In a Role Reversal, Comrex Aids the Boy Scouts
     

QBSA Remote Director, Tade Sullivan uses a Comrex Access Portable codec to interview the Dragon Boats Aquatic Director on Lake Goodrich at the Summit Bechtel Reserve.
THE SUMMIT BECHTEL RESERVE, W.Va. — In 2010, I was peacefully minding my business as director of sales at Comrex, when the phone rang. The gentleman on the phone was looking for something to help with his remote broadcasts because the gear they were using was not very portable and it was difficult to set up and a bit noisy.

He had heard that Comrex had the best gear for remotes and wanted to know if he could rent or borrow some equipment for this little radio station that the Boy Scouts were putting together for an upcoming event. I stopped him, told him that I am an Eagle Scout and he would have whatever he needed for the 2010 National Scout Jamboree. Next thing I knew, I was on the staff of QBSA (WB4XSA) Jamboree Radio.

This year, the National Scout Jamboree was held at its new permanent home in the New River area of West Virginia. And once again, QBSA broadcast live for the 10-day duration of the Jamboree on 98.3 FM, and in addition to streaming live on the Internet. I was there.

The Summit Bechtel Reserve is 10,600 acres of beautiful mountain wilderness in which the Boy Scouts of America have created one of the largest outdoor recreation areas in the United States. During the National Scout Jamboree, this site becomes host to the second largest population in the state overnight, as 40,000 Scouts and 7,000 adult staff arrive to participate. Even though substantial efforts and financial resources have been made to provide infrastructure for this event the fact remains that the Summit is still in the great outdoors. Obviously, putting together a radio station in the wilderness provides some interesting challenges for transmission, streaming to the Internet and especially remotes. Luckily I have access to some excellent remote broadcast gear that can adapt remarkably well to some of these challenges.

WI-FI WIZARDRY

Our main studio was housed in an RV-type trailer and the scout disc jockeys did their shows in a giant boom box provided by our Chief Engineer Pete Boyce. Over the course of the Jamboree, nearly 2000 Scouts had the opportunity to get on the air. The morning show was charged with making sure that as many events as possible at the Summit are broadcast live for Scouts and Scouters around the camp as well as family and friends back home. The morning show sent out a remote team with a Comrex Access portable IP codec to accomplish the feat. AT&T, one of the biggest sponsors of the Summit, graciously provided free Wi-Fi service throughout the camp and coverage and bandwidth were pretty phenomenal. The site was also well covered with 4G LTE service from both AT&T and Verizon.

One of the main technical challenges (in addition to having to depend on generators for power) is the fact that there was no wired Internet connectivity. Even though Comrex recommends a wired Internet connection on the studio side, we were forced to depend on AT&T Wi-Fi for uploading our Internet stream and our remotes. Remarkably, the bandwidth was substantial and robust. The plan was to use the AT&T 313U Momentum 4G LTE modem with the Access Portable and connect to an Access Rack in the studio which was connected to a PC in the studio with Internet connection shared Wi-Fi.

Unfortunately, a condition referred to as opposing Symmetric NATs prevented the Access units from connecting. By using our BRIC Traversal Server, the devices could see each other but condition of port blocking prevented connection. I usually carry modems for multiple carriers and I was thrilled when I was able to make an easy connection using a Verizon 4G LTE UML295 USB modem. The speeds were fast, latency was low and throughput was very consistent — the perfect conditions for broadcasting a great remote. Our remote team was able to go out to the farthest reaches of the camp and interview Scouts, staffers and dignitaries.

Our Scout staff and Scout DJs benefited from this great experience thanks to support from our friends at BSW, Wheatstone, YellowTec, BSI and Radio Systems. Thankfully, I have four years to rest until the next Jamboree.

For information, contact Chris Crump at Comrex in Massachusetts at (978) 784-1776 or visit www.comrex.com.


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