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Honolulu's Brock Whaley: "I have heard the future in my car"

Posted on: 05/22/2008

Honolulu radio programmer Brock Whaley (via RAIN reader and Madison AAA programmer Tom Teuber) reports:

I have heard the future in my car.

I have had a very exciting weekend so far. My curiosity got the best of me. The result was beyond my wildest dreams. I have experienced the future of radio and even of DXing. It’s like I’m living with the Jetsons.

I’m sure you heard about the huge Clearwire WiMax deal that went down this week. Let me review, and get the business part out of the way. Clearwire is to be merged with Sprint Nextel’s wireless broadband unit Xohm, combining Sprint’s 4G WiMax network (Xohm) with Clearwire’s existing Pre-WiMax broadband network. Sprint will own 51% of the firm, with ex-Clearwire shareholders owning 27% — a consortium of Comcast, Time Warner, Intel, Google, and Bright House will invest $3.2 billion and own the balance. The new firm will retain the “Clearwire” brand and will sell 4G WiMax mobile broadband to Sprint as an MVNO, while Clearwire & the cable companies will buy 3G mobile broadband from Sprint as MVNOs.

Big players. With big expectations. With big plans. Leading to a big payoff.

We have Clearwire here in Hawaii, so I thought, What the hell? Will it work in my car? Can I have the world’s radio stations at my fingertips while I drive around Kailua and Honolulu? Can I listen to London, Atlanta, and Chicago while I drive to Safeway and back? Can I still DX? [Kurt’s note: “DX-ing” is the hobby of listening to radio stations that are long distances away.] Can I listen with in stereo with no fading, static, and drop out? Can I really access the web for miles while in motion?

You bet your ass I can!

I have heard the future in my car. A future that is damn close. A future that offers thousands of more choices then over the air radio, satellite radio, and certainly HD radio. A future that the vast majority of broadcasters have yet to acknowledge, let alone plan for.

Clearwire is operating a pre-WiMax broadband transmission chain here in Hawaii and in a few select markets around the country. A full map is on their web site. It is the same as a regular Wi-Fi, but is transmitted at high power from numerous transmitters and towers just like cell sites. This is the beginning of what will be called WiMax.

Basically, it is a wireless broadband distribution service that covers miles instead of feet. It is of course two-way. It is just like a regular internet connection. Local Clearwire has a download speed of 2.0 mbps. With WiMax speeds will increase.

Now, please keep in mind that what I did will soon be in your dashboard. Just like a radio always has been. What I did is bulky and experimental, but it worked. Everything I had on my dashboard, and in my passengers seat can be placed into a small external disc antenna (just like GPS and XM antennas), and in a dashboard unit that would contain a web browser, media player, and amplifier. Just add speakers.

I went to Clearwire, signed up for service, and picked up a Motorola broadband WiMax modem and antenna. The present pre WiMax service operates in the 2.8 GHz range. Clearwire offers a fixed receiver for home or office use. It also offers a plug in receiver for laptop use. The fixed receiver uses a much larger antenna, and since I was going to be mobile for my little experiment, I wanted as much gain and capture area as possible.
After testing it out at home in Kailua, I picked up a small power inverter and power strip. I had to power the modem and RF stages in my car. The inverter plugs into a cigarette lighter and gives me 115 volts AC to power the broadband unit and HP laptop.

Today, I gave it a test drive in the truest sense of the word. The Clearwire antenna and modem I chose is about eight inches tall and less than an inch thick. It is very light. I just stood it upright on the passenger’s side dashboard and held it in place with a book. Velcro will hold it from now on. Real consumer units will be use a small outside antenna as I have described.

I plugged the Clearwire unit and the HP into the power inverter. The radio in my Ford does not have an audio input jack, so I use a cassette adapter to get the audio from the laptop in my cars audio system. Real consumer units will be one piece mounted in the dash.

I didn’t want to be too distracted while driving, so I selected up a few internet bookmarks and respective audio players to use during the test. Two mainland stations, BBC Radio, and a special DX preset, but more on that later.

