BURLINGTON, Vt. — Headquartered in West Lebanon, N.H., Great Eastern Radio owns 15 radio station in three states, including several in Vermont. WJKS(FM), known to listeners as KISS 104.3, serves the Burlington/Plattsburgh, N.Y. market with a classic hip-hop format.
The WJKS transmitter site, as we like to say, is on the “wrong side” of Lake Champlain. The rural site is distant and challenging to reach both by vehicle and STL transport. For the latter, Frontier Communications provides a long-distance fiber connection to the transmitter with very reliable service.
However, a fiber connection doesn’t work when the wire is cut — an unwelcome event we experience several times a year when a snowplow or vacationer comes in contact. Traditionally, these events silence our signal for up to 48 hours. When this happened recently month, we had an ace up our sleeve: A GatesAir Intraplex IP Link solution that can now seamlessly switch between three network feeds.
We have long used Intraplex T1 STL systems, several of which remain on the air with recent IP module upgrades. As T1s fade and broadcasters adopt IP transport with confidence, systems such as IP Link have become the primary transport system. We selected the cost-efficient base model — the IP Link 100 codec — with a standard configuration that places the encoder at our studio and the decoder at the transmitter site. Each device integrates dual power supplies for maximum redundancy, along with support for numerous compression algorithms.
Our IP Links manage three streams: an uncompressed stream over fiber; an AAC stream over a Cradlepoint 4G network; and an Icecast streaming service. When the fiber connection went south last month, the full uncompressed stream automatically switched to the Cradlepoint AAC stream. With the fiber connection down for 28 hours, the AAC stream kept us on the air with no noticeable difference in audio quality. In the future, if the Cradlepoint 4G feed temporarily fails, the IP Links will grab the Icecast feed from our streaming server.
GatesAir’s Dynamic Stream Splicing (DSS) software provides the secret sauce for reliable transport delivery. We have two streams operating over the fiber service that are offset by several hundred milliseconds. If packets are missing in the primary stream, the DSS software grabs those packets from the secondary stream to repair the missing audio. While it is not live on the other networks, the DSS software could be applied to take audio from backup transport networks — an option we are looking at for future rollouts on other Great Eastern Radio stations.
Configuration of the IP Link codecs is simple, with an intuitive process that requires little more than logging into the web interface and managing some basic settings. The two codecs were passing audio within a half hour. We folded the IP Link codecs’ SNMP monitoring capability into our VPN network infrastructure. The two codecs monitor SNMP traps and will dispatch alarms in the event of any immediate or impending failure. To date, we have had no such issues.
Otherwise, the devices interoperate cleanly with other systems in the air chain: A Wheatstone Blade feeds the encoder at the studio, and the decoder at the transmitter site feeds AES and analog audio to Wheatstone X3 and FM55 audio processors, respectively. The fact that the IP Link integrates AES and analog outputs is an important benefit, as we can switch between the two processors during firmware upgrades and other maintenance procedures.
The IP Links have been so reliable that we are already planning a single-format, three-transmitter Intraplex system that will cover sites in Keene, N.H., and two sites in Vermont (Stratton Mountain and Mount Snow). These sites have also been affected by fiber line damage in the recent past, especially during winter months. We will use the same exact network configuration — fiber with Cradlepoint and Icecast redundancy — with IP Link codecs managing transport over all three networks.
For information, contact Keith Adams at GatesAir in Ohio 1-523-459-3447 or visit www.gatesair.com.