Mar 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By John Battison, P.E., technical editor, RF
When general computer usage was still in its infancy, handling data was far less easy and accurate. As time progressed, consulting engineers began to develop their own engineering programs. Some engineers would sell their computer programs, but computer-assisted engineering was not widely available in the form of companies specializing in computerized engineering programming. Most of the work was performed manually on a calculator, sometimes even on a slide rule.
A variety of maps and charts can be generated with current software packages.
One of the problems of that period was assurance that the database used was accurate. The FCC's database frequently proved to be incorrect. Unfortunately, today the same problem with the Commission's database still occurs sometimes, and the resulting accuracy of any programming always depends on accurate data. For this reason, many of the engineering programming services prefer to use their own databases.
Specializing in radio broadcasting, CMBE audio and RF, services with an emphasis on audio processing and signal coverage. Typical work involves digital and analog audio, audio production quality assurance, signal measurements and tuning, antenna systems design/troubleshooting, remote monitoring/control and signal coverage mapping.
A division of CMBE, RealCoverage.com is a Web-based mapping service that provides rapid e-mail delivery of letter-sized coverage maps and RF planning studies for any frequency from 540kHz to 100GHz including AM, FM and TV stations.
Dataworld's engineering services are Web-based. Customized mapping of coverage patterns for commercial, non-commercial radio and TV stations is available. Maps are based on FCC-predicted contours or Longley-Rice calculations, and provide several data layers such as boundaries, ethnic population densities and multiple demographic breakouts.
FM Explorer is a what-if planning tool for FM allocation analysis. A current allocation can be viewed, and then criteria can be changed and the results can be seen in the study and on the map. FM/TV/LPTV technical engineering studies are offered on a subscription basis.
Radiosoft offers several software programs and services such as Radio Compass, a browser-based mapping system. Radio Compass Online Maps create maps with FCC station data and choose map characteristics, including layers for detailed map features. This is suited for those who require the sophistication and complexity of a radio propagation and geospatial information system.
Comstudy 2.2, offers a contour calculator, integrated 3D viewer and propagation engine, terrain-based interference analysis, shadow matrix, frequency finder online coordination tool and an optimized database engine for serving transmitter data.
RF Software develops and markets tools for broadcast consulting engineers, and its related company, RF Engineers, offers engineering services. Services include maximum possible exposure, radio frequency radiation and field measurement services; what-if situations and similar white/gray studies; collocation and interference studies and multiple transmitter facilities studies; and propagation analyses using Longley-Rice and point-to-point methods. The company also provides one-on-one training and seminars on RF area exposure modeling and the use of advanced engineering software.
Softwright developed the Terrain Analysis Package (TAP) for Windows. It evaluates existing or proposed transmitter sites, coverage predictions, intermodulation studies and transmitter site administration. The TAP software is written by engineers for engineers and technicians. All the equations, calculations and methodology are traceable to published documentation including IEEE published papers, technical manuals and textbooks.
V-soft Communications offers programs for AM, FM and TV. FM Commander uses the FCC database for all FM frequency searches and allocation work, and it integrates the U.S. Census, terrain elevation databases, a polygon-based USGS mapping engine, the FCC's tower registration database, the AM database, airport and TV databases. AM-Pro performs daytime ground-wave and nighttime skywave allocation studies, AM contour mapping provides a antenna pattern editor that allows drag-and-drop editing of a directional pattern using a mouse. The company also offers a free, online AM and FM ZIP Code/signal program that will produce a table of all ZIP Codes and signal strengths within a station's 50dBu contour.
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