Clearwire claims great coverage of Kailua and metro Honolulu. At the present time, there is no coverage on the Pali Highway that connects both towns.

I started the car, and turned everything on, and by God it works! Clumsy and experimental, but it works. The Clearwire signal indicator showed an excellent signal, even through the windshield. I brought up the stream of WDRV in Chicago, and there it was. Loud and clear in stereo. I drove into Kailua town. No drop out! Even as the direction of car changed. Signal strength varied in some directions as I drove, but I never lost the stream.

I lost the signal driving to Honolulu, but the signal lasted farther than the Clearwire coverage map indicated. The same went as I approached Honolulu. I pulled off the road at a scenic lookout and reestablished an internet connection on the laptop. This time to all-news KNX in Los Angeles. I took King Street from the Pali all the way to Kaimuki, and I only lost the signal and had to reconnect once. I pulled over and tried the BBC with the even better results. No dropout all the way to Kahala Mall. I’m talking miles here, on city streets, and I’m listening to freaking London, in stereo, with no noise, no static, no dropouts, in my cheap Ford in Hawaii!

I cannot underestimate how excited I was and still am. This is incredible. It does work, and it will soon be the norm.

Now, on to DX. There used to a website called DX tuners. It has been replaced by a group called Global Tuners. These are a collection of communication receivers located all over the world that can be tuned and listened to over the web. There are quite a few all over the U. S. (including Marietta, GA. Yes, you can hear WYZE) and the world.

I waited until I got back to Kailua for this thrill. I parked at Kailua Beach Park, and connected to a Global Tuner in England. Traffic was heavy, and you have to share the receivers with others on the web, but I got some time.

I cannot describe what it is like to sit in my car, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a late sunny afternoon, and DX the longwave and broadcast band from England where it is already the middle of the night.

Is it real DXing or is it cheating? I really don’t care. The fact that soon I will be able to tune and DX on a radio from anywhere in the world, from my own dashboard, from anywhere in the world is a whole new ballgame. The signal still has to reach the radio and the go on the web. The antenna on the global tuner I was using is piss-poor on longwave. So there was a low signal level and 50 Hz line noise competing with France-Inter, but I could tune up and down the dial. The signal from the BBC on longwave was local like. Just as you would expect if you were physically right at the radio.

I guess the whole point of this rambling is that I have heard the future of radio. I really find it difficult to tell you the emotion that went along with this first experimental test. I certainly understand from a technical standpoint how it all works. In this age of the web, and broadband gigahertz transmission it is quite understandable. But to actually hear it. To have access to any audio on the web, as well as DX capable radios around the world in my moving car while I drive is just too much.

I know my correspondence has not been the greatest during my return stay in Honolulu. And I certainly have had my ups and downs. I never expected to write such a long email. I am just amazed and thrilled at what is around the corner with WiMax. I’ll be doing more driving and testing in the days and weeks to come. It is a very basic set-up, but it works.

Look out my friends — it is beyond what we ever imagined.

— Brock

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  1. Wow, what a blast from the past! I didn’t know Brock was still in radio. I used to listen to him in 1973-4 on WFSO (570AM in Seminole, FL) and 1975-6 on WQSR, aka “Quad one-oh-two-and-a-half” (102.5FM in Sarasota, FL).

    AlanH · May 22, 09:08 AM · #

  2. The Future is here. Clearwire will just be another competitor. I own a Verizon Wireless XV6800 phone with EVDO and I am able to drive anywhere within 100 miles of downtown Minneapolis and never lose the signal. I use the TCPMP player with the AAC+ plugin and BAM! Nice sound quality, never a dropout. Even on the slower 1X network I can hear internet radio at 32k without any issues. I drop clear cross Nebraska and never lost my streams. We’re talking Nebraska here!!! What’s fantastic is there is no bulk. Just the phone, power cord and audio cord. Now if a company would just create a very nice and nifty mobile player with a bunch of stations on it ;)

    Mark · May 22, 09:30 AM · #

  3. Sweet! It just goes to show that Satrad and HD Radio are already dinosaurs. As far as DXing, this is cheating. In the case of HD Radio, even being close to the transmitters would be considered DXing, even with external antennas!

