Measuring FM Harmonics

Anytime a new transmitter is installed or major changes to an FM transmission system are implemented, the performance measurements described in FCC 73.317 should be completed to ensure no interference to other radio services. This is becoming a larger issue with the advent of LTE and 5G mobile data. These services along with E911 and other mobile services are often co-located at FM transmitter sites.

The FCC stipulates that emissions removed from the carrier by more than 600 KHz must be attenuated 80 dB below the carrier. These days, that is not enough. We have had issues with older tube-type transmitters interfering with cellular and mobile data service, even though they met or were far below the FCC specification. The first in, first out rule also didn’t seem to matter either. Those mobile phone providers paid a lot of money when they purchased chunks of RF spectrum at auction, and the FCC will side with them if there is any dispute.

Having a record of measurements that show compliance with the FCC regulations can go a long way in heading off any future problems. I make measurements out to the 10th harmonic.

To get the best results, I have been using a couple of high-pass filters from Mini-circuits.

Mini-Circuits NHP-200+

These attenuate the carrier power seen by the spectrum analyzer by approximately 90 dB depending on the frequency. That allows the instrument noise floor to be lowered to -130 dB which should be well below any receiver noise floor being used by other wireless services.

100.7 MHz no HPF
100.7 with two HPF-200+ High Pass Filters

The carrier is attenuated by 92.44 dB. The rest of the measurements are made with the attenuation set to zero and the preamp turned on. For the lowest FM frequency, 88.1 MHz, the filters are on the edge of their shoulder at the 2nd harmonic. I measured the return loss and found that they matched the manufacturer’s datasheet.

Mini-circuits HPF-200+ X 2, 176 – 216 MHz S21 Return loss

That loss is counted as attenuation for the second harmonic. For the rest of the harmonics, I used 0.5 dB attenuation, which represents connector loss. I could have also measured the cable loss at each harmonic, but that seems unnecessary, given several of the readings were below the noise floor.

To speed things along, I made this handy Excel spreadsheet, which does all of the calculations for me:

FM harmonics spreadsheet

A copy of that spreadsheet can be downloaded: FM Harmonic template

Once completed, I printed a copy and put it with the station maintenance log at the transmitter site.

The Rhode and Schwarz THR9 transmitter

Part II of II

This thing is on the air! There are still some tidying-up things to finish, but it is up and running and sounds great! Here are some pictures of various stages of the installation work:

Making harmonic measurements

The filing cabinets hold manuals and spare parts. There is not a lot of room left in this building, so workspace is at a premium. The filing cabinet on the left needs some Windex and elbow grease.

Main disconnect and conduit to 400-volt transformer
Outdoor coolant run
3/0 cables, 240-volt input to Hammond HPS Sentinal K transformer

The transformer does not have a neutral reference to the power company. The neutral for the transmitter is derived from the Y output connection. The transformer is also designed to suppress harmonics from non-linear loads like switching power supplies.

Wiring in Square D I line panel
Square D I-line panel rated for 600 volts
#2 SOOW cable feeding upper and lower sections of transmitter
Wiring to disconnect switch on transmitter
Pump station during system fill
Heat exchanger

The wiring on the pump station and heat exchanger needs a little more work. The client wanted to get this on the air as soon as possible because they are in a book and were running at 50% power. Once things calm down a bit, I will put the backup transmitter on for an afternoon and properly dress the wires.

FM modulation analysis

I found this FM modulation analysis function on my spectrum analyzer very useful. The station deviates slightly more than the allocated 75 KHz because of a subcarrier. Overall, it looks good. I measured the harmonics out to the 10th harmonic, most of them were in the noise floor. A few made a slight appearance, but well within FCC tolerances. It is important to document this, as this site has colocated cellular carriers and several E911 services.

FCC part 73.317 states:

(d) Any emission appearing on a frequency removed from the carrier by more than 600 kHz must be attenuated at least 43 + 10 Log10 (Power, in watts) dB below the level of the unmodulated carrier, or 80 dB, whichever is the lesser attenuation.

47CFR 73.317
WHUD fundamental
WHUD fundamental with two Mini-Circuits NHP-200 high pass filters installed

The rest of the harmonics were measured down to -130 dB with the two NHP-200 high-pass filters in the circuit. The 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th harmonics were unmeasurable. The 8th, 9th, and 10th made slight appearances.

