Imagine integrating LTE radios with all of their capabilities and software into 2GHz Part 74 Broadcast Auxiliary Service channels.
That’s exactly what WJXT, the Graham Media Group-owned independent television station in Jacksonville, Fla., did this year with the Fortress LTE private wireless system from General Dynamics Mission System and marketed to the television industry by Accelerated Media Technologies, said Mike Englehaupt, VP and CTO at Graham Media.
“This system creates a bidirectional pure data link between remote trucks and the tower base station,” said Englehaupt during a telephone interview this week. “Whatever you decide you want the payload to be, it can carry.”
Englehaupt, who was one of four panelists discussing the evolution of ENG last week at TVNewsCheck’s NewsTechForum in New York City, said WJXT has used the system for the last few months to do much more than live shots. (To listen to the entire ENG session from NewsTechForum, click here.)
Two-way communications via the 2GHz BAS system makes possible internet and newsroom computer system connectivity for reporters in the field, supports FTP file transfers, enables bidirectional intercom with the station, passes teleprompter data and sends return video from the station with only milliseconds of latency, he said.
“Up until now, any return video has been off air with several seconds of latency,” he said. “[That’s] not to mention reception quality with the bidirectional capability the LTE offers, you can send good-quality near real time.”
WJXT has deployed passive sector receive antennas for the system on two towers. On one, the antennas are located about 500 feet off the ground, and on the other at about 800 feet, he said.
The station has retrofitted four existing newsgathering trucks for the new technology, and more will be equipped with LTE in the new year.
In addition to the legacy COFDM directional antenna on each truck’s mast, the station has mounted an omnidirectional LTE antenna.
The setup allows crews to connect to the receive sites via the new LTE radios on either antenna. Full support for COFDM shots from the directional antenna are available when desired, he said.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of using the LTE radio system on 2GHz BAS channels is that it makes it possible to transmit and receive data on the move, said Englehaupt.
In an ENG truck, that means crews can go live from the vehicle while moving down the road. That same benefit extends beyond to the sky.
Englehaupt envisions using the LTE radio system to control a robotic camera system mounted on a helicopter from the station.
“That way, if we are using existing staff, we don’t have to pay anyone new [to shoot from the helicopter],” he said. “And it saves on fuel and the weight of the photographer [in the helicopter], which can translate into increased flight time.”