ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — Steele Communications is part of Newcap Radio and its studios in St. John’s are the hub for radio transmissions throughout Newfoundland and Labrador in Eastern Canada. These regions are vast, mountainous and sparsely populated, which creates a number of broadcast challenges. Apart from the extremes of weather, some of our transmitters literally take days to get to.
From St. John’s we run AM and FM stations in Marystown, Clarenville, Gander, Grand Falls, Corner Brook and Stephenville, Newfoundland. VOCM (AM/FM) is the main station in St. John’s and delivers various network talk programs to affiliates. K-Rock 97.5 runs a classic rock format and is also important for distributing a morning show.
I first installed a pair of Tieline codecs about six years ago as a backup STL connection for sending IP audio from our studio in St. John’s to our transmitter site in Carbonear, Newfoundland. The first Bridge-ITs replaced mono satellite links to three main STL sites in Labrador and we now have 20 Bridge-ITs installed as IP STL links across our network.
All connect using regular DSL internet links and their reliability is awesome. So much so that after running copper backup links for about a year (at $550 per month), I took the plunge and decided to cancel them and run with the Bridge-ITs on their own. They haven’t missed a beat since, saving us thousands of dollars annually. A single telco is used for all our DSL links and I suspect this one of the reasons the DSL links are so reliable.
Earlier this year I oversaw the upgrade of aging satellite equipment which needed replacing. This was a major project that took around a year to scope and implement, but it has paid rich dividends.
We installed two Tieline Genie Distribution codecs in St. John’s and they send audio to 12 Genie STL codecs at different sites. One Genie Distribution uses multi-unicast mode to transmit from VOCM to six Genie STL codecs at our AM stations. The other Genie Distribution codec uses multi-unicast mode to transmit from K-Rock 97.5 to our four FM stations. We also send return audio from the Grand Falls studio back to St. John’s. We feed this back to the Genie Distribution units and use connection profiles to transmit to Genie STLs in Springdale and Baie Verte, which are repeaters of Grand Falls.
All stations integrate network programming with local programs. We use the control ports on the Tielines to accommodate split functions across the network. While the network stations are running network programming they split to local commercials and sponsored casts as required.
This project saw us integrate a massive fiber backbone to cover all our remote sites. Originally we had different providers delivering data in all regions, until we realized that Eastlink, the “cable guys” in our part of the world, also managed WANs for business customers. After negotiations and some cable upgrades near St. John’s, we managed to consolidate our data requirements through Eastlink. This was for everything, not just our audio STLs.
This allowed us to drop our satellite links and we now have 100 Mbps links to each studio and 1 Gbps return paths for audio and other data requirements to our head office in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. We have configured network QoS to guarantee the bandwidth allocated to our codecs while streaming and the links run flawlessly. We could run linear uncompressed audio if we wanted to, however we are impressed with the performance of Tieline’s Music Plus algorithm and this is more than adequate for our requirements.
Many of our hubs like Grand Falls have repeaters and before installing the Tieline Genie Distribution and STL codecs our satellite costs were around $70,000 each year. The money we have saved has paid for the purchase of all the codecs in less than a year. We also saved a substantial amount on our data costs by consolidating all these additional services through Eastlink.
We have configured all our Tieline codecs with static IP addresses, which allows us to remotely monitor and configure them using Tieline’s Toolbox browser graphical user interface. We also recently upgraded all our Bridge-ITs with new firmware so we can take advantage of Tieline’s HTML5 web interface.
Satellite is an expensive beast and I would encourage engineers whose networks have large outlays for satellite or leased lines, to investigate IP alternatives. With the Tieline IP codec equipment our network has realized enormous savings and this will allow us to invest in other equipment. Our example shows you can successfully implement IP solutions over both managed and unmanaged IP networks — even if repeaters or transmitters are in extremely inaccessible remote locations.
Newcap Radio has made the decision to roll out similar Tieline setups across the country over the coming months. This is due to the success of the Newfoundland and Labrador networks, and their ability to provide network programming while splitting local commercials at a much lower cost than satellite.
For information, contact Tieline USA in Indiana at (317) 845-8000 or visit www.tieline.com.