sabato 21 novembre 2020

Radio Nepal on Shortwave

During the past (almost) three quarters of a century, Nepal has been noted on shortwave at a total of five different transmitter locations. We begin our story today at their earliest location, which was not at the capital city Kathmandu, but rather in a country town some 250 road miles distant.

1. Biratnagar

The congested regional city Biratnagar in eastern Nepal with its quarter million population lies just three miles from the border with India. This metropolitan locale was named Biratnagar, which in translation means the Huge Village, and the name honors an ancient local leader, King Virat. Biratnagar is listed as the industrial capital of the nation of Nepal.

On December 13, 1950 at 8:30 pm, a new shortwave voice was heard in Nepal and it identified on air in the Nepali language as Nepal Prajatantra Radio, meaning Radio Democracy of Nepal. This temporary clandestine Radio Democracy operated with 150 watts on 7100 kHz (42.25 m) in the shortwave band that was in use for both amateur communication and program broadcasting.

This new low power shortwave radio station was heard with a good signal in nearby areas of Nepal and India; for example, at Kathmandu, Darjeeling and Calcutta. It is probable that the technical equipment for Radio Democracy was already in use as a communication station for contact with a similar station in Kathmandu. The Kathmandu communication station was installed at a suburban location identified as Aakashbani meaning a Voice from the Sky, a name borrowed from India.

2. Singha Durbar

Three months after Radio Democracy was launched in Biratnagar, the technical equipment was removed and installed in Singha Durbar in Kathmandu, together with additional electronic items from the Aakashbani station. The actual site in Singha Durbar (Lion Palace) in the royal administrative area of Kathmandu was in a two storey building previously in use as a school for the children of the royal families.

The new radio broadcasting station, known initially as Nepal Radio, was inaugurated on April 1, 1951, with the same 150 watts on the same shortwave channel 7100 kHz. When the daily routine settled down, the station was on the air in three daily transmission periods totaling 3¼ hours.

3. Jawalekhel

A decade later, a transmitter station was constructed at Jawalakhel three miles south east from Kathmandu. A single 5 kW shortwave transmitter, assembled by AWA in Australia with Philips and AWA components and made available by Australian Aid, was installed and taken into service in 1956. Monitoring reports suggest that this transmitter was in use mainly on 7105 Hz, though earlier short term usage was noted on also 7100 kHz and 6004 kHz.

A second 5 kW shortwave transmitter similar to the first, and again made available by Australian Aid, was installed at Jawalakhel six years later, in 1962. This new transmitter seems to have been more flexible in its frequency usage, and monitoring reports indicate that it transmitted on at least seven different shortwave frequencies, though 5005 kHz became its standard channel.

After the inauguration of another shortwave station at a separate location, the Jawalarkhel station was reserved to standby status, though the two low power shortwave transmitters were activated for a brief series of test broadcasts once each year. Ultimately Transmitter 1 was cannibalized for parts to enable Transmitter 2 to continue in service, and soon after the turn of the century, this sort of double transmitter was removed from Jawalakhel and the station itself was then closed.   

4. Sainbu Bhaisepati

In 1983, Japan constructed a new radio transmission station at Sainbu Bhaisepati, some five miles south east from Kathmandu as a new mediumwave station. When Jawarlakhel was closed, the hybrid 5 kW shortwave transmitter was removed and re-installed at Sainbu Bhaisepati for use as an emergency standby unit on the same 5005 kHz channel. However around the year 2013, this transmitter was finally also unusable, and silenced forever.

5. Khumaltar

During the year 1968, a 100 kW Marconi shortwave transmitter from England, Model BD253, was installed in a new transmission facility located at Khumaltar, also some five miles south east from Kathmandu. Test broadcasts from this unit began on 9590 kHz in late summer, though an additional channel 7165 kHz was added during the next year (1969).

Ten years later (1978), an American 100 kW Harris shortwave transmitter Model SW100 was added and both units were then active with parallel programming. Give four more years (1982) and a third shortwave transmitter was installed at Khumaltar, an updated Harris, Model SW100A. His Majesty the King officially inaugurated this third unit as well as a suite of new studios on May 9, 1983.

At times, there were then three 100 kW transmitters on the air, though there were many occasions when the low powered 5 kW transmitters at Jawalakhel took over some of the main transmissions from Khumaltar.

At this stage, Radio Nepal introduced three channels of programming:
Channel 1 National Program on mediumwave and 5005 shortwave,
Channel 2 Commercial Service on 7165 kHz shortwave only, and the External Service on all operational transmitters.

During the year 2006, repair work was performed on the 5005 kHz transmitter and this produced a clear signal, at least for a while, then the old poor modulation returned. In addition, there were times when the station was off the air during power cuts in the area. Then three years later (2012) the shortwave service was closed.

However six years later again there was a comeback. Whatever transmitter equipment was still serviceable was assembled into a low power hybrid transmitter that was operational at between 10 kW and 20 kW on the usual 5005 kHz channel. In September 2018, test broadcasts were noted from this unit.

Back last month here in Wavescan, we referred to an item of news in the American NASWA Journal which stated that the low powered shortwave transmitter on 5005 kHz in Nepal was closed. We posed the question: Which shortwave transmitter at what location was closed in June 2020?

We have presented here in Wavescan over the past month or two our research into the history of each of the five shortwave locations in Nepal (Biratnagar, Singha Durbar, Jawarlakhel, Sainbu Bhaisepati, and Khumaltar) each of which incidentally can be seen on Google Earth.

Thus it becomes very clear, that the last analog shortwave transmitter in Nepal was a somewhat hybrid unit assembled from whatever was needed from the three 100 kW units (1 Marconi & 2 Harris) though it was and operating at around just 10 kW. This transmitter was located at Khumaltar on the familiar 5005 kHz and it was last noted on air back in September 18, 2018, though some transmitter tests were conducted during the following year (2019). The 10 kW shortwave transmitter at the Khumaltar shortwave station was officially closed on June 18, earlier this year (2020). Nepal is now silent on shortwave. (Adrian Peterson, Indianapolis, script for AWR Wavescan November 15)