Ultrawide Broadband

The rate at which data can be transmitted is a function of signal-to-noise ratio and bandwidth. Even with a signal significantly below the noise level, data can be transmitted at high speeds if enough spectrum is available.

Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing uses a large number of parallel narrow channels integrating the received signal over a relatively long period of time. Each channel carries only a low data rate but combining a large number of channels allows high data rates.

This form of modulation is very resistant to noise and multipath because of the long integration period of each carrier.  If you are driving and a carrier is momentarily interrupted, it does not cause a loss of information because it’s only a very small interruption in a relatively long integration time.

There is a limit to how long this interval can be and how narrow each carrier can be based upon the acceptable latency for an application.  For example, a two-way telephone conversation would need a low enough latency that the conversing parties would not notice the delay.  But radio or television could easily handle a delay of several seconds without problems.

Other than regulatory limits, the only limit to the number of carriers and total data capacity that can be transmitted is the speed of the digital signal processors and the bandwidth of the radio frequency amplifiers and antenna.  Fractal antennas and newer semi-conductors have extended these limits quite a bit.

This is going to continue to expand to provide faster wireless data rates as faster digital signal processors and better algorithms become available.

Single channel per carrier services are going to largely go away and ultra-wide broadband internet will occupy most of the spectrum with radio and television being largely replaced with audio and video over Internet Protocol across ultra-wide broadband networks.

Economies of spectrum, power, and infrastructure will fuel this conversion.  A public tired of having half a dozen mega-corporations owning all of the broadcast stations in a market and hungry for choice beyond what satellite operators offer as well as the superior quality that wider bandwidth will make available will also factor in.

Internet automobile receivers are already available.  These have the advantage of making a much larger amount of program sources available than even satellite services like Sirius.  The horrid licensing arrangements that the various record labels and artists unions impose on Internet broadcasters places some constraints on music being broadcast via this medium, but I think eventually enough artists will go Independent that these organizations will be forced to change their business model or die and become irrelevant.  Why should artists get less than 1% of sales and put up with very limited exposure just so labels can get rich?

Internet stations have a world-wide audience by the very nature of their operation, but at the same time they’re competing with a much larger number of stations than conventional broadcasters.  This will make very specialized program economically viable and more generalized programming less so.  Unfortunately, it also will continue to kill local markets and stations that cater to local markets.

Digital Radio

In the United States, iBiquity’s proprietary and bandwidth wasting HD-Radio is the only digital radio format approved by the FCC for digital radio broadcasting on AM and FM.

Outside the US, Digital Radio Mondaile (DRM) and Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) are widely used.  Both systems are open rather than proprietary. Manufacturers of receivers and transmitting equipment don’t have to pay license fees to enable their equipment to receive DRM or DMB which means the equipment is less expensive for consumers to buy.

Digital Radio Mondaile works in a 9Khz bandwidth rather than the 30Khz required by HD-Radio, which destroys two adjacent channels.  Thus it is possible to operate three DRM stations in the same spectrum as one HD-Radio could operate in while providing superior audio quality.

The main disadvantage is that you don’t have an analog signal, you need a DRM equipped receiver to receive a DRM signal.

The FCC should drop HD-Radio because of the adjacent channel interference issue and because it’s not proper to give a licensing monopoly to one company, and because it is not making efficient use of available spectrum.  The FCC should open up the market to DRM and DMB and let the chips fall where they may.

Because both DRM and DMB are going to use digital signal processors to decode them and only the software will be different, and because both are open standards, it would be trivial for a receiver manufacturer to offer receivers that can decode both. Because the additional license fees wouldn’t be built into the cost of the receiver, adoption would likely be more rapid.

If the real reason the FCC adopted iBiquity’s HD-Radio as “the standard” was to maintain compatibility with existing receivers, then the FCC would not have adopted the standard for television which obsoleted millions of televisions.

The FCC dictating one standard while the rest of the world uses another guarantees US citizens won’t have direct access to foreign broadcasts.  Instead, our information can be carefully filtered to comply with what the US government wants it’s citizens to see and hear.

For that reason alone, we should have a world standard, not one standard for North America, another for the rest of the world.  The 3x better use of spectrum favors DRM over HD-Radio as does the superior audio quality.  The lower cost to consumers favors DRM.

