Allouis, a silent transmitter. – Article translated from French:
31 December 2016, France Inter stopped broadcasting on the big waves. 5 years later it still consumes nearly 1000 kW 24 h / 24, without modulation, to ensure the broadcast of the clock signals.

The bottom of longwaves which broadcast France Inter.

The FFH station had to be replaced.
The CNET facilities in Saint-Assise ensured the broadcast of the time signal by means of the FFH transmitter on 2.5 MHz. The broadcast was unstable due to shortwave disturbances and no longer met the criteria of the time.
The ideal would have been to install a specific VLF transmitter of a few tens of kilowatts, like Germany with its DCF77 station in Mainflingen.
Another solution: to use installations with the army. This is the solution adopted by the USSR, whose VLF transmitters for links with submarines broadcast the time signals.

An innovative and economical solution.
Instead of building a small transmitter or using the antennas of the French Navy at Saint-Assise, France preferred to use the Radio France transmitter at Allouis.
We are in 1972 … What could be more normal to charge the transmitter of the state radio with this mission?
It is in this spirit that the CNET proposed to broadcast a second signal in phase modulation, inaudible by listeners, which made it possible to synchronize all the clocks in France.

1977, regular service begins.
In the spirit of the time, this cost nothing, as the transmitter was used for broadcasting.
The end of the ORTF did not change the project: TDF billed Radio France for the rental costs of the transmitter, broadcasting the time signal was supposed to cost nothing.
Since 2004, the CFHM: French Chamber of Watchmaking and Microtechnology financed and partly ensured the maintenance of its own system and delivery to the transmitter, but not distribution.
Everything was going well, until the day when Radio France was forced to save money. Are the long waves essential? If so, why have to bear all of the operating costs of the Allouis transmitter when it uses one service and the other is offered to watchmakers?
The negotiations were unsuccessful and Radio France ended up stopping its broadcasting on December 31, 2016.

The cheapest becomes the most expensive.
Since 1 January 2017, TDF was obliged to continue to operate the transmitter to ensure a free service. If the transmitter was stopped, several thousand clocks would indicate fanciful times: station, airport, metro, church clocks and bells, parking meters, many strategic sites, but also private devices such as radio alarm clocks. In total, nearly 300,000 potential victims.
TDF is a private company, we cannot force it to bear the costs.
The Government had instructed the ANFR to ensure the continuity of the broadcasting of this time signal, from 1áµ ‰ ʳ January 2017, for a period of one year. Then, the mission was provisionally entrusted in 2018 to the General Directorate of Enterprises (DGE). The resumption of the management of the time signal by the ANFR was effective on 1áµ ‰ ʳ January 2019 . It is now the ANFR that pays the bill.

Find another pigeon.
We tried to find a publisher of radio services. In December 2016, the CSA launched a call for expressions of interest for the broadcasting of a radio service on the 162 kHz frequency. This call specified the obligation to broadcast the time signal. However, the CSA specified that the effective radiated power of the signal emitted on the frequency 162 kHz will be a priori constrained by the power of the time signal, which could be the subject of an optimization.
Apart from one station which found a magnificent April Fool’s joke in this request, no serious broadcaster responded to the offer.

It’s time to do the math.
For almost 3 years, 1100 kWh have been consumed for a service that could have been provided by a VLF transmitter of only 50 kWh! This is 22 times more consumption than that of the Mainflingen transmitter which provides the same service. An invoice for which TDF does not specify the amount: personnel, operation, energy as well as maintenance and depreciation.
It is technically impossible to reverse a choice that dates back to the 70s!

Power reduction?
It was only this summer, that is to say with almost two and a half years of delay, that the ANFR carried out tests aimed at optimizing the broadcast power of the signal. The signal strength was reduced to 800 kW from July 2 to 4, 2019. The ANFR did not observe any major reception problems.
This is without taking into account that the minimum power had been set by CNET studies at 600 kW.
Now the power has gone back to the consumption of a city of 5,000 inhabitants.
The file progressed slowly … It must be said that the sleight of hand between ANFR, DGE and return to ANFR did not help matters.

You can’t see the end of the tunnel.
Stopping is not an option given the number of users. This service provides a time reference with very high precision and great reliability. It has the advantage of being able to be better received in indoor spaces than other time bases, such as those of GPS or mobile telephone networks.
We are not close to finding a replacement solution and when it is found, it will be years before the 300,000 pieces of equipment are replaced.
We could propose a distribution of the costs between a broadcaster and the ANFR, instead of making the taxpayers pay the whole amount.

Via Radios du monde Facebook group via Mike Terry to WOR iog (2022-01-02)