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Transmission lines are one of the main components in the RF transmission plant of a broadcast station.

Acting as the connecting link between the transmitter and the antenna, the transmission line plays a critical role in both the quality and reliability of the broadcast signal; therefore, the proper choice of a transmission line type to be used can have a significant impact on the success of the station.

With the development of digital formats for transmitting broadcast signals, it is important to review the existing transmission line performance specifications and any measured data on the installed line at the broadcast site prior to completing plans for implementing digital transmission.

The choice of transmission line is typically decided based on the following criteria: Frequency of operation Power handling Attenuation (or efficiency) Characteristic impedance Tower loading (size and weight)

Semiflexible coaxial cables are designed with soft-tempered copper inner and outer conductors. This type of transmission line is used extensively for radio and low power television broadcasting, as well as interelement feeders for some antenna types.

Rigid coaxial lines are designed with hard-tempered inner and outer conductors. They have high power handling capabilities and low attenuation values.

Coaxial transmission lines used for short interconnections between equipment, typically inside buildings, have traditionally been referred to as RF cables. They are small in diameter, making them very flexible and very useful in areas with minimum space. The

Globally, semiflexible coaxial lines are the most popular choice for broadcasting applications. It is ideal for a wide variety of low and medium power transmission systems.

Foam dielectric lines are designed for systems that normally do not require a gas pressure path to the antenna or other connected components. Typical applications include FM radio and low power television where the antennas do not require pressurization.

Air dielectric cables utilize a spiral dielectric material to separate the conductors. Because the majority of the volume between conductors is now air, these cables have lower attenuation and higher average power handling than foam dielectric cables.

The phase stability of the cable over long periods of time is extremely important. Ordinary coaxial cable should not be used in these instances, as it is subject to significant phase variation with temperature change during its initial usage.

These cables have been subjected to a process that cycles the cable through a wide temperature range to remove the phase instability caused by hysteresis (movement between the inner and outer conductors).

It is important to make all connector and splice attachments with the cable ends in a horizontal position. This minimizes the chance of metal chips falling into the cable during the trimming process.

Proper attachment of the finished connector to the antenna or transmitter prevents loosening of the connection from vibration or other stresses. These connections should be securely taped to prevent loosening. Tighten bolts that are opposite (not adjacent) to the proper torque specification. Overtightening can result in a warped flange.

Two principal methods for FM Digital Transmission are employed: One is combining the analog and digital signals using a hybrid combiner at the outputs of the analog and digital transmitters and then using a single transmission line to a common antenna. The second involves installing a second antenna and transmission line to transmit the digital signal.

The frequencies of operation fall between 88 and 108 MHz, and the characteristic impedance of the cable will almost always be 50 ohms. Increased size of the cable used is a positive for power handling (higher ratings) and attenuation (higher efficiency) but is a negative regarding line costs and higher loading on the tower.

A proper installation can be the difference between a smooth running transmitter site and a continuous effort to correct failures in the transmission line and antenna system. Environmental changes results in substantial stress on the cable from corrosion, vibration, atmospheric contaminants, and thermal changes that are not present with indoor installations.

GROUNDING: Because the cable represents a direct connection between the outside and the transmitter equipment, proper grounding is necessary to protect the equipment from the large currents caused by a lightning strike. ELECTRICAL TESTING: When the line has been installed and mechanically inspected, an electrical check is necessary for maintaining a reliable system.

If the installation of the coaxial cable is done properly, then basic maintenance procedures will keep it operating trouble free for many years. Repair procedures usually involve tightening and replacement of hardware and damaged hangers.

It is important that installers follow the manufacturers recommended procedures to avoid damaging the line by denting or kinking and to correctly attach it to the tower using the appropriate hangers and spacing for long-term reliability.