I’d like to encourage people to write to your congress critters to force the issue with the FCC.

KNDD – Mike Kaplan – Station Direction

KNDD has been running spots where Mike Kaplan is soliciting listener input.  I wish I could say I was optimistic about anything good happening because it seems to me it’s just gone downhill the last few years..  Now Harms is leaving.

I enjoyed about Lazlo’s time there because he went out of his way to get the audience involved in the station.  The Alki Beach House gave people a chance to get to know both artists and the on-air personalities face to face and it added a lot of excitement to the station.

DJ No-name was another person who was really good at getting the audience involved and creating community.

They seemed a lot less prone to censorship in those days, songs tended to have a better chance of being played unneutered. The emphasis on independent artists seemed stronger than today.

Automation used to be reserved for the wee early morning hours, which if there is any place for automation, that would be it.  These days, people have portable MP3 players, smart phones, mp3 players on their computers, etc.  If they want automatic music they can program their own selection to their specific tastes without commercials, so why should they want to listen to automation that is hit-n-miss as far as their musical taste is concerned, interrupted by commercials, and with audio quality that is generally crushed and inferior to what they can get from their player?

Which brings up another of my complaints, The End’s audio quality has also gone down hill in the last three years, at least that’s my perception.

And I know I’m old school but I really like it when the on-air personality can hit queues well, so well you sometimes can’t tell where one song ended and another begins, so well they never have dead air nor do they ever stomp on lyrics.  Harms was all that and he also knew the music, the artists, and was a good people person. I hate to see him go.

Since Mr. Kaplan is asking for input, let’s oblige him and give him some.  I’d really like to see KNND get the kind of audience involvement it used to have, the sense of no fear let’s do it-ness it used to have, and I know they’ve got a bunch of highly competent engineers that could restore the audio to what it used to be if they so desired, turn off that filter that drops everything below 80hz and stop clipping the highs to death, or maybe everyone’s gone deaf and doesn’t care:

Mike Kaplan, KNDD Program Director
mkaplan@entercom.com
206-577-2445

Hello world!

Shortly after Google ate Blogger.com, they discontinued FTP publishing which I relied on.

Hosting the blog on blogspot.com was not an option since it would take the domain off of my host and put it on Googles were I had no control and leave a bunch of broken links where people had linked to my blog.

The custom domain was also not an option since I have a lot of content besides the blogs that wouldn’t go there.

And at the time WordPress didn’t run well on our server and the most current version didn’t run at all.

I’ve just upgraded Eskimo’s server to Apache 2.4.3 running under CentOS 6.3 on an I7-2600 machine.  This platform provides decent response and can run the most current version of WordPress.

I used the Blogger import module to import my Blogs, at least those I wanted to keep.  It didn’t handle the sidebar so I’ve got a bit of work to do to get the old look and feel back but basically here we are.

 

Pirate Radio – How To Avoid Causing Interference

During my Jr. High and High School years I ran a number of bootleg radio stations ranging up to as much as 1Kw, but mostly in the 25-100 watt range on the AM broadcast bands.

I had a number of friends who also ran AM and FM pirate radio stations, one ran a pirate SW station.

I just ran across this article, “The Story of Bootleg Radio 1610“, and for anyone considering operating a pirate radio station, it’s an excellent example of what not to do.

In all of the years I ran a bootleg radio station, I only ran afoul of the FCC once, and that’s when my antenna broke and resonated in the 80 meter ham band and caused interference.

Prior to that occurrence I had run a pirate radio station in a major metropolitan area for more than half a decade. And I’m not talking occasional operation, I’m talking daily multi-hour operation, during the summer months 24 hour operation, with an average power level of around 100 watts.

The lesson here is simple, while any operation without a license that exceeds part 15 is illegal; the laws were written with a purpose of preventing interference and when you cause interference you’re much more likely to invoke enforcement than if you avoid causing any interference. Even if you are operating completely legally within the constraints of part 15, you still may not cause interference to licensed operations.

Avoiding causing interference is a function of being knowledgeable and exercising careful engineering to create a clean signal that does not interfere with any legitimate licensed service. The higher the power level you operate at, the cleaner your signal must be in order to avoid causing interference.

