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The LPFM Saga...

mram1500's picture

I'm a couple months into the LPFM adventure.  As reported we got our application in just under the wire.  Within a few weeks we received confirmation that the construction permit was granted.

I have requested WCFO as the station call which identifies with our City of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.  I should hear something back on that request very soon now.  There are no other FM's with that call and only one AM in Georgia with that call which should not be a problem.

I've begun the exhausting research for equipment.  Being a City function will require that I obtain quotes from three different vendors to satisfy the bid process.

The hard part is taking advice when everyone "has the best" regardless of what your looking for.  I have a firm price from a climber to install the antenna.  That's my starting point.  Gotta get the antenna up before much else can happen.  At 120 feet, I don't think I'll be climbing.

Transmitters are in the area of $3k to $6k.  An EAS decoder, $2k to $4k.  Antenna anywhere from $800 to $3k plus climber for installation.

Once the antenna, transmitter and EAS equipment is in, the station will go on-air for testing using canned programming for a short while.

Our school system is very excited, planning for a broadcast vocational education program.  Students will learn all facets of the business; air personalities, programming, news, etc.  The school will have a studio/classroom operation in the school.

The school system would like us to have the station up by this fall for football season.  I smell Live Remotes there.  Since they will have to develop a curriculum, the studio/classroom probably won't happen for another year.

A backup mini-studio will be located at the transmitter site for those special times when the network connectivity is lost and the main studio is offline.  Or, for when I'd like to disappear for a few hours during the day.

LPFM package prices start around $15k and the sky is the limit depending on what you want.

It's been mentioned that a web presence is an essential component for promoting a station.  Guess I'll be putting up a Facebook page soon.  I've already started a test streaming station using, of course, a free host service.  It's just a juke-box right now but the boss was impressed.  You can listen at WCFO RADIO.

 

Welcome WCFO

What an exciting time to be tapped into events here at part15.us with LPFMs starting up, CB rigs being planned, carrier current going in here and there, and all the AMT5000s all over the place.

And all because of the ALPB.

Carl Blare

Down The Road...

Well, it's finally coming together.  The old transmitter shelter was re-activated.  A major cleanup and rewire was needed as it had been over run with mice when it sat empty for a few years.  I added a manual generator connection for those special times.

The A/C unit was dead and no money in the budget to fix it.  So, I scrounged up a used window unit and installed as a through the wall unit.  Gotta have A/C as the temperature easily goes over 100 in the summer without it.

A suitable computer desk I had was donated to the cause.  An old data equipment rack confiscated for the equipment to reside in.

The transmitter, antenna and feed line arrived last week.  The UPS and EAS arrive tomorrow.  The tower climber will be out Saturday to get the antenna system up in the air.

The transmitter was installed and fired up today on a dummy load.  Success!  I'll have to cobble up some cabling and audio interface equipment to connect the ZaraRadio PC.  Initially I'll be running all automated until the school gets their studio built out.  Their audio will be streamed over our intranet to the transmitter site.

Lightning protection is a major concern so I'll be paying particular attention to detail here.  Nautel provided excellent information regarding this.  Ferrite doughnuts for everyone!  0 AWG ground bus to a common earth ground for a single point ground reference.

This is what a $980 commercial circular polarized antenna looks like:

Shively CP FM antenna

I guess that's the price for reliability.  Considering its 142 feet up, I don't want a failure anytime soon.

The Coast Guard already had WOCF and someone else had WCFO so we settled on WCFI.  For a sample of the Indie programming I'll be running checkout http://wcfi.listen2myradio.com 

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

Congrats

The antenna looks like a chair produced by a 3D printer error.

Carl Blare

WCFI

All I can say is WOW!

Bruce

NOISE AND STATIC RADIO

Wound Tight...

Yeah, I suppose if you straighten it out you'd have a half-wave dipole or there abouts.

It measures about 12 inches on a side and the vertical stubs stick up/down about 10 inches.

It will be mounted 3 feet away from the tower on a stand-off, 142 feet above ground.

The antenna actually is rated at a loss with half the power into the vertical plane, half into the horizontal plane.  So I suppose I start out by doubling the power allowed by the license and then adjust upward for cable losses.

The cable is Andrew 1/2 inch Heliax - a semi rigid coax.  Great stuff but again, pricey.

Today the UPS arrived and I picked up the coax jumpers with N-type connectors.

Tomorrow the Emergency Alert System equipment arrives.  Then I have till Saturday to figure it all out and get it hooked up.  With any luck it'll go live sometime Saturday.

 

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

A "SWAG"

Below is a calculation showing the approximate transmitter power needed for a system using information in this thread and from FCC records. It is based on an overall length of 175 feet for the coax run.

The calculation can be redone easily for other coax lengths.

Oh, this is so cool.

I seem to have no technical comments.

