AM Transmitter installed in Goroka, Papua New Guinea

NATIONAL BROADCASTING CORPORATION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA

BACKGROUND

Papua New Guinea is the largest island nation in the South Pacific region. It has the main island where most of the population lives and lots of smaller, far-flung islands. It’s a country of great natural beauty. With a population approaching 10 million people, this nation has more than 800 languages and numerous tribes. The terrain has rugged mountains, lush valleys, thick jungles, numerous islands, river plains, a long and beautiful coastline and the most diverse flora and fauna.

Papua New Guinea achieved independence from Australia its colonial master on 16 Sept 1975. Since then it has been a proud and free nation.

After independence, PNG established its own national Broadcasting network. It is known as National Broadcasting Corporation of Papua New Guinea (NBC PNG).

In the beginning, it was radio that was the mainstay of NBC PNG. However, once television became the norm all over the world, TV was added. Quickly, TV became an important medium of communication.

In 2018, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry decided to extend the radio coverage by setting up a series of AM transmitters. The ministry went ahead and allocated sufficient funding for this important decision. This was to ensure that people residing in small population centres in far-flung places could get easy access to radio services. In many places, radio is still the only way to access the outside world, the only mass media reaching these far-flung places.

NBC PNG – under the leadership of MD, Mr Kora Nou, and Deputy MD, Mr Joe Wafewa – took up the challenge. They planned the entire project plan and set it in motion.

TECHNOLOGY

They decided to go with the world leader in AM transmitters, Nautel. Nautel is one of the oldest and most respected companies manufacturing AM transmitters. Though the Nautel transmitter was considered expensive, it has unbeatable features. Among the most impressive features are great quality, long life and the ability to function in extreme conditions.

About Nautel

Nautel invented the modern solid state broadcast transmitter over 40 years ago. Five generations of transmitter design know-how have been applied to the NX Series resulting in the most modern and reliable high-power transmitters available today.

Broadcasters can choose from surprisingly compact standalone transmitter designs with outputs from 3 kW to 400 kW. These discrete transmitters can be combined to achieve power outputs of up to 2 MW

Nautel Innovation:

  • AM precorrection, unmatched linearity
  • Industry’s top efficiency: 90 percent on 100+ kW transmitters
  • 1.8 MHz direct digital modulation (NX300: 2.7 MHz)
  • 17” touch screen on 25+ kW transmitters
  • 100 percent remote web access to the user interface
  • RF and audio spectrum analyzer
  • Trimode: Analogue, HD Radio®, all DRM modes
  • The new standard in compact MW design

The System Integrator

Once the technology was decided, the next decision was to pick the right system integration partner. The SI partner had to be a local company used to operating in the local conditions and able to provide service and support locally. Obviously, the one chosen had to provide the lowest price. After a series of negotiations, the project was awarded to a local company, South Pacific Systems Private Ltd. This company was located in Port Moresby a stone’s throw away from the NBC PNG head office.

After a long and tough negotiation process, the orders were placed. NBC PNG decided to be careful and split the bigger project into smaller orders. This was to ensure that the system integrator delivered one set before being given the next order. This way, the risk would be minimised and NBC would get the most benefit.

However, disaster struck when COVID-19 engulfed the world. The whole world came to a standstill. All travel ground to a halt. The world’s airports shut down and the project looked to be doomed. However, regardless of the problems, the NBC PNG team just kept moving. The lockdowns, factory closures and airlines closures meant that the time line of the project had to be extended. The product delivery was postponed. However, after this delay the AM transmitter was finally ready for delivery. The transmitter was shipped by sea to PNG.

Once the transmitter was shipped, the attention shifted to all the accessories. Most of the accessories were sourced from Kintronic Labs in the US. Kintronic Labs, led by Mr Tom King, are a pioneer in manufacturing transmitter accessory products. They were chosen because of their great reputation and their wide range of products.

The right kind of accessories were ordered after a detailed discussion on the site survey and other requirements. Once the products were ready, the goods were shipped to PNG.

The original plan was that a team of people would arrive on-site and help the NBC team to install the transmitter on site. However, by now, the second wave of COVID had engulfed the world. The PNG government decided to close the borders. This posed a big challenge. However, the NBC technical team under the able leadership of Deputy MD Mr Joe Wafewa took up the challenge. With the help of the system integrator, the team set about installing the accessories and the transmitter.

It was hard and took a lot of work. The system integrator produced a detailed booklet full of drawings and list of things to check. The on-site team kept in touch and work progressed.

Finally, the accessory systems were installed and the transmitter was tested. The tests were conducted repeatedly over time to ensure that the transmitter was working. The signal strength, distance and other parameters were taken into account. After repeated testing, it was decided that the installation was a success.

Finally, the day came for the inauguration. The Minister for Communications & Information Technology, Mr Timothy Masiu, inaugurated the AM transmitter on 15 July 2021.

Minister Masiu, a former NBC Broadcaster, said the installation of the new transmitter would substantially increase the national radio service in the Highlands provinces, as well as Morobe, Madang, and the Gulf Provinces.

From left to right: Russel Woruba, Deputy Secretary, Department of Information and Communication; Joe Wafewa, NBC-PNG, Deputy Managing Director/Chief Engineer; Bannie Popate, NICTA-Spectrum Management Office; Kora Nou, Managing Director, NBC-PNG

Now that the new AM transmitter is operating, people living in the Central highlands, the Eastern highlands all the way to Morobe province, Madang and the Gulf province will benefit. Radio will bring news, entertainment, knowledge, religion and a host of other benefits. In times of a natural disaster, radio is sometimes the only mass medium working. It can deliver vital information that can save lives. Radio is the only mass medium that can reach long distances with a minimum investment. NBC PNG working together with the Ministry of Communication will work hard to provide radio services to each and every individual in Papua New Guinea.

By: Aale Raza, Chief Executive Officer, Whiteways Systems Pte Ltd
ABU Technical Review, No. 287, July-September 2021

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