Avoiding interference to licensed service involves first doing a careful survey to find a frequency upon which you will not cause interference to legitimate services. The AM broadcasting band has become so crowded that this is a very difficult if not impossible undertaking in many locations and at night when ionospheric reflection transmits signals over the horizon by reflection off of the ionosphere.

You want to find a frequency that not only is it vacant, but where there are no nearby stations on the adjacent channels that might receive interference from your sidebands or in cases where the receivers selectivity is garbage.

A good example of what not to do was set by a friend of mine who operated a pirate AM station on 1570 Khz AM when a local broadcast station was operating on 1590 Khz. In addition to being close in frequency; there was no limiter employed so that overmodulation would create additional sideband components by clipping the audio waveform. Interference to the commercial broadcast station brought the FCC field engineer to his house.

Most of the precautions you would take to prevent interference also happen to be good for your signals strength and quality. RF power that is outside of the intended frequency spectrum is RF power not going towards your intended transmission.

With AM stations, most of the commercial kits are garbage having either entirely untuned and unmatched outputs that are inefficient and have high harmonic content, or at best very low-Q output circuits that are only broadly tuned and do not provide good harmonic suppression.

I would suggest either building your own gear or using commercial broadcast quality gear. If you build your own, take the time to design your transmitter, matching system, and antenna. Be sure your oscillator is stable and within 20 Hz of the selected frequency. I would really suggest aiming to get it spot on. Most commercial stations will be very close and if you can do likewise you’ll avoid generating an audible beat note.

Take care to put together a high quality low distortion audio chain that includes a compressor and limiter or optimize your modulation and avoid any negative modulation peaks of 100% or greater. While theoretically, your audio power has to be half the DC final input power for 100% modulation, in practice I like to have about twice the audio power as DC input power to insure that modulation is highly linear up to 100% and also to allow for unsymmetrical modulation where the positive peaks may be allowed to exceed 100% while limiting the negative peaks to less than 100%.

Design your transmitter to meet all the requirements that a commercial station would have to meet save for the power levels. Pay careful attention to suppressing harmonics and any other out-of-band radiation. Design the output section, antenna, any matching or antenna tuning, to use tuned circuits of as high-Q as possible within the constraints of providing the necessary bandwidth for the desired audio frequency response.

Call around to local AM stations and you’ll often find that they have surplus equipment, old compressor / limiters, mixing consoles, cart machines, turn tables, etc, that you can acquire free or very inexpensively if you get to know the engineers.

Once you’ve designed and built your equipment, take extensive measurements and monitor it closely to be sure that it’s operating as expected. Some things I would suggest, first, be absolutely sure you have a decent modulation limiter. Anytime you exceed 100% modulation on the negative portion of the waveform, it is clipped because you can’t have less than zero carrier signal; that clipping generates high order harmonics that cause sidebands far outside of your intended channel and will interfere with other stations above or below your operating frequency.

A simple and yet highly effective modulation monitor for AM signals is an oscilloscope setup as a trapezoid modulation monitor. To do this connect a sample of the transmitters RF signal to the normal vertical input, and put an audio signal on the horizontal input.

Here are some example images. Forgive my art work, I know it isn’t the best, but hopefully it will serve to demonstrate the concepts.

0% modulation trapezoidTo the right is an example of a display without modulation. Since there is no audio input you see only the RF carrier signal deflecting the beam vertically.

Only your sidebands actually carry information, the carrier signal serves only as a reference for their decoding. An unmodulated carrier is a complete waste of power.

You should strive to design your program content so that this (dead air) never happens. High average modulation will mask noise where your signal is weak providing a higher perceived signal strength.

50% modulation trapezoidTo the left is a trapezoid modulation pattern with approximately 50% modulation.

The vertical lines indicate the minimum and maximum transmitter power points of the modulation envelope.

The slanted lines should be straight. Any curvature represents non-linearity in your modulation system and audio distortion results.

Non-linearity reduces audio quality and produces high order harmonics that will cause adjacent channel interference.

100% modulation trapezoidTo the right is a trapezoid modulation pattern with approximately 100% modulation.