They are all emotional.  Happiness for you, actually.

So that's to MRAM.

And for Rich, great info.  I was in broadcasting for

a very

short time and didn't learn much then.

Keep the info coming.

Bruce

 

NOISE AND STATIC RADIO

Show Time...

Thanks Bruce.  Yeah, the fun should start soon.  I'm pumped.

Thanks for the technical data Rich.  My swag was a good start figuring around 40 watts, your data shows about 51 watts including cable and antenna losses.

Tomorrow is the big day.  Tower climber shows up at 0830.  He figures a couple hours should do it.

Today the Emergency Alert System equipment was programmed for the Local Primary LP-1 and LP-2 we monitor.  These are FM stations designated to activate the alerts for our area.  In addition the local NOAA WX station is included as the EAS box has three receivers.  I still need to go through the codes to pick and choose which alerts will be aired.

The transmitter, a Nautel VS300, has been humming along into a dummy load at 40 watts.  I dressed up the cabling, hooked up a couple more grounds and corrected an audio phase problem.  Seems I got one channel input reversed.

I still need to get our IT department to complete our network requirements.  Currently there is only one LAN drop.  There needs to be a minimum of four; 1 VOIP phone, transmitter remote, EAS remote and the PC.  For now, the transmitter is connected to the LAN and I borrowed a cellular HotSpot for the PC.

I'll get some pictures put up so you can see the setup.  Really not much to see at the transmitter site but yes-pretty cool.

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

In The Thick Of It...

I've spent lot's of time at the transmitter site lately.  My one main concern is the EAS/CAP unit.  Fortunately I've had the help of Dale Lamm of WHBC Canton, Ohio.  

Although Dale had not worked with a DASDEC-II EAS, he knows the terminology and what needs to be inplace.  Working together, all of the required and desired optional alert codes have been programmed into the unit.  

Dale brought a spare SAGE EAS unit which can originate EAS alerts.  Using our Motorola Station Monitor as a mini VHF transmitter I was able to feed the SAGE audio to the DASDEC monitor receiver using one of the NOAA frequencies and transmitting the alert audio to the DASDEC monitor.

Success!  All of the alert codes decoded and forwarded as required.

Today the IT department came through with an 8 port data switch and I got that installed.  I was able to make the required fiber optic patches to bring a gigabit fiber connection to the transmitter shack from the City Building.  A total path length of about 32,000 feet.  

Once the fiber was connected to the switch the rest of the equipment connected to the switch came to life.  I now have remote access to the Nautel transmitter, DASDEC-II EAS and the program PC.  

This allows me to monitor and adjust transmitter parameters as well as the program feeds to the transmitter.  I can make changes to the DASDEC-II and even initiate the required weekly tests from anywhere.  Also, by having remote access to the program PC I can change playlists and audio sources remotely.

Both the transmitter and EAS box will send email alerts to me when events or problems occur.

Tonight I tested a live remote from my house.  The transmitter scheduler was set to switch from the program PC to a live stream originated from my home PC.  On schedule, the transmitter switched to the streaming audio and I was live.  An audio file was played and I did a station ID when the file ended.  Then on schedule the transmitter switched back to the program PC.

The only problem was the fact that a 20 second delay exists on the Shoutcast stream.  An RTP stream would be much easier to time out as the delay would be reduced to less than 1/2 second.

Here is a screenshot of the Nautel transmitter web interface.  From here I can adjust all parameters and program feeds.

Nautel Web Interface

Long day.  A good tired.

 

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

Exemplary Work

One of the great quickdraw stories in low power radio, MRAM 1500 puts his city on LPFM before they get back from lunch.

And it's streaming! It started streaming even before the ink on the CP (Construction Permit) was dry.

Will he take the weekend off? Probably not, since radio is more interesting than time off.

Excellent!

Carl Blare

It's OFFICIAL!

WCFI-LP LICENSE WAS GRANTED BY THE FCC TODAY.

We can now broadcast under license WCFI-LP.

At this time I am still running full automation using ZaraRadio.  The playlist will continue as Indie music open format until royalty licensing has been obtained.  Indie music will still be featured to allow local artists air time after the fact.

I have been working with the Barix Instreamer.  The Nautel transmitter can play streaming audio directly off the network eliminating the need of the Barix Exstreamer which makes remote switching between program sources easier.

This will be the STL connecting the transmitter to the school studio and other remote feeds.

The next step is to work out streaming from outside the local network using the Internet.  This will require cooperation from our network administrator.

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

ALPB Takes Credit

Bob Felmly of MRAM1500 built an LPFM station for his city, but could he have done it without the ALPB?

I think not.

When taking the reins (reigns?) of the newly formed ALPB as its Chairman, Bob paved the way for the LPFM success that was to come later.

As Cayuhoga Falls so goes the world.

