“The Super Yooper” . . . . . . . . . . (or : Tropo-Scatter in Da U-P )

“Say Yah to Big City TV in Da U-P”

Our Goal: Lots of Channel choices for Free Over-The-Air HDTV in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Now Introducing:

“The Super Yooper” !


The time was, not so long ago, that folks around Escanaba couldn’t get but 1 or 2 television stations.

Undoubtedly, it isn’t much better elsewhere in the U-P, maybe even worse.

But around July 1, 2010, AbilityHDTV took aim to change things as far as TV in the U-P.

I headed up to the “Fish Camp” with a Fracarro Sigma6HD and our new “ULNA/EXT” Ultra Low Noise Amplifier, confident that within a few hours of arrival we’d have conquered poor TV reception in the U-P.

The “Fish Camp” is located on Big Bay de Noc, about 5 miles east of Nahma, and about 15 miles west of Manistique.

Arriving mid-afternoon, and after some greetings and visiting, I was on the roof with the new gear.

Installation was straight forward: change out a connector, change out the 5-ft mast for a 7-ft mast, mount the Sigma6HD, with the “ULNA/EXT” amplifier attached directly to the antenna “F” connector and enclosed in the weather boot.

I also added a lightning arrestor block, as there hadn’t been one installed before.

By around 6pm it was buttoned up and time to find out how well the antenna was working, and while we were pleased at first with receiving 6 stations, even more stations began coming in the later into the evening we watched.

As I recall, we were receiving around 15 stations by around 9pm -10pm, many from the Traverse City area downstate, about 110-130 miles.

A good day’s job done, we figured !

But then, after about 9am the next morning, things took a turn for the worse. Stations were flickering out and then dropping like black flies.

By noon, we were only seeing 2 or 3 stations. I was worried, as crow pie is not my favorite.

What to do ? Well then and there, I vowed to put up 2 Sigma’s, and if that wasn’t good enough, then 3 Sigma’s would probably do the trick. And if we still didn’t have lots of daytime TV, I was committed to even 4 Sigma6HD’s before I would be willing to concede: ‘no TV for the U-P’.

Fortunately, we had a customer just down the road that had purchased a Sigma6HD a few weeks prior. Still in the box, he agreed to let us take it and ship him a new one.

Luckily, I had also brought along an extra “ULNA/EXT” amplifier, and, the “Fish Camp” just happened to have a splitter/combiner hanging around in the utility room that also was the type that passes DC Power to the amplifiers just the way we needed.

So back on the roof, that additional couple of feet of mast came in very handy. We added the 2nd Sigma6HD, with its own amplifier just like the first one, attached the combiner, and tye-wrapped the cables.

Getting down off the roof and running to the TV to scan for new channels, we were pleasantly surprised to find around 12-13 channels coming in steady, and it was still in mid-afternoon !

As the evening wore on the channel count just kept rising. It hit well over 25 stations, around 28-31 stations, as I recall. Several of the stations were out of Milwaukee, about 200 miles, and another one from Battle Creek, about 235 miles.

But  what we found the following morning was what this was really all about. Even after a lot of those distant night time stations had dropped out by around 10am, we still had 12-15 channels that were strong and steady all day long.

We declared success for “TV in Da U-P” !

But, how could this be possible ?

What about “TV is line-of-sight” ? …

and, “The Earth’s curvature limits TV to about 60-70 miles” ?

What we were watching was mostly, not line-of-sight, but “Tropospheric Scatter”. Tropo-scatter is a propagation mode known for 100+ mile transmission paths, but also difficult to receive reliably, it’s often thought of as a “once in a Blue Moon” phenomenon.

But reliable it was, and still is. The US military relies on “Tropo-Scatter” for 100-150 mile UHF and microwave field deployed data links, in obviously mission-critical situations.

Tropo-Scatter is do-able, but does require lots of antenna gain and an antenna amplifier with a very very low Noise Figure.

Our U-P Station Line-UP:
( ‘*’ stations are 24 hour day/night reception)

2.1*   ABC    WBAY Green Bay, WI ( 121 miles, day & night reception)

3.1*   CBS    WJMN Escanaba (only 24 miles- the one everybody gets)

4.1     NBC    WTMJ Milwaukee (about 199 miles, morning, evening, nighttime)

5.1     CBS    WNEM Saginaw (about 215 miles, morning, evening, nighttime)

5.1*   CBS    WFRV Green Bay, WI (125 miles, day & night reception)

6.1*   PBS    WCML Alpena, MI ( 129 miles, day & night reception)

7.1*   NBC    WPBN Traverse City, MI ( 109 miles, day & night reception)

9.1*   CBS    WWTV Cadillac, MI ( 108 miles, day & night reception, This is broadcast on VHF RF channel 9 !)

11.1* FOX WLUK Green Bay, WI (121 miles, day & night reception)

12.1   ABC    WISN Milwaukee ( 199 miles, morning, evening, nighttime)

21.1* PBS WCMW Manistee, MI ( 115 miles, day & night reception)

26.1* NBC WGBA Green Bay, WI (123 miles, day & night reception)

27.1* PBS WCMV Cadillac, MI ( 108 miles, day & night reception)

29.1* ABC WGTU Traverse City, MI ( 108 miles, day & night reception)

30.1   FamilyNet WVCY Milwaukee (about 199 miles, morning, evening, nighttime)

32.1* FOX WFQX Cadillac (110 miles, day & night reception)

32.1* MyNetworkTV WACY Green Bay, WI (123 miles, day & night reception)

38.1* PBS WPNE Green Bay, WI (121 miles, day & night reception)

41.1   ABC    WDTV Battle Creek (235 miles, morning, evening, nighttime)

45.1* FOX    WFUP Cadillac, MI ( 102 miles, day & night reception)

54.1   TCT    WTLJ Muskegon, MI (185 miles, morning, evening, nighttime)

58.2   CBS    WMCW Milwaukee ( 199 miles, morning, evening, nighttime)

We hope you enjoyed the story of The Super Yooper. If you live in a challenging reception area, or if you would simply like to have fun seeing stations that are “too far to receive”, let us help you to configure your own “Super Yooper” system.

- Paul Anderson, AbilityHDTV General Manager