United States

Crawford Broadcasting is going to give all-digital HD Radio a try on an AM station in Alabama.
On Sept. 1 the Christian broadcaster will flip WYDE in Birmingham to the MA3 mode; only listeners with HD Radio receivers will be able to hear the AM signal after that, though the same content will be available on two local FMs. Two other AMs in the country currently operate in all-digital.
“We’d like to give all-digital AM a try and see how it performs,” said Director of Engineering Cris Alexander. “The timing is right for us.
”The FCC approved the use of all-digital AM in 2020. WYDE airs at 1260 kHz with a 5 kW signal by day and 41 Watts at night.“That particular station is ideally situated for an all-digital move,” said Alexander, who also is technical editor of Radio World Engineering Extra.
“It’s non-directional with no antenna bandwidth issues. It has a late-model transmitter that’s already operating in the MA1 mode. And it’s 100% duplicated on two separate FM signals in the market, one of which is a full-power FM and the other is a translator with a downtown Birmingham transmitter site.” The station has been airing PSAs informing listeners of the pending change.
The station has a Nautel transmitter. Because the station has been airing the MA1 hybrid HD Radio mode for about 20 years, its air chain is already set up for the digital path, so no changes or modifications were necessary. “The conversion amounts to a couple of menu selections in the transmitter and exporter.”WYDE has conducted brief overnight testing in Birmingham. “We turned on MA3 in the experimental period to make sure that (a) we knew how to do it, (b) that the antenna didn’t have any issues with it, and (c) to make sure it worked,” Alexander said.
What will the company be watching for? “We’ll be looking to see how the digital coverage is compared to the analog, of course. Also, since this is in the deep south where the weather is hostile, I’ll want to see how well it rides through thunderstorms and convective activity. The MA1 lock will frequently drop out when there is a nearby lightning discharge or other noise burst. How robust will the all-digital signal be?” This is Crawford’s first foray into all-digital. “Our expectations are based totally on what we’ve heard and read from the Hubbard Frederick station,” he said, referring to WWFD in Frederick, Md. “It will be very interesting to see how our experience stacks up to those reports.
The entire article in Radio World here

Paul McLane, Radio World (2023-08-22)