By Amos Kareithi EA Standard October 26, 2009 The shiny antenna stands 20 metres from a table inside an enclosed room. There is mast or dish directed skywards, just an open briefcase on which the main kit is placed. As a technician fiddles with a dial, switches and knobs at the control panel, a soundman closely monitors the development. A third man paces up the room with a hand held palm-sized transistor radio, coaxing it to life. It takes about thirty minutes of waiting before red, green and amber lights flicker on at the control panel. The miniature radio comes alive with heart-warming melodies. Onguti tests his radio station at a field off Mombasa Road. Photo: Jennifer Wachie/Standard Headphones Peter Onguti slowly wears headphones, then calmly announces: "This is Onguti radio, broadcasting from Mombasa road." There is excitement as Onguti effortlessly feeds one of the jacks from the Ipod (a musical device) into the transmitter and a miniature transistor radio, smaller than the mobile phone, comes alive. Onguti, a Kenyan-born Canadian, has just broken new ground. His company, Conexe Systems Inc, registered in Manitoba, Canada, has found a solution which could revolutionalise operations of radio and TV sub-sectors. "We have developed the smallest radio station in the world. It is packed in a suitcase which weighs 18 kilogrammes" he enthuses. The germ of the radio station research was born two years ago when Onguti returned home after more than ten years in Canada. Similar-sized radio stations have been developed elsewhere, especially for the military and other field organisations, but the technology by Onguti is simplified to be more compact and cost effective. Onguti who had left Kenya as an accountant but pursued a degree course in sociology later capped it up with a diploma in Information Technology. It was his understanding of IT which drew his interest in radio technology. Buying equipment "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 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. Ironically, after the radio station was successfully developed and tested in Canada, the first sets were not brought to Kenya. Instead they were marketed in Ghana, Togo and Nigeria where at least 30 kits have been sold. Rwandese companies have also placed orders for the briefcase station. 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. "I have obtained a license from Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to market the kit which we have named Wantox FM station. The samples have a range of 30-40 km, Onguti says. Before testing his sample, Onguti had to pay Sh40,000 to the CCK to be allowed test and market his prototype. It costs about Sh1 million to purchase the briefcase radio station, which can be manned by one person. "The radio station can broadcast pre-recorded programmes automatically," Onguti says. According to CCK, the country has 319 radio stations, with Nairobi leading with 46, followed by Mombasa with 34. Remote areas Although some remote areas are listed as having registered FM stations, many do not broadcast as there is no reception of FM radio signals. Although Wantoxs FM stations range is limited, the designers say they have more powerful sets which can be received over 100 kilometres away. "We are researching on a station with a range which can cover almost the whole country. This is challenging, given the different topographical layout of the country but we will succeed," he adds. Conexe Systems is planning to invest about Sh1.12 billion in Nairobi to set up a factory for production of the FM radio stations. The company is in the final stages of manufacturing a briefcase TV station that could greatly reduce costs in broadcasting. The Wantox FM radio station has a transmitter with five channels for inputs such as laptop, Ipod, and a portable CD player, five tape recorder player microphones and a telephone hook up provision for phone in programmes. Onguti, 44, left for Canada in 1992 and enrolled in York University, Toronto where he got a degree in sociology and later a diploma in sociology. The radio station, he says, is the brainchild of his partners, Yves and Louise Maynard, the founders of Conexe Inc, established in 2004.