By Charles W. Kelly, Jr., Director of Sales
Apart from the fun of seeing so many friends, and the agony of the toes each evening, I was struck at this year’s NAB by the feeling that somehow, HD RadioTM has turned the corner.
In past years, HD Radio was an important technology in certain markets, for sure. Even in those markets though, the eventual destination was pretty simple, the analog plus HD1, HD2 and HD3 and maybe some traffic data. This year though, there was all that, plus two new ideas, both spawned from the fertile mind of Nautel’s Philipp Schmid.
One is the first successful tests of an HD Radio single frequency network. Nautel worked with KUSC in Los Angeles to add a hybrid FM+HD on-channel booster synchronized to the main transmission to provide uninterrupted coverage in a very challenging RF canyon. We demonstrated the ability to drive from one coverage area, through the interference zone, and to the other coverage area with virtually no noticeable dropouts. While analog FM boosters will always be a challenge, see our detailed SFN webinar and SFN webinar slides, this is the first time that HD coverage in a real world SFN has been proven.
The second game changing thought Philipp brought to NAB this year is “What happens when there’s no longer an analog signal?”. With millions of new HD Radio receivers being sold every year, the day may come when it is no longer necessary to maintain analog FM transmissions. This spectrum can be re-used in a novel way to accommodate up to 15 total stations within a 600 kHz bandwidth, or up to nine stations within a 400 kHz bandwidth. Further, the total needed RF power per station would be dramatically reduced.
In small markets, stations could cooperate, and move to a single transmitter, site and antenna and the savings would be huge – up to 95% less cost per station. In larger markets, the total number of stations on the band could theoretically near 300, with no change in the number of owners. This would allow radio to compete toe to toe with the explosion of new formats created by new media such as satellite and streaming. And the best part is that most of the millions of HD Radio receivers already in the market are compatible with Nautel’s HD Multiplex.
None of the above are likely to change the world today – but they are indications of how digital radio can allow radio to continue to evolve and adapt to the needs of today’s markets and culture. Interestingly, these technological innovations are not limited to HD Radio – in fact, DRM may also be compatible.
No longer is a hybrid FM station with one or two subchannels and maybe traffic the end destination – it’s just a stop on the track to an all-digital future.
NAB 2016 was also the place where we introduced four new transmitter models, the high-power GV60 and GV80 FM rigs expand the digital ready GV line from 3.5 kW to 80 kW of high efficiency power, while the NX3 and NX15 expand the NX Series to 3 kW to 2 MW.