left) is mostly all noise, but it’s an important reminder that even though your software may not pick up the fax, that the signals are often audible and visible on the waterfall well before they become decodable. In this case, towards the end, radar interference causes strong “ribbing” in the output.
The sixth fax (right) shows a very long transmission from Kyodo. When tuned into the repeater, the strong fading makes it hard to detect the fax when it is beginning, so all the receptions take place during the fax in progress. These faxes run for hours. This snippet on the right is 97 minutes worth of reception, the stepping/sloping is due to synchronization issues with the SDR’s playback and the virtual sound card.
You have my word that all of these receptions are fresh despite the date not being visible in the faxed papers (due to poor signals).
When I first saw the comment, I was a bit stunned and disappointed, as the ending of Kyodo’s transmissions would be a “moment of history”. However, news of Kyodo’s demise is premature, and even though I can’t read Japanese or receive their faxes clearly enough to read them, their presence is somehow reassuring and appreciated. Fellow DXers – don’t give up on Kyodo! Given the schedule is a bit shaky, my advice is to check ~5 minutes before the hour, every hour, and if you hear the negative sync pulses, get your decoder on!