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What is Utility Radio ?

My radio-hobby started in 1974. I mainly listened to pirate radio stations on FM and MW. I bought my first shortwave radio in 1976. It was a tuner without SSB so I could only listen to broadcast stations. I soon found stations like Radio Indonesia, HCJB, Radio South Africa, VoA and of course Radio Nederland. But I wanted more. I lived between the docks and was very interested in shipping. So I wanted to listen to coast stations and ships on MW and HF. Therefore I bought a shortwave radio with SSB in 1980 and one of the first stations that I heard was a German numbers station. I found more mysterious sounding stations and I am hooked ever since. I discovered that these mysterious sounding stations are known as utility stations, and I wanted to know more about them. A new area was found to be explored and many more followed. Eventually this led to the start of this website.

You may be asking yourself "What is a utility station?" That question is easy to answer. With the exception of Broacasting Stations, Pirate Radio Stations, and Amateur Radio Stations all radio stations are Utility Radio Stations. These stations usually are not intended for reception by the general public. Utility Stations transmit on LF, MW, HF, VHF and UHF. You can find them everywhere. The stations transmit in all sorts of modes: voice in LSB/USB, Morse, many different digital modes, etc. In most cases you need a decoder to decode the transmissions and although many transmissions are encrypted it is still fun to listen to them.

Unfortunately many stations have left the air since the 1990's. When I started this hobby many news agencies transmitted their news in rtty and fax modes. Interpol was still on the air, as were many telephone services. Most of the coastal stations are now defunct but in my early radio years you could hear them from all parts of the world. But althought lots of ute stations left the airwaves, there is still enough to search for. Here is a summery:

Aeronautical stations, both ground stations and aircraft (voice, HFDL, Selcalls, Volmet, ACARS, VDL2, etc.)

ALE-systems, Selcall-systems, Tone calls

Beacons (NDB, Driftnet beacons, Propagation beacons, Pirate beacons, Hi Frequency beacons, etc.)

Experimental stations

Fax stations

Governmental stations (MOI, MFA, embassies, etc.)

Highway Advisory Radio (HAR)

Ionosondes, Chirpsounders

Maritime stations, both coastal stations and ships

Military stations

Numbers stations

Radars (Over-the-Horizon-Radar, Ocean Wave Radar, etc.)

Railroad stations

Space communications (ISS, satellites, space craft)

Standard frequency and time stations

Travelers information stations (TIS)

and many more.