WHUD 6th Harmonic, noise floor
WHUD 8th harmonic makes a little appearance
Main antenna VSWR
Antenna VSWR according to the transmitter directional coupler

Pretty close, the VNA was inserted at a patch panel, which is the last thing before the transmission line leaves the building. The transmitter goes through an ERI switchless combiner, which probably gives it a slightly better load.

Backup antenna SWR

Aside from the finishing details, I need to keep an eye on this for a week or so and top off the Heat Transfer Fluid as needed. It takes a bit of time to get all of the air out of the coolant loop. Another thing; the operating pressure on this is 4 Bar, which is almost 60 PSI. That is higher than other liquid-cooled transmitter systems I have installed before.

The Rhode Schwarz THR9 transmitter

This is part I of II.

We are in the process of installing an R&S 40 KW liquid-cooled FM transmitter. My first comment; these are well-built units. A quick look at the machining of the parts indicates attention to detail is a key design feature.

As the price of electricity continues to rise, liquid-cooled transmitters for this power level make a lot of sense.

Rhode Schwarz THR9 VHF transmitter

This installation is for Pamal Broadcasting’s WHUD, Peekskill, New York. The site has undergone major upgrades in the last few years. The original 1958 World Tower Utility 80 was replaced a year ago with this Valmont 60X394. Two cell carriers, two translators, and several E911 services are now colocated on the tower.

Valmont 60X394 tower, WHUD Peekskill, NY

The transmitter building is also the original cinder block structure from 1958. When it signed on, the station had a Gates FM5B 5 KW transmitter, an RCA BFA-7, 7-bay horizontally polarized antenna with an ERP of 20 KW. In 1970, that antenna was changed out to a 6-bay circularly polarized ERI with a Harris FM20H transmitter, increasing the ERP to 50 KW. As of now, the station has a 4-bay ERI SHP-4-A-C main antenna and the TPO is 28 KW for the same 50 KW ERP. As the station’s power increased, the building became a little bit smaller than optimal. We needed to rearrange some equipment to gain space for the pump station and step-up transformer.

Pump Station
Heat Exchanger

Rhode Schwarz recommended installing a step-up transformer for the incoming AC mains. The power supplies run most efficiently with 400 volts AC.

Hammond HPS Sentinel K dry core transformer
The Rhode Schwarz RF connection to an ERI switchless combiner

We decided to reuse the ERI switchless combiner left over from the Nautel V-40 installation. There are two Nautel V-10 transmitters with a hybrid combiner that are to be used as a backup. We won’t be running this as a combined transmitter operation, it is a way to save money rather than install a separate 3-inch coax switch. I will build a simple control panel to move the combiner position either all the way up (THR9) or all the way down (V-10s).

2.5 inch core drilled holes for coolant supply and return

Working on the liquid cooling system. I used a core drill to make the supply and return lines to the outdoor heat exchanger. I made sure that I had the shop vac (with a HEPA filter) running while drilling so that all of the concrete dust was captured. That stuff can get everywhere and has a bad tendency to destroy motor bearings. Whatever plant made these blocks in 1958, they used some hard material. It took a while for my masonry drill to get through them.

One of the perks

Occasionally, I get to go for a nice walk in a snowstorm. No, I am not being sarcastic. It is the middle of March and winter has decided to make an appearance. One of the FM stations we take care of went off the air and the remote control was not able to get the transmitter to come back on, so a stroll through the woods was necessary. This station is located at Sam’s Point Preserve, in Craigsmore NY.

Self-supporting tower has ATT and a Low Power TV station

The site is owned by Vertical Bridge. There are a few tenants on the tower and fortunately, somebody left the gate open before it snowed. I was somewhat dreading trying to wrestle with it when I got to the site.

The problem itself seems to be due to a power hit; the main transmitter was off and the remote control, a wheezing Genter VRC-2000, was not able to control either the main or the backup. Those should be replaced at some point.

Neighboring tower

There are several other towers up here for various cell carriers, 911 dispatch, etc.

My SO decided to come along.

My phone said we walked 2.7 miles round trip, which sounds about right. The station is back on the air. When I can get up there with a vehicle in a few weeks, I will look into the remote control problem.