What are translators and LPFM stations all about? They pretty much serve the same purpose. Serving a small area with a format that may not be readily available otherwise. LPFM's are usually live and local while translators have almost no local content. But why does the FCC allow translators to operate on second adjacent frequencies, but LPFM's can only operate on thirds?
Here's an example. Detroit's major FM signals operate at 92.3, 93.1, 93.9, 94.7 and so on. Say you live in Romulus. A translator could sign on in your town at 92.7 if there was nothing nearby at that frequency. An LPFM station looking to sign on in your area would be stuck at a third adjacent, which would be 92.9. This could not happen because you are now right next door to another local signal at 93.1. Eliminating the use of second adjacents for LPFM's makes it impossible to LPFM broadcasters to find a frequency to use, even a scan through a scan through the FM dial in Romulus would find several seemingly open frequencies between the aforementioned '92.3 93.1 pattern' for a possible LPFM operation. But translators get to take these frequencies.
Some may argue that LPFM's are stronger than translators, as LPFM's are allowed 100 watts and 30 meters. Translators can use up to 250 watts, but often use less wattage than that. Furthermore, their antennas are often higher than an LPFM operation. So even though a translator may only use 13 watts of power, their antenna may be 75 meters high. This allows this puny 13 watt translator to make it out several miles and in some cases even outlast their LPFM counterparts. A personal example. Here in Coldwater our nearby LPFM's in Battle Creek and Marshall barely squeak into the area, but don't last too much longer. However, translators from Portage and Kalamazoo and even Kendallville, Indiana can be heard here (albeit very weak) on any given day.
The FCC is currently taking a closer look at this. Let's hope they make the right decision and let satelators and LPFM operators share the FM dial.