SYDNEY — I’ve been with Hope Media Ltd. for 14 years as technical operations manager; during that time I think I’ve seen it all, or at least most everything.
Hope Media is a not-for-profit organization that runs Hope 103.2 on FM and Inspire Digital on DAB+ in Sydney. As one of the largest nonprofit community radio stations in Australia and due in large part to the resources that it has at its disposal, one of Hope Media’s missions is to foster, encourage and provide technical assistance to many smaller stations. These stations are located all over Australia and attention is given specially to rural areas, to help improve their content, fundraising and sponsorship.
As a part of this ongoing mission, Hope Media loans me, generally at no charge, to stations in the community sector to help them with various technical projects.
Recently one of these projects brought me to 94.9 FM Rhema Central Coast. It’s situated about 1.5 hours drive north of Sydney in Erina, and has a population somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000. A couple of years ago they had to move transmission sites due to the land being reclaimed where their tower stood. Unfortunately, their existing 850 MHz STL wouldn’t work with the new transmitter location due to a hill being in the path and they weren’t able to install a big grid pack antenna to the new tower as they were collocating with existing broadcasters.
As a result, there was going to have to be a two-hop link to get to the new transmitter site, and there weren’t any extra STL frequencies available. They installed a two-hop 5.8 GHz Ubiquiti link — the first hop is 8 kilometers/5 miles and the second is 3 kilometers/2 miles.
It’s a small Axia Livewire facility. When I was brought onto this project I recommended running Livewire over the Ubiquiti link and installing their Omnia One processor at the transmitter site. This was reasonably successful, except that they were suffering from interference at times with the 5.8 GHz link.
So an alternate backup path was needed in order to achieve the stable signal that they desired. We tried 4G in the short term, but data plans would be prohibitive for the station in the long term. The transmitter site was hard to get an internet connection to. Like most transmitter sites it was a bit remote, but we eventually were able to get an ADSL connection installed with limited bandwidth and differing amounts of latency. Due to the station having limited funds, we tried multiple cheaper codecs over nine months, but unfortunately due to the ADSL conditions, it proved difficult and we were not getting the results that they needed. Fortunately, the station had applied for a local government grant for codecs, and they were awarded it.
Because of the ADSL conditions, I recommended Telos Z/IP One IP codec, which I have used extensively for backup paths and program distribution with Hope Media. The Z/IP Ones are great because of the Agile Connection Technology (ACT). It adapts to the connection’s conditions, you can set a minimum and maximum bitrate and also a minimum and maximum buffer. It will try to use the highest quality bitrate and lowest buffer, but if packets start dropping it will increase the buffer or reduce bitrate, all on the fly.
Since installing, the Rhema Central Coast connection has been rock-solid, running at AAC 320 kbps without any dropouts, and they couldn’t be happier.
For information, contact Cam Eicher at The Telos Alliance in Ohio at 1-216-241-7225 or visit www.telosalliance.com.