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Why the Signal Went Down for 2 Days - the Tech Explanation

Posted by John Coate
John Coate
I am the General Manager of KZYX and the Executive Director of Mendocino County Public Broadcasting. You can ...
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on Saturday, 05 April 2014 in Station Business

What you hear on your radio is sent to our transmitters via a special separate radio signal called an "STL" (which stands for Studio Transmitter Link).  This is a system of transmitter/receivers and antennas that go from the Philo studio up to Cold Springs Mountain and then across the county to Laughlin Peak.

In this case, the receiver unit at Cold Springs went down because its power supply failed.  We were able to restore the signal using an older set of STL radios that we were luckily already in the process of refurbishing at the time.  Our main radio engineer, Brian Henry, had them at his Napa shop where he was preparing them for use with a digital main transmitter (they are older analog units).  While we regret that work had not finished in time for them to be already in place in the event of a failure, we were close enough to it that we were only down for two days instead of several more had we not been doing that work.  even if we had spent the large sums necessary for new STL units (the good ones cost $10K each and we have 4 of them), it still would have taken time for them to get ordered, set up and shipped.

Meanwhile, Brian is repairing the broken unit.  And, since these STL radios have been in continuous service for about ten years, we will replace the power supply on each of the four STL units.  When that work is completed we will have refurbished STL units plus a backup set.

In radio, the only way to maintain uptime when your equipment fails is to have redundancy in every part of the equipment chain you can.  Historically, KZYX has never had that.  we have it now in some places, but obviously not in all.  It is our goal to have full redundancy.

None of this addresses the serious and pressing issue of the growing trees that increasingly block the necessary line-of-sight setup that STL radios require.  This is a complex and expensive issue that we must deal with - and soon.  But I will leave that for a separate posting.

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I am the General Manager of KZYX and the Executive Director of Mendocino County Public Broadcasting. You can contact me directy at gm@kzyx.org See my website cervisa.com for more about me and where I have been.

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