WheatNews August 2019

WHEAT:NEWS AUGUST 2019  Volume 10, Number 8

Telecommuting: Radio Osnabrück

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Click on the photo above for a gallery of photos

Radio Osnabrück talent are telecommuting into work these days. Covering the Osnabrück land region in Lower Saxony, Germany, the station has one main studio, a network of transmitters, and several on-air personalities telecommuting from various locations throughout Germany.

Talent run their shows from a  PC loaded with a ScreenBuilder user interface that connects over the public Internet with a VPN connection into the station’s WheatNet-IP audio networked studio in the city of Osnabrück. Onscreen buttons enable remote talent to access sources, take listener call-ins, and do all the things they would otherwise do if they were physically in the studio. That includes talkbacks to other talent at various locations and triggering a local traffic announcement on the RDS encoder.

RadioOnsabruck

Radio Osnabrück on-air personalities remote in from all corners of the station’s regional coverage area in Germany through a user interface on their laptop or PC, which connects into the station’s WheatNet-IP audio networked studio in the city of Osnabrück. The UI was created with ScreenBuilder by Danny Teunissen of MRZ Broadcast in The Netherlands, who was the systems integrator for Radio Osnabrück’s new studios. 

Tieline codec units, Proppfrexx automation and VoxPro recorder/editors are integrated into the WheatNet-IP audio network using Wheatstone’s ACI protocol. Through the  Proppfrexx automation, talent have access to utility mixers in each of the I/O BLADEs that make up the WheatNet-IP audio network for routing and segueing between program feeds during broadcasts. Tieline codecs can be triggered remotely and status indicators are visible from the Proppfrexx automation as well. The ACI protocol ties codecs and automation to SLIOs (software logic I/O) in the WheatNet-IP network for triggering events and elements, with user access from the ScreenBuilder UI on the talent’s PC as well as a split-frame LXE console in the main studio and IP-12 control surfaces in Studio 2 and Studio 3.

It’s Show Time 

WheatAroundTheWorld2We returned from the TAB show in Austin, Texas, in time to pack for the AMITRA conference in Acapulco, Mexico, (Aug. 22 to 25) and SET Expo in São Paulo, Brazil (Aug. 26). Then, it’s off to CCBE in Toronto, NAB Radio show in Dallas and IBC in Amsterdam next month.

Be sure to look for the Wheatstone banner at these upcoming shows and ask us about our new virtual consoles, AoIP appliances and audio processing.  

See you soon! 

IBC SHOW D1 FIBC is coming right up and as always, Wheatstone will be there with our latest and greatest gear. See us in  Hall 8, Stand C91 from 13 to 17 September, 2019. 

Audio Performance Testing

ProcessingLab Jeff 2560

We’ve been asked about audio performance testing in our travels across the U.S. recently with our X5 FM/HD audio processor. Our Jeff Keith shared a few simple tips on performance testing for a good, clean air chain in this article from our archives, originally from October 2014.

Click here to read the story.

ISDN Challenge, Accepted

Switchblade Chart for AoIP BookTelecoms are shuttering ISDN services and we all know what that means. 

Something new will inevitably come along to take its place. 

That something for iHeartMedia is SwitchBlade.This new appliance for our WheatNet-IP audio network combines audio codecs controlled by SIP, transporting Wheatstone SLIO and ACI controls as well as serial data for this and other purposes.

Widespread deployment of SwitchBlade across iHeartMedia stations began earlier this year, allowing the group to migrate from ISDN to an integrated AoIP alternative that standardizes on the Opus codec and uses SIP for initiating the connection for many different existing codecs in the field.

Previously, the group had been searching for an ISDN replacement that could take full advantage of AoIP. The problem was that even though AoIP has moved studios into the IP realm, converting that IP audio into a routable codec solution had been, in the words of Steve George, Senior VP of Engineering / Upper Midwest, iHeartMedia Engineering, “a clunky bolt-on solution.” In many cases, broadcasters had to resort to running separate codecs or software on computers in the studio with soundcards wired directly into the console. 

“We were looking for a way to take WheatNet-IP audio in our studio facilities and seamlessly integrate bi-directional codec functionality into the architecture. The ideal solution would operate natively in both environments – presenting fully-connected AoIP channels on the studio audio side and functioning as fully-featured AoIP SIP/Opus (VoIP) codec for audio connectivity outside the studio facility,”explained George. 

