Leighton Broadcasting Streamlines Audio over IP Transport with GatesAir Intraplex Ascent

GatesAir, a global leader in wireless, over-the-air content delivery solutions for radio and TV broadcasters, announces that Leighton Broadcasting—a St. Cloud, Minnesota-based radio station group—has replaced hardware-based, point-to-point IP STL systems with its software-defined Intraplex Ascent Audio over IP transport platform. The project represents the first commercial implementation of Intraplex Ascent for software-based transport, as well as the industry’s first application of Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) for broadcast audio streams.

Intraplex Ascent delivers several immediate and long-term benefits for Leighton Broadcasting. The architecture leverages common off-the-shelf servers at aggregate studio and transmitter sites, consolidating the transport of audio and program-associated data over IP for five radio stations serving the St. Cloud market (KCLD-FM, KCML-FM and KZPK-FM, plus two FM translator signals).

The SRT application strengthens reliability and security as a low-latency open source media streaming protocol that provides packet encryption and re-transmission capabilities, along with browser-based monitoring and control tools. Intraplex Ascent’s built-in Dynamic Stream Splicing (DSS) application further protects each station’s signal integrity by diversifying SRT data across redundant networks.

Intraplex Ascent reduces cost and complexity for Leighton Broadcasting by eliminating five separate hardware codecs at the receive end to serve five distinct transmitters. Ascent’s high-capacity configuration will support up to 16 distinct audio programs in one rack unit, providing plenty of room for additional Leighton Broadcasting stations moving forward.

“The scalable nature of the Ascent architecture gives us the flexibility to first simplify program transport for our St. Cloud stations, and gradually transition our entire group of stations across Minnesota and North Dakota as we see fit,” said Tony Absalter, Director of Engineering for Leighton Broadcasting. “The ability to control and monitor Audio over IP transport for multiple stations at once from a centralized hub is one of Ascent’s greatest attributes. We also appreciate that we can configure the system to send signals to our main and auxiliary transmitter sites, as well as to boosters and/or translators, with the ability to re-route signals on short notice.”

 

“GatesAir has long taken an aggressive approach to migrating broadcasters to IP networks for program audio and data transport, consistently bringing new innovations to market that help our customers lower costs, streamline connectivity and add services,” said Keyur Parikh, Vice President and General Manager, Intraplex Product Group for GatesAir. “Intraplex Ascent amplifies these benefits by providing a quicker path to all three, without the need to buy new hardware as each new radio station is added.”

Over IP and higher education

While « Over IP » is the new trend on the media technology market, the number of companies adopting this technology evolves sluggishly. Following the latest IBC, the technology is clearly there, but there is a lack of knowledge on the system integrator side to provide both IT and Broadcast expertise in environments with are evolving towards the perfect blend of both technologies.

Two years ago, Broadcasting Center Europe set the ball rolling, with the first over IP headquarters including the broadcast centre, the production and postproduction platforms as well as the ingest and news workflows.

IP-based platforms allow us to rapidly setup new channels,” comments Costas Colombus, Technology Projects & Support Director at BCE. “Whereas it is for continuous or ephemeral channels, we are able to give a fast answer and start broadcasting the content worldwide.”

BCE_Playout
Playout over IP at Broadcasting Center Europe

“We recognized a strong consumer demand for pristine content but need to also provide for that demand in the most cost-effective and efficient manner,” said Julian Ankiah, Head of Technology Engineering at MultiChoice Support Services. “We needed to take advantage of the benefits of IP signal reticulation, while ensuring tight integration with our existing platforms, and particularly our business services.”

Multichoice moved to an IP playout platform thanks to Imagine Communications, Megahertz started to work with major US broadcasters for the implementation and tests of IP, CCTV renovated its platforms with NDT and RadioFr and La Télé, both swiss private broadcasters, upgraded to an all IP broadcast centre with SLG Broadcast AG.

“MEDIAParc is the first all-IP mediahouse in Switzerland, and as such it represents the successful realisation of an ambitious vision encompassing cross-media workflows,” said Marc Straehl, CEO of SLG Broadcast AG. “RadioFr wanted all-IP infrastructure for both radio and TV sides of the house. They wanted to virtualise the production environment, so that editorial PCs could contribute programming directly via the network.”

Mediaparc_RadioFr_Studio
Studio at RadioFr

What about audiovisual education and high schools? It is paramount to make the roots evolve as soon as possible, in order to have qualified employees in our next generation media companies. Of course, it is part of our job to train the actual staff to meet the new technology, but it would be much more effective to change the student curriculum and include immediately over IP knowledge.

Recently the BTS Audiovisual Henri Martin, in the City of Saint-Quentin in France, decided to upgrade to IP SMPTE-2110 its infrastructure. The school decided to keep both SDI and IP technologies, in order to be sure that their students will be well prepared for any type of infrastructure. The choice is quite smart, since there is still a lot of media players that are not equipped with this technology, but it will be an undeniable asset for the companies to have employees which can evolve easily with future upgrades.

Jacques Tabary, the headmaster of Henri Martin High School told us that they were looking forward to evolving to IP for a long time but that they did not know themselves how to start such a transition. To do so they were helped by Boite à Outils Broadcast which helped them draft a specification and publish a tender. Broadcasting Center Europe (BCE) was selected and worked hand in hand with the teachers and the students to answer all their needs in technology and training.

“We have fifteen teachers on the technical part at the BTS. You must rely on teachers who have been able to take this type of training, but also on professionals – for example we have a chief editor who comes from Canal+. As part of this project, we had not sized the importance of training on the hardware and related new technologies such as IP. BCE has trained our teachers so that they can acquire the skills necessary to use the equipment,” comments Jacques Tabary.

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Production control room over IP at the BTS Henri Martin

A few weeks ago, we heard that Orange Business Services, a network operator and a digital services integrator teamed up with BCE for the Radio France project. The massive French radio group has announced that it will transform the media infrastructure of its headquarters, Maison de la Radio, to next generation, full IP technology.

“The combined expertise of Orange Business Services and BCE, complemented by the professionalism of Maison de la Radio’s project teams, will allow us to innovate and facilitate the production and broadcast of programs while meeting the highest standards required by the media sector,” comments Patrick Fasso, Technical and Information Systems Director at Radio France.

RadioFrance
Radio France headquarters