LESS IS MORE: A Place for Low-powered Short-wave Stations

Less is More:
A Place for Low-powered Short-wave Stations

Transmitter site of  Radio Dunamis Shortwavefrom Uganda,
a 1 kW station  heard beyond  in  Africa
When I was about 13 years old my parents gifted me with my first short-wave radio. It was a generic 4-band receiver they had mail-ordered from Spiegel's of Chicago, back around 1967. Almost immediately after opening the box and powering it up, I discovered to my great satisfaction stations from nearly every continent in the world. Within a month or so I had scraped together enough pocket money to purchase postage stamps for my first reception reports to a handful of international broadcasters. My goal from then on was to QSL as many stations and countries as possible. Suffice it to say, this new-found hobby brought many hours of entertainment, and with it an education about language, culture and geography hitherto unbeknownst to me. 

The joy of listening to these distant and exotic locations was captivating. The thrill was usually intensified whenever I learned how amazing it was to receive some of these faraway stations with so little transmitted power. I'm talking about stations operating with less than 20 kilowatts, substantially lower than  the major international broadcasters of the day. I cannot begin to express the wonder I experienced when I heard the Windward Islands Broadcasting Service in St. George, Grenada at 10 kW, Radio New Zealand at 7.5 kW,  National Broadcasting Commission in Port Moresby, New Guinea at 10 kW or Radio Tahiti at 20 kW  These were proud moments indeed, made more jubilant when I ultimately received their QSLs. 

Even today, I find it more interesting and challenging to scan the radio dial for low-powered stations. These mighty mites generally are not major international players, but are rather more often  pirates, utility stations and small independent broadcasters. With the recent disappearance of so many big broadcasters, these "little stations that could"  fill the DXing void.

Fortunately  I live in a region of the world where geography, propagation, timing and equipment have conspired to help me catch at least a dozen or more of these lightweight broadcasters. Among the small wonders I have had the pleasure to hear over the past few years, most  originate over surprising distances from Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Their transmitted power ranges from as little as 200 watts up to 15 kilowatts. 

Recent QSL cards from
 low-powered stations 
I count among my proudest catches SSB Weather Broadcasting in Taiwan at 200 watts; Radio Spaceshuttle in Finland at 500 watts;  Radio Verdad in Guatemala at 800 watts; Radio Alcaravan in Columbia at 1 kW; Radio Oriental in Ecuador at 1 kW; Radio Dunamis Shortwave in Uganda at 1 kW; Wantok  Radio Light and Radio Fly  in Papua New Guinea, each at 1 kW; The Cross - Pacific Missionary Aviation  in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia at 1 kW; and American Forces Network  in Diego Garcia and Guam, each at 3 kW.

In some ways it is stations like these that bring us full circle to the early days of radio when broadcasters operated with much less power and a great deal of passion for their programming. They could perhaps be the saving grace for shortwave enthusiasts in the future. Never mind the calculative nature of bean counters to account for greater market share. Never mind the Internet and newer mediums may supersede radio. People will always have a need for the dissemination of music and information, and so long as the interest exists, even for the few, radio has a future.

Indeed, if I had the financial resources and tech savvy, I would certainly love to operate, produce and manage a legally licensed shortwave station of less or around 1 kW. Of course, amateur radio operators have been doing this sort of thing since the dawn of radio. Regrettably I am all thumbs when it comes to the technical side of it. What I lack in technical know-how however I more than make up for in enthusiasm. Nothing would give me more satisfaction in the remaining years of my life than to be at the helm of my very own station. It would fulfil at least one of my remaining dreams.


  1. The same thing happened to me in 1988 when my mom bought me my first shortwave receiver in a German coffeehouse called Eduscho in downtown Dusseldorf.I was tired of watching TV and videogames and my passion started from this day on,when I unboxed the little radio and turned it on I explored a complete new world of different languages and music.I started listening to Radio HCJB on 3995khz with their German programme and found out that the female speaker was a German lady from Wuppertal which is close to my hometown of Dusseldorf.Later on I got in touch with latinmerican music during their broadcast.this incident encouraged me learning Spanish on the radio,and I did it every night with Radio Nacional de Espana where they broadcasted live football matches.I was not really interested in collecting QSL cards at this time,it came later on,when I acquired a better radio from SONY.

  2. Like you I got a shortwave radio (Lucky Goldstar RQ740) as a present when I was 12 or so. My QTH in the south west of Ireland at the time was excellent being on top of a hill with very little QRM. We were also about 8 miles from the coast and had a large inlet a few miles away. Like you I managed to get Radio New Zealand using a 7.5KW transmitter I also got Radio Grenada which I think was using a similar power. As time progressed I got a Sony ICF7600D before I moved back to the UK where I swapped it for a ICF2001 and subsequently bought a 2001D. I didn't do any SWLing/DXing for a 30 years until my health prevented me from working. Since then I have tried with receivers such as a Drake SW8, A Fairhaven RD500VX and a CommRadio CR-1A. I am now using a SDRPlay RSP2PRO with an AOR LA400 having had a Wellbrook ALA1530 before. My main problem now is QRM so have bought an X Phase QRM Eliminator.