In the pastoral college town of Kent, Ohio, engineers at public radio outlet WKSU have placed the capstone on a 6-year HD Radio conversion of a multi-station radio network that covers much of the state's northern half. The project's scope included five broadcast sites and 15 program channels.
Ron Bartlebaugh, director of broadcast engineering for WKSU, a noncommercial network of stations operated by Kent State University oversaw the massive project from start to finish with the assistance of Broadcast Electronics, the project's primary equipment vendor.
In addition to updating three of WKSU's four repeater stations with transmitters ranging in power from 2.1kW TPO to 12kW TPO, the project also involved a unique and complex TL-IP audio-over-IP link connecting all four repeater stations and WKSU's main transmitter site to the campus-located WKSU Broadcast Center.
WKSU originates all programming from the main campus of Kent State University to WKSU 89.7 FM and repeater stations WKSV in Thompson, WKRJ in New Philadelphia, WKRW in Wooster, and WNRK in Norwalk. All HD Radio multicast channels in the network share common formats on HD2 and HD3, although each has the ability to broadcast unique and location-specific content separately originated from the WKSU Broadcast Center.
"Theoretically, we could have up to 15 different programs on the air at one time originating from the Broadcast Center, which fits into our plans down the road to offer different programs that are more geographically specific to each station," Bartlebaugh noted.
The network is also broadcasting song title and artist data on each HD Radio program channel as well as through RBDS, and anticipates the addition of an HD4 all-news channel when the technology becomes available.
Phase I of the Kent State University HD Radio initiative began in 2003 and concluded on July 18, 2009, when WKSU FM's repeater in Thompson, Ohio, became the fifth and final station in the network to broadcast digital radio.