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Retired FCC/OET Staffer Honored by Industry for Contributions to Broadcasting Propagation Models

This week the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers (AFCCE) honored John C. H. Wang, an FCC/OET retiree, with this year's AFCCE E. Noel Luddy Award for outstanding technical contributions to the broadcast industry. John is one of the unsung heroes of the FCC technical staff who labor in obscurity - I doubt if anyone on the 8th Floor even knows his name - but who contribute greatly to the enabling of FCC-regulated services through putting FCC regulations on a sound technical basis. In John’s case this was a thorough understanding of skywave AM radio propagation that enabled maximum utilization of the AM band within the US and reasonable protection to and from stations in other countries. Prior to John’s work it was thought this this propagation was a solely a function of distance, john produced simple models that showed how north-south propagation was different from east-west propagation.

John retired in January 2010, after over 40 years of public service. He developed the AM skywave propagation model, which is now in Part 73 of the FCC Rules, and contributed significantly to ITU-R Rec. P.1147.

John Wang received his BSEE degree from the University of Maryland in 1959, and his MSEE degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1968. He taught at Penn State before joining the technical staff of the FCC in 1969. His research interests include ionospheric propagation and has published more than 40 technical papers in different professional journals. His most important contributions to the telecommunications community include the development of a LF/MF sky-wave propagation model which forms an important part of the FCC Rules. His propagation model is now recommended by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for world-wide applications (Recommendation P.1147). He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) - an honor given only to 2 other FCC engineers in recent memory.

John has been active in the Radiocommunication Sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R) since 1978. He also represented the USA to the 1980 and 1986 Radio Conferences together with several AFCCE members, and chaired the propagation groups. Although retired from the FCC, he currently still serves as the vice chairman of ITU-R Study Group 3 and the chairman of its working party on ionospheric propagation.

His avocations include astronomy, bridge and Chinese history. He has written several papers on the sightings of sunspots in ancient China and the Star of Bethlehem.

Here are John’s remarks at the award ceremony

Mr. President; Ladies and Gentleman; My former colleagues at the FCC: It is a greathonor to receive this most prestigious award. It is a great pleasure to see so manyfriends here tonight.

I was very fortunate because when I came to work for the FCC in 1969, there wasalready a very large databank in existence waiting for me to study. FCC skywavework started during WW II. Hundreds of engineers and technicians had alreadycontributed to it in the last sixty years. Tonight, standing here alone to receivethis honor, I feel somewhat guilty.

I am not going to touch the mathematics. That is left to Ron Chase and Bob Weller. I will only point out some future applications I was not able to pursue. As you areaware, the new skywave model differs from the old clear-channel curve in one majorarea. The new method contains a latitude term. Latitude is a very important factorin propagation. As a rule of thumb, skywave signal level increases by about 1 dBwhen latitude decreases by 1 degree. In other words, the old clear-channel curve,which is still the official method for ITU Region 2, over predicts field strengthsin the high-latitude areas and under predicts in the low-latitude areas.

If the new method is used between US and Canada, some existing stations may beallowed to increase power. Some stations may be allowed to extend operating hours. And there will be more stations allowed on the air. It would be a WIN-WIN situationfor both countries.

The situation in the southern hemisphere is more complicated. In US, the upper limitof power is 50 kW. In Latin America, the sky is the limit. There are many stationsoperating with 500 kW or more. In other words, their arms are longer. They cancause interference to us but not vise versa. On top of this, the skywave modelbeing used has a tendency to under predict interference levels in this part of theworld. US stations are thus in a highly disadvantageous position. By switching tothe new method, sources of interference will be more accurately identified.

The first regional broadcasting conference governing North America (or, NARBA) tookplace in 1950. Thirty years later, in 1980, another regional conference took place.It is time for the ITU to convene another round of broadcasting conferences. I amconfident when that time comes; you young engineers will be able to accomplish whatI have not been able to do. Thank you.

Congratulations, John, on this well deserved honor.
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