The path to upgrading

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The path to upgrading

Mar 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By John Battison, P.E., technical editor, RF

Sometimes the upgrade project originates with the chief engineer who is tired of managerial complaints that valuable income-producing areas are not adequately covered. Sometimes the manager comes up with a grandiose idea of increasing the number of people served and coincidentally advertising higher power. In the former case the engineer has probably arrived at some idea of how the improvement will be developed. In the second case it may turn out to be a pipe dream and the engineer is expected to come up with an answer.

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The best way to deal with the second situation is to ask how much money the manager is prepared to spend on facilities improvement and what he expects. If he has no good answer to this question my advice is to say something like �That's a good idea!� and hope that he forgets it. If, on the other hand, he has an intelligent answer the procedure should be similar to the one you would follow if you had come up with the idea.

The procedure depends on the type of facility you are upgrading, its mode of operation and your own capability. Let's consider an AM station because they are typically the most complex. This may be an old daytime station with a small, almost gratuitous, nighttime power with or without a DA, a full time non-DA operation, a DA1, a DA2 or even a DA3.

If the proposed upgrade involves daytime operation run what I call a 25�V/m check (sometimes called the 025). This considers the daytime groundwave interfering contour that could interfere with existing co-channel stations and must not overlap the standard daytime 0.5mV/m protected contour. If you find an overlap using a non-directional antenna, a DA will probably be required.

This test will provide an idea of any co-channel interference problems, and immediately indicate a potential need for a directional antenna or may even show that a daytime power increase is not feasible.

If you are considering an upgrade to the nighttime operation, look at the existing night contour and consider the class of station. The object of this inspection is to determine how much work will be involved in the project and estimate whether it's worth spending the money and time.

If the proposed upgrade operation is for a nondirectional daytime station the station's chief engineer may decide to do it himself using one of the numerous software services that are now available. [See Trends in Technology in the January 2007 issue for some ideas.]

Either way, if it looks as though a DA or a larger existing DA will be involved stop and think about real estate and cost.

Location, location

If the existing transmitter site is large, or is in an area where additional ground can be reasonably obtained, it may be worth spending additional time and money determining how much extra space, and its cost, will be required. If, on the other hand, the original site is small, nondirectional and surrounded by housing estates or other commercial property a new problem arises. Operation on that site will not be possible.

Site suitability and availability are important factor because in these days of shrinking real estate suitable for transmitter antennas, land cost can be prohibitive. This must be taken into consideration before spending a lot of money and time preparing Form 301 and associated exhibits, and then discovering that the upgrade is not feasible.

Assuming that a nighttime power increase is possible, a multi-tower antenna system requires finding a new site. This is the beginning of a long series of filing applications and tying up land options.

Once suitable land has been found ensure that it's available and obtain a conditional option to purchase with adequate time frames. This will protect you from forced purchase if the CP is not issued. After a year or two the construction permit may be issued. It's the culmination of all your efforts and the beginning of a great deal more work.

Among other things, use permits will need to be obtained, numerous hearings from NIMBY groups will need to be attended, FAA objections will need to be overcome, electrical power requirements will need to be established and planning arrangements will need to be arranged with the power company. Transmitter building plans will need to be drawn, including water and toilet facilities. Equipment installation and wiring plans must be prepared and, in the case of remote or inaccessible locations, a provision for personnel sleeping and eating.

Gearing up

Transmission lines, transmitting equipment and towers were probably placed on conditional order at the beginning of the project. Now comes the time to confirm the order. Ground system planning should be completed next and it will be installed once construction traffic has eased.

Remote control and an STL will need to be determined while awaiting issuance of the construction permit and the necessary arrangements made with the link provider (if necessary), STL equipment ordered and STL construction permit applications filed.

Proper fencing will be required at the base of each tower together with security fencing around the transmitter building and an associated security system. Don't forget padlocks and keys for the tower base fence doors. And don't forget to obtain a large supply of keys for tower bases well as the transmitter building; somehow these always seem to get lost.

FCC approved non-ionizing radiation warning signs must be properly displayed together with tower identification and registration numbers and working telephone numbers.

Create a working timetable that includes plans for equipment testing and initial directional antenna adjustment.

Finally, after the proof of performance has been completed satisfactorily the commission should be informed and Form 302 filed in accordance with the rules.

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