Just about everybody in the OM and SWL community has heard them at least once at one point or another. We’re talking about the radio taxis (communication between driver and dispatch) of the former Soviet Union, active on the upper end of the HF spectrum, between 25 and 29MHz. The time period during which reception of these signals occurs most frequently in Italy coincides with seasonal E-sporadic activity, between April and June, but not to the exclusion of “propagation bursts” like those we’ve witnessed during the course of the last week of October, with solid band openings.
Anybody listening to these communications will note that they are listening to something “clandestine” on the given frequencies (especially in the amateur bands – from 28 to 29.7MHz. In fact, lists of Russian monitoring stations have confirmed, as is especially the case in the bigger cities, that the official frequency allocation for the taxi service would be, as is the case in our part of the world, in the portions allocated for civil use on VHF/UHF.
So who is it exactly that we are dealing with? Realistically, with companies which are not able (or have no desire) to replace the communication system put in place thirty years ago, operating in non-metropolitan areas in which the geography of the area and the distances involved result in effective coverage, even with equipment and antennas like that in use for the CB band (normally in the outlying areas with cities of medium to small size as you will witness shortly.)
It’s practically impossible not to be affected by one of these transmissions, but hard to try to learn more about it. When the bands are open, every ten to twenty kHz is occupied by a radio taxi (taxi cab with dispatch capability) and the method of operation is identical: syncopated feminine voices utilizing frequency modulation (FM), blasting with addresses and information for the vehicles (at times being heard too, because they don’t work “duplex” incorporated on VHF/UHF with dispatch on one frequency and the cabs on the other) at such a rapid pace as to place a real strain on the “squelch controls” of the equipment (with the final result consisting of return communications ultimately fragmented and less intelligible).
Yet – with a voracious appetite for radio spectrum, honoring the instruction given me years ago by the “Golem” Italian Radio Show, hosted by Gianluca Nicoletti, the first radio program to suggest interaction between the world of HF and conventional radiotelephony– just for having received these signals so many times, it became imperative for me to do otherwise, find a way to orient myself to these rounded accents and feminine voices against a backdrop of an assortment of cell phone type sounds.
Not being an expert in Russian, I found the best help one could hope for were the participants of a news group. Some of them were quite taken in by my outlandish request to limit, as would concern signals received, the radius from which they emanated. And I couldn’t be more grateful to them. Not a simple undertaking one might add: just like in Italy, there are a lot of names for streets which repeat themselves from one city to another, especially in a country in which historical personalities are not in disproportionate number from which to draw.
Yet, having access to a communications base sufficiently large (thanks to recent stable openings), for some services received, encountering the streets with stores and restaurants or other establishments mentioned in radio traffic, it’s been possible to pinpoint the actual city. In particular, this process has allowed for the localization of precisely ten of fifteen services of those received during the last two weeks.
Complete and detailed radio taxi logs have been submitted (given that it is necessary to do so in cases like these; in good faith there have been those who have assisted in identification) to: Zheleznovodsk (near Stavropol), Ryazan, Sevastopol, Nikolaev (Ukraine), Kursk, Kislovodsk (also near Stavropol), Mihailovsk (another zone in the outskirts of Stavropol), Novorossiysk, Kyrylivka (Ukraine), St Petersburg (the only large city heard) and Sochi. You can learn about the inhabitants for each and every small city with the help of Wikipedia, varying between a few tens of thousands to the four million you’ll find in St Petersburg.
Showing all these places on a map (you can see all on the photo which pertains to this information) brings attention to an observation already formulated for signals heard in the ham bands. A horizon crowded with mountains like those from my area, Aosta Valley, limits performance to a distance of about 2000 km (when considering “conventional” openings). Allowing for, also in this case, the area surrounding the Ukraine, with seven of the ten stations practically located on the banks (or in the immediate vicinity of) of the Black Sea.
Anybody who speaks Russian and were to decide to learn more (and listen) individually may take note of the following references:
29005 kHz – Sochi Taxi: https://app.box.com/s/n03ylkkvvfrtlkdduq2x
27935 kHz – St Petersburg Taxi: https://app.box.com/s/8w6mqf0yjhgvr2byr48l
27605 kHz – Taxi near Kyrylivka (Ukraine): https://app.box.com/s/ch3m4i5jx0viwdfsiu9r
27600 kHz – Novorossiysk Taxi: https://app.box.com/s/mmimcikhcfl0p9jh52ix
26995 kHz – Mihailovsk Taxi (Stavropol Zone): https://app.box.com/s/t034numxrp94nw4ckh7y
26815 kHz – Kislovodsk Taxi (Stavropol Zone): https://app.box.com/s/e8oxk574ai8szlm771vi
26685 kHz – Kursk Taxi: https://app.box.com/s/vk3cgttquu4kwf15f8ph
26660 kHz – Nikolaev Taxi (Ukraine): https://app.box.com/s/m0a3asmk44817y5pv3ap
26585 kHz – Sevastopol Taxi: https://app.box.com/s/pf429o35i55shen1ssnu
26515 kHz –Ryazan Taxi: https://app.box.com/s/m88qnxrhhrz7t2nv0bm2
25675 kHz –Zheleznovodsk Taxi (Stavropol Zone): https://app.box.com/s/s0uto0m9k2g8s2zsqs07
Propagation permitting, even if heading towards the darkest period of the year, it will be difficult to hope for fireworks at the upper end of HF, with the idea of otherwise expanding observations. Firstly, due to the pride of the SWL (in this case almost “utilitarian” in nature) it’s always and in any case, the will to fill in one’s own log with new contacts. Then, to precisely confirm the area received and understand who they could be, who they’re not, to record the distance involved. In the end – every other secondary aspect – because the “research” has allowed one to come in contact with new friend, from whom – as is always the case in the field of radio – it’s always to learn (in addition to a cab driver from Perm named Ilya, who I would like to cite and thank for everything which he explained to me, including the fact that some taxi operations centers are not connected to their units via radio, rather with a “Skypelike” software installed on the smartphones of their dependent drivers).
Every time you listen, and even to the most apparently boring of things, there are hidden motives of interest, especially on HF.
The author would like to thank Mark, W0BG for his precious help in translating this story.