In practice, you’ll want to set your limiter so that your negative modulation never quite reaches 100%. The trapezoid never comes to a perfect triangle or goes beyond that point.

No limiter will limit completely precisely owing to variations in the audio waveform so you need to allow a small margin of safety.

Imperfect frequency response, linearity, or phase shift in the transmitters modulation system may cause peaks to overshoot slightly.

125% modulation trapezoidTo left is an example of approximately 125% modulation.

Notice the line to the left of the trapezoid pattern. This represents the negative portion of the modulation envelope where the carrier has reached zero.

Also notice that at the other side of the trapezoid, the lines are no longer straight but taper off. This represents non-linearity in your transmitters output as it’s modulation capabilities are exceeded. This will also result in harmonics and adjacent channel interference but not as bad as going over 100% negative.

Note that if your transmitter is capable of exceeding 100% modulation on positive peaks cleanly then there is no harm in allowing positive modulation to exceed 100% and there is substantial advantage in doing so. Commercial broadcast stations are allowed to go up to 120% modulation on positive peaks.

This is why building your modulator to be capable of more than the theoretically required 50%, personal experience has taught me that it’s preferable to have about twice the audio power capability as DC input to the final, not that you will utilize all of this but it will insure your audio section is distortion free throughout the full range of modulation levels you might choose to utilize.

Commercial stations will often use clippers after the limiter followed by a low pass filter to remove any harmonics they generate but this really chews up the audio and makes it sound like crap so I don’t recommend it.

If you want to obtain good audio density I would make a number of recommendations, first a small amount of reverb injected into the audio chain, at a level where it is just barely audible, will provide additional density and cover noise.

Follow this with a good triband or multiband compressor. These break the audio into “bands” and compress each individually. This prevents things like a kick-drum or vocal cybalance from modulating the middle frequencies which are most noticable.

If you have the dollars, you can get a device called a peak inverter. Since you can’t exceed 100% negative modulation without extreme distortion and interference, but positive modulation can go arbitrarily high within the capabilities of your transmitter, a peak inverter will detect natural asymmetry in the audio waveform and switch the polarity such that the natural asymmetry is such that the peak is always greater in the positive direction. This allows you to modulate in excess of 100% without distorting the waveform of the audio source by taking advantage of any natural asymmetry in the waveform.

Lastly follow up by a fast asymmetrical limiter. I recommend setting the attack speed as fast as it goes, and the release speed as fast as you can get away with without the bass modulating the midrange. If you hear voices take on a chewed sound with bass notes, then the release time is too fast and the gain is following the bass waveform.

Set the limiter to limit the negative peaks a few percentage points shy of 100%, set the positive just shy of what your transmitter is capable of cleanly. If you see any rounding on the upper end of the trapezoid modulation pattern, you’re exceeding your transmitters capability. If you design your transmitter with a 2:1 audio to DC input you’ll never see this problem.

If you do these things you’ll have a loud, but clean, signal with good density that will mask noise to a large degree making the most of your coverage area.

Now assuming your transmitter, antenna tuning, and antenna are all designed well, your oscillator is stable and on frequency, you did a good survey before hand and found a truly unused channel with adjacent channels locally unused, your audio chain is clean, your modulation never exceeds 100% negative and positive doesn’t exceed your transmitters capability, you should have a professional sounding signal that won’t cause distortion and won’t sound amateurish (your program material may still be an issue).

Having done all of this work, I still recommend careful monitoring. You should have a good portable communications receiver capable of covering your operating frequeny and up to 30Mhz or so contiguously. I do not recommend getting the receiver too close to the transmitting antenna or you may fry your receivers front end.

Take your receiver about a block from your transmitting antenna while your transmitter is operating and modulated normally. Tune to the second adjancent channels to your transmitted channel. For example, if you are transmitting at 1000 Khz, then tune to 980 Khz and 1020 Khz and listen for any splatter from your station. If you hear splatter then something in your audio chain or the transmitter itelf is distorting your audio signal.

