Briefcase Broadcasting: The Smallest FM Station Ever


kenyaPicture if you will a radio station that can fit in a briefcase. Sounds like something out of The Jetsons, doesn’t it? It’s not. As a matter of fact, the first 30 of them are already deployed to Ghana, the Togolese Republic, and Nigeria. Welcome to the world of portable broadcasting!

The Wantox FM Station seems to be an impressive device. Weighing in at 18 kilograms, it is miniscule when compared to the rooms full of gear one usually thinks of when visualizing a radio station.  Now, just to be clear: there are comparable radio devices already in existence, mostly in use by various military and field organization, but this one has been engineered to be more compact and more cost-effective. The latter in particular is highly important in the Third World environments in which it is to be used.

Peter Onguti, a Kenyan born Canadian, is the mind behind this portable wonder. The idea came as the result of discovering just how expensive it is to set up a full radio station.

Via The Standard (Nairobi):

“I was shocked when I learnt that for an investor to set up a radio station one had to part with a minimum of Sh5 million [Somali Shilling] just to buy equipment,” he says.

After flying back to Canada, he interested his partners into coming up with a small, and cost-effective radio station kit for a growing broadcast market.

“Two engineers, Ron Robins and Yves Maynard took more than two years to come up with a prototype of a small radio station,” Onguti says.

[…] Onguti says the station, Conexe Inc, is suited for Africa and the Third World as it is cost-effective, easy to install and can be powered by solar, electricity and even a car battery.

Portability combined with low-cost and ease of use. That’s a powerful trio of characteristics. In addition, the unit has five separate input channels so that one can plug a laptop, CD player, or iPod directly into it. It also includes five tape recorder player mics and a telephone hookup that allows it to broadcast phone-in programming.  While the baseline unit only has a range of about 30 miles, there is another slightly bulkier one that boasts a 100-mile range and Onguti says they are working on one whose broadcast radius should cover the nation.  Onguti has certainly set his eye upon rebooting broadcast, and not just radio either. His company, Conexe Inc., is also working on a similar briefcase-sized TV station.

I can see this being effective not only in the Third World, but also in disaster zones, war zones, and a wide variety of situations.  Another thing to consider is how this will affect the radio landscape beyond the Third World. Many of the most ubiquitous and substantive changes of recent decades have centered around portability and shrinking size.  One only has to look at the way smart phones have changed the listening landscape to see that. I’m curious to see what effect portable stations have as they become more common and financially accessible.

Share your speculations with us. What do you think will be the ramifications as this device mainstreams?

Image: collinj / CC BY 2.0

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7 Responses to “Briefcase Broadcasting: The Smallest FM Station Ever”

  1. samuel karanja Says:

    i look forward to set up a community radio staion in kenya.where can i get mr onguti contacts?

  2. Patrick Bestall Says:

    Galcom Communications in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada developed this technology decades ago for missionaries.

  3. George Williams Says:

    @Samuel try Google. I have no contact info for Mr. Onguti directly as we are not affiliated with him or with his business

    @Patrick Please give me some details, links, etc on this.

  4. erick njuguna Says:

    kindly give more details for the people who would wish to invest in such a kind of radio station.Let me know where i can get such a broadcasting station and at what price.

  5. Enrico Says:

    He has invented the hot water.

    He utilize the AAREF ( RADIO VERONICA) toy FM transmitter that are not even FCC approved and max 15Watts, that cost 199 USD + 40 for the antenna.

    This is the first case of Reverse Technology dumping in Africa.

    Off course a FM radio station is expensive, Studios, Link, Trasmitting site, licenses, personell etc etc got their cost, I have seen him on a picture sitting duck with the TX on the grass!!

    Is this his perception of an FM radio station????

    That was mine when 7 yrs old and playing with Kit FM TX bug around the block of apartments I used to live in Italy, Fun but nothing more.

    Good luck

  6. Enrico Says:

    here is the article of his ONGUTI FIELD RADIO

    Cost ??? 1 million Shillings ( 9700 Euros or 14’000 USD!!!!!! )

  7. Peter Onguti Says:

    @Enrico…negative energy. Think Emerging markets and what this product can do in terms of rapid deployment for info, e.g. learning, pandemics awareness, famine, disasters etc
    @Sam and Eric…
    @Pat…would love to share some thoughts and ideas.

    Cheers all.

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