Become a member of the ALPB and you will too.

Carl Blare

Ready To Listen

WCFI-LPFM in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, is operating in "test phase," according to the station's announcer Bob Felmly, as heard this morning on the station's internet stream (78.129.187.73:9007). He added, "We may leave the air at times for adjustments." Then the stream went dead.

I was hoping to link a great article I ran across the other day all about the arrival of WCFI-LPFM, but this morning I scoured Radio Insight, where I thought I'd seen the story, and can't find it. Maybe you'll find it, it's good reading.

Oh, the music was, as Bob has described, "Indy Rock," being used during the startup as audio fill until launch time when real programs arrive.

Now I need to go over and hang out at Radio Boy's KDXD and see how his LPFM is coming along.

Carl Blare

Winter Woes...

My first crisis at WCFI-LP.  Temperatuers dropped and the snow blew.  The antenna iced up and the transmitter shut down.

Running 52 watts the antenna doesn't get warm.  As the snow built up on the antenna, melting and freezing, the SWR started to rise.  The transmitter protection circuits detected the rising SWR and responded by folding back the output power.

As the SWR continued to rise the power kept dropping until the SWR limit was exceeded and the transmitter shut down.  All the while the transmitter was desparately trying to notify me by email and pager.  Unfortunately at 3:50 in the morning I'm asleep and my pager was off.

One hour later, silence.  At 06:40 my phone rang and my buddy gave me the news.  I sprang from my bed to see what's the matter.  Dashed down the stairs to my local PC, I summond the transmitter to have a look see.  The Nautel transmitter can be accessed over the internet.

I was able to read the logs to see what had happened.  I reset the transmitter and was back on the air by 07:00.  But, the SWR was almost 3:1, the high limit.  I was hoping maybe a little heat up there would melt the ice.

At 10:00 the transmitter shut down again.  A visit to the site verified the snow/ice buildup and the transmitter would not reset.  Now what?

I had a Comet 5/8 wave ground plane antenna at home.  Think, think-Go get the antenna, pickup a couple 10 foot pieces of mast pipe and some coax.  I got the antenna off the ground and hooked it up.  The antenna had to be adjusted a little to get the SWR down but, it was working.

On the air again, a tour of the City was next in order to see how the coverage was.  Reduced signal but acceptable around the city of license.  Pretty good considering the antenna was now 120 feet lower at just 20 feet AGL.

Moral of the story-When you tell the boss we should install a Radome to cover the antenna and why, don't back down when he says "How often could that happen?"

In this case, the first time@!

 

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

Not Bad

Since this is the Test Phase for WCFI your testing has turned up a situation that is very informative and you found a workaround.

One solution might be to allow for the occasional winter shutdown, giving everybody a "schoolday," so to speak.

Or, if it needs to be on (according to the license), maybe the boss is ready for radomes.

Can you estimate how soon the ice will evaporate?

Carl Blare

Oh and This Idea

I am wondering, since you've disconnected the main antenna and plugged in the spare, is the following idea a possible way of de-icing the antenna?

If you send a voltage up to the main antenna sufficient to heat it up, can you melt the ice and dry the antenna without damaging it?

Would it be AC or DC?

Carl Blare

Box It Up...

I looked into "heating" it up but not practical.  My WHBC contact says the big boys have the same kind of problems.  I think the Radome is the way to go.  Just put the antenna in an RF transparent box.

The next step of the saga has taken place.  The school studio has been completed.  Today we established our Internet STL using the Barix Instreamer/Exstreamer boxes.  So far so good.

I'm dumping the Barix audio into the ZaraRadio "Satellite" input at the transmitter site.  On schedule, Zara pulls up the "Satellite" feed and runs the school studio feed.  I have control so I can call the programming shots from my end.  For now, Gaules Moldie Oldies and Free Thinker Radio will continue in their present time slots.  If possible I'll keep Chickenman in the schedule but I've never tried interrupting a running Satellite feed with another sequence.

For now, testing, they are running fully automated.  This will give the STL a workout to see how stable it is.  

Today was the last day before Christmas Break.  A new semester starts on their return and perhaps the Broadcast class will get under way providing some live programming.

Pictures to follow soon.  Public stream at  LISTEN 2 MY RADIO.

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

Strong Start

I'm listening to WCFI-LP on LISTEN 2 MY RADIO and hearing Free Thinker Radio.

Sound quality is strong, punchy, cuts right through.

My thoughts are definitely free-er the more I listen.

Wonderful work Bob.

Carl Blare

Credit Where Due...

The credit for that show goes to Atrainradio.  I'm only the messenger.  Why, just this evening he was asking if there was any favorable feedback.  I can now tell him "Yes!"

The station is coming along.  As mentioned above I hope the students begin doing the shows on their return.

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

CFHS WCFI-LP Studio Classroom...