With VoIP making an impact in corporate telecommunications and SIP being implemented by all the major codec equipment manufacturers, an AoIP appliance with SIP enabled codecs held promise as a reasonable replacement for ISDN distribution.

SwitchBlade is an entirely new concept to come out of Wheatstone’s partnership with Radiomation, an Irish company that had already been doing pioneering work linking Wheatstone equipment to existing ISDN and POTS telecommunications equipment. SwitchBlade combines SIP, codecs and WheatNet-IP control and logic into a 1 RU appliance. It provides 24 remote AoIP connections with 24 separate software codecs directly into the WheatNet-IP audio network; each can be routed to any source or destination on the network.

With WheatNet-IP control and logic included, SwitchBlade offers other benefits, too. “Among the many unique qualities of this appliance is its ability to dynamically assign and pass any of 78 GPIO closures and have serial network cues associated with satellite-delivered program travel with the program audio, arriving at the remote end still perfectly synchronized with the content,” said George. SwitchBlade achieves this by embedding the signals directly into the audio stream so that signals and content are always perfectly synchronized regardless of any delays to the signal path. 

Moreover, each of SwitchBlade’s 24 modules can be individually controlled by custom console interfaces developed using ScreenBuilder – our virtual development application. Modules are integrated into iHeartMedia’s NexGen and other automation systems for automating the various remote AoIP connections for each show.

In addition to ISDN distribution, SwitchBlade has changed the thinking on everything from satellite program distribution and telephone contributions to inter-facility content distribution. 

Editor’s note: SwitchBlade won the “Product of the Year Award” in the Audio Production, Processing and Networking category at NAB 2019.

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In the video above, iHeartMedia's Shea Raftus, producer of the Steve Czaban morning show, discusses how they've implemented Wheatstone SwitchBlade into their workflow.

ATSC 3.0 Mobile Chip and 5G

By Dee McVicker

GordonSmithSeshSimhaIt was a moment to remember. NAB CEO Gordon Smith (shown above left) held up a mobile phone during his opening remarks at NAB 2019 and called attention to a new ATSC 3.0-compatible chip that makes it possible to receive over-the-air TV and radio broadcasts on phones. 

In that instant, the idea of putting broadcast receiver chips into mobile devices transcended from pipe dream to something you could hold in the palm of your hand. 

Not only is the chip compatible with the ATSC 3.0 standard, it is compatible with all television and radio standards around the world. That’s a big selling point for mobile device makers, who build for a global market. So is the chip’s pivotal role in broadcasters being able to partner with 5G wireless providers as the one-to-many carrier in the coming age of mass mobilization. This chip holds promise of new mobile applications as well as revenue streams for broadcasters and it’s largely based on the IP realm, something we’re keenly interested in here at Wheatstone. 

To find out more about these new developments, I contacted Sesh Simha (shown above right), who is with Sinclair Broadcast Group’s ONE Media 3.0 subsidiary, and works closely with Saankhya Labs, the Indian company developing the mobile chip.

DM: Tell me about the chip. I understand it’s compatible with multiple broadcast standards. 

SS: It is fundamentally a demodulator chip that takes the analog signal, digitizes it and delivers IP bits. It’s completely agnostic to the content in the bit stream. It supports multiple broadcast standards, not just ATSC 3.0, but also DVB-T2, ATSC 1.0, ISDB-T, and DTMB. And not just terrestrial but also satellite and cable standards for set boxes, home gateways, and auto and mobile applications. It’s a software defined chip that we introduced in January and it’s being tested now. 

Read the rest of the interview

DM: Why now? Why is a broadcast chip so important now? 

