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WXLW(AM) Reconfigures to Add Cellular Towers

Pilgrim Communications has been involved in several such "scale-backs"

After standing tall for 67 years — since the station they served was built — three towers at WXLW(AM) in Indianapolis have been removed. Two are to be replaced with new cellular towers while a single new AM stick will now serve the station.

A decision to reconfigure the AM array from 5 kW directional (picture, right) to 1 kW non-directional came after test broadcasts indicated it could still effectively serve its primary target audience in the north section of Indianapolis, according to Ron Crider, director of engineering at Pilgrim Communications, which owns WXLW under the name Creative Data Management and has carried out several such conversions at other stations. WXLW airs at 950 kHz.

The new cell structures, made by Sabre Towers, will be delivered and installed before the end of the year. The first, a 150-foot tower with the ability to house up to four carriers, will be delivered the second week of September and is expected to be operational by the end of that month. The second will stand at 190 feet and house up to five carriers; it will be delivered in November and be operational before the end of the year. WXLW’s initial cellular client will be Verizon.

WXLW is licensed for operation on 950 kHz with a power of 5 kilowatts daytime and 0.036 kW nighttime, employing directional antenna patterns during daytime and nighttime hours (DA2-U). The station in July secured permission from the FCC for special temporary authority to operate with emergency antenna facilities, saying an inspection had determined that its towers were no longer safe and needed to be demolished. It’s now under an STA for daytime power at 1,000 watts and nighttime of 12 watts, that runs to January 2016.

The original towers were built by Bethlehem Steel in 1948. World Tower will put up the new single AM stick. All three are being installed by Tower Works Inc. FCC engineering work was done by Graham Brock and legally moved through the FCC by John Trent. Ron Crider has been the concept engineer on all the Pilgrim properties for the past 20 years. A photo of the rebar for one of the new towers is shown.

Pilgrim Communications previously added cellular towers to other AM stations as well, including in Denver, Gunnison and Buena Vista, all in Colorado. While it has had success with such “scale-backs” to cellular, Crider points out that it is not a fix for everyone.

“It just so happened it worked out great for us,” said Crider. “It does require a little bit of engineering to be sure if you do a downgrade you’re not sacrificing any sales quality. But, if in fact downgrading doesn’t really affect your primary coverage area, it’s a great thing to do.”

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