New FM Booster Station (for full-service FM and LPFM)
FM Booster Stations can be filed at any time without the need to wait for a filing window.
FM Booster Stations are intended to assist existing FM (and LPFM) stations in filling in "gaps" in their coverage within their current service contour, usually due to intervening terrain. FM Booster stations operate on the same channel as their primary station. Depending on the terrain situation, boosters can be from very simple to more sophisticated arrangments where synchronization of the main transmitter with the booster is necessary. In some situations, very careful engineering must be done to assure the least amont of interference to listeners in areas where the FM Booster competes with the primary station's transmitter.
Applicant requirements and limitations:
FM Booster Stations will only be authorized to the licensee of the primary station. Unlike translators, a third party can't be the licensee of an FM Booster Station.
The FCC Rules for LPFM stations allow up to two additional secondary facilities of either FM Translator Stations, FM Booster Stations or one of each.
Current LPFM licensees:
Most LPFM stations are at ground level and have nearly a perfect 3.5 mile (5.6 kilometer) service contour circle. In those cases, it may be nearly impossible to operate a booster as it would be very difficult to keep a booster station within the service contour of the primary station. LPFM stations that can benefit from boosters are in areas like Southern California or other parts of the west where there is mountainous terrain and the primary LPFM station is located in a manner where there is a large mountain range behind the antenna and a valley in front of the antenna thus causing a low height above average terrain. We also refer to that as "the Foothill Effect". Even in those cases, the best candidates for a FM Booster Station will have multiple valleys inside of their designated service contour and the booster is used to reach the valley that is otherwise blocked from the primary station but still within the overall 60 dBu service contour of the primary LPFM station.
Service technical details:
FM Booster Stations must be engineered so that the 60 dBu service contour of the booster is completely inside of the service contour of the primary station. A booster can't be used to extend a service contour outside of the area that the station is entitled to in their primary service contour.
Boosters are limited to an effective radiated power (ERP) of 20% of the class maximum power for the station's overall service class. For LPFM, that would be 20 watts ERP. For Class A, 1.2 kilowatts ERP.
There are additional protections necessary to nearby stations on first-adjacent channels.
Similar policies apply to FM Booster Stations that apply to FM Translators where it comes to interference remediation and protection of foreign stations. Like FM Translators and LPFM, FM Booster Stations are limited to 50 watts ERP in all directions that measure within 125 km of the Mexican border.
SInce the stations can be applied for at any time, it would be assumed that the applicant has assurance to use the site. No additional showing is necessary unless specifically requested by FCC staff.
Directional antennas commonly used with FM Translator Stations can be used with FM Booster Stations. Due to the unique nature and application of FM Boosters, it is most likely that a booster will use some kind of directional antenna. A directional antenna can be used to demonstrate that the coverage of the FM Booster Station is completely inside the service contour of the primary station.
Community coverage requirements:
There are no specific community coverage requirement. The main limitation is that the 60 dBu contour of the booster must remain entirely inside the service contour of the primary station.
Competing applications (MX):
Not applicable to booster stations..
Nature of broadcast service
This service is limited to the permittee or licensee of the primary station that the booster will rebroadcast. No other party can be a licensee of an FM Booster Station. Since the FM Booster Station is on the same channel as the primary station by design, the booster can't specify a different primary station nor can it change channel. FM Booster Stations can't be turned into FM Translator Stations.
Parties to the application
No additional qualifications are required as applicants who can apply for FM Booster Stations are already FCC licensees or permittees.
Responsibilities of licensee
Once a facility is completely constructed, the application for license is filed. Once granted, the facility is fully licensed. Broadcast licenses are issued for 8-year terms however the original license will be issued for the period of time from when the license is granted until the date when all radio broadcast licenses for that state expire. The renewal process is fairly easy. Renewals for FM Booster Stations are filed on the same form as the primary station by indicating the booster as an additional broadacst station.
Public Notice rules apply to new FM Booster Stations. Effective with the new Public Notice rules (MB Docket 17-264), the public notice can be done online on the primary station's website.
The costs associated with an FM Booster depend on the arrangement. You need to take into consideration the costs of doing on the ground signal strength monitoring unless the area to be served is blocked by high terrain and even with that, any interference in the "transitiion area" between the primary station and the booster must be taken into consideration.
Delivery of the programming from the primary station to the boosters will need to be taken into consideration. Depending on the terrain type you may need to use a microwave or other near real time link. Feeding through home or business grade internet service (such as a cable modem or DSL) may result in uncertain latency. This is less of an issue of the booster serves an area separated from the primary station by hard terrain.
Depending on the arrangement of the booster station, there is a possibility that a delay will need to be placed in the audio chain at the primary station's transmitter. This would compensate for the slight amount of delay that would take place when a the station's audio is delivered out to the booster. Without this delay, the listeners of the primary station will hear the audio before those listening on the boosters and if the radio receiver is selecting between the booster and the primary station, it could lead to an undesirable listener experience.
Directional antennas are a norm for FM boosters. Most boosters use "off the shelf" directional antennas such as those manufactured by Kathrein-Scala and others. Off the shelf directional antennas may cost as much as around $2,000. Custom pattern (or composite) directional antennas may run into the five figures. Unlike full-service radio, FM Boosters do not have the same surveyor verification process, which will cut an expense there. Instead, other stations that receive interfrence from the booster can use the same remediation policy that applies for FM translators.
For filing assistance, REC does charge for services based on a “level of effort” from each situation. For FM Booster Stations, you can expect professional fees of between $1,000~$1,500 based on exactly what needs to be done. Non-directional antennas will come in at the power part of that range while directional antennas go closer to the higher end. REC’s FM Booster Station offering will include the filing of the original application and the post-construction application to obtain the full license and the original ownership report filing that is due just after licensing. The higher fees may apply when directional antennas or other complexities are added. Additional fees may be charged if the applicant makes a change after significant work is performed. REC bills in advance before work is done. REC can be paid securely online using a major credit or debit card. Payment by check is also permitted but must clear prior to the filing window. For public sector and educational institutions, Michelle Bradley of REC can provide a W-9.
REC can provide very basic “preliminary checks” for “yes/no” answers on potential availability prior to payment. It is REC’s policy to not collect unless we are sure the request can be done. To keep our prices low, REC has a no-refund policy.
There is no retainer or other fee to start your relationship with REC Networks for this window. Please contact REC by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202 621-2355.
We look forward to working with you. We hope to hear you on the air real soon!