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Rocky Mountain Broadcaster Moves to HD Radio

User Report: Nautel helps solve challenges of tight spaces and multicasting

DENVER When Lincoln Financial Media began investigating Nautel transmitters more than 15 years ago, we kept getting the same response from the users we questioned. I would ask a station’s chief engineer about his experience with the Nautel transmitter and the engineer would say something like, “I don’t know much about our Nautel because I hardly ever do anything to it. It just works and keeps on working.”

Brad Hart with the Nautel NV40 Transmitters The results of my earlier investigations and my own experience over the years since have made me an avid Nautel user. When it came time to upgrade Denver-area FM stations KKFN (104.3) and KQKS (107.5) for HD Radio operation, our brand choice was obvious.

HD Radio considerations

What wasn’t immediately apparent was how to implement HD at the Green Mountain transmitter site of both stations.

The transmitter building housed two Nautel FM-10 transmitters for each station. These four transmitters were already a tight fit in the small building. There was no room for separate digital-only transmitters, combiners or reject loads to implement HD Radio broadcasting. The only practical choice was hybrid FM+IBOC1 operation.

Our challenge was to find a small footprint hybrid operation transmitter with enough capacity to provide more than 20 kilowatts of transmitter power at both –20 dB and room to grow to –10 dB digital injection levels.

Nautel made this easy with the introduction of the single-cabinet NV40 transmitter at the 2008 NAB Show. The NV40 footprint actually was smaller than each set of two FM-10 transmitters, and the NV40 with 23 kilowatts of –10 dB FM+HD Radio power could handle our power output requirements for the present and future.

The transmitters were shipped to Majestic Rigging and Transportation Co. in Henderson, Col. They provided a four-wheel drive flatbed to bring the NV40s to the site. We could only install one NV at a time so there were two trips to the site. Trip one was to remove the two existing Nautel FM-10s on 104.3 and deliver the 104.3 NV40. We had the electrician standing by to get the three-phase power to the transmitter. RF plumbing, control/metering cabling, and HVAC were completed within 24 hours. The next day repeated the same process for the 107.5 KQKS transmitters. It was a pain doing one at a time but that’s life with a small building.

Nautel Field Service personnel were on hand to make sure the transition went well. With the NV40s being essentially “plug and play,” the whole process went smoothly. The Nautel engineer did a quick check of each transmitter but much of his time was spent training station staff on the new transmitters, which went on the air in early September 2009.

The factory training was especially important to get our staff up to speed on the Nautel Advanced User Interface. The AUI provides an array of diagnostic and operation information on the transmitter along with local and remote control through a 17-inch LCD touchscreen. The in-depth diagnostics on the AUI are impressive. Users can see extreme details of the transmitter, down to things like the speed of cooling fans. Plus the factory can hook up and remotely see the same detailed information. Now you don’t have to describe a problem; they can see it for themselves. That’s very cool.

The NV40 has features like an integrated exciter that is frequency agile with advanced adaptive precorrection and combiner equalization, direct to channel modulation, and SCA and RBDS encoders.

Our stations purchased the full HD Radio suite of Nautel products including the Exgine option for the exciter, the Exporter Plus for HD Radio encoding and the IPR Importer for multicasting. Multicasting is integral to the future for these stations. KKFN now airs two extra sports formats in addition to the main channel sports programming. KQKS has implemented HD Radio broadcasting on the main channel with multicast formats in the planning stages.

Nautel sales people are knowledgeable and always give you a straight answer, but I find that the products sell themselves. Nautel is a quality company with great products, and the support is great, too.

And what about those FM-10s that were taken out of service? They still have some life left in them and are moving to an auxiliary transmitter site. Nautel transmitters just work, and keep on working.

Brad Hart is director of engineering for Lincoln Financial Media.

For information, contact Nautel in Nova Scotia (877) 662-8835 or