As IBC2016 gets closer, Radio World offers a series of short Q&As with manufacturers about their plans and offerings, to help you get the most out of the big annual trade show. Rich Redmond is chief product officer for GatesAir.
Radio World: How has business been for the company since IBC2015?
Rich Redmond: Having our finger on the pulse of all over-the-air activity in TV and radio, business has been strong from the perspective that broadcasters globally continue to invest in existing analog infrastructure upgrades; and transitional projects that move broadcasters to digital broadcasting and multichannel services. While the TV business generates a larger amount of attention in our industry due to the storylines around spectrum repack and ATSC 3.0 activity, radio remains a strong business and an important revenue generator for both GatesAir and our customers worldwide.
RW: 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?
Redmond: It differs by region. The rebuilding of FM infrastructure is something of a global trend we are seeing, and we are seeing new FM licenses in countries such as India and Brazil. This is driving a lot of GatesAir business in these countries. Interestingly, investment in AM infrastructure is on the rise in parts of the Middles East and Asia, where high-power AM is still a very useful mechanism for the distribution of audio content.
Digital radio forecasts remain strong. In Europe, digital radio — particularly DAB — is making serious headway from a transitional perspective. In North America, we continue to see strong deployment of HD Radio. Elsewhere, the Asia-Pacific region is still collectively in the early stages of transition, while the Middle East and Africa are active with trials.
RW:What do you anticipate will be the most significant technology trend, generally speaking, at IBC2016?
Redmond: IP infrastructure is a meaningful and timely subject for almost every supplier and broadcaster in the industry, TV and radio. We find there remains a lot of confusion around IP, however. Many broadcasters see a transition to IP as adopting an entirely new mechanism that will revolutionize how they operate. Rather, IP is a highly flexible platform that simply enables more cost-effective and operationally efficient execution of tasks that broadcasters have done for years.
We have seen much wider adoption of IP globally in the past 18 months. Our customers are using our Intraplex IP Link codecs and NetXpress systems for more flexible contribution, distribution and monitoring of audio content and data. DAB Radio broadcasters are leveraging the EDI capability in our Maxiva XTE exciter for multipoint networking across many transmitter sites. Elsewhere, broadcasters are finding IP as a more effective platform for remote control and monitoring. We believe that IP will continue to infiltrate virtually every corner of the production and airchain.
RW: What new products will your company be showing?
Redmond: We’re very excited about debuting our Flexiva LX transmitter range to international audiences. This is a budget-friendly option for optimizing low-to-medium power FM broadcast infrastructure that at the same time incorporates modern, high-efficiency technologies that enhance connectivity, reduce size and carbon footprint, and streamline maintenance. For international broadcasters, this is also a very useful series for gap-filler applications in larger transmitter networks. We’ll also debut out IP Link MPX codec in Europe, which is a full duplex product specifically built for broadcasters that lack the network bandwidth to distribute a full AES92 digital FM composite signal. Instead, the IP Link MPX enables analog FM composite multiplex signals over IP, and uses less than half the bandwidth needed to support AES192.
RW: How is this new product (or products) different from what’s available from your past products, and elsewhere on the market?
Redmond: Unlike many competitive transmitters serving these power levels (10 W to 2 kW), we’ve offered digitally modulated FM exciters in our analog transmitters for more than 20 years to maximize quality, compliance and performance. The Flexiva LX continues that trend. However, we are also integrating other technologies, like a powerful multiband digital audio processor, that are typically purchased and installed separately. That processor is also supporting composite clipping and dynamic RDS to transmit dynamically changing information associated with song title, artist and other data. This all equates to optimal performance and sound that are often sacrificed for translators, gap fillers and low-power FM stations.
RW: What’s your favorite thing about the IBC show? Your least favorite?
Redmond: First, Amsterdam is a world-class global city and an excellent place to visit. The venue is fantastic and there all sorts of things to see and do besides the show, time permitting. Once on the show floor, IBC is a smaller show in general. It is easier to digest than NAB from the standpoint of seeing many things. The fact that it is over a weekend seems to allow greater participation from those that otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend in Europe. And in general, IBC is a more structured show when it comes to making appointments. Attendees are more formal about specific times, topics and schedules. This makes it easier to engage in longer and more fruitful conversations with customers, partners and peers.
My least favorite part of IBC? Standing on the cement. Nonstop. For five days.
RW: Do you have any suggestions that would make the show a better experience for exhibitors and/or attendees?
Redmond: Take some time to walk the floor. The fact that IBC is a longer show provides that extra breathing room to do that, especially as an exhibitor. Every year, I find something interesting or unique from an unknown innovator in the most unassuming and quiet corner of a less-traveled hall. There is always something interesting to unearth.