I started in professional radio in 1968. A transmitter company in Hackett’s Cove, Nova Scotia was founded in 1969. That company was Nautel, and both of us have been in the radio business for over 50-years.
Nautel initially began as a company that would build and supply solid state navigation beacons for the Canadian government. These solid state transmitters replaced ones built using tubes and proved to provide greater reliability and longevity; in fact, many of these early models are still in service today.
In the early 80s, Nautel would apply their knowledge and experience in building solid state beacon transmitters to radio broadcast transmitters, introducing 10,000 and 50,000 watt solid state AM transmitters.
One of the readers of this blog, saw that I would be doing a road trip through Atlantic Canada and reached out to me suggesting I email Jeff Welton at Nautel and ask for a tour of the company’s headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Nova Scotia. When I reached out to Jeff, he quickly responded that he would be happy to give us a tour.
In 2020, Jeff Welton was the recipient of the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award.
Jeff has been with Nautel over 30-years, and is an expert in digital radio, radio technology and radio engineering. He is currently sales manager for the central United States region for the company. When I reached out to him, he quickly responded that he would be happy to give Sue & me a tour.
Since COVID-19 closed down the world, many of the people not involved in the manufacturing process at the Nautel facility work from home, so like most businesses these days, the volume of workers in the plant on any given day is lean. However, business for the company has never been stronger. The amount of orders they have in their production pipeline is noticeably higher than what it was before the pandemic began.
Jeff told me the company’s support team maintains several lower power standby transmitters (both AM and FM) for their customers that can be immediately moved to a location where a customer’s transmitter plant has experienced an emergency. Currently all of the support transmitters are in the field, as several stations have faced challenges this year, ranging from floods to fires to older (non-Nautel) equipment failing and needing something to get back on the air fast.
Solid State Technology
I had always heard Nautel being referred to as the “Cadillac of broadcast transmitters.” After Sue & I toured the plant, we understood why. Nautel oversees every element of their transmitters, from building the cabinets, to the internal components, down to the wooden crates that the finished product will be shipped in.
Nautel’s large impact on the radio broadcasting industry came with its introduction of solid state AM & FM transmitters and as the benefits of solid state technology became clear, radio broadcasting quickly embraced solid state designs over tubes.
Its focus on solid state technology from Nautel’s inception in 1969 is what made it a leader.
The company is privately owned, and Kevin Rodgers the current CEO/President of Nautel, worked for the company for decades before taking over the company from its founders.
While I’ve been to several different manufacturing plants over the years, what I found touring Nautel’s operation in Nova Scotia reminded me of touring a pipe organ manufacturer in Ohio. In each case, the company’s employees were like family, with the newest employees having multiple years with the company. There is enormous pride in the construction of the finished product down to the smallest detail.
Both the organ company we visited as well as Nautel, want their products to provide years of trouble free service but are always ready to provide customer support on a moment’s notice.
Today, Nautel has more than 19,000 customers in 177 countries, with their RF (radio frequency) solid state solutions providing reliable service in harsh climates from the arctic circle to the world’s deserts.
Nautel is one of those rare companies that is big enough to be at the cutting-edge of innovative technology and small enough to respond to specific customer needs.