Category: Noticias

Lowering the power of FM transmitters to cope with rising energy costs is one solution, but not the only one

It’s been said that with recent electric price increases, buying a new FM energy saving transmitter now and replacing a 10 year old or older transmitter could pay for itself rapidly, and the savings would continue into the future.

But is this really the case?

As part of the analysis of the problem that we have been carrying out for a few days, we talked about it with an expert.
Gianluca Busi, marketing manager of Elenos Group, based in Poggio Renatico (Ferrara), a corporate group (which also includes the famous Itelco brand) which operates all over the world in the supply of FM radio transmission equipment (in February 2019 acquired the historic Broadcast Electronics (BE), its former competitor in Illinois), made himself available to Newslinet to provide his perspective.

Energy saving technology

(Newslinet) – How can technology can help radio broadcasters reduce their electricity consumption?

(Gianluca Busi) – A lot. Elenos was the first company in the industry beginning in 2007 which focused their designs towards reducing power consumption. The financial and economic crisis of 2008 thus found us ready to face the new energy challenges, with a complete range of products that boasted industry leading electrical efficiency. And since Elenos transmitters have further increased their electrical efficiency, achieving what was considered unattainable up to 20 years ago: that of 70% “AC to output”.
In the early 2000s, a good transmitter was 50% efficient, and energy efficiency was not a prime design requirement. For example, a 5kW transmitter consumed 10kW, while today current Elenos products consume only 7kW, a massive improvement. We were the first, since 2008, to make possible a realistic return on investment resulting in the transmitter being essentially free.

A plan for reduced energy costs

Many broadcasters large and small and worldwide have utilized this strategy to replace their transmitters and achieve substantial energy savings.

Comparisons to 20 and 10 years ago

(Newslinet) – Comparing a current transmitter with one of 10 or even 20 years ago, how have the technologies employed changed?

(Gianluca Busi) – Elenos designed FM transmitters for the first time, as early as the early 2000s, not as a combination of individual parts, instead thinking for the first time, of the complete transmitter. Starting from design requirements formulated specifically for durability, ergonomics and energy saving, investing heavily in research and development engineers and the advanced computer modelling tools to change completely the way transmitters are designed.

Savings algorithm

We integrated the advantages of new LDMOS semiconductor technologies with algorithms designed for optimal management of the transmitter, both in terms of long reliable life and in terms of energy savings. Elenos focuses on maximizing efficiency in operating conditions, and understanding and eliminating causes of failure.

The transmitter for free

(Newslinet) – But with all that development, in these days of soaring energy costs, is it really practical to buy a new FM transmitter to replace a 10 year or older unit to have it practically for free and to earn as well?

(Gianluca Busi) – Today the possibility and convenience of replacing the old FM transmitters with the latest generation is still possible, and indeed is more practical than ever. Over a short period of time, the purchase cost is borne by the savings on the cost of energy. With the financing solutions offered by Elenos, this is an opportunity that cannot be missed.

Not just FM

(Newslinet) – With the planning of frequencies, TV now uses transmitters of much lower power than FM ones. Nonetheless, energy expenditure remains large in the budget. Do you have any technological innovations here too?

(Gianluca Busi)  – Elenos and Itelco are continuously looking for innovative solutions, in FM, DAB and Digital television. New advancements and products will be announced soon, always with the goal of advancing technology and the efficiency and performance frontier. (EG for NL)

The ability to adapt to future change is critical

Leonardo Busi is president of Elenos SRL, Broadcast Electronics, Elenos, Itelco Broadcast and ProTelevision Technologies, all members of the Elenos Group.

What are the important recent developments in how transmitters are made?

Leonardo Busi: The newest designs in FM and FM digital are based on software-defined modulators, which are field-programmable and updateable for virtually any analog or digital standard worldwide. This means improvements can be made in the field and hardware doesn’t have to change.
If designed properly, the same modulator can also be used for TV operation, which means the manufacturer gets economies of scale, allowing a more competitively priced product for the customer. As the modulator can also be used for the operation in every TV standard as well as almost every radio standard like DAB, HD Radio, DRM and CDR it means the manufacturer acquires more experience that he can turn around to make the product even more reliable and constantly improving.

