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GatesAir is delivering further transmission installation projects for WAY FM, a group of listener-supported Christian radio stations in North America that recently merged with Houston-based Hope Media Group. WAY FM remains responsible for technology decisions for their 54 AM and FM stations. On the transmission side, those decisions have increasingly included GatesAir Flexiva FM and HD radio systems.
“We picked up our pace of GatesAir installations since we started replacing more of our older tube transmitters four years ago,” said Phil Jennings, senior director of engineering at Hope Media Group. “All major transmitter suppliers offer great products today, but the difference is that GatesAir really has its finger on the pulse of the FM radio industry. That extends beyond their transmitters and into their HD radio and Intraplex STL products. They make compact, easy-to-use products, and in the case of their transmitters, offer a true return on investment.”
Citing successful past installations in Huntsville in Alabama, Louisville in Kentucky and Clarksville in Tennessee, Jennings reached out to his friends at SCMS, a leading radio industry supplier and GatesAir channel partner, to discuss replacement transmitters for KAWA-FM (Dallas), WAYF-FM (West Palm Beach, Fla.) and WAYM-FM (Nashville). Foremost, they wanted modern solid-state transmitters that would improve on-air reliability, reduce operational costs and be easier to maintain and service when technical issues arose. As a broadcaster rapidly evolving its programming options and streaming footprint, it also wanted complete solutions to help grow niche formats and reach more listeners.
Pristine radio signals
“We have been adding HD2 feeds to many of our FM stations, and in some markets, we use HD radio channels to feed translators that extend our over-the-air signals,” said Jennings. “HD radio also allows us to expand our latest formats, including Vida Unida, our Hispanic Christian format. We considered all these factors when we reached out to SCMS, and even very forward-looking opportunities such as SFN (single-frequency network) broadcasting that would help us take full advantage of our market penetration. GatesAir checks all these boxes for us.”
GatesAir builds everything we need into the system to deliver an engaging HD radio audience experience, and it’s still very easy to usePhil Jennings, senior director of engineering at the Hope Media Group
Jennings said that the clarity of the HD radio signal from the FAX exciter was pristine and that adding the Flexiva FMXi 4g to the mix made things particularly interesting. “This is a complete, embedded HD radio Importer and Exporter system with perfect time alignment as analog and digital signals blend. We can also send the artist experience through it, which provides album art and other data to the receiver,” said Jennings. “We evaluated other HD radio systems that glossed over some of these benefits; GatesAir builds everything we need into the system to deliver an engaging HD radio audience experience, and it’s still very easy to use.”
A dream scenario
Jennings calls the WAYM-FM setup in Nashville a “dream scenario” for an HD radio deployment. In this example, audio feeds originate from the studio and move through a GatesAir HD Link microwave STL to the tower site, where the Flexiva FMXi 4g imports the audio for processing. All E2X (Exporter-to-Exciter) data is embedded within an Intraplex IP Link MPXp stream along with composite audio to the FAX exciter within the transmitter. “This setup gives us the best possible reliability and audio clarity,” added Jennings, noting they will likely replicate this configuration at other stations.
WAYM-FM is the most recent site completed, with a Flexiva FAX 7.5kW air-cooled transmitter going on the air in August. KAWA-FM in Dallas and WAYF-FM in West Palm Beach hit the airwaves with Flexiva FLX 20kW liquid-cooled transmitters in February and June, respectively. Jennings cited a recent air conditioner failure at the WAYF transmitter site as an example of improved reliability, noting that the transmitter continued to operate at full power without issue.
Further on the matter of power, Jennings pointed to expected savings, “We were running a legacy tube transmitter at about 19kW in Dallas, and we ran strictly analog FM for one month with the Flexiva before adding HD. We compared the utility bills, and the Flexiva absorbed 100-kilowatt hours less each day. The cost of electricity has gone up, so while the bills were about the same, they would be much higher now were we still broadcasting from the tube. Even with HD added, our research shows that our GatesAir transmitters will reduce energy and save us plenty of money in the big picture.”
“GatesAir has a long legacy of manufacturing transmitters that provide exceptional performance and reliability for broadcasters,” said Mark Goins, vice president of North America sales with GatesAir. “By adding our latest solid-state technology and complete HD radio architecture, WAY Media has the added benefits of operating with greater efficiency while adding new services that engage their listeners and increase their brand awareness.”