IBC2018 is approaching. Between now and then Radio World will conduct several short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Bruce Swail is CEO of GatesAir.
Radio World: How has business been for the company since last year’s IBC Show?
Bruce Swail: 2018 has been a very busy year for GatesAir. We have seen significant company growth both in revenue and volume of shipped units. Certainly, much of this activity can be attributed to GatesAir’s market-leading performance in customer wins across the U.S. television spectrum repack.
However, we are seeing significant strength internationally, particularly in Africa. And there is no question that radio remains an important focus for GatesAir, and we are seeing substantial business across FM and digital radio opportunities.
Radio World: What are you hearing from your customers about their business outlook this year? In what areas should we expect growth or the most interesting projects?
Swail: The continued migration from analog to digital in both TV and radio continues in full force. Internationally, DAB radio is an opportunity that many of our customers are pursuing. We continue to prepare our products to meet the growing needs of this market. We’re leveraging the best-in-class, high-efficiency technology behind our Maxiva VAXTE transmitter to accommodate these opportunities for our customers.
We’re also reaching a point where broadcasters worldwide are ready to adopt IP as their primary signal networking and transport platform. Internationally, more broadcasters are moving away from E1 and other circuit-based TDM connections. We’ve adjusted our product strategy to be well-aligned for IP transport and distribution models. In fact, we have developed some novel concepts for migrating between IP and TDM networks to support a more gradual migration away from expensive circuit-based systems. We’re seeing a lot of customer traction with this strategy.
Radio World: You’ve been active in the broadcast equipment market (e.g. AoIP, transmitters) for years. What’s the biggest problem or challenge facing users/buyers in this segment right now?
Swail: Broadcasters and network operators worldwide are very focused on building more efficient transmission systems. GatesAir has been leading the efficiency charge in TV and radio transmission systems since our days as Harris Broadcast. There have been exceptional advances in semiconductor technology in the past 10-15 years that have led to transmitters of increasing high efficiency. The power density and lighter cooling loads that comes with these high-efficiency gains make a compelling case for these customers to upgrade their equipment.
For example, the DVB-T equipment used to support digital TV transitions in the early 2000s lack these operational benefits. This applies to radio as well, especially for broadcasters that wish to invest in high-efficiency FM infrastructure. Whether TV or radio, migrating to these high-efficiency platforms is helping them reduce their bills and invest more money into programming and content that helps them better compete with other multimedia services.
Radio World: What new goodies will your company be showing? Why should attendees visit your booth 8.D60?
Swail: We have now filled out our Maxiva product line across all power levels, from relatively modest, low-power transmitters on up. We have the most modern TV transmitter family in the industry. Within the Maxiva family is our VAXTE range of VHF TV and DAB radio transmitters, and this is where we invested the most for IBC. In addition to now supporting low-power DAB needs, these transmitters adopt the same high-efficiency platform that helps broadcasters reduce costs. They are also extremely space-efficient so that they fit neatly into congested transmission sites. We are appealing directly to the network operator responsible for DAB rollouts, locally or nationally.
There is a lot happening with our Intraplex range of intelligent IP networking solutions. We’re introducing a new software-defined platform that integrates Audio over IP transport into the IT infrastructure, hosted on a COTS server. This will be a game-changer for the radio network responsible for content distribution. We also will show our AES67-compatible codec, the IP Link 200A, in Europe for the first time; and unveil a new hardware platform for our award-winning IPConnect solution for secure and reliable data transport.
Radio World: Is there a particular product segment that is selling really well or that you are about to make a significant change in?
Swail: The TV market is very busy, with a majority of that driven through our repack program. We are seeing massive increases in transmitter shipments. However, we continue to see steady shipments across our FM product line with the Flexiva family of transmitters. We have a very strong product with very good power density, as well as AC-to-RF efficiency, that our customers like. This momentum is beginning to carry into the DAB market.
As far as significant change goes, keep a close eye on Intraplex. Beyond the general migration away from TDM to IP networks, our new COTS server platform is a window into what’s to come over the longer term. We see plenty of opportunity for our hardware codecs, but we will increasingly develop software-based solutions that live within the broadcast or network operator’s IT infrastructure. This will bear similarities to what we have seen take shape in the telecom industry in recent years. There’s a lot of excitement yet to unfold in this area.
Radio World: Is the show a good investment for you and your company?
Swail: IBC remains an important investment for GatesAir. This is the show where we can see a majority of our international customers and partners in one place. It’s always a full schedule of business meetings that we’d otherwise spend weeks if not months traveling to conduct. IBC is a very efficient way to conduct business, and we particularly enjoy the pace of this show.
Radio World: What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend at the 2018 IBC Show?
Swail: The emergence of 4K content delivery entering into the mainstream will be the among the most substantial, and we believe we have the solutions to drive this over the air. IP will continue to be a central focus, both for radio and television.
Radio World: How do your international sales and marketing efforts differ from your U.S. efforts?
Swail: GatesAir employs a similar distribution model across domestic and international markets. We have a direct sales force, regional sales teams, and pre-sales personnel worldwide. Internationally, we lean on distributors and channel partners more to add value. These partners are invaluable for securing international business.
Radio World: What’s hot in the rest of the world? What’s the same – radio is radio no matter where you go?
Swail: The entire evolution from analog to digital remains a very hot topic globally. Sure, radio is radio no matter where you go, but it’s becoming more digitally delivered. There are alternative carrier modes and over the top platforms. Broadcasters are adopting multimedia delivery models to attract broader audiences, but over the air remains very strong and we see a bright future of opportunities through DAB and other digital radio standards.
Radio World: What does the future hold for GatesAir as a company?
Swail: We are a pure play broadcast company solely concentrated on our segment. Our success is entirely determined by how we perform for our broadcast customers each day. By being a pure play, we’re not exposed to a parent company suffering a cyclic downturn in its other core segments. Since we are private equity held, it could mean new ownership in the future. If and when that time comes, it will be solely because we are being pursued by an acquirer impressed to the point of purchasing our company. We would consider that a compliment on our success.