What do buyers need to know about hybrid radio when buying a transmitter?

Busi: As more and more listener devices offer the possibility to display both dynamic text and graphics drawn from both over-the-air RDS and digital data, as well as the web, it is important for transmitters to be transparent to the data path, and upgradeable as standards change. Bonus points for simple configuration with station playout systems. Coming back to the software-defined modulator, a transmitter must be adaptable for whatever comes next, whether it is DTS AutoStage or HD Radio. It must be adaptable and almost limitless in terms of its flexibility.

How can managers best calculate what a transmitter will cost to operate?

Busi: Total cost of ownership involves far more than AC to RF efficiency – the cost of sourcing parts, the cost of engineering time spent repairing, and the ability to update the transmitter via firmware rather than change hardware all contribute.
A manager should look at not what the cost is in the first year, but what it will be in five years, how easy is it to get parts, how trustworthy is a company to provide those parts. How good of an engineer is required to repair systems, and is the transmitter really designed for true full system redundancy. Even with failures, a station must stay on the air, so having a transmitter designed with redundancy as the first criteria is critical.

Concepts of efficiency are often discussed, but not always understood.

Busi: Some manufacturers specify the PA efficiency, ignoring the energy losses in power supplies, fans, IPAs and even in combiners and splitters. It’s easy to be fooled – ask specifically for the total AC load, with the fans running, at the rated power output.
However, highest efficiency is not the only criteria. Take for example a 10 kW FM transmitter at 72% efficiency versus 75% efficiency. In most cases it will save about $50 a month, but pushing a transmitter to its limit may cost you a lot more if something fails, or the performance is not 100%.
Get the highest efficiency you can, it does save money; but do not let that be the only reason of selection. Often a manufacturer will obtain a high efficiency by “squeezing” the MOSFET device, but this produces an internal thermal heat reaction that reduces the life of the device itself.
When designing an RF amplifier you must consider the temperature of the device in the worst climate, not the “optimum” climate. For example, your transmitter should be designed to operate in an environment of at least 45° C or 113° F. Most producers consider the room temperature 25° C or 77° F, as if it were a consumer product! A broadcast transmitter site should be considered closer to a military application rather than that of a consumer installation. Elenos and BE transmitters have the right efficiency and performance algorithms for the right room temperatures, keeping the maximum efficiency but not compromising reliability.

What features stand out as notable recent additions?

Busi: In our latest design transmitter, to be released very soon, we will introduce a giant step in redundancy and simplicity, significantly reducing the need for highly trained engineers to travel to the transmitter site as often, and therefore dramatically reducing the cost of repair, transportation.
In addition, all our transmitters in the future will include a software-defined modulator and central control system.
The pace of change in our industry is increasing, and the ability to adapt to future change by installing a firmware upgrade makes tremendous sense.

How will designs change in the next five years?

BusiArtificial intelligence will be incorporated in new designs so that the equipment will learn from the environment, and optimize their own parameters to maximize reliability, performance and efficiency.
They will also be able to self-diagnose issues before they cause failure and recommend corrective action. It will become standard to have advanced warnings and suggested solutions. They will include the latest concepts in redundancy, and they will be made that they are so exceptionally simple to upgrade, repair and maintain, that a highly qualified RF engineer will not be needed to go the site every time to do even more complex repairs or maintenance.

After a long time, the main TV tower of Russia finally opened its doors to Elenos

The first and only English speaking radio in Russia, CapitalFM gave its preference to Elenos when choosing a transmitter for Ostankino Tower.
The Technical Director Andrey Vedeneev chose for his station an automatic redundancy system 1+1 full with automatic switchover, which consists of 5 kW main and 5 kW reserve transmitters.
“We choose Elenos transmitters because they were the most compact, easy to install and performed the best under such difficult conditions.” Said Vedeneev

In case of signal loss on the main transmitter, the system automatically switches to the backup one while maintaining the priority of the audio signals.
The notification with alarm will be immediately sent to recipients according to the configured preferences (e-mail, SMS).
The system is delivered fully equipped, configured and ready to work.
We thank again Andrey and Capital FM Moscow for the choice and wish them many years of uninterrupted and stable broadcasting