As promised, some pictures of the High School Studio equipment.  The "booth" is behind the classroom which can be seen through the windows. 

School Studio Equipment Rack

The Equipment Rack with monitor receiver, headphone distribution amp, telephone hybrid, CD player, Barix Instreamer, Profanity Delay box, etc.

School Studio Automation

The Arrakis ARC-10BP console with automation workstation.  

School Studio Console

Closeup of the Arrakis ARC-10BP console.  I was pleased to see it has analog meters! Console has BlueTooth and USB options. 

They plan to add another CD player and at least one LP turntable.  A spare pair of Barix boxes are on hand for portable remote setups.

There will be two boom mics (one shown) and a desk mic.

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

Bigger Reality

Of course our little part 15 stations are "real," in that they "exist."

But Bob, your LPFM school studio as shown in the pictures is many times more real than anything we have!

We don't have plate glass windows in-between indoor rooms, for example.

The only way I could operate through a plate glass window is if someone sat out on the porch in 28-degree weather.

Carl Blare

To Infinity and Beyond...

In all respects our license free, low power stations are very real.  

Some of our stations have full-blown studios which rival commercial stations.  And even if you just plug an IPOD into a Talking House; if your program sounds commercial even if just for a couple city blocks-that's real radio.

Streaming only stations have the look and feel of a real radio station but lack the romance and adventure of invisible energy fields radiating into the ether and traveling to infinity.  Yes, infinity-even if your signal is too weak for our current radios to intercept, those signals keep moving on.  A good example is our deep space probles which have sent signals home from the edges of our solar system.

I'm fortunate to be in a position which has availed the opportunity to build and operate our City AM TIS and LPFM stations.  The only real difference is coverage area and responsibilities (read headache.)

In summary; I Think Therefore I AM - I Radiate Therefore I AM Radio!

 

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

That's For Sure

Yes, Bob. You radiate. Everybody thinks so.

Carl Blare

LPFM Frequencies

According to radio-locator.com the only station assigned to 87.9 is a high school station in Mountain, View, California.

According to radio-locator.com 87.7 MHz is an invalid frequency.

BUT it appears that radio-locator has some updating to do. According to this FM/TV DX Log there are many LPFM stations already assigned to both 87.7 and 87.9 all over the U.S.

http://db.wtfda.org/

Bob, Cleveland has WLFM-LP 87.7.

Therefore I assume my certified Scosche FM transmitter, capable of 87.5, 87.7 and 87.9, might not be some kind of error as previously suspected.

Strange though, the FCC FM channel designations do not reflect the above observations, so what have we learned?

http://www.hallikainen.com/FccRules/2014/73/201/index.php

Other thoughts?

Carl Blare

It's A Frankenstation...

From Wiki:  "WLFM-LP (analog channel 6) is a low-power television station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio. The station's audio channel, transmitting at 87.75 MHz, lies within the FM band; as a result, WLFM-LP can and does operate as a radio station at 87.7 FM. Owned by Murray Hill Broadcasting and operated under a local marketing agreement (LMA) through TSJ Media, the station airs a Spanish language format under the brand La Mega 87.7. WLFM-LP also serves as the Spanish language radio home of the Cleveland Cavaliers."

So it's not really an "FM" station rather it's a "TV" station operating as a radio station.

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WLFM-LP

 

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

On Ice Again...

Well, I had to switch to my stand-by antenna at the LPFM station.  We've had an accumulation of heavy, wet snow today.  The temperature is currently at 34 with slushy drizzle coming down.  The main antenna SWR went sky high and the transmitter shut down.

Even the stand-by antenna is not happy.  It's been idle since the last icing situation.  As a result besides being covered with wet snow and ice there is probably moisture in the matching coil at the base of the antenna.  As such the SWR is a bit high and I couldn't get the power set point above 19 watts.

The stand-by antenna SWR started out at around 4.68:1 and has since fallen to 3.5:1.  I'm hoping as things heat up the antenna will dry out and the SWR will drop to an acceptable level.

Oh, if they'd only have let me purchase the RADOME...

 

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

EAS National Test...

Well, there's supposed to be an EAS National Test Wednesday March 18th at 2:30 pm EST.  Just as other licensed stations, LPFM stations must comply.

A rather lengthy explanation of EAS/IPAWS/CAP etc. has been received and I have to make sure our EAS box is setup properly to forward the test messages.

Dasdec, manufacturer of our EAS box, sent a detailed explanation of what needs to be done.  Most of the illustrations match what I have in front of me with only a couple vague areas.  I think I got it right...

READ ABOUT EAS HERE:  EAS IPAWS INFO

This give a detailed explanation of the system, some history and on page 24 the notice for the National Test.

by MRAM 1500 

Charter Member - Association of Low Power Broadcasters

Chairman - ALPB

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