Then tune to harmonics of your transmitted signal, in the case of a 1Mhz transmission, tune to 2 Mhzs, 3 Mhz, 4 Mhz, etc. If you hear your signal, then your transmission isn’t clean and you either need to increase the quality of the tuned circuits in the transmitters output, antenna tuner, or the antenna itself, or possibly install a low pass filter between the transmitter and antenna.

If you’ve done everything to make sure your signal is clean, possibly even to the point of using a spectrum analyzer, and you still hear harmonics, there may be something non-linear object connected to something that receives your signal, rectifies it, and retransmits it. A good example might be metal gutters with a corroded joint. The gutter might play antenna and the corroded joint may act non-linearly distorting the signal and creating harmonics.

Not doing regular monitoring is the thing that allowed my broken antenna to resonate at 80 meters radiating a third harmonic of our transmitting frequency and drawing the attention of the FCC after six years of uneventful transmitting.

KASB Frequency Change Bad

I’ve been a listener of a little station that broadcasts from Green River Community college for years, KGRG. In terms of music, they’ve been on the bleeding edge giving exposure to independents that you just don’t hear anywhere else. They transmit with just 250 watts on 89.9 Mhz so their signal was receivable with a good antenna and receiver up in North Seattle but just marginally.

KASB is a 8-watt station from Bellevue High School that I’ve yet to hear anything unique or interesting on. KASB was formerly on 89.3 Mhz but was just recently moved to 89.9 Mhz. KASB’s 8 watt signal from Bellevue renders KGRG’s 250 watt signal from Auburn unlistenable here. At the same time KASB’s 8 watt signal which was formerly listenable here when they were on 89.3Mhz, if you had a good receiver, is also no longer listenable.

Now 89.3FM appears to be clear; at least I can’t receive anything at all there with a fairly decent receiver. I’m wondering what the hell the FCC was thinking when they allowed this change?

At any rate; if you listened to either of these stations and now find them unlistenable, please call the FCC 1-888-225-5322, e-mail fccinfo@fcc.gov, file a complaint on the FCC website: http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm or write to:

Federal Communications Commission
201 Varick Street, Suite 1151
New York, NY 10014-4870

Fisher Communications Vs. Dish Network

I am a subscriber of Dish Network. I’ve been reasonably happy with them but recently tuned to channel 4 to be met with a message saying that because Fisher Broadcasting and Dish Network were unable to arrive at an agreement regarding retransmission fees, they no longer had the right to carry KOMO’s signal.

As a customer of Dish Network I’m upset with them but I’m more upset with KOMO and Fisher broadcasting because I feel their position is unreasonable, unethical, and just plain greedy.

Here is the issue as I see it. Years ago, Sony was sued over their product, the BetaMax VCR, which allowed customers to record television broadcasts. Sony prevailed on the grounds that once something is placed in the public domain, it remains in the public domain and is no longer subject to copyright law. Public broadcasting of a program constituted placing it in the public domain. This became known as the BetaMax decision.

In the years since, there have been some changes to copyright laws that have created some exceptions. That’s an understatement really, copyright laws and patent laws have totally run amuck, but I also think there is a moral issue here.

If you go to Fisher’s website (if you click on the title I’ve provided a link), you’ll find that they compare various paid channels that Dish Network pays for. This comparison is unfair because these channels have a different revenue model.

Commercial broadcasters sell advertising space in their program content to pay the costs of obtaining and broadcasting their programs. The customer doesn’t pay a monetary fee to watch the program, but suffers through the advertisements in exchange for receiving the program free.

Pay television by contrast provides programs without interruption of commercials in exchange for receiving a fee, directly or indirectly, from the viewer to provide the revenue that pays for the production and distribution of the programming.

Fisher is comparing one revenue model, commercial television, with another revenue model, pay television, and I don’t feel that it is a fair comparison. Fisher wants to collect revenue from both ends, they want to charge advertisers for airtime and they want to turn around and charge us, the viewers, for the program material in spite of the fact that we’re also forced to sit through the commercials for which they’ve received payment. I don’t find this to be a reasonable proposition.

KOMO operates an expensive transmitter broadcasting hundreds of thousands of watts from high gain antennas placed on a huge tower on Queen Anne hill in Seattle in order to reach viewers in much of Western Washington state. They spend the big bucks on the equipment, electricity to run it, personell to maintain it, in order to reach an audience that is valuable to advertisers and by extension to KOMO-TV who the advertrisers pay.

