Radio Kansas Rebuilds for its RF Future
HD Radio offers the most intriguing possibilities of any U.S. industry development for radio broadcasting in many years. The challenge for many current HD Radio broadcasters has been to deliver an acceptable digital signal to autos, homes and offices without spending a fortune on equipment upgrades and higher power bills.
Radio Kansas is a three-station network broadcasting public radio to almost one million over-the-air listeners - nearly half the population of Kansas. Owned by Hutchinson Community College, the network comprises KHCC-FM, a 100kW station serving Wichita, Hutchinson and Newton; KHCD-FM, a 100kW station serving Salina, Manhattan and the north-central portion of the state; and KHCT-FM, a 50kW station serving the Great Bend and Hays communities to the west. All three stations air the same programming, including the premier NPR news programs and locally programmed classical music.
Radio Kansas went on the air with HD Radio in 2006, and recently launched an HD2 channel offering a jazz format. Active promotion has been restrained due to reception limitations at the standard -20dBc level. While mobile reception on the prairie is fine, building penetration has been more challenging.
This became instantly clear during a member event where listeners were invited into a local café to hear KHCD's new HD Radio signal. We realized there was a problem with -20dBc when we couldn't pick up enough of a signal to demonstrate the radio. As a result, HD Radio promotion to Radio Kansas listeners was put on hiatus until we were certain that signals could penetrate the typical home and office building.
It was around this time when the industry began discussing elevated sidebands of up to -10dBc to significantly increase HD Radio output power. We quickly developed a plan to upgrade all three transmission facilities to support elevated sideband levels.
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