At the risk of becoming redundant, here are a few pictures of a GatesAir FAX-5 install recently completed in Westerly, RI. This was installed in a recently vacated Verizon cell site next to the old transmitter building. The old transmitter building and the equipment contained therein had seen better days, to be sure.
As requested, the only pre-installation photo I can find:
That photo was taken back in October 2018, when we first looked at the Verizon shelter as a viable alternative to the current transmitter site.
Overall, the transmitter sounds great. Much better than the old unit which had an AM noise problem.
If it wasn’t so far away, this would have been a pretty easy project. There were minor miscues along the way that added up. I will say that I learned a few good life lessons about the reliability and responsibility of people.
For all you southerners and west coast people, we have been having an average winter here in the Northeast. While many of our transmitter sites are drive-ups, we have several located at ski area mountain peaks. Technically, those mountain-top transmitter sites are a fantastic way to get the Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT) way up there. Logistically, they are much more difficult to deal with. Installing a new transmitter or even refueling a generator takes major effort. Working in the cold and wind is much more fatiguing and requires paying special attention to protective clothing, hydration, exposure, etc.
Here are a few pictures from Killington and Pico mountain ski areas in Vermont
The snow grooming machine is the only way to bring anything up to the top of the mountain during the wintertime. In this case, I needed to replace a BW Broadcast TX 1500-watt transmitter.
Even with the snow grooming machine, the last few hundred yards need to be walked. Fortunately, the snow is packed and not too deep here.
Tower is encrusted with ice. I can tell the tower climber is having a great day:
Riding the chair lift back down the mountain gets plenty of strange looks from those skiers coming up:
Over on Killington Peak, conditions are actually worse.
The ERI antenna heaters cannot keep up with the ice buildup.
The general manager insists that this winter is not too bad and everything should be working right. My statement to her: Based on my 27 years of experience, your shit is fucked up. But if you know how to fix this, come on up and show me. She deferred.
I do not particularly like these. I know, they are relatively inexpensive, easy to come by, easy to install, etc. However, a shipping container was not designed to house a transmitter, they have certain drawbacks. These are, in no particular order:
Air conditioning. Using a traditional Bard-type equipment shelter HVAC unit requires cutting through a lot of fairly heavy gauge steel. What’s more, the steel walls are uneven, requiring a filler.
They are by necessity, fairly narrow. Arranging racks and transmitters along the length of the unit restricts access to either the front or the back of the equipment. Meeting NEC clearance requirements for electrical panels, transfer switches, and disconnects can pose problems.
They are not very tall. Mounting overhead equipment can be problematic as one does not want to drill through the top of the container. Crosswise unistrut is one solution, but it lowers the overhead considerably.
Electrical work is slightly more dangerous. Doing any kind of electrical work, troubleshooting, repairs, etc is a little more nerve-racking when everywhere around you is a metal surface at ground potential.
They are difficult to insulate against cold and heat.
The door-latching mechanisms bind, wear out or otherwise fail over time.
All of those things being said, I am now rebuilding a transmitter site in one of these shipping containers.
Fortunately, the original electrical work was not bad. The transmitter is a twenty-year-old BE FM10B, which will be retained as a backup. The new transmitter is a Gates Air FAX-10. We have installed several of these Gates Air transmitters in the last two years or so and they seem to be pretty solid units. This is the second 10KW unit I have installed.
We decided to install the FAX-10 in a Middle Atlantic rack since we did not have a whole bunch of extra room for a separate transmitter rack. The 1 5/8 inch coax switch is installed in the top of the transmitter rack along with a Tunwall TRC-1 switch control unit. The other rack will have the STL and all other ancillary gear. My idea is to have nothing in between the door and the FM10B so it can be easily removed when that day comes. Something, something about planning ahead since it will be likely myself removing the FM10B.
We are extending LANs out to transmitter sites for many reasons; backup audio, control and monitoring, security systems, VOIP phones, etc.
I am casually (very casually) toying around with creating my own Linux-based remote control system. The ongoing Windows 10 upgrade debacle continues to not end, I can’t help but think that there are many potential clients who could use a reliable transmitter/studio remote control and monitoring system based on a stable operating system. Hmm, sounds like a sales pitch 😉
Anyway, I have run across several Ethernet board manufacturers that offer a variety of boards with 8-12 contact closures and a variety of analog and digital inputs. Most new transmitters have some sort of web GUI which are great for transmitter control and monitoring. As we all know, there is more than just a transmitter at any given transmitter site. In addition to the transmitter, I would like to control and monitor things like tower lights, interface and control of coax switches, temperature monitoring, generator status, the old non-web interface backup transmitters, STL signal strength for those old 950 MHz links, etc.
That particular PC board is made in Bulgaria, which is home to this: Mount Buzludzha
What I like about these particular boards is the DRM software (DRM has, apparently, many different meanings) which will run on Linux or Windows. There are also iOS and Android applications that can be used as well. It appears that the GUI can be customized for various uses. This seems like it is written in Java, so perhaps I could have some Java expert customize it for radio use. It looks like up to 32 boards can be controlled by a single instance of the DRM software. Alarm reporting would be via SNMP trap and email.
I don’t know, there is one particular cluster of stations that needs new remote control gear at almost every transmitter site. Perhaps a little alpha testing is in order? It could be fun…