From Radio World, Sept. 5, 2014:
AM systems manufacturer Kintronic Labs has several suggestions
for how the FCC can help revitalize the AM band. President Tom King plans to share those with Commissioner Ajit Pai and Audio Division Chief Peter Doyle in a meeting this month.
In advance of that meeting, King is promoting an “open letter to the industry” in which he ask broadcasters to contact Pai and Doyle in support of his recommendations, to let them know “how imperative it is that these measures be implemented on a fast approval track” to make AM competitive with FM. Here’s the letter: Kintronic Letter
The manufacturer has a keen interest in AM revitalization; its products are used in numerous facilities, and the company markets itself as “the oldest continually operating AM antenna system provider in the U.S.” Founder Louis King resigned from RCA in 1949 as an AM high-power transmitter design engineer, obtained his PE license and established a business as a regional broadcast consulting engineer that grew into Kintronic Labs. (Read a company history.)
Among the items listed by Tom King for urgent action are these that go beyond what many commenters have suggested:
-Establishment of mandatory minimum technical standards for AM receivers to become effective “as soon as January 2016.” In a demo, he plans to compare CQUAM AM stereo reception with a local FM station as well as the effects of adjusting AM bandwidth from 2.5 to 10 kHz in 2.5 kHz steps. He provides a list of specific minimum allowable performance specifications for all AM receivers, including a low internal noise floor, high RF sensitivity, selectivity and dynamic range and highly effective noise cancellation.
-FCC authorization of AM synchronous boosters, a technically challenging idea that has received less attention than FM translator discussions.
King also urges the commission to enforce RF limits for consumer electronics devices, noting the worsening electromagnetic environment for AM.
From Tom Taylor NOW, Sept. 9:
An AM quality manifesto from Tom King at Kintronic.
He’s pitching three key ideas, starting with a widespread problem that’s going to be very hard to put back in the bottle – interference from “the power distribution industry and [products sold by] the consumer electronics industry.” King says the FCC simply isn’t enforcing its existing rules, “resulting in a constantly worsening electromagnetic environment” for AM. Not only are lights and power lines a problem – so are computers and smartphones, which all contribute to the noise that makes AM reception scratchy. King’s point #2 is “the need for parity between AM and FM receivers through the establishment of minimum technical standards for AM receivers.” King’s not the first engineer to showcase how good AM can sound, and it really can. He’s pointing toward engineering questions like the noise floor, sensitivity of the receiver and noise rejection. (King’s also harking back to AM stereo, to put the medium on-par with FM stereo.) Point #3 is “the need for FCC authorization of AM synchronous boosters.” Tom King says “unlike FM translators, such on-channel boosters would serve to increase the AM stations’ audiences while maintaining the future viability of the band.” If those sound like worthy goals, King says “we need the full support and backing of you, the AM broadcasters, to be able to communicate to FCC Commission Ajit Pai and Audio Media Chief Peter Doyle.” Tom’s asking supporters to email the simple message “I approve” to KTL@Kintronic.com.
I like increased enforcement of unintentional noise rules and am fine with allowing synchronous boosters. I have doubts about tighter receiver standards. It will be an additional expense for receiver makers that may cause them to simply leave AM out of their radios. If they think it’s not that expensive, opening up the bandwidth could increase interference received, increasing complaints to automakers, and again causing them to leave AM out, as BMW recently decided to do with the i3. I think receivers can improve on their own if there are less noisy signals for them to receive.
I agree with Mr. Crowley’s last sentence that the source of the problem should be addressed first and also with Mr. King that the FCC needs to enforce existing regulation for inyerference. I know many of you enjoy listening to some great programming on the AM band but as you drive past power poles and distribution lines whose insulators are arcing or the line corona causes interference to your car AM receiver with a noise floor well above the sensitivity of 0.5 uV (-113 dBm) at 12 dB SINAD, the noise makes listening difficult or impossible. Although the operational cost to utility firms to bury lines would be high or impractical, the cost to inspect lines for corona noise should not be. With an expanding utility infrastructure and some power line components degrading, the noise will only increase over time making AM spectrum inefficient. The FCC mandates protection from cell tower owners so why not enforce Part 15 progressively that considers all spectrum victims and protect the AM from intentional radiators like power lines that cause interference – It’s a business and technical decision that can have a win-win outcome.