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Goldilocks Transmitters Serve San Diego

User Report: Lincoln Financial’s KIFM and KBZT find that Nautel NV20s fit just right

SAN DIEGO — In 2008 KBZT(FM) and KIFM(FM) were slated for their HD Radio installations. Having a couple of years under our belts with our third station, we thought we knew where we were headed. As it turned out, 2008 became a very interesting and complex year for our facilities.

We’d just finished a rushed but successful studio remodel and completed a studio move. Now we had to plan for our HD installations. To add insult to injury we were in the middle of rebuilding an AM tower that had come down during a storm at the end of 2004.

Squeak in a Class A station HD installation for KSOQ, and we had a handful.


The planning began with the location.

The KBZT and KIFM transmitter site was nice but the room was small and space was limited. Each Class B station runs a TPO of 10 kW and each must maintain a full-power auxiliary transmitter. The power level created the main headache as the transmitter had to be sized to maintain this analog output level and produce the required power for the digital.

The year began with us considering a handful of transmitters that were either too large as a single box or too large when combined, essentially requiring four transmitters to replace two.

Mounds of drawing configurations piled up. April arrived and the NAB convention gave us an opportunity to see what some of these beasts looked like and what they did.

Wandering the NAB floor for a specific goal was interesting. The typical reacquaintance session occurred whilst looking at the various transmitters.

Our company had a meeting with Nautel to see their latest and greatest. Jeff Welton, Nautel sales manager for Central USA, told us about the new NV40 solid-state transmitter. Being the assistant at the time, I hung near the rear of the group to allow the others (decision makers) to ogle the NV40 closely.

As Jeff’s presentation continued, I began to size up the box. Power-wise it was too much for our needs. Physically it was still a bit too large. Yet the presentation was intriguing. As it wound down I commented from the rear of the crowd, “Cut that in half and I may buy one.”

The year progressed, more plans were configured, and a decision had to be made. I received information regarding the new NV20 transmitter from Nautel. Because I was doing the drawings and space planning, the dimensions were directed to me. Two NV20s were a perfect physical fit, plus the price was right.

I reported back to Nautel that if they could be delivered within our required time schedule, they would fit our needs perfectly.

As the year moved into the third quarter the drive to install ramped up. I found myself promoted to chief engineer. Now the project was fully in my hands, along with the AM tower construction and our Class A station HD Radio installation.

I called up Jeff to find out what we’d recently submitted for purchase and what our timeline was, because until my promotion, I hadn’t been in the loop regarding final purchase once planning and drawings had been completed. Jeff gave me the rundown and I supplied the required information for the transmitters. As it turns out we also purchased a Nautel V1-D for the Class A station. The price was right, the size was right.

Now the delivery had to be right. All the equipment was required on site no later than Dec. 31. We were assured that it would be, including the V1-D.

Like champs

December 2008 became quite busy. The construction of the AM tower was in full swing. Storms were delaying everything.

We took delivery of the V1-D well ahead of schedule from Nautel on Dec. 10 and had it on the air by Dec. 19. Now we turned our attention to the NV20s.

The old transmitters were removed on Dec. 22 and we took delivery of the new ones on Christmas Eve late in the afternoon. J.R. Rogers, director of technical services and IT manager for Lincoln Financial Media, and I sat waiting for the truck for nearly six hours in what had to be the coldest day in San Diego in years.

As typical with delivery companies, no tools to move the transmitters properly were available. By 4 p.m. we finally had the transmitters in place. The first two production models of the NV20 in the United States, serial numbers H103 and H104, sat in our transmitter room.

After a well-deserved weekend, we began installation of the transmitters. Working with e-mailed copies of a manual in progress, I had the first transmitter plumbed and running into a RF load on Dec. 31. Mind you it was FM-only, but it was running.

The second transmitter was plumbed and running, FM-only, into a load by the end of the second week of January 2009. We were ready to have Nautel come out and commission the boxes. I had great support from the Nautel technical staff and Scott Marchand, FM project leader. Any question was answered in a timely manner.

The first NV20 was on the air Jan. 28, 2009. One of Nautel’s customer service technicians, Nelson Bohorquez, was on-site for commissioning.

J.R. and I both learned much about the nuances of creating the HD during this exercise. We also impressed Nelson on our ability to diagnose and troubleshoot the untested network during this time.

The second transmitter aired on Jan. 29. Due to some interesting issues with the second transmitter it took until Feb. 13 to go on air in full FM + HD. As with any new product we experienced minor issues, but nothing that threatened the on-air performance. Bohorquez was there for the on-air debut; Marchand and the rest of the Nautel crew were at the ready. It was a big deal. I appreciate all the help from the staff.

Since installation, we have performed a number of software updates that were easy to perform, some of which were intermediate to final releases. A beta test site, if you will. Actually, a “reality” test site, as it turned out.

We monitored the transmitters closely and reported anything that may need attention. We gave suggestions.

In our curiosity we experimented on access to the Exgine of one exciter. We clicked on the “wrong” answer and crashed the card. A timely repair from Nautel corrected the issue.

We experienced a loss of phase one night, as the local power company blew a fuse leading to the site. When I arrived, both transmitters were still on air and running at reduced power. The auxiliary transmitters were dead. I was shocked.

I love the Nautel AUI and remote accessibility; it is a great tool. With VPN and Web access, I can monitor the transmitters anywhere. The logging keeps me informed of any potential issues.

Two years later the Nautel NV20s are running like champs. We upgraded our HVAC to accommodate the heat load. We continue to monitor the transmitters. They work. Thanks for the support, Nautel.

The author is chief engineer for Lincoln Financial Media Co. of California.

For information, contact Chuck Kelly at Nautel in Nova Scotia at (902) 823-2233 or visit