WWFD [820 kHz] in Frederick, Md., has concluded the experimental phase of its MA3 HD Radio operation. It has notified the FCC that after five years, it will now continue to operate as a full-time all-digital AM station as is allowed under commission rules. The Hubbard-owned facility was the first AM station in the United States to convert to the MA3 mode, doing so under experimental authority in 2018. Dave Kolesar, the engineer and program director who spearheaded the initiative and has given numerous presentations at engineering conferences about it, tells me that Hubbard recently asked the FCC to conclude the special temporary authority. “It was my intention all the way back then that this would be permanent, there just wasn’t a legal mechanism at the time to do so. The STA had been kept so that we could do research on MA3, which required us to operate at variance with the NRSC-5 mask, for the purposes of furthering the understanding of all-digital operations in the field,” Kolesar wrote in an email. “The end of the STA simply means that WWFD is now operating under the same legal authority that the other stations are using for all-digital operations. We haven’t ruled out filing for an STA again if the desire and need to conduct more experiments warrants it.” I asked him for a thumbnail takeaway of these past five years. “We have learned that all-digital AM broadcasting is much more robust than the hybrid mode of HD AM, and in fact has many advantages over analog broadcasting in terms of sound quality and metadata,” he replied. “Stereo audio, song data, album artwork and even a secondary HD2 channel are all capabilities of MA3 broadcasting. It opens up the possibility of music formats on AM that can be competitive with FM, satellite and streaming services. It makes AM look and sound like every other broadcast service in the dashboard, and that’s essential to the future of the band. It even works well in EVs, much better than analog in fact.” To my knowledge there are two other stations airing all-digital AM HD Radio right now. Crawford Broadcasting flipped WYDE in Birmingham, Ala., in September. And Cumulus station WFAS in White Plains, N.Y. went on with all-digital in 2021 and continues to operate in that mode. Stations that gave it a try earlier but have since turned it off include WIOE in Ft. Wayne, Ind.; WTLC in Indianapolis; WMGG in Egypt Lake, Fla.; and WSRO in Ashland, Mass. What about future adoption of MA3? Kolesar said it’s hard to tell. “I view MA3 transmissions as the goal that every AM broadcaster has to get to, sooner rather than later. Analog AM listenership is declining, and we need to stop worrying about obsoleting existing analog-only radios, because fewer people are bothering to turn them on.” He thinks stations without a significant audience should try digital now and build up a new audience, with a compelling format, perhaps from scratch. “Legacy stations with established audiences can convert later, but their day will be coming soon. There’s nothing written in stone saying that the AM band has to survive, but if you want to save it, I strongly believe that getting to digital ASAP and pairing it with compelling ‘destination’ content is the way to go.” He says that when you pair MA3 with a connected car platform such as DTS AutoStage, which tunes stations by flipping through tiles on a screen, you have a powerful solution to the band’s woes. “You simply select a station by its logo and then you hear audio. It doesn’t matter if it’s FM, streaming, satellite or digital AM. There’s another argument for digital: Analog AM stations have no metadata capability, and so those stations will only show up as a number on a screen, and will likely be passed over.” https://www.radioworld.com/columns-and-views/from-the-editor/am-digital-wwfd-concludes-its-test-phase?
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
Radio Pakistan is going to launch Digital Medium Wave Transmitter project in Rawat tomorrow [Sunday]. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb will perform groundbreaking of the project under which a 1000 kilowatt digital transmitter will be installed at HPT complex, Rawat. The project will be completed in two years at a cost of four billion rupees and is a milestone in modernizing the state broadcaster and enhancing the quality of its broadcast. This digital transmitter will increase the signal strength and range of Radio Pakistan’s broadcasts to several countries in Central Asia, Middle East, Far East, Turkiye and Greece in addition to south Asia. This modern transmitter based on Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) technology, can transmit up to four different signals simultaneously. It will save 33 percent of electricity which in turn will reduce the expenses of state broadcaster. An emergency warning system to alert people in natural calamities will also be available through this transmitter. UK based international organization DRM Consortium has also appreciated the government’s initiative to convert Radio Pakistan from analogue to digital mode after 75 years. https://www.radio.gov.pk/29-07-2023/radio-pakistan-to-launch-digital-mw-transmitter-project-in-rawat-tomorrow
A new dawn for digital radio in Africa. With Africa in focus, in her recent blog, published by Red Tech, the DRM chairman, explains that despite the digital gap existing between Africa and other continents, and even between many of Africa’s 54 countries, digital radio is rising on the agenda of many African governments.
The international service of the Sri Lankan Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) recently doubled its Tamil Service airtime to two hours, on 873 kHz AM (medium wave) from Puttalam transmitter. The new schedule is 0130-0330 UTC (7.00 am to 9.00 am IST). This is partly in response to individual efforts of listeners, many in the southern part of India, in Bengaluru. Introducing this change, Colombo International Radio also announced that shortly they are going to use DRM on 1548 kHz.
This will be done by using the old transmitter of Deutsche Welle located in the north of Sri Lanka at Trincomalee. The Sri Lankan public broadcaster has started airing the DRM announcement here.
(Translated from French) Following the development of DRM on medium waves in India, many Indian listeners have been asking Colombo International Radio, the international service of Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), to increase the airtime of its Tamil DRM service in India.
This program has just passed at two hours (01:30 to 03:30 UTC), on 873 kHz. It’s transmitted by two coupled 200 kW Nautel transmitters and a three-matt direct antenna pointing north. Broadcast Centre is located at Pahlavi Puttalam. (07°58’35″N 79°48’08″E).
A second transmitter will soon broadcast the same program in DRM at 1548 kHz. This will be done using the old Deutsche Welle transmitter located in northern Sri Lanka at Trincomalee (8°44’55″N 81°07’15″E).
This transmitter was installed in April 1985, it is two 300 kW S7HP units coupled, allowing for 300, 400 or 600 kW broadcast. The antenna consists of two masts headed north-east. The transmitters were upgraded and adapted for DRM transmissions by Welle in 2007 and handed over to SLBC in 2012.
Michel Fremy, Radio Magazine FB group (2023-06-09)
Isle of Man. DAB+ is to replace medium wave in a not too distant future. “Manx Radio listeners in Douglas and Onchan will be able to listen to the station on DAB for the first time from today. [2 May 2023]. […] The [three year] trial will cost around £20,000, it’s hoped the digital service will replace Manx Radio’s AM transmitter. [1368 kHz] Commercial station Energy FM will also be taking part, but Irish owned 3FM has declined to do so. Manx Radio’s Managing Director Chris Sully said: “We were hoping that both the other radio stations on the Island would join us from launch day, however, the Board of 3FM has decided not to be part of the trial at this time. […]” https://www.manxradio.com/news/isle-of-man-news/manx-radio-begins-dab-trial/