Tag Archives: WWFD

“One possible version of AM radio’s future”

(Source: LA Daily News)

Radio: Is that an AM digital signal I hear? No, but it could be.

by Richard Wagoner

One possible version of AM radio’s future was posted on a Facebook group called “I Love AM Radio.” It came from group member Steve West and was a recording of WWFD/Frederick, MD as received on a radio in Beacon Falls, CT. This is a driving distance of about 320 miles via I-95; as the crow flies it’s probably closer to 275. Still very impressive.

Of course, long-distance AM radio reception is not new … people have been listening to distant stations since radio broadcasting began in the 1920s. In my case, when I was young and before I even knew what phenomenon I was really experiencing, I remember picking up stations at night from great distances on my tube table radio, then wondering why I could not hear them during the day.

I also wondered why I picked up a buzz sometimes … turned out that was due to my Dad using a fluorescent light in his office down the hallway from my bedroom. But I digress.

What makes this recording intriguing is that WWFD doesn’t transmit analog audio like most stations. Instead, they are all digital, under special permission of the FCC. Only those with HD radios can hear them. West is demonstrating that long distance digital AM radio reception is indeed possible, and — perhaps (though it may be wishful thinking) — AM radio could be better than FM from a practical standpoint.

All-digital is a mode of the HD Radio system that uses the space formerly used for analog broadcasting and puts the digital signal there instead of sandwiching the digital around the analog as with the hybrid system currently in use on all other AM HD stations, which locally includes KNX (1070 AM), KSUR (“K-Surf” 1260 AM), KFWB (980 AM), and KBRT (740 AM).

The problem with the hybrid mode is that the digital portion of the signal extends out far enough from the main frequency of a station and thus can cause interference to other stations nearby. Hybrid mode thus limits the digital signal to a fraction of a station’s broadcast power.

All-digital, being centered on the frequency, allows a station to broadcast the digital signal at a station’s full power, permitting better coverage, less interference, and better sound quality.

At least that’s the theory. Right now more testing is needed, primarily to see what happens when more stations are using the system. The problem is the all-digital system is not yet authorized without special permission, and of course, many stations would be reluctant to try it, as doing so means losing every listener without an HD radio … most of the potential audience.

West’s recording is not perfect. The signal is like any digital signal — as on your computer or your digital television, the signal is either there … or it is not. Being received at such a great distance the reception is not perfect and cuts out, but as I said, it does show some great potential.[…]

Click here to read the full article at the Los Angeles Daily News.

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Radio World: Bryan Broadcasting Asks FCC to Allow All-Digital AM

(Source: Radio World via Ulis K3LU)

A prominent advocate for the AM band is petitioning the FCC to allow stations to use all-digital transmissions in the United States.

Bryan Broadcasting Corp. on Monday filed a petition for rulemaking asking the commission to initiate a proceeding to authorize the MA3 all-digital mode of HD Radio for any AM station that chooses to do so.

Permitting such modernization would “give AM broadcasters a needed innovative tool with which to compete” without harming others in the spectrum ecosystem, it wrote.

Bryan is licensee of four AM stations, five FMs and six FM translators in Central Texas. Ben Downs is the vice president and general manager, and submitted the petition along with the company’s attorney David Oxenford of Wilkinson Barker Knauer. Downs also has served on the NAB board in the past, and he has been a vocal advocate for various regulatory steps to “revitalize” the AM band.

All HD Radio receivers in the market that have AM functionality would be able to receive such all-digital signals. But legacy AM receivers would not, which has long been a barrier to serious discussion of all-digital. Now, some observers say, the availability of FM translators for AM licensees has made something that once seemed unthinkable at least worth discussing.

There is one AM station in the country with special temporary authority to broadcast in all-digital. Hubbard’s WWFD in Frederick, Md., near the nation’s capital has been on the air since last summer. The station’s Dave Kolesar has been speaking in public about the ongoing experiment and will do so again at the upcoming NAB Show.[…]

Click here to continue reading.

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All-digital AM HD: WWFD’s experiment is attracting attention

(Source: InsideRadio via Ulis K3LU)

All-Digital AM Grabs Automakers’ Interest.

The fate of AM radio in the car dashboard may pass through Frederick, MD. That’s where the latest experiment on an all-digital AM signal is taking place, on Hubbard Radio’s adult alternative “The Gamut” WWFD (820). The project, in conjunction with digital radio developer Xperi and the National Association of Broadcasters’ PILOT program, is already generating interest from carmakers in the U.S and around the world.

The Federal Communications Commission in July approved a proposal to allow WWFD to turn off its analog signal for the next year while remaining an all-digital operation. The aim is to use the real-world environment to conduct experiments designed to improve the all-digital AM service.

WWFD has 4,300-watts day (non-directional) and 430-watts night (directional) and the company proposes to operate with roughly the same output when it goes digital-only, 24-hours a day. Dave Kolesar, Hubbard’s senior engineer overseeing the project, said it’s an ideal station to use for a test case since it’s non-directional by day and directional at night.[…]

The switch has already been flipped and Xperi senior manager of broadcast technologies Mike Raide said preliminary results are encouraging. “We haven’t had any problems with OEM receivers,” he said, noting he drove 70 miles from the transmitter site and still picked up WWFD without any problem. In fact, one DX listener in the Pittsburgh area, roughly 300 miles away, said they were able to hear the station during the daytime. “That’s a testament to how robust all-digital is,” Raide said.[…]

“At a time when we’re all hearing rumors about car manufacturers cutting AM from their factory offerings, something like this could come along and show the auto manufacturers that AM still matters and AM has a digital solution as well,” Kolesar said.[…]

Click here to view the full article at InsideRadio.

In August, I received a strong lock on WWFD in neighboring West Virginia via my car’s built-in HD receiver. The next day, I made this short video of my reception on the Sangean HDR-14 (read review here) in neighboring Germantown, Maryland:

I found that WWFD covered the DC metro area quite well.

Post readers: Do you believe, as this article implies, that AM HD could revitalize the band?

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Bill tunes to WWFD in AM HD

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Mead, who writes:

Thomas, I’m sending you a short clip from WWFD 820 kHz in Frederick, MD. It’s America’s only all-digital station, apparently. They are HD only with a relatively eclectic music format. I’m hearing them at my QTH in Harrisburg, PA, about 80 miles or so north of their transmitter which is 4.3 Kw daytime. I sort of doubt they’ll come in at night when they drop down to 430 watts, but who knows.

My experience with HD on MW is that it can be heard at pretty decent distances under ideal conditions but the slightest bit of interference, a lightning strike or someone switching on the lights for example, and it’ll lose the HD lock.

My HD receiver is a Sony XDR-F1HD. It’s well-known as an excellent FM DX machine. What’s not as well-publicized is that it’s a very decent MW receiver as well. All it needs is a good MW loop antenna directly connected to the AM ANT terminals on the back of the radio.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Excellent!  Thanks for sharing, Bill. I’m passing by Frederick, MD in a couple of weeks and plan to tune to WWFD in both my car and with the Sangean HDR-14.

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