Nera's M4 Makes the Connection

With WorldCommunicator, Remote Broadcasts Are a Breeze for KIIS(FM)
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With WorldCommunicator, Remote Broadcasts Are a Breeze for KIIS(FM)

LOS ANGELES My first encounter with Imarsat's technology was with a "B" terminal (Nera Transportable), which I had rented from Mackay Communications when I was responsible for a radio broadcast aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, during its maneuvers in the Persian Gulf in 1999.

At that time, I only had a week to select and acquire the appropriate equipment, become an expert on the system and ship the gear overseas. After making several phone calls and sending numerous e-mails to many satellite providers, I was led to a company called Mackay Communications.

The Mackay representative who answered the phone understood exactly what I was referring to when I asked about V.35 and "U/S" interfaces for ISDN use. Mackay's technical support staff was fast to respond to phone calls and helpful.

Codecs Across The Water

Mackay recommended that I use the Nera Transportable for this application. I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive because I had never used a system like this on dry land, let alone set one up on an aircraft in the middle of the Persian Gulf. I was amazed that I didn't have to realign the dish at all.

My needs are a little different than most users of this system. Instead of connecting to the Internet, I was connecting two audio codecs thousands of miles apart. Both applications are similar in that a user is sending and receiving data between two points. The broadcast from the carrier went smoothly and I was encouraged by the reliability, speed and clarity of the connection, as well as the ease of integration given the limited preparation time.

Since that time, I have developed a great relationship with Mackay through my current contact, Patrick Fisher, director of satellite services. I received a call from Patrick in 2000, and he suggested a new land-based system called the M4, better known today as the WorldCommunicator, developed by Nera Satcom. This device is a laptop-sized satellite system that gives the end-user a 64 kbps wireless ISDN channel (or 128 kbps by linking two units). This was exactly what I was looking for, so Patrick arranged for a personal demonstration. When he arrived and set up the M4, we ran through a simulation of my application.

Remote Control

As a broadcast engineer for Clear Channel's Los Angeles KIIS(FM)and KHHT(FM) radio stations, one of my duties is to coordinate and execute remote broadcasts. Often the station program director requests a broadcast from a location with only a few days' notice, eliminating the option of the two-week turnaround required by most phone companies to establish an ISDN circuit at the site.

With Nera's WorldCommunicator, on the other hand, installation time depends only on how "long" it takes to remove it from its protective pouch. I merely have to connect my Telos Zephyr audio codec to the M4's RJ-45 "S" interface and I can immediately dial into my station's ISDN line from the front panel. Within a few seconds, a connection was established and I could hear audio from my broadcast studio in Burbank, Calif. After that demonstration, I asked Patrick how fast I could get one of these systems.

My use of the WorldCommunicator for remote broadcasts has not only been an asset to our radio station, but has assisted many other stations throughout the United States. Since my company purchased the system, I have received numerous early-morning phone calls from technicians saying, "I'm at this restaurant setting up for our morning show broadcast and the ISDN line is dead, can you come out with your M4 and get us connected?"

Hail To The Chief

The most noteworthy assignment using Nera's WorldCommunicator was when our San Diego affiliate, station KOGO(AM) and KMYI(FM), requested that I coordinate the broadcast coverage of President Bush's speech on-board the USS Abraham Lincoln on its way home from the Persian Gulf in May 2003. This involved managing the satellite uplink for Clear Channel's 1,200-station cluster.

The major challenge was dealing with all the White House restrictions on board the vessel. We had to do most of our work on the hanger deck with a limited view, so portability and ease of setup were critical. Once it was close to speech time, I was able to quickly move the WorldCommunicator into position on the flight deck, where the president would conduct his speech. The radio broadcast was once again a success, and received by millions of people throughout the United States.

I can't say enough about the positive results from broadcasting via the M4. The WorldCommunicator and the Imarsat system ensures that radio broadcasters can produce their shows, despite challenging circumstances, such as reporting from the middle of nowhere, and without concern for lengthy set-up time or high monthly costs. This enables us to respond to spontaneous newsworthy events.

For more information, contact Mackay Communications in North Carolina at (919) 954-1707 or visit www.mackaycomm.com

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