SS: The value proposition of broadcast is offloading of live and popular content from congested broadband mobile networks. We’re building a “cellularized” broadcast approach where 5G wireless carriers can integrate broadcast into their networks for live streaming and file delivery, one-to-many coverage. Instead of sending unicast streams to many devices, the idea is to send one ATSC 3.0 stream to multiple devices. You now have a single nationwide broadcast where a million could be reached in one or a few streams, whereas unicasting a live soccer game or cricket match to a million would mean one million separate streams. This solves one of the problems with 5G. The 5G buildout CapEx is huge because they need a large number of points of presence. We believe that compared to 4G, you only need one in seven towers to be equipped with ATSC 3.0 broadcast capability as an equivalency. And in congested metros, that ratio can be as small as one in thirty-five!  Broadcast spectrum in this range of 470 MHz to 600 MHz also has the benefit of good indoor reception, even over long distances. In the long run, the cellularized broadcast approach is going to get an evenly high signal strength indoors, not only to televisions but handhelds as well. For this to work, we need a broadcast chip.  

DM: Anytime anyone talks about adding a broadcast chip to a phone, there’s always the question of reception. How is the reception handled with this chip? 

SS: You do need an antenna. One of the things we’re looking into at Saankhya is a device, say, a 5- or 6-inch smartphone that has an embedded antenna. It’s not an insurmountable challenge. We are in discussions with Indian Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) to produce such a device in small quantities for trials. And that will stimulate the adoption of ATSC 3.0 for mobile reception, as the systems get built out. 

DM: Explain how this is all coming together. Let’s start with your role. You are the Senior Director of Advanced Projects for ONE Media, which is a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group -which, I might add, is leading the way for broadcast’s involvement in mobile broadband. You are also affiliated with Saankhya Labs, which is developing an end-to-end cooperative network platform including radio nodes and mobile end user devices. Explain. 

SS: Saankhya and ONE Media are partnering together to cellularize broadcast for mobile. All the technology work that is leading to ATSC 3.0 integrated into 5G systems is being done by Saankhya, in which Sinclair has a minority interest.  We are already seeing interest from other technology providers to participate.

DM: Are other broadcasters involved as well? 

SS: Sinclair has created an organization in the US where we’re working with Nexstar and Univision and others for testing, and as a united front for wireless operators. We have a test market in Dallas where we’re doing work with multiple stations, and there’s testing starting to happen in Cleveland, Detroit and several other markets. There’s also Pearl TV, and they have a Phoenix test market. There is collective momentum now; we all benefit from everyone’s involvement in developing the ecosystem. 

DM: It’s going to take a global effort though, right? And that’s a bit of a challenge given that ATSC 3.0 is a broadcast standard predominantly being adopted in the U.S. and South Korea presently. 

SS: At the end of the day it’s about broadcasting bits. The good thing about 5G is it is virtualized and what that allows is for 5G to interact with non-3GPP waveforms, and ATSC 3.0 is considered non-3GPP. An international standard may rely on the physical layer of ATSC 3.0 (or a mobile optimized future version), but would be merged with 3GPP mobile stacks at the ‘L3’ (IP) and upper layers. The broadcast offload standards development is happening in India. ONE Media and Saankhya Labs are members of the India standards organization called TSDSI, one of the 3GPP partners. We organized a joint seminar six months ago between ATSC and TSDSI in New Delhi, and it was the first time that convergence of broadcast and broadband was brought up in a big way. 

DM: Why is Sinclair so interested in getting broadcast into the broadband and mobile space?

SS: ATSC 3.0 provides an all IP pipe, and there will be substantial data broadcast capacity that we can monetize. In television, and even in radio, the ability to do hyper-local, targeted advertising is what will be important, and combining broadband and broadcasting will provide new revenue. We’re suggesting a platform that will make it possible for 5G wireless operators to offload OTT content dynamically on to “one-to-many” broadcast DTT (Digital Terrestrial Transmission) networks, and give broadcasters a seat at the table to do things like AI (artificial intelligence) to provision content – and advertising. 

DM: This is about much more than a broadcast chip, isn’t it? 

SS: The chip is nothing but an enabler for all that I’m talking about here. The interesting part is that three to four years down the road, the chip could disappear as a separate unit. What somebody could do is sell the IPR to creating the ATSC 3.0 waveform so that large mobile System-on-Chip (SoC) companies like Qualcomm, Mediatek and Samsung could integrate that into their existing chipset.

DM: Thanks, Sesh.

 

Next Gen Acronyms

Sesh introduced a few new acronyms in his discussion of 5G and broadcast broadband convergence. Here are two key ones and a link to others.  

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