Radio cop

28th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Meet radio cop, Belgium's answer to your sound-wave jamming problems.

What do you do when your precious communication link with home, the radio, evaporates in a hiss of white noise caused by interference and jamming, leaving you bereft of your favourite station?

Most people would switch stations, but did you know that you can call Belgium's radio police?

Out there kitted up and ready to swoop, like a 21st-century cyborg batman, is a radio cop. He alone can save you from that mind-numbing airwave pollution and ensure hours of pleasurable listening.

The inspector from the Belgian Institute for Postal and Telecommunication (BIPT) is your man. He is responsible for control of the spectrum and is empowered to step in to resolve interference in any radio band (broadcasting or non-broadcasting).

To perform his investigations he has an impressive arsenal of sci-fi hardware at his fingertips: spectrum analysers, goniometers, portable localisers and, yes you guessed, field strength measuring equipment! No doubt in part due to his kit an inspector rarely fails in his mission to resolve interference problem.

Gino Ducheyne, chief engineer at the BIPT, observes that Long Wave band interference is common – unfortunately for expatriates who often use the frequency. Disturbances, he notes, can be caused for any amount of reasons.

From June last year to early spring 2001, the list of culprits make interesting reading. They include a Samsung TV set, an elevator's electronic control panel, a JVC video recorder, convector heating apparatus, an electrical pumping mechanism, a gas operated water heater thermostat, a PC feeder unit, halogen lamp dimmers and so on.

Generally once the faulty piece of equipment has been switched off the problem is solved.

But don't go thinking it's all high-tech! Mischievously Ducheyne recalls one of his most unusual cases. In a peaceful meadow where cows grazed, clumps of overgrown grass caused havoc on the airwaves as, when swayed by the wind, they brushed against an electric fence. Once the grass was mowed the scrambling ceased!

Usually the BIPT investigates and settles a complaint quite quickly and the sources are easily identified. There are some circumstances, however, where a solution is not within the BIPT's competence, as when interference originates from a neighbouring country.

In another context, a mission ended in failure as the only solution required that a whole street be disconnected from a 220V electricity mains, so the scrambling continued.

Aurore Lester-Smith

For more information:
BIPT (l'Institut belge des services postaux et des telecommunications)
Avenue de l'Astronomie, 1210 Brussels.

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