    PocketRadio · May 22, 10:36 AM · #

  4. You can also use TalkStreamLive.mobi on any Windows Mobile Smartphone.

    Bill F · May 22, 11:14 AM · #

  5. Brock Whaley is well regarded as a dedicated radioman and fine gentleman. Isn’t it a pleasure to read his impressions of media innovations?
    Aren’t many of us grateful for those of Mr. Whaley’s calibre, one who readily discerns the enduring from the ephemeral?

    Paul Vincent Zecchino Manasota Key, Florida 23 May, 2008

    paul vincent zecchino · May 23, 12:32 AM · #

  6. Congrats to Brock on this great gig from your fellow DJ at “Quad 102 1/2, Tampa Bay days. Saw Brock a couple of years ago at a QSR reunion at fellow QSR’er STeve Huntington’s place and was glad to see him going strong. Lookout Hawaii- Brock’s energy is enough to power the entire state! Now if he could only do the same for my car on this $4 a gallon Holiday Weekend…

    Susan Berkley · May 23, 12:31 PM · #

  7. Streaming Radio across the city is one of the unique applications of WiMAX networks. When the full service networks such as XOHM go fully live the days of the normal radio could be limited, except via the internet.

    Amitabh Kumar · May 28, 12:33 AM · #

  8. I’m speechless ! _ But it’s fantastic ! :-)

    Il Giomba · May 28, 04:38 AM · #

  9. Thanks.
    Excellent article.

    james kromer · May 29, 07:42 AM · #

  10. Wow – Brock and Susan on the same post… Miss you guys!

    I’ve been discussing this with my new colleagues at BE. As you know, we build transmitters, and, well…

    Steve Burgess · Jun 1, 02:20 AM · #

  11. Hey
    I run BeatlesRadio.com and have been getting the station in my car for 3 years. Luv it and of course when the USA has free internet Nation wide then thats one big transmitter.
    Good Luck

    Doctor Robert · Jun 2, 04:01 PM · #

  12. hey Brock,
    The last time I saw you was back in 86(?)I think you’re were at KPOI, great to find you,your writing is very informative and entertaining. Hope to see all my former WQRS colleagues again.
    Best wishes, Judy Ferrara, Treasure Island,FL

    Judy Ferrara · Jun 3, 10:38 AM · #

  13. Brock, you are the worst dj ever on KPOI, and we are so happy not to hear your terrible voice. However, the removal of Dave Lawrence from KPOI should be undone. He is so missed. What is that drone Michelle Somebody doing in his slot? Was that YOUR brilliant decision, Brock? What a washed up, pretentious loser you turned out to be. Bring back Dave, and retire, you geezer

    Susan · Jun 10, 06:55 PM · #

  14. No doubt, Susan. Brock is such a smartass, too. He was badmouthing Dave Lawrence from the moment he arrived back in Hawaii in 2007. We heard all about it. His son lives here and blab dat to da wrong crew witout knowing. KPOI and BRock are such losers for how they treated Dave. Dave was the heart and soul, and the insiders there were so jealous of Brother Dave. He just rolled into work and paid them no mind, which drove ‘em mad. They hated how he was all about the listeners and not some corporate YES MAN. Not DL. Trust me, they knew all this and were blabbing it, how they needed to get rid of Dave and some saleswoman Bonnie, cause they wouldn’t bow down. Ha! Brock is a computer guy, not a people person, and very jealous, and a slime ball who should be gone. Look up class in the dictionary, and there is Dave Lawrence.

    Kimmie · Jun 18, 10:56 AM · #

  15. Hey Brock and Tedd, Having worked at 98 rock with Brock and starting my broadacasting at WFSO I send my love to you from Monaco. 106,5fm XX Steven

    Steven Saltzman · Feb 1, 10:34 AM · #

  16. I’ve heard others say some bad things, but I don’t believe one bit of it.

    Ozaki · Sep 9, 12:53 PM · #

Commenting is closed for this article.

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