The Buzzer (UVB-76)
From HF Underground
UVB-76 is the callsign of a HF radio station that usually broadcasts on the frequency 4625 kHz (AM, suppressed lower sideband). It is known among radio listeners by the nickname The Buzzer. It features a short, monotonous buzz tone, repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, for 24 hours per day. The station has been observed since around 1982. On rare occasions, the buzzer signal is interrupted and a voice transmission in Russian takes place. Only three to four such events have been noted. Despite much speculation, the actual purpose of this station remains unknown.
The station transmits a buzzing sound that lasts 0.8 seconds, pausing for 1–1.3 seconds, and repeating 21–34 times per minute. One minute before the hour, the repeating tone is replaced by a continuous tone, which continues for one minute until the short repeating buzz resumes. Between 07:00 and 07:50 GMT the station transmits using lower power, when transmitter maintenance apparently takes place.
The Buzzer has apparently been broadcasting since at least 1982  as a repeating two-second pip, changing to a buzzer in early 1990.  It briefly changed to a higher tone of longer duration (approximately 20 tones per minute) on January 16, 2003, although it has since reverted to the previous tone pattern.
Frequently, distant conversations and other background noises can be heard behind the buzzer: this suggests that the buzzing device is behind a live and constantly open microphone (rather than a recording or automated sound being fed through playback equipment) or that a microphone may have been turned on accidentally. One such occasion was on November 3, 2001, when a conversation in Russian was heard: "Я — 143. Не получаю генератор." "Идёт такая работа от аппаратной." ("I am 143. Not receiving the generator (oscillator)." "There's some work on the hardware.")
UVB-76 has become much more active as of 2010. In early June, many listeners also report that it simply stopped transmitting, although transmission resumed by June 6th, 2010. That same day, many listeners reported transmissions in Morse Code. Since the start of June 2010, the normal buzzing sound from UVB-76 has been replaced by a continuous high pitched noise, similar to that of a modem, with intermittent deeper tones like that of a foghorn. Whether this is a malfunction or an intended change to the buzzing remains to be seen. On June 10, UVB-76 reportedly transmitted actual polytone data bursts followed by another Morse Code transmission. Several conflicting amateur reports on UVB-76's recent activities also date from June 2010.
Voice messages from UVB-76 are very rare. Three or four such messages have been intercepted in over twenty years of observation:
- At 21:58 GMT on December 24, 1997, the buzzing abruptly stopped to be replaced by a short series of beeps, and a male voice speaking Russian announced: "Ya — UVB-76. 18008. BROMAL: Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna, Larisa. 742, 799, 14." The same message was repeated several times before the beep sequence repeated and the buzzer resumed.
- A similar voice message was broadcast on September 12, 2002, but with extreme distortion (possibly as a result of the source being too close to the microphone head) that rendered comprehension very difficult. This second voice broadcast has been partially translated as "UVB-76, UVB-76. 62691 Izafet 3693 8270."
- A third voice message was broadcast on February 21, 2006 at 7:57 GMT. (recording of the third voice transmission) Again, the speaking voice was highly distorted, but the message's content translates as: "75-59-75-59. 39-52-53-58. 5-5-2-5. Konstantin-1-9-0-9-0-8-9-8-Tatiana-Oksana-Anna-Elena-Pavel-Schuka. Konstantin 8-4. 9-7-5-5-9-Tatiana. Anna Larisa Uliyana-9-4-1-4-3-4-8." These names are found in some Russian spelling alphabets.
The station uses Molniya-2M (PKM-15) and Molniya-3 (PKM-20) transmitters and a Viaz-M2 backup transmitter. The transmitter power is approximately 10 kW and backup power is 2.5 kW, which is used from 7:00 to 7.50 UTC. The antenna model is a horizontal dipole VGDSh (Nadenenko), height approximately 20 m.
Location and function
The station's transmitter is located just outside Povarovo, Russia at 56°4′58″N 37°5′22″E, which is about halfway between Zelenograd and Solnechnogorsk and 40 km northwest of Moscow, near the village of Lozhki. The location and callsign were unknown until the first voice broadcast of 1997.
Its purpose is unknown. One website claims the station is meant to "Transmit orders to the military units and recruitment centers of the Moscow military district." This is unconfirmed, and unlikely considering the station transmitted the simple buzz tone for at least 15 years before any words or numbers were broadcast. Because of the nature of the broadcast and the fact that its transmitter location is rumored to be a communications hub of the General Staff of the army, UVB-76 is widely believed to be used to transmit encoded messages to spies, as is generally assumed for the many numbers stations that populate shortwave frequencies. Transmitter sites for some numbers stations have been triangulated to military and/or intelligence installations in several countries, although no nation's government will confirm or deny the existence of the stations or their purpose. Another possibility is that the constant transmission of its characteristic sound is supposed to signal the availability, operation or alertness of some kind of installation, a kind of dead man's switch of a military or other installation, possibly for the Dead Hand system.
Another explanation for the constant buzzer is the High-frequency Doppler method for ionosphere research  described in the Russian Journal of Earth Sciences, in which radio waves are reflected from ionosphere inhomogeneities. Changes of an ionosphere state can be caused by solar geophysical or seismic events. This method involves comparing a continuous radio transmission which is reflected by the ionosphere with a stable basic generator. The continuously transmitted carrier frequency currently used for this research matches that of the Russian Buzzer (4.625 MHz).
A broadcast matching the primary 4625 kHz USB signal was heard on 6998 kHz USB in October 2015.
- Oddities, ENIGMA 2000 Newsletter Issue 8, January 2002.
- Военная жужжалка на 4625 кГц, 2004.
- Ary Boender: Numbers & oddities, Issue 1, World Utility News, 1995.
- Brian Rogers: The Buzzer, Mystery Signals Of The Short Wave, 2008.
- Livestream as of June 2010
- Youtube recording of the Morse Code
- Single letter markers – posts from the SPOOKS and WUN listservers (http://dxworld.com/markers.html), 2000.
- Mike and Sniffy's radio 'X' files
- Phonetic alphabets, by the Internet FAQ Consortium
- RUS-DX # 137-B, Hard-Core-DX Mail List Archive, December 12, 2004.
- High-frequency Doppler method for ionosphere research, Russian Journal of Earth Sciences, 10, 2008.
- Location: 560 4' 58" N - 370 5' 22" E
- Number Stations - Includes discussion of UVB-76.
- NPR's Lost and Found Sound, 2000-05-26: The Shortwave Numbers Mystery
- UVB-76 Station Info - All the information about UVB-76 by Years.
- UVB76 at the Global Frequency Database
- UVB-76 Temporary Internet Relay - Live Internet Streaming site, 900km NW from station.
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Wikipedia article: UVB-76