Wireless First antenna system used for coverage of Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting

For the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in midtown Manhattan this year, NBC hired Wireless First, a Clair Global Company, to deliver 86 channels of wireless RF that spanned a full city block.

Wireless First’s package included a CF 1090 Fractal Antenna, which employs an antenna topology to deliver high gain across a wide, uniform coverage pattern using a small, camera-friendly housing.

Individual performances, commentary and interviews occurred throughout the block occupied by Rockefeller Plaza (bounded by 49th and 50th St. and 5th and 6th Ave.), which provided Wireless First chief engineer Josh Flower with a coverage challenge. He said the team had to deliver multiple stages all over the plaza, and had to deliver 100-percent coverage with zero dropouts. The hosts, he said, were free to travel anywhere within that block.

Wireless First’s 86 channels were divided among intercom, microphones (for performers and hosts), IFBs and personal monitors. The live performers played on two stages, one on either side of the ice rink in front of the tree. The receive antennas were zoned out so that consistent coverage was available around the plaza without allowing the antennas to interfere with each other.

Flower used Shure UA870 UHF active directional antennas for the receive side, taking advantage of its inline booster to compensate for line loss or even use line loss as an advantage to ensure that the antennas didn’t interfere with each other. On the transmit side, Flower flooded the area using the Clair Global CF 1090 Fractal Antennas. In total, three CF 1090s transmitted to 32 drops of wireless intercom, six IFBs and 16
channels of wireless personal monitors.

The show’s receiver and transmitter hardware was a mix of top-of-the-line Sennheiser and Shure products.