Now when Dish TV retransmits their signal, they increase the size of KOMOs’ audience and by extension the value of their airtime to advertisers. They provide this added value to KOMO at no cost to KOMO. If anything KOMO should be paying them! It’s like getting a free transmitter power increase or a higher tower. They are reaching more customers with a cleaner signal that more people will be willing to watch, at no cost.

But that isn’t enough, in spite of the fact that Fisher is receiving additional value from advertisers as the result of Dish Network carrying their signals, they expect Dish Network to pay them for the priviledge of helping them make more money.

As a customer who could go out and buy a new antenna, I fail to see the logic in Fisher Communications position. Sure they can argue that there is a cost of acquisition of programming (in some cases, much is provided free by the network) and a cost associated with thier operation, but they encounter those costs whether Dish Network retransmits their signal or not. Further, Dish Network also has huge costs of operation which are increased by carrying more signals. By carrying KOMOs’ programming, Dish Network increases the advertising revenue potential of KOMO-TV and does not increase their costs.

So I just can’t see Fisher Broadcastings’ logic at all. I can’t understand why they should expect people to pay them for the priviledge of increasing their audience and revenue.

One last point of irritation, both sides make the position that the other sides’ position is unreasonable (and on this note I agree with Dish and disagree with Fisher), but neither side is willing to provide specifics. Dish says that Fisher is demanding an 82% increase, Fisher publishes Dish’s letter in which this figure is mentioned without disputing it, but neither side is willing to say 82% of what? 82% of a dollar isn’t worth a squabble, 82% of ten million dollars is. What are we talking about here? If Fisher feels what they are doing is ethical, and if Dish feels what they are doing is ethical, why are both sides demanding confidentiality?

I Told You The Ionosphere Is Strange

I’ve posted here several times stating that radio propagation has changed since the way it was when I was younger. I did not know and do not know fully what is responsible for that change, but clearly there has been change.

Now an article in Science Daily entitled, “Boundary Between Earth’s Upper Atmosphere And Space Has Moved To Extraordinarily Low Altitudes, NASA Instruments Document“, confirms that the Ionosphere has changed. It is lower than it used to be.

For the record, I believe the title of this article is scientifically horrid; there is no “boundary” between the Earth’s upper atmosphere and space. The atmosphere is a gas, and it gets progressively thinner as you move away from the planet. The definition of the boundary is arbitrary, at some “pressure” one can call that the boundary, but at what pressure you decide to do that is arbitrary.

There are many factors affecting the upper atmosphere and how “inflated” it is, but the largest is probably extreme UV from the Sun which is absorbed in the upper atmosphere heating and expanding it. The last solar cycle was the most intense on record, and then ended and a new one really has not started. There is indication that a magnetic reversal has happened, but so far there has only been a sparse very short lived sun spot every now and then, nothing like a normal solar cycle.

There are other factors as well. The Earth’s own magnetic field is weakening. How much of this relates to any internal dynamo action and how much relates to changes in the solar flux is hard to say. The interaction between the solar wind and internal sources is extremely complex.

The strength of the Earth’s magnetic field determines the latitude that cosmic rays and solar particles enter the atmosphere. When the field is strong, they enter in very concentrated zones near the poles, when the field is weaker these particles can enter farther from the poles. In the last 100 years, the average latitude that these particles enter the atmosphere has shifted towards the equator by about ten degrees.

The long term nature of this shift suggests more of an internal, change in the Earth’s dynamo, cause. One effect of this shift is to shift rainfall patterns to some degree because these high energy charged particles create ionized paths that serve as condensation points where raindrops can start to form.

Then there are changes in atmospheric chemistry. We’ve added additional carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, halides, and other sulfur.

And then there is the intentional manipulation of the ionosphere with HAARP and similar projects around the globe.

So I’m not going to pretend to understand the relative impact of each factor, but clearly our atmosphere and ionosphere are changing.

Cell Tower Safety

Since I published the article regarding cellular site safety issues, I’ve received much e-mail and comments on the subject, most of which is highly paranoid. People here the word radiation and think “nuclear”, but not all radiation is bad radiation, sunlight and all radio and television signals are radiation. These are quite distinct from nuclear radiation in that they are non-ionizing.

