Nautel Phones Home for Northwestern
Radio World, by Gary L. Ellingson, 11.03.2015
FARGO, N.D. — Purchasing a broadcast transmitter is a significant investment for any organization. Not only must the asset be depreciated over time, hopefully a very long time, but the operational and maintenance costs must be factored in. When problems occur, how quickly can the cause be determined and remedied? In situations where human resources are stretched thin and experience within those human resources varies widely, the selection of a qualified device becomes even more important.
When we upgraded transmitters at our two 50 kW AM facilities, we selected Nautel. The product has significant operational history, is of conservative engineering design and represented a good value over time. Because of the software-based approach, the transmitter can be upgraded easily and feature sets can be expanded as the need arises. One additional aspect of this software base has a significant impact on monitoring, troubleshooting, and repair.
Enter the Nautel Advanced User Interface and the Phone Home feature. This AUI, available on both Nautel AM and FM product lines, allows the user to monitor transmitter activity at an incredible depth, much deeper than that easily obtainable with traditional remote control systems.
This level of monitoring enables the user to spot trends and locate trouble spots before becoming an off-air event. Because of the modular approach, most servicing can be done while on air. Because of the conservative design, problems in any one (or more) modules simply cause a reduction in output power until such time as repairs can be made.
With the Nautel Phone Home enabled, remote monitoring takes on a much more extensive aspect — almost like having factory-level service on call to a specific device at any time.
When configured properly in cooperation with Nautel service staff, Phone Home generates email alerts to designated personnel in addition to alerting Nautel support. Because of the prearranged access, Nautel support personnel can gain access to the transmitter and locate the problem(s), sometimes before the primary contact person (me) is even aware there was a problem. This has happened to me several times when out of the office.
Citing one example: I was out of the office attending the NAB Show. I received an email from Nautel Phone Home stating that a PA module had faulted but the transmitter was still making 52.5 kW of power. Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Nautel customer service asking if we needed assistance in locating and correcting the problem. These two exchanges occurred before I received a call from the local engineer asking if I was aware of the problem. The faulty components were quickly located, shipped, and upon returning to Fargo, the repairs were made.
This level of support relieves significant pressure in the field. I have been in broadcast engineering long enough to know the feeling of being alone late at night, usually in inclement weather, dealing with a product which is no longer supported, but still having to make the repairs necessary to restore on-air operation as soon as possible. There are two seats in an aircraft cockpit for a reason. I am very happy to fly with Nautel in the co-pilot seat.