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Algoa FM’s ‘sounds of silence’ explained

File


Algoa FM was back on the air at 21h00 on Friday evening after nearly 13 hours of complex troubleshooting.

At approximately 08h02 on 15 March, the radio station’s transmitters went quiet. Not only did the station go off the air, but so too did its extensive network of streaming platforms and the company’s access to the Internet.

“I’d like to thank our loyal listeners, clients, and my team, for their patience as we navigated a very challenging day,” said managing director, Alfie Jay.

“Despite well-maintained layers of redundancy, industrial strength surge protection circuitry, cyber security firewalls, and backup systems, our services simply went offline.”

Initial indications from several contracted service providers suggested a potential link to Thursday’s Seacom cable outage.

This triggered a two-way diagnostic and interrogative troubleshooting process of every link in the broadcast chain.

“Ultimately, we concluded that our system lost multiple layers of sync as a direct result of a power surge that occurred when the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality switched the power back on at the end of load shedding.

“Despite layers of industrial surge protection circuitry built into our various systems, even a minor dip or surge in voltage can wreak all sorts of havoc on electronic equipment, computers, and communications hardware.

“Our signal travels through multiple networks linking a myriad of technologies that incorporate both audio and data applications,” says Jay.

“These various technologies are coded in different languages to communicate with one another starting at our studios, and continuing through the broadcast chain to various consumer devices, which include traditional radios, computer software applications, television decoders, and mobile apps.

By 12h00 the broadcast chains in George and East London had been thoroughly tested and the green light was given for Simon Bechus and Gordon Graham to broadcast their respective afternoon drive shows. 

“Diagnostics of our primary site in the Baakens Valley however, is a more time-consuming, labour-intensive process due to the complex nature of the network as well as the various technologies employed in the chain from studio to transmitter and from city to city.

“While it took time for us to diagnose the root cause of the problem at our primary site, I am proud of the thorough work done by my team and the good relationships we maintain with our service providers.

“Although surge protection units are purchased with a life expectancy, the increase in power outages over the past few years has dramatically shortened all manufacturer’s promises of performance.

“I would recommend that companies keep a close eye on their surge protection systems to avoid what we’ve just been through.

“It is unfortunate that protracted load shedding has become a norm in our country.

“This together with unreliable quality of power supply and unplanned electricity outages in Nelson Mandela Bay, continue to put major pressure on the city’s infrastructure as well as businesses and residents.

“It is essential that regular maintenance is undertaken by the Municipality on electricity infrastructure, which essentially was not designed to be switched on and off,” says Jay.