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User Report: Nautel NV40 Wins Big for Univision

Reliability, Automation and Ease of Use Add Up to a Sure Bet for Vegas Broadcaster

LAS VEGAS KISF(FM) is a regional Mexican music station serving the city of Las Vegas and is part of the Univision Radio Group transmitting the Piolin network. Our station is a Class C facility with 32 kW TPO analog/27 kW analog+digital output.

As part of our on-going Black Mountain consolidation project, where 10 FM stations are being set up to transmit from a master antenna, we started looking at a replacement of our old transmitter.

The author is shown with the Nautel NV40. Although this 27-year old model was operating within parameters, it was going through successive parts replacement and its operation was becoming more expensive. We also found that trying to add HD capabilities to it was less cost effective than acquiring new equipment with native HD capabilities.

In addition to HD Radio operation, we wanted to merge non-high voltage solid-state technology into our operation at a cost-effective range, and were looking for an architecture that provides high redundancy for good reliability. A group of Univision engineers began evaluating options that are available for our power level and cost requirements. After an extensive analysis we chose the NV40 transmitter from Nautel.

Useful features

The NV40 is a single-cabinet FM transmitter that offers the highest solid-state power in the industry. It includes a digital exciter with precorrection, a plug-in upgrade to the HD Radio Exgine and a 17-inch AUI (Advanced User Interface) touchscreen interface for full control of the transmitter both locally and remotely.

We were attracted to the NV40 by its small footprint, extensive redundancy and hot-swap serviceability, and also liked the fact that everything was included in a single cabinet right down to remote control access. Among the useful embedded capabilities of the NV40, the most significant are the AUI and its Web interface, the use of the Importer, Exporter and Exciter GU interfaces for HD, and the exciter’s internal RDS capabilities.

From an engineering standpoint, due to Nautel’s multiple power module approach one of the most attractive capabilities is the fact that there is no single point of failure at the IPA (internal power amplifier) level.

As an engineer dealing with tube transmitters (and solid-state) my experience has been that is likely that when a single point failure brings a transmitter down the IPA is the culprit. In the case of the NV40 one can sleep a bit better knowing that if one of those IPAs fails you still have another 15 (or one per PA) and the transmitter is still on the air. The same can be said about the power supplies and the PAs; redundancy is a plus.

Remote access is also important to us. Our KISF transmitter site is located at Black Mountain, on the southeast corner of the Las Vegas valley, about 16 miles southeast of downtown. Access to the site is through a service road recommended for 4×4 vehicles, meaning it isn’t easy to get to the site, so we rely heavily on remote capabilities.

We have been using external remote controls with the old transmitter as well as with the current backup transmitter over a 5.8 GHz Harris Aurora link. Now with the NV40 we rely on its AUI Web interface to control it, using the same 5.8 GHz link. We still have our Burk ARC-16 to do RF switching and to control our backup transmitter but we have plans to migrate the control of our older transmitters to the NV40 remote control functions.

Remote operation

NV40 Power Module I’m pleased with the capability of monitoring multiple parameters in the NV40 and love the ability to monitor even from home, using the AUI Web interface, the IPA and PA current, voltages, forward and reflected power levels at different stages, as well as temperature and even the speed of the cooling fan.

Though we use external VSWR sensor alarms, it is good to know that the transmitter itself can give you accurate VSWR readings at different stages.

The cherry on top of the sundae, though, is the built-in spectrum analyzer on the AUI screen. Borrowing analyzers was becoming harder and harder, and having it there and being able to use the Web interface and see it from anywhere is a wonderful thing.

There are a few things I’d like to see implemented in this product. An intake vent on the front doors would help with temperature control on the PAs, and I’d really like to see BlackBerry software to access the AUI.

But on the whole, I’m very happy. Nautel’s customer support is exemplary. The sales engineers were precise and helpful on addressing our transmitter issues and implementing solutions for us; the technical support people made our preconfiguration and installation process smooth.

At first every new technology is difficult to assimilate but with the support of Nautel’s tech people along with the practicality and straight-forwardness of the NV40 architecture, our installation was a good experience. I’d say with little hesitation that KISF now has the best signal in Las Vegas.

Manny Garcia is chief engineer for KISF(FM) Univision Las Vegas.

For information, contact Nautel at (877) 662-8835 or