TV Broadcaster Transition to DTV Provided by WirelessGuys and Nera Networks

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WirelessGuys and Nera Networks provided a licensed wireless solution to Venture Technologies Group during their recent DTV transition. The 20 mile link from Mt. Wilson to the Los Angeles Wilshire Studio has heavy RF and EMI interference. The 11 GHz solution provides 100 Mbps of throughput for a project cost less than $20,000.

From its home base in Los Angeles, CA, telecommunications company, Venture Technologies Group, LLC, owns and operates a variety of television stations nationwide. This TV broadcaster is able to keep its overhead low by using unlicensed 5.8 GHz radios, instead of the more common licensed analog microwave radios used by most broadcasters, to send program video from it's studios to it's transmitters.    

During the recent transition to DTV, Venture Technologies Group was approved for and built a digital station on Mt. Wilson, approximately 20 miles from its Wilshire studio. The company then faced the task of getting a signal to the Mt. Wilson transmitter. According to Daniel Bissett, Director of Engineering for Venture Technologies Group, the Mt. Wilson station is the same distance from the studio as one of their other stations located on Mt. Harvard and only 1.5 miles to the side of the Mt. Harvard station. Because the company had what seemed like a reasonably good 5.8 GHz link between the studio and Mt. Harvard, the assumption was that the same type of equipment used for the Mt. Harvard link would work for the Mt. Wilson link as well. This assumption proved incorrect. Bissett stated that the 5.8 GHz link to the Mt. Harvard station has a fairly high bandwidth but there were issues with its alternating and varying latency, resulting from high local RF noise levels, that made the link unsuitable for sending actual video over it. At Mt. Wilson, the RF noise levels were so high, that the available bandwidth was reduced to almost nothing. Links to this site proved to be useless.

WirelessGuys began its association with Venture Technologies when Daniel Bissett began employment there a little over three years ago. Prior to that time, Bissett and successfully collaborated on several projects with Bissett and his former employer. One of the first projects WirelessGuys performed for Venture Technologies was the link to Mt. Harvard. Although problems with EMI and RF interference were expected, the link went off "without a hitch". Several subsequent projects were also highly successful and, therefore, when it became necessary to establish the link between the Wilshire studio and Mt. Wilson, Bissett once again called upon WirelessGuys to provide equipment and installation.

After a variety of 5.8 GHz radios and a 23 GHz radio were first tried and proved to be unsuccessful, it was determined that a licensed situation would be necessary. Several manufacturers of broadcast licensed radios researched were determined to be modeled on basically digital conversions of one way analog models. Additionally, their price points were extremely high considering the cost of the radios and installation. Bissett stated that his budget for a one way radio link to Mt. Wilson from the average one of these vendors was $80,000 - $90,000, an amount that is unrealistic in the low power TV business. This dilemma was soon remedied by WirelessGuys' suggestion to use the viable and cost effective point-to-point radios manufactured by Nera Networks. According to Bissett, is a "bleeding edge, new vendor" that puts a lot of technology into their radios to keep the cost down. The cost saving philosophy of Nera is welcomed by WirelessGuys, a company that competes with proprietary communication systems for increased cost effectiveness. At a cost of $10,000 per pair of 11 GHz radios, Venture Technology's budget for the Nera radios was approximately $20,000 including installation and licensing for two way communication at 100 mg per second. Bissett noted that, although Venture Technology's primary use of the system is to transport program information from the studio to the transmitters, there is more than enough bandwidth to transport video the reverse direction if the need were to arise.

Daniel Bissett summed up his experience with WirelessGuys and the Mt. Wilson project saying "I'm happy. The most important thing is that if we had not been able to find a solution in this price range, we would not have been able to make a purchase. There wasn't any way that the typical solution would have applied here due to budgeting issues."

Nera radios suggested by WirelessGuys provided a link that is "Straightforward and it works, and it works well. We tested this link as much as we could in terms of trying to identify where the speed would break down and we got out to 50 Mbps before we couldn't test it any faster. We just don't have enough equipment to go any faster over the link," said Bissett, adding that the testing was with IP encoded video and not simply data transfer.

With an increasing number of TV station ownership companies being forced out of business by the current recession, the continuing efforts of WirelessGuys to seek out cost effective, cutting edge equipment providers is essential for companies such as Venture Technology Group to continue service their customers. "WirelessGuys has been our provider all along," said Bissett and he indicated no plans in the near future to alter that relationship.

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Steve Williams
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