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Alexander at NAB: Locating Long-Term Solutions

AoIP products open up avenues of facility improvement and should be a sound investment

Radio World has been asking our readers about their NAB Show experiences. As this year’s show recedes in the rearview mirror, we conclude the series with Cris Alexander, director of engineering for Crawford Broadcasting.

What is the size of Crawford’s radio holdings?
We currently have 22 stations in 11 markets. 

What did you hope to accomplish at NAB Show this year?
I am always looking for ways to simplify and consolidate infrastructure in our facilities through use of AoIP, better and more efficient use of digital media systems, and, as always, I am looking for ways to improve the listener experience. In addition to all that, I am seeking ways to reduce the number of tower climbs necessary through the use of LED tower lighting and for possibilities involving the use of dual white/red tower lighting so we can stop painting towers every few years (a huge expense, especially for our large, free-standing towers).

What are your unique challenges, as a technical executive for a large radio company?
One of the biggest and ongoing challenges I have is finding technology solutions that fit the unique application and represent the best long-term value. This often means spending considerably more on the front end for a product that will not only endure but also have the flexibility, adaptability and capability of being updated in the field to keep up with technology advances and changing needs.

Any specific projects in the works?
We will, in the coming couple of years, be converting to AoIP infrastructure in key markets. These facilities are already all-digital; changing to AoIP opens possibilities for us that don’t exist with the current infrastructure.

Another big project is implementing carrier-grade Part 101 microwave links to replace low-bandwidth (and low-capacity/throughput) conventional STL links. These will provide us with transmitter sites that are fully integrated into the studio LAN and will open up the ability to control and monitor the sites from virtually anywhere.

What trends do you see as most notable, in the conversations and conferences you saw?
I saw AoIP everywhere. In booths all over the exhibit floor I saw other manufacturers’ products set up to demonstrate that the exhibitor’s product is compatible with those other manufacturers’ products and communications architecture. While we lack a single standard, a couple of front-running standards have emerged that give broadcasters good options with a wide base of support and available products and accessories.

Any booths or companies you particularly try to visit every year?
Nautel is a must-see for AM and FM transmitter products. Wheatstone always has new and exciting products that we can use. Telos Alliance is a can’t-miss on the floor circuit. RCS is always on my list. And I always find exciting new products and opportunities at Tieline, RDL and Inovonics.

What’s your favorite part of the NAB Show?
Seeing and catching up on the latest with old but seldom seen friends and colleagues.

Least favorite?
Sore feet, slow buses and cab lines.