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User Report: Satellite System Upgrade Reduces Costs for EMF

Christian Broadcaster Uses Wegener Media Servers to Provide Content for Far-Flung Network

ROCKLIN, CALIF. Through its K-Love and Air 1 Radio Networks, Educational Media Foundation broadcasts Christian music programming to radio audiences across the United States. As a not-for-profit organization that owns and/or operates more than 600 FM radio stations and translators, EMF constantly is looking for ways to improve its broadcasts and reduce operating expenses.

In order to introduce “store and forward” technology and improve space segment costs, EMF invested in an MCPC (Multiple Channels Per Carrier) system in August 2004, after 10 years of running satellite radio networks via multiple SCPC (Single Channel Per Carrier) satellite channels.

EMF selected a Wegener solution for network control and satellite receiver technology, since Wegener Unity satellite receivers are DVB compliant and offered several modular options, saving EMF substantial time and money during the upgrade. The central operation hub uses Wegener’s COMPEL network control and MediaPlan content management systems to control, schedule and distribute content for programming, public affairs and public service announcements.

Continued expansion

In 2006, EMF integrated Wegener iPump 6400 media servers for live and file-based radio broadcasts and, as the networks have continued to grow, has continued with the same technology with iPump 6420 media servers.

A remaining problem was the reliability or availability of phone lines on remote mountaintops, so over the past four years EMF has reviewed many options to improve two-way communications while reducing operating costs. EMF decided to enhance its existing program distribution satellite system by adopting a VSAT network for monitoring and control.

Historically, EMF has used a terrestrial connection to monitor the Wegener satellite receivers and media players, but has now started to replace terrestrial links with a VSAT low-data wide-area network (WAN) for transmit and backhaul operations between affiliates and our central operation hub. A ViaSat LinkStar IP system was chosen because it can multiplex into the existing MCPC carrier, and enables EMF to operate the IP network at a lower data rate than would be needed for a second DVB carrier on the satellite.

Simultaneously, EMF is switching its satellite network to use DVB-S2 modulation, which offers performance gains over DVB-S modulation and helps achieve significant operational cost savings. EMF is really taking advantage of the internal modular design of the Wegener receivers to create a cost-effective network upgrade path, upgrading its 600 Wegener Unity 4600 satellite receivers deployed at sites across the country by simply installing new DVB-S2 tuner cards in the field.

EMF is also installing VOIP modems at all remote sites to further leverage EMF’s existing VoIP phone system. This will provide further cost savings by eliminating the substantial monthly phone bills that result from all remote sites dialing in for remote control readings, EAS data delivery, as-run log information and more. All that data will now be delivered via IP without the security concerns of connections to the public Internet. As a further cost savings, EMF has been able to upgrade the existing 1.8-meter receive-only satellite dishes to transmit /receive, which saves on replacement and shipping costs, as well as space rent for a second dish.

Combining DVB-S2 modulation, point-to-multipoint data distribution, and file-based broadcasts has created excellent cost savings opportunities. The servers and receivers link into the VSAT network to create a more consistent and cost-effective flow of data reporting back to the central COMPEL network control system.

With hundreds of receive sites, many of which are unmanned, reliable monitoring of digital files and receiver health and status is critical to ensure on-air operational success. The Wegener network control solution provides end-to-end management of live and digital media files in addition to the ongoing network programming, and the ViaSat IP system and Wegener satellite upgrades will have a return on investment (ROI) of less than three years.

Alan Guthrie is an engineering advisor with the Educational Media Foundation.

For information, contact Wegener at (914) 764-4531 or