ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — Steele Communications is part of NewCap Radio, the second-largest private radio broadcaster in Canada. Steele consists of 27 licenses in the eastern half of the country, primarily in Newfoundland.
We first bought a pair of Tieline Bridge-IT IP codecs as a backup STL connection for sending IP audio from CHVO studios in St. John’s, Newfoundland to our transmitter site in Carbonear, Newfoundland. The Bridge-ITs performed well over the regular Internet and we were so impressed that we decided to use Bridge-IT codecs to replace the mono satellite links from our studios in St. John’s to our three main STL transmission sites in the Labrador part of the province (officially known as Newfoundland and Labrador; Labrador is the mainland).
The impetus for the change came not only from a cost perspective, but also because we were performing AM to FM conversions for the stations. The sites previously had received mono audio via satellite; adding another channel would have been costly. When Tieline announced that Bridge-IT was able to multi-unicast to several locations, I decided to give it a go based on the reliability of our Carbonear installation.
The Big Land
The FM stations in Labrador consist of one main transmitter site (CFLW) and two repeaters (CFLN and CFLC) at remote locations, where receiving repeater signals using off-air receivers was not an option. These transmitters are 1,700 miles from St. John’s and 370 miles apart. One is located at Labrador City, the second is at Churchill Falls and the third at Goosebay.
The Newfoundland and Labrador regions are vast, mountainous and sparsely populated. In fact the area is known as “The Big Land,” which covers around 115,000 square miles. As a result, a lot of our transmitters have to be fed program using either satellite or telco copper.
Both of these options are expensive to install, operate and maintain. The reliability and cost-effectiveness of the Bridge-ITs changed our way of thinking and have allowed us to place our product in communities where cost would originally have made this impossible.
To get up and running we installed regular DSL connections with static public IP addresses at the studio and each of the transmitter sites. Using the Tieline multi-unicasting and AAC codec package at our St. John’s studio allowed us to send high-quality AAC-LC audio at 128 kbps to these three transmitter sites in Labrador. We have been on air successfully to these sites for six months using Bridge-IT as our main source for stereo transmission, while the satellite is now our mono back up.
In general Bridge-IT codecs are simple to set up and we have found the connections to be reliable. We use the default auto jitter buffer settings and have noticed that the automatic gain controls within the codec are transparent.
We also found the link quality reading on the codec helpful for troubleshooting. On one occasion one of our sites had a bad cable pair for the DSL line and we discovered that the link quality was jumping from 30 to 99 in high winds. This helped immensely to find the source of the problem and to this day I am not sure how we would have figured this out so precisely without this feature.
Another useful feature is the Bridge-IT Web-GUI, which is a user-friendly, easy way to program the codec. It is convenient, especially for our remote locations. We can log in and view our connections via the Internet using a Web browser and check the line quality of our remote locations from a single page anytime, from anywhere.
You shouldn’t have to sacrifice convenience for cost; with Bridge-IT you don’t have to. Of course we have other IP codecs in our organization but Bridge-IT works the same or better for less than half the price and with more options.
Overall, when you broadcast using IP you get better value for your investment dollars and more control over your connections. Our engineers love the sound of the codecs and they are compact and cost-effective.
Shawn Basha is director of engineering for Steele Communications.
For information, contact Mary Ann Seidler at Tieline Technology in Indiana at (317) 845-8000 or visit www.tieline.com.