Field Report: Nautel NV40

April 1, 2012


WYSO is a 50KW non-commercial FM station licensed to Antioch University in Yellow Springs, OH. WYSO serves the Dayton/Springfield, OH, metro providing NPR and a variety of other public radio programming to more than 1 million people. This station has undergone many improvements and upgrades since first going on the air in 1958 as a 10W student station. That history of growth to meet the needs of the public radio audience and fulfill the mission of the University's outreach is culminating this year in two major projects - the construction of new state-of-the art studios, and a new transmitter and antenna that will increase power to improve coverage and maximize the potential audience.

Nautel NV40

I embarked on the power increase project when a detailed study of the directional antenna pattern revealed the opportunity to increase the coverage area contours toward major population centers. During this time, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced that grants would be available to increase IBOC facilities. WYSO broadcasts in digital and continues to explore methods to utilize the capabilities for multiple audio channels and associated data, so increasing the digital coverage was another objective. Studies completed by John Kean and NPR Labs suggested that an IBOC sideband level of -14dBc would come close to achieving coverage parity with the analog signal without causing objectionable interference to either adjacent stations or our own analog signal. Our own studies verified that WYSO could utilize IBOC levels of at least -14dBc, so we now had yet another reason to proceed.

The search commenced for a suitable new transmitter that would be able to produce the required power output at -14dBc in MP3 mode and also be compatible with the many limitations of our transmitter site. The first major site limitation was tower capacity at our leased antenna site, which only allowed a two-bay antenna. With what the directional antenna gain would likely be following range proof measurements, we could need as much as 30kW TPO to make our 50kW ERP goal. The second major limitation was the absence of three-phase power. The current transmitter utilized a Phasemaster to convert from single phase, but that is a compromise in efficiency and results in higher utility costs, as well as creating a potential reliability issue with another single point of failure. In fact, the Phasemaster had a history of two failures resulting in outages. A solid-state transmitter with switching power supplies could resolve that issue.

Homework

My initial research was taking place in 2010 at a time when several transmitter equipment manufacturers were responding to the market demand for reliable solid state, lower cost, high power transmitters with smaller footprints by developing or enhancing new lines of high power solid state FM transmitters with elevated IBOC capability. Ability to bring a product to market in a timely fashion became yet another issue.

Performance at a glance
◊ 16 hot-swappable RF power modules with integrated IPA PAs
◊ Redundant IPA power supply
◊ Hot-swappable power supplies
◊ Redundant low-voltage power supplies

The Nautel NV40 turned out to be the only product on the market that would produce the required 30KW TPO at -14dBc IBOC level in MP3 mode, was also solid-state and was capable of operating from single-phase power with switching power supplies. Achieving that power level was possible due in part to its Power Boost peak to average power reduction (PAPR) technology that was proven during independent tests last year conducted by NPR Labs. Additional IBOC gains would also be possible in the future by utilizing asymmetrical sideband capability. The adaptive pre-correction maintains spectral compliance without external filters.

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Another important requirement was compatibility with the legacy IBOC transmitter equipment. We wanted to retain the current transmitter as an auxiliary and be able to utilize the same common STL. Nautel demonstrated on site that their Exporter and Reliable HD Transport system was indeed compatible with both their exciter and our legacy equipment. Check that box.

The NV40 had met all of WYSO's basic requirements, but the evaluation wasn't complete. This transmitter acquisition was likely going to have to last the station for many years, so product support is critical. Tech support is available 24/7/365 on the phone, and on-site service available if required.

So after extensive evaluations, I selected the Nautel NV-40 for this client's application and the order was placed. Delivery this past fall was made on schedule, and the crew placed the cabinet exactly where we wanted it. I had anticipated a few issues with purchasing or delivery from Canada, but there were none. Installation was straightforward with no surprises. They even supplied a special conduit transition box to accommodate the large ac feed cables. The only complaint I had was limited access to the connections on the rear of the exciter(s). An interface panel for external connections would be a better solution.

Nautel
◊ 207-947-8200
nautel.com
info@nautel.com

The start-up and commissioning were uneventful, except for the inordinate amount of fun we had playing with - I mean working with the AUI. Gary Liebisch from Nautel stopped in to assist with the Reliable HD Transport setup and ensure all was well. The Advanced User Interface (AUI) is awesome. Instrument-grade RF and audio spectrum analyzers are built-in. So even though we used test equipment to initially verify proper operation, it is reassuring to know the display is an accurate instrument for future diagnoses and verifying mask compliance. The AUI is 100 percent remote accessible with any Web-enabled device, including shared screen support with Nautel's engineers and email notification. Add conventional integration with the Burk remote control via the phone line, we have complete control and monitoring redundancy. And speaking of backup and redundancy, each module has its own IPA and dedicated power supplies, so there is no single point of failure. The transmitter can run with several failed modules, and they are hot swappable for seamless maintenance.

I am extremely satisfied with the Nautel NV40. There have been no problems to report, and the station is looking forward to better coverage with lower utility bills compliments of the 0.99 power factor.


Stitt is the president of JMS & Associates, a consulting and contract engineering firm in Cincinnati.



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