Radiation that is harmful has to have some physical effect on the body such as ionizing atoms in our body, which makes them reactive, or damaging DNA, or interfering with the ability of ions to transverse ion channels in our cells walls, or by causing thermal or electrical effects that disrupt normal metabolic activity.

At low power levels, cell phone radiation does none of these things, but at higher levels, thermal effects and effects on the electrical activity within the central nervous system can manifest and cause a variety of problems up to cancer and central nervous system problems. These power levels are normally only possible if you are in the same plain as the antenna and within 35 feet, and the effects can be cumulative, the longer the exposure the greater the risk. Cell sites are supposed to be designed and sited to avoid these conditions.

I received e-mail that described a situation which involved a telephone pole mounted cell site with the antenna at the same height as the bedroom window of a nearby house and the distance from the antenna was less than 35 feet from the bedroom.

This is a situation where there is a legitimate concern. The antennas used for cellular sites are highly directional in the vertical plain.

The energy they radiate is focused in a plain at their height. This means you are safe if you are significantly higher or lower than the antenna or more than about 35 feet away.

But if you are at the same high as the antenna and less than 35 feet away, and particularly if you are going to be in that location for long periods of time, as in the case of a bedroom, this is not a safe situation.

In this case I would file a complaint with the FCC and the company involved making it clear that this creates an unsafe condition and asking that they either relocate the cell site or raise the antenna above the height of the bedrooms to resolve the issue.

If you can not stop the installation at the bedroom height that close to your house, then I would look into adding some RF shielding in the walls. You can buy brass or copper screening that would be effective, or copper foil, but these things are expensive.

This is a situation where the home owner really has a legitimate complaint but proving it might be expensive. That is to say, the FCC may not send out a field engineer to take measurements, instead they may require that you hire an engineer to do so. But then if you are forced into this, I would make it clear to the telephone company up front that you intend to do whatever is necessary and take legal action to recover your costs from them in hopes it might persuade them that it would be more cost effective to take action voluntarily. Alternately, they could pay the costs of installing the necessary shielding to assure the safety of the individual(s) sleeping in that bedroom.

Radio Programming Future

Eventually we will use ultra-wide spread-spectrum orthogonal frequency division multiplexing techniques for all wireless communications because this method utilizes spectrum and energy more efficiently.

We are moving in this direction with the evolving technologies of Internet wireless transmission, cellular networks, and digital radio and television. These will merge into one ultra-broadband wireless digital network.

You’ll listen to your favorite radio station, watch your favorite television program, interact on the Internet, talk on the phone, anywhere on the planet. Reliability will improve at lower power levels resulting in reduced levels of electromagnetic pollution and carbon dioxide.

There is a cloud to this silver lining. Greater channel capacity, providing the consumer with more choices results in fewer viewers per channel, lower revenue per channel, and lower quality programming.

The global reach of each channel compensates but you lose local relevance. Perhaps a situation will emerge in which quality draws a large enough audience to sustain itself.

As satellite and cable have made many more television channels available, we haven’t seen quality improve. Gone are theme songs. Real actors are replaced by Joe Average seeking glory on reality TV, which also eliminates the need for writers. Create an unreal situation and then let nature take it’s course. Writers can find work creating news.

Radio is moving towards greater use of automation, syndication, and lack of professionalism. Dead air, bad queues, and bad taste seem to be the norm. Recent ownership rules that allowing a single entity to own several hundred stations greatly reduces competition, diversity, and local relevance.

Expanded channel capacity is going to worsen these existing trends but will make narrowcasting practical. Finding specialized programming will become easier. Now you can take that radio proctocology coarse you’ve always wanted.

Advanced civilizations still using radio will have moved to this model because of the efficiencies. SETI is unlikely to be productive looking for narrow band carriers. A carrier is a waste of energy. Allocating tiny bits of spectrum to individual channels is a waste of spectrum. We’re not going to find ET on the radio unless we look at a broad bandwidth and spread spectrum encoding characteristics. I wonder if ET